For most actors — and, just, people in general — getting a part in a Star Wars movie seems like a dream. It’s the kind of opportunity that makes an actor sweat about getting their lines right in their audition tapes, or send videos of, say, 14 different versions of the character to the director to show their range. Riz Ahmed, who played cargo pilot Bodhi Rook, was maybe a little overly enthusiastic during the audition process.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be yours to digitally purchase (or rent, if you still like to give things the ol’ test-drive first) this Friday, and to celebrate, the filmmakers are really leaning into all those reports of reshoots and story changes by sharing unused plot points and alternate endings — like the somewhat happier conclusion Jyn Erso & Co. had in an earlier draft of the script. Today’s additions to the pile of discarded Rogue One ideas include an interesting backstory for Jyn’s mom and an even crazier alternate ending.
When pals asked, “What was your favorite part of Rogue One?” and I responded, “The part at the end when they all died,” it sounded like a bitter joke. But it‘s true — the choice to take advantage of the film’s stand-alone nature by concluding with the cast’s noble, obliterating sacrifice was a bold and decisive storytelling choice that helped distinguish Gareth Evans’ film from the rest of the franchise. The characters meant more in death than they ever did while living, and the selflessness of their risky suicide mission attests to the power of the human spirit in wartime. But this was not always the game plan.
The final few moments of Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One are jam-packed with surprises. First Darth Vader storms onto the scene wielding his red lightsaber, which the director revealed was a last-minute addition. Then Princess Leia suddenly appears to acquire the Death Star plans. Not everyone was a fan of the CGI-created Leia – some of us here at ScreenCrush found the visual effects to be a but creepy – but most importantly, Carrie Fisher gave the scene her blessing.
One of the most exciting, gasp-worthy moments in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place in the film’s final moments. In the scene – spoiler alert – a red lightsaber slices through the darkness and Darth Vader emerges onto the ship. He demolishes a pack of rebel soldiers before a blockade runner escapes and delivers the Death Star plans to Princess Leia. It’s one of the best scenes in the film, but it almost didn’t happen.
When all was said and done, the biggest movie of 2016 in the United States was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the only film of last year to gross more than $500 million domestically. Director Gareth Edwards managed to do something not even George Lucas had accomplished: Make a well-liked Star Wars prequel.
Gareth Edwards pretty much had the dream moviemaking experience when he directed Last year’s Rogue One: He got to be a part of a franchise he’d loved since he was a kid, but he also got to contribute his own ideas to an almost entirely original story within that franchise instead of being bound by the confines of an already-established plotline. At SXSW on Monday, Edwards delivered a keynote speech about his work in Star Wars and becoming a filmmaker, and revealed that one of the planets in Rogue One got its name from a fortuitous misspelling at a coffee shop.
Our modern digital Prometheus: when the technical wizards behind the CGI of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story learned that they could reanimate deceased actor Peter Cushing to reprise his role as gaunt-cheeked Empire command Grand Moff Tarkin, they never stopped stopped to think if they should. The resultant spelunking into the uncanny valley was as polarizing as it was unexpected. Some were wowed by the boundless possibilities of computer programming and the effective triumph over the permanence of death; others immediately flashed back to high school memories of reading Mary Shelley. The debate over the ethics of artificially contriving performances from dead actors continues to rage, and a figure close to the situation has now weighed in.
If you go back and watch the trailers and TV spots for Rogue One after you see the movie, a couple of things are glaringly obvious: First, you’ll notice a ton of scenes that don’t appear in the theatrical version, and second, it’s easy to sort of piece together the film’s original ending (recently confirmed by director Gareth Edwards) — all of which suggests that the reshoots were a bit more extensive than Lucasfilm wanted us to believe. According to the film’s editors, that’s certainly the case, and those reshoots changed a whole lot more than just the ending.