While we've all been stuck at home under quarantine, things have gotten pretty dull. It's fair to say that plenty of people are likely bored to tears. However, our Star Wars friends Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz, screenwriters for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, have helped to temporarily put us out of our misery by doing a Q&A livestream discussing the first spinoff film with IGN. Hearing from the writers of Star Wars films is always a fascinating experience, as we get to learn a little bit more about what we already know and what could've been. At this point it's an open secret that the production of Rogue One was a trainwreck, and the changes made to the film were many. While the writers didn't go too deep into the nature of the production, they had plenty to share about some of the changes made to the story. Reddit user Sidon_Ithano was kind enough to provide updates on the topics touched on by Whitta and Weitz, the most noteable of which we'll be discussing below.
MULTIPLE OPENING CRAWLS WERE WRITTEN
This has been discussed before, but hearing it again from the screenwriters tells us how close we were to a more traditional opening for Rogue One. Dispensing with the crawl for the spinoff films make sense, as it helps differentiate them from the saga films. It would've been interesting to see how a crawl would've gone. As things stand, the movie throws the title card up following the prologue sequence, omitting the name "Star Wars". Not being an episodic film, a crawl would've been a little different for Rogue One and, presumably, Solo if they had chosen to go in that direction.
THE REBEL BASE WAS ORIGINALLY ON DANTOOINE
Whitta and Weitz shared that they were forced to scrap a location due to budgetary concerns, prompting them to have the Rebel Alliance base located on Yavin IV for the entirety of the film. Prior to this, they had scripted Dantooine as the home of the Alliance, a base referred to in A New Hope by Leia that turned about to be abandoned. We briefly saw the planet from orbit in Rebels, but haven't been to the surface in any visual canon media yet. While this would've been a neat thing to see, the Rebel base being on Dantooine wasn't really necessary for Rogue One and would've necessitated an evacuation to Yavin IV prior to the end credits.
EARLY SCRIPT HAD JYN DISCOVERING THE DEATH STAR
When we first meet her as an adult in the movie, Jyn Erso is stuck in a fairly bad situation: prison. Whitta and Weitz revealed that an early draft of the film's script had Jyn in a much more productive role from the outset, as she would've been the one to discover the Death Star's existence and sought out the batlle station's secrets. In the film, the weapon is made known by Bodhi Rook, an Imperial pilot sent by Galen Erso with a message for Saw Gerrera, setting the events of the movie into motion. Jyn uncovering the Death Star likely would've eliminated Bodhi from the story entirely, but the nature of her character would've been drastically different.
BOR GULLET WAS INITIALLY A MEMORY TRADER
Bor Gullet... will know the truth... in every version of the film's script, apparently, as he was originally intended to trade intel for memories, going deep within the mind of his clients. The tentacled creature was to provide Jyn Erso with information in exchange for her traumatic childhood memories, which he found delicious. Instead, Bodhi ended up drawing the short end of the stuck and faced Bor Gullet's wrath. The screenwriters referred to this as a "space Hannibal Lecter" sequence, and Weitz was dismayed to see that it was left on the cutting room floor.
THE WRITERS WANTED A REBEL TUSKEN RAIDER
It's not hard to imagine why this one didn't happen. Whitta and Weitz said they wanted to have one of the notably brutal Sand People within the ranks of the Alliance, but the idea was shot down by Lucasfilm story group's Pablo Hidalgo, who reasoned that the Tusken Raiders would never leave Tatooine. In Legends there was a Tusken Jedi, Sharad Hett, although he found himself exiled on Tatooine at the end of his days. It would have been... interesting, to say the least, seeing a Tusken Raider taking on the Empire in the fight for galactic freedom.
EADU WAS ONCE AT THE START OF THE FILM
By the time we reach Eadu in the final version of the film, we're already about halfway into the story. It turns out that the rainy planet that saw disaster for our heroes was originally intended to be featured in the beginning of the film, with a different contribution to the plot. In this early version of the script, Eadu was the location where the finishing touches on the Death Star were being made, and where Jyn discovered the technological terror's existence. Some of the earliest concept art for the film that was shared appears to be set on Eadu, but with a Rebel strike landing. It's anyone's guess as to what would've happened in the middle of the film in this iteration.
THERE WERE AT LEAST THREE OTHER TITLES CONSIDERED
And fortunately none of them were selected. The titles listed by Whitta and Weitz were Dark Times: A Star Wars Story, Rebellion: A Star Wars Story, and Shadow of the Death Star. Below are mockups of how these titles would've looked in the style of the Rogue One logo (Logos created by The Direct Content Lead Elliott Gembler):
Star Wars has had some goofy movie titles, but none have been as bad as the atrocious Shadow of the Death Star pitch. Dark Times really captures the 19 year period between Episodes III and IV more than something like a standalone film, and Rebellion is just lacking in imagination. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is catchy, has a significance to the plot, and feels like an appropriate title for something in the Star Wars universe.
VADER SPENDS HIS DAYS OFF IN THE BACTA TANK
The fearsome Dark Lord of the Sith spends the majority of his free time within the comforting confines of his injury healing sauna, emerging only to reprimand underperforming officers. Whitta said he wanted to throw in this scene because he wanted to see what Darth Vader did on his days off and, like many of us, it appears he just relaxes. The shot of the aid Vanee entering the bacta chamber was one of the more intriguing shots in the first teaser trailer for the film, leaving many fans speculating about the inhabitant of the tank within. It turns out it was just Vader enjoying some free time inside the cozy walls of his resort on Mustafar.
