Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reshoots writer Tony Gilroy says he felt the film was in "terrible trouble" before he came aboard to rescue it. After the massive success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney and Lucasfilm banked on fans flocking to see a standalone story set before Star Wars: A New Hope and involving the theft of the Death Star plans. The studio hired relatively unknown special effects technician and director Gareth Edwards to helm the big-budget film, working from a script penned by Gary Whitta, John Knoll, and Chris Weitz.
Of course, being a Star Wars film, the hype surrounding Rogue One kicked into the highest gear possible. That hype turned quickly to angst when reports surfaced that the cut delivered by Gareth Edwards did not measure up to Lucasfilm's standards, and reshoots were necessary. Later, we learned exactly how much the film changed during the reshoot process. Whole scenes teased in the Rogue One trailers hit the cutting room floor. Major characters, including the film's lead Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), received reworking. And a new ending was added to Rogue One, giving Darth Vader a berserker moment, and tying the movie directly to the beginning of A New Hope.
As always happens anytime films undergo major reshoots, the studio played down the significance of the changes made to Rogue One. But according to one person intimately familiar with the process of reworking the film, Rogue One was actually in dire straits going into the reshoot process. Speaking to The Moment With Brian Koppelman podcast (via THR), screenwriter Tony Gilroy revealed just how bad the situation was when he was brought on after Gareth Edwards' cut. Gilroy says he was unconcerned about making matters worse because he's not much of a Star Wars fan anyway. And the movie definitely needed major help, according to Gilroy:
"I've never been interested in Star Wars, ever. So I had no reverence for it whatsoever. I was unafraid about that. And they were in such a swamp … they were in so much terrible, terrible trouble that all you could do was improve their position."
As bad as things were, Gilroy insists the fix that made Rogue One work was actually a simple one. In the story, the lead characters all come together to help the rebellion steal the plans for the Empire's ultimate weapon the Death Star, a mission that leads to each of them sacrificing their lives for the greater good. Gilroy says that by focusing in on this simple fact, the messed up story came together at last:
"If you look at Rogue, all the difficulty with Rogue, all the confusion of it … and all the mess, and in the end when you get in there, it's actually very, very simple to solve. Because you sort of go, 'This is a movie where, folks, just look. Everyone is going to die.' So it's a movie about sacrifice."
Gilroy ultimately came away with a screenwriting credit and millions of dollars. And Disney and Lucasfilm came away with a blockbuster that grossed $1.056 billion worldwide. Everyone involved hopes for a similar happy ending for this year's standalone Solo: A Star Wars Story, which went through its own highly-publicized production headaches, including the replacement of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller with journeyman Ron Howard.
Of course, not everyone came away from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story entirely impressed with the movie Tony Gilroy helped deliver. Some would argue the characters are still thin, the "sacrifice" theme still somewhat undeveloped, and the ending still nothing but a bit of ridiculous fan service. Ultimately however, the movie fulfilled its destiny by keeping the Star Wars franchise rolling.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019