How Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Changed During Reshoots

Star Wars Reshoots Rogue One

At the end of May, the hype machine for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hit a major thermal exhaust port in the trench. Reports that Disney weren’t happy with an assembly cut of the film were rife and headlines touting extensive reshoots began hitting the internet, with some claiming that up to 40% of the film would be redone, the tone made much lighter and the ending completely changed. All involved were quick to quell the talk, explaining that it was simply a result of needing more filming time to smooth out character beats and make the best possible film, but that didn’t stop suggestions things were in turmoil at Lucasfilm on their risky spinoff.

In the end, unlike the other 2016 movie dogged by controversial reshoots, any changes to the film and issues during the extra month of shooting and extensive edit seem to have, ultimately, worked out for the best. Rogue One is the Star Wars movie fans have been secretly clamoring for ever since they first locked eyes on the original: a complex, emotive, yet fun experience that casts the galaxy far, far away in a different light.

Of course, just because the movie landed perfectly doesn’t mean the reshoots don’t still loom large. As Vader goes full-Sith, Leia muses on hope and the Tantive IV jets off to Tatooine, many audiences will no doubt be curious what meddling had gone on to get us to this point.

The extent of the changes and the problems that led to them likely won’t be known for a long time, but using what we know isn’t in the movie and the recurring elements of the various rumors and official statements, we can piece together a good impression of what the film originally was going to be. Here’s a breakdown of all the major elements of the film that we can say with some degree of certainty were reshot, or at the very least changed from the original plan in the edit.

Trailer Footage That Was Cut From The Movie

Rogue One Ben Mendelssohn Walking

The first Rogue One teaser was released in April, well before the reshoots began, meaning it was edited before the new direction for the film was fully set on... And it shows – there’s a lot of footage from it not in the movie. In the movie’s chronological order, there’s Jyn being brought into the Yavin IV hangar, Jyn saying “this is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel”, the Death Star dish finally locking into place, Rebel pilots being marched by Stormtroopers on Jedha, Saw hobbling forward with no hair and delivering his “what will you become?” monologue, Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO running in the Scarif base and later against the AT-ACTs, and finally Krennic marching on the planet’s surface. That’s a lot that got cut, and while some of it could be a standard result of editing, it’s very clear the final act in particular was altered – there are simply too many contradictions otherwise.

Later trailers also had a few scenes not in the film, most notably Jyn going up against the TIE fighter at the top of the transmissions tower, Vader looking at monitors on what appears to be the Death Star, and Krennic claiming "the power we are dealing with is immeasurable." These clips all came post-reshoots, so there’s more possibilities around their exclusion than those previously, but they do still hint at a slightly different film.

Finally, there’s also a few trailer shots that are in the film, but look different. Most shots of Vader in the trailer have him in a smoky Imperial room, while the Rebellion has a hologram of the Death Star at their crisis meeting. In both of these cases, it’s likely that these were simply altered for the trailers – to keep up the presence of Mustafar a mystery and better convey what the Rebels were discussing – so they don’t factor into the reshoots (this is likely also true of the Death Star dish from the teaser, which slots in during Tarkin’s reveal, something Lucasfilm weren't ready to reveal just yet).

With all that established, let’s look into what changed.

Jyn’s Toned-Down Rebellious Nature

Star Wars Rogue One - Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso

The first teaser was very much focused onJyn, but there’s a noticeable difference between there and the finished movie in her characterization, especially in regards to her approach to the Rebellion; whereas in the film she’s a fugitive out for herself, the Jyn briefly presented in the tease is more concertedly anti-Empire, crystalised with her “I rebel” line. This fits more with her being in Imperial captivity with a long list of serious misdemenours and makes it seem that Jyn's origin point in the story was intended for her to be more insubordinate than just having a slight contempt for leadership.

The change shifts her arc away from a meditation on extreme measures - in this version the Rebel Alliance would only go to war because of a radical - into more of a traditional hero’s journey, with her never looping round the darker side of rebellion. This would appear to be more of an edit job than something too extensively reshot, with scenes expanding on the impact of Jyn being ditched by two father figures simply cut (although some parts of the arc could be inserts, especially her speech to the crew of Rogue One - look at the hair).

