Rogue One: A Star Wars Story contains plenty of references, whether direct or subtle, to the original Star Wars trilogy that the movie’s timeline immediately precedes. While Rogue One didn’t go overboard with its references, it still retains much of the charm of all the little details that make the Star Wars universe unique.
Much of what makes the world of Star Wars so distinctive is its unique language and vocabulary. One of the original trilogy’s most amusing linguistic moments came in The Empire Strikes Back when Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) burned Han Solo (Harrison Ford) by calling him a “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.” Nerf herders have rarely appeared (or even been mentioned) in any part of the Star Wars canon since they were first mentioned in Empire, but they were almost part of another Rogue One reference to the originals.
Rogue One story writer Gary Whitta held a Twitter Q&A in which he fielded a variety of questions about the movie. Whitta, who is credited as a co-writer of the story for Rogue One along with Lucasfilm’s John Knoll, was asked if there were any characters he would have liked to see get a cameo appearance in Rogue One. He revealed that the original story for Rogue One contained “actual nerf herders.”
Although nerf herders have been referenced in subsequent Star Wars books since their first mention by Leia, Rogue One would have been the characters’ first on-screen appearance in the franchise. Nerf herders made their first comic appearance in issue No. 18 of Marvel’s Star Wars comic book series, which came out in April.
Rogue One had plenty of direct and indirect references to the original Star Wars trilogy, so the absence of nerf herders in the final version of the script was not a big blow to the movie itself. They likely would have been part of a passing mention or brief, inconsequential cameo, such as the one given to C-3PO and R2-D2. Rogue One ultimately stopped itself from going overboard on the references to the original trilogy, and it helped the movie stand strong on its own merit in the end.
Despite cutting the nerf herders from the script, the makers of Rogue One still felt obligated to include the appearance of other original trilogy characters, like the entirely-CGI version of Grand Moff Tarkin. It’s up for debate whether many of the references to the original trilogy were necessary. But there’s little doubt that nerf herders would have served little to advancing the plot or developing the characters of Rogue One, so in retrospect it’s arguably for the best that they ended up on the cutting room floor.
Source: Gary Whitta