LEIA WAS CONSIDERED FOR A LARGER ROLE
Thanks to the wizards at ILM, we were treated with an appearance from Princess Leia at the end of Rogue One. This technological feat coincided with the digital recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin, who had a fairly important role in the film. The screenwriters shared that they also considered giving Leia a more prominent role in the film, including her in the scenes in the War Room at Rebel base. They instead decided that Leia's appearance at the very end of the film was more powerful, and elected to have Jyn Erso give her big speech in the War Room instead.
K-2SO WAS ORIGINALLY THE ONLY HERO CASUALTY
It's been said before that multiple endings were considered for the heroes of the film, but up until now we had no idea who, beyond Jyn and Cassian, made it off of Scarif in one piece. It turns out, that would've been everyone except K-2SO. The rebellious reprogrammed Imperial Security Droid was initially set to go out in a blaze of glory on the beaches of Scarif - we can even see him running with the rest of the Rebels at the end of the first teaser. Whitta and director Gareth Edwards had wanted to kill off every member of the group, but didn't think Disney would go for it. Weitz and Tony Gilroy later came aboard and pitched the current ending, and the rest is history.
WEDGE ANTILLES ALMOST MADE IT IN
The Rebel pilot was strongly considered for an appearance in the film, but the writers determined that his line in A New Hope ("Look at the size of that thing!") meant he couldn't be present at the Battle of Scarif, as the Death Star was also there. ILM was able to incorporate many of the Rebel pilots from A New Hope into the space battle by using cut footage from the original film, weaving their cockpit babble into the rest of the dogfight. This provided us with some cool cameos and great continuity, and Wedge's appearance certainly would've been welcome but was appropriately omitted.
ADMIRAL ACKBAR ALMOST MADE IT TOO
Everyone's favorite Mon Calamari was so close to making it into Rogue One, where he could've announced the obvious to the Rebel fleet that the Death Star's sudden appearance was indeed a trap. Director Gareth Edwards wanted to be conservative in his use of original legacy characters, electing to create a new admiral for the fleet in Ackbar's place. We now have the equally cool blue Admiral Raddus, who came up with the critical plan to use the Hammerhead Corvettes to destroy Star Destroyers and open the Shield Gate. Although Raddus likely ended up being an appetizer at a high-end Imperial mess hall, he filled Ackbar's boots admirably.
THERE WERE ORIGINALLY TWO FACILITIES ON SCARIF
Between the first few trailers, the behind the scenes footage, and the final film, it's pretty evident that Rogue One's third act went through some substantial changes. In the first teaser, we see the Rebel heroes running along the beach past some AT-ACT's towards another facility, with Director Krennic on their tales in a later shot. The screenwriters revealed that the facilities housing the Death Star plans and the communication tower were initially separate, but Tony Gilroy decided to condense everything by having both be part of the same citadel tower.
JYN AND CASSIAN ONCE HAD A SCRIPTED ROMANCE
This clearly never happened in the final product, but the two main heroes were initially scripted to have romantic feelings for one another. Over the course of the writing process, these feelings became less and less evident between the two characters, until it became practically non-existent. Interestingly, their moment in the elevator on the way down from the communication tower makes things seem like they're going to lock lips, but that comes to pass and they die on the beach together as friends. While this ultimately amounted to nothing, it's interesting to hear how different the characters' interactions could've been.
VADER ONCE MOWED DOWN REBELS ON THE BEACH
Whitta and Weitz made it clear that Darth Vader was always going to be in Rogue One, although they didn't know in what capacity. It's well-known that Vader's iconic hallway scene aboard the Profundity at the end of the film was put together very late in the game thanks to the editor, but the Sith Lord had a different rampage initially pitched. When Jyn reach the communication facility in the earlier drafts, Rebel soldiers on the ground were to be covering the entrance and holding off Imperial forces. That's where Vader came in, ending the Rebels' vacation as he cut his way through all of them, both in and outside the facility.
These are all really cool little pieces information. It's pretty clear that the film was once shaping up to be something completely different before rewrites and reshoots took place. The Battle of Scarif was once much more extensive and gruelling for our heroes as they tried to get the Death Star plans up to the Rebel fleet. Vader's beach rampage sounded epic, possibly even better than the already amazing sequence in the film, but sadly the deletion of the communication facility meant this concept had to go as well. The reasons for keeping out Ackbar and Wedge, as well as holding off on Leia until the end of the film, make perfect sense, and while their presences would've been happily accepted, the right calls were made. Going with the decision to kill off the entire main cast was certainly appropriate, as their absence from the Original Trilogy would have been jarring in retrospect, and their sacrifices effectively conveyed the realities of war. The current version of the film is phenomenal, and while it's always a case of "what could've been" with discarded story concepts, all of the correct decisions were made. Regardless, Whitta and Weitz have provided Star Wars fans with ample material to let their imaginations run free as we all ride out the coronavirus quarantine, and they've also likely inspired many rewatches of Rogue One.