Saw Gererra

Star Wars Rogue One Saw Gerrera

Saw’s scenes were noticeably changed evidenced by one simple thing: his hair. In the first teaser, scenes of him in his temple cave show him bald, yet in later ones and the movie itself he’s got an impressive bouffant. The bald scenes are definitely in Jedha too, rather than part of an extended prologue – you can see the window from his hideout behind him in certain shots.

Saw was presumably originally made bald to make him more in keeping with The Clone Wars version of the character, and he does indeed sport the hairdo (or lack thereof) in the opening sequence (footage that clearly is from principal photography). The reason for reshoots here could be as simple as changing his look, with bedraggled hair making him seem more worn and near-his-end (the unkemptness is a definite creative choice, not influenced by Whitaker’s other shooting commitments), but there’s enough changes otherwise to point towards something a bit larger.

The big cut we know of is the “what will you become?” monologue, which was presumably said to Jyn and would seem to line up with the change in her personality; in the film Saw was having to urge the reluctant hero to go on her father’s mission, while this promotes the opposite, suggesting Jyn was more enthused and Gerrera feeling guilty of what he'd already turned his surrogate daughter into - he needed to minimize the damage to her psyche.

Beyond what we know for sure, there is an unpredictability to the editing of Saw’s early appearances. This could be a result of other scenes around them changing, making the whole flow of the film a little uncomfortable, but more probably represents an attempt to tone down his character, both in terms of presence (if he dies at the end of the first act, he’s not too essential) and menace.

Baze’s Lie

Star Wars Rogue One Baze Chirrut

Out of the core ensemble, the character with the least to do was Jiang Wen’s Baze, Chirrut’s heavy-gun toting friend. We know for a fact, however, that originally he was set to have a bigger part. At Star Wars Celebration, Wen dropped this absolute bombshell, revealing not only that Donnie Yen’s character would die, but also the core beats of:

"So he and me was a partner and he of course believe in Force, but my character don’t believe in Force at that time. But I pretend all of them — not them, just them — to do very very big mission, I can not say that. And, when this guy dead, I do something better. Maybe I believe by my action, he’s thinker, I’m doer, so …"

So, it turns out that, good a shot as he is, Baze was in fact a bit of a fraudster, claiming to be some great veteran (possibly of the Clone Wars) when he’s in fact never done anything heroic. With this in mind, his death, where he does get a gallant last stand, taking down Krennic’s Deathtroopers, is much more poignant. But, whether as a result of this flub or not, he was cut down to be a foil to Chirrut, passing comment on his friend's beliefs without ever really getting into this own story. How much of this was editing and how much reshoots is hard to tell – probably a few connecting scenes and a few added moments of focus on Yen.

The Aftermath of Bodhi Rook's Mind-Reading

Rogue One - Bodhi gives call sign

Another member of the core group who’s seemingly the subject of some cut-and-pasting is Bodhi. His arc in the film – an Imperial defector who warily helps Galen Erso in his plan before becoming an all-out hero – is pretty consistent to what Riz Ahmed and others discussed regarding the character across production, but there’s some inconsistencies in his early parts involving Saw.

Most strikingly is the effect of the mind reading octopus alien, which Saw warns will destroy Bodhi's mind even as it tears the truth out of him. We get a taste of the aftermath of that in the cave scenes, with Bodhi totally zoned out, but afterwards it’s barely mentioned. At the very least some transition scenes were cut, but given that this relates to Saw, who we know was extensively reshot, it seems some parts were actively changed.

Darth Vader’s Death Star Scene

Star Wars Rogue One Darth Vader

Darth Vader was never going to have a massive part to play in Rogue One – the film’s objective with the Sith was to present him as a shadowy presence in galactic politics coming out of the shadows following Krennic’s mistake, something it did with blood-red lightsaber joy. Some may have wanted a bit more Vader, but he did his job perfectly as is.

