With over $800 million at the box office and an 85% and 89% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and audiences respectively, it’s fair to say Rogue One, the first Lucasfilm Star Wars Story enterprise, is a massive success. It’s a particularly impressive achievement given that ever since talks of extensive reshoots last May, the film had been dogged by rumors of last minute changes and studio meddling.
While the film itself held together really well in spite of this knowledge, a closer look at the trailers revealed a lot of core differences between the movie audiences were sold and the one they got. The first Rogue One teaser, for example, was over half made-up of footage not seen in the film, which would seem to suggest that those reports of 40% of the movie being reshot had a ring of truth to them. However, that’s not per se the case, at least according to director Gareth Edwards.
Speaking on The Director’s Cut podcast (via io9), Edwards talked about some of the most iconic shots in Rogue One‘s marketing that didn’t make it to the big screen, most notably that shot of Jyn turning around in an Imperial corridor as lights flicker on. It turns out that this shot (as well as the one of Krennic stood menacingly on the Death Star) were shot without any real understanding of how or even if they would fit into the film:
“We finished a shot and [Felicity Jones] was just walking to the next shot, which was at the end of the tunnel. And as she walked, someone switched the lights on and the way they turned on they went *clickclickclick* like this. Someone called her, and she just turned around a little bit and I was like, ‘Oh my god that looked great.’ And I was like ‘Stop stop stop!’ and everyone stopped. ‘This will take 10 seconds, just roll camera’. Then obviously 10 seconds turned into a half hour, and we probably did 17 takes. So that ended and there’s that feeling of, ‘Well what was that for?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know, that just felt good.'”
In the end it didn’t feel good in the final edit, but marketing found the shot captivating and put it in the trailer regardless. Jon’s “What will you become?” turn was always one of the odder scenes to not be used as its location – the tunnel in the Scarif base to the data chamber housing the Death Star plans – was used heavily in Rogue One, so that it was an on-the-fly shoot makes sense.
This isn’t the first time this week that Edwards has explained a missing trailer shot. When talking to Empire, he elaborated on the just-as-cool sight of a TIE Fighter rising up in front of Jyn at the top of the Scarif tower in the second Rogue One trailer. The situation is similar – the marketing department took something that wasn’t going to be in the film – but this case sounds to come more from the rejigging of the third act post-reshoots leading to a lot of unused footage:
“There was a bit of a process to refining the third act in terms of the specific shots and moments, and so certain things just fell away. But then what happens is marketing love those shots, and go, ‘oh, we’ve got to use that.’ And you say, ‘well, it’s not in the movie’. And they say, ‘it’s okay, it’s what marketing does, we just use the best of whatever you’ve done’. And so there’s lots of little things, but towards the end you go, ‘I know that’s not in the film, but the spirit of it’s in the film’.”
This all goes a long way to explaining how the film’s marketing wound up containing so much unused footage – it looked cooler, so was perfect for trailers – and also may explain how the reshoots came to be needed; there was lots of random footage, but not enough for a fully coherent story. Edwards certaintly hinted at this in his TDC talk, describing the editing process as “like running around the supermarket. You’re just grabbing everything. People say ‘What are you going to cook?’ and you go, ‘I don’t know. The shop closes in 10 minutes and we’re not coming back in, grab everything.'”