However, we do know of at least one scene that didn't make it in, one that featured very prominently in the advertising (it was initial footage of Darth revealed, in fact): first in the Star Wars Celebration exclusive trailer, then at the end of the second teaser, Vader was seen in what appeared to be the Death Star or his Star Destroyer surveying a red read-out screen. Nothing is known about this scene, but it would presumably come mid-way through the film, showing Vader between Mustafar and Scarif, possibly conversing with Krennic or Tarkin. What’s curious is that it appeared in later advertising, so was clearly expected to be in the film and thus its removal wasn’t necessarily a result of reshoots - it was most likely lost because it either felt unnecessary or didn't fit with the new context of his later appearance.

On this note, it may be in this scene where Krennic's "immeasurable" statement comes from, placing it just before he heads to Scarif. The background certainly fits, although as the Mustafar background changed from the trailers it could have easily been an alternate take from that scene also.

Extra Planets

Star Wars Rogue One Cassian Andor Daniel Mays

Moreso than any movie (except perhaps Revenge of the Sith, which also portrayed all-out galactic war), Rogue One really conveyed the scale of the galaxy. Counting dreams and prologues, the film features a total of nine planets. Curiously, four of them appear only for short, single scenes – the Ring of Kafrene trading post, Imperial labor planet Wobani, Coruscant in Jyn’s dream and Mustafar. Of course, all of these scenes accentuate the universe and the planet-hopping really lends to the desperate feel of the film, but that’s a lot of extensive CGI backdrops and designs for mere seconds of screentime.

Gareth Edwards has commented that one of the big things the creative reshuffle allowed was an increase in special effects shots, with the total going from "600 to nearly 1,700", and more planet landscapes could very easily be part of that; while some of these worlds may have been intended from the start, their CGI splendour could have really been accentuated. The two prequel planets in particular could have been expansions of previously conceived scenes - Vader's castle may not always have been on the same planet as his duel with Obi-Wan, but changed with the expanded effects budget.

The Kafrene scene is the most likely reshoot addition here. It ostensibly serves as an introduction to Cassian, with him killing Daniel Mays (an actor who wasn’t confirmed to be in the movie until November) as a show of his ruthlessness. This provides his backstory and personality in shorthand, setting up his arc and conflict regarding killing Galen without the movie having to go into dark detail during the main story. However, in terms of the wider story it's not totally necessary - we learn nothing here that isn't repeated later and it takes the movie away from Jyn, who it seems the first act was intended to be built singularly around.

The Wobani sequence is also interesting. It moves Jyn from one prison cell to another (on a Juggernaut tank, another prequel easter egg) for no clear reason and introduces K-2SO ten minutes before his assumed introduction to her on Yavin IV, so all in all feels like a retroactive addition, changing her original prison springing so we can get a snazzy new backdrop.

The Space Battle

Rogue One A Star Wars Story - X-Wing at Scariff Shield Gate

If we’re talking about those 1,100 extra shots, however, the biggest change will have to be in the space battle. This will be properly elaborated on in when we look at the full ending in a moment, but it would seem that the battle above Scarif was originally either non-existent or on a much smaller scale. This is, after all, where majority of the film’s CGI effects are and one of the last things for the trailers to feature in even a minor way (no part of the sequence was present until the third promo in October), so most probably many of the spectacular moments – Hammerhead meet Star Destroyer meet Star Destroyer meet shield among them – were late additions.

This would suggest that the film's primary X-Wing action was originally going to be localised in the second-act attack on Eadu, with a presumably smaller scale finale.

And, with that established, let’s get to the place where the reshoots had their biggest impact: the finale.

The Ending

AT-ATs Attack Rebels on a Beach in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Everything else we’ve discussed so far pales in comparison to the amount of changes made to Rogue One's third act. This was widely reported at the time to be the main focus of the reshoots and there seems to be a lot of truth to those rumours; when putting comments made early on by the cast and missing trailer footage alongside what we got, the whole thing appears to operate much more like a standard heist. Before looking at details, here’s a quick overview of how all the evidence points towards things playing out:

The Rogue One successfully gets onto Scarif. Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO sneak into the base while the others ready the “make ten men feel like a hundred” attack. So far, so finished product.

Jyn and Cassian get the Death Star plans and try to escape the base with Kaytoo (see: the shot of Canary Wharf set from the trailer). Their plan is, at first, to escape with the plans, but when that becomes increasingly unlikely they instead choose to transmit them to the orbiting Rebel fleet, who are providing some, but not extensive, support. They try to get to a nearby transmission tower, making it to the beach where the AT-ACTs are closing in (see: the shot of Jyn and Cassian running against the walkers).

Bodhi uses his tech know-how to set the transmission up, Baze and Chirrut die enabling that and Jyn (possibly with Cassian) makes it up the tower to transmit the plans. Near the end of the conflict, as the sun is setting, Krennic goes down to the ground to confront the Rebels at the satellite. There’s some altercation involving a TIE Fighters and Krennic that likely leaving Jyn/Cassian mortally wounded, but they’re sent. This then leads to the Vader and Leia ending we got.

The first big difference is K-2SO not dying in the manner he did in the film – he’s seen running alongside the gang after they’ve swiped the plans and are trying to escape – although you’d have to imagine he was always intended to have a suitably heroic death scene. This aspect additionally means the way the characters got the plans will have been different, although they did seem to come from the same location - the tunnel of lights from the end of the first teaser is the access to the data storage room.

Then there's having the satellite at a separate location (you can see it in the background of the AT-ACT shot as Jyn and Cassian run away from the base), which obviously segments the mission a little. This could actually be the core of the major alterations and reshoots; making the characters travel between two Imperial buildings began to make things feel needlessly disjointed, but as a result of cutting them together as one the film then lost a key action beat, which led to the expansion of the wider Rebel effort. This brought in a much larger space battle and, quite possibly, the introduction of the shield gate – it’s a CGI-heavy concept that presents an extra obstacle in the finale, which is exactly what the reshoots were for – vastly expanding the scope of some scenes.

Star Wars Rogue One Jyn TIE Fighter

There's another big question about the TIE fighter coming up against Jyn. In the film itself a TIE Striker shoots the gangway, but the trailer clip would suggest it was a much closer shave for her (the attack could even have been what killed her). That said, the fact this footage came from trailers released after the troubles could point to the filmmakers shooting multiple versions of the ending; it may be that the goal of the reshoots was to get as much varied footage for the ending as possible and work the best way out in the edit. In truth, it's really hard to speculate on what the plan was here as there's so little information, but this beat would have probably still been the character climax, with Krennic involved and the plans transmitted at the last minute.

There may also have been a different role for the Death Star in the final act. It was clearly always part of the Scarif battle - lots of early art featured it in the sky over a hard-fought battle - but the scenes involving it blasting the site feel like they could have been altered. Specifically, Jyn and Cassian getting a happy - or at the very least peaceful and acceptant - death chimes with the tonal changes the reshoots were rumoured in part to be for; it would be strange if the plan was ever to not kill all the heroes, but Edwards may have initially had them die in ways a little too dark or distressing for a PG-13 Christmas film.

Whatever the case, these evident bigger changes will have predicated smaller ones to adjust shooting style and enable things to better connect up - Bodhi, Baze and Chirrut’s parts would have needed fewer reshot sequences, for example - just a few lines altered or cut to reflect the wider changes, with the biggest difference being that Bodhi wouldn’t be telling Admiral Raddus to destroy the shield gate, but to open up lines for transmission.


Rogue One - The Death Star above clouds

What we’ve discussed here won’t be the full extent of the reshoots, but they are, especially the massive ending shift, likely the core of the rumours from back in May. And what they ultimately prove is that, while talk of production issues is going to get anybody worried about the finished product, often reshoots aren't the end of the world.

Of course, had Rogue One not been so triumphant, the reshoots would have been an immovable black cloud over the whole endeavour (and, indeed, that’s the main topic of discussion amongst the film’s dissenters). Thankfully, everything came together so well that the originally-conceived version of the film is more of a curiosity - a what might have been alternative that, while lacking a few of the finished movie's editing jumps, likely wouldn't have been as solid an experience. With such a positive outcome, it’s somewhat fitting that a direct prequel to Star Wars, a movie widely cited as being saved in the edit (to the point the editors claimed every frame of useable footage was used), has been so crucially altered in post-production.

[vn_gallery name="Star Wars: Rogue One World Premiere Photos" id="861670"]

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
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