Three years after its release (following a troubled postproduction) even more details of what was changed in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story have emerged, via an interview with one of the movie’s writers. For one thing, there was a version with a happy ending.
Chris Weitz, who inherited the screenplay from writer Gary Whitta, revealed during an interview for the CultPopture podcast that when he became involved with the feature, the fan-favorite ending that saw every protagonist sacrifice himself for the mission didn’t exist yet.
“The version prior to [my involvement] didn’t have everyone die. As a matter of fact, it ended with a wedding,” Weitz said. “I think it was on the presumption that Disney wouldn’t allow characters to die with such abandon.” The reason Weitz felt the need to end on a more downbeat note was a practical one: “I felt it was necessary because nobody ever mentions them or sees them again but also because we’ve done this whole sort of theme about sacrifice that it was appropriate that all of our main characters die.”
That’s not to say that Weitz was responsible for the version of the movie that fans saw on screen in 2016, however. Between the end of director Gareth Edwards’ shoot and the eventual release of the movie — which was taken over by Tony Gilroy during editing and substantially changed, according to multiple sources, including Gilroy himself — the movie underwent some drastic rebuilding, Weitz said.
“If you imagine the beginning of the second act and the end of the second act kind of swapping places, that would not be an inaccurate way to portray how it structurally was changed,” he explained. “A lot of the deaths were put in different locations than they were originally put in the script and were originally shot. I’m not sure why, for instance, K-2 died in a different place.”
(This would explain the many discrepancies between the movie’s trailers and the movie itself, as many noted at the time of release.)
Two other changes Weitz talked about between his screenplay and the finished movie: Before Gilroy’s involvement, there was no climactic Darth Vader attack. “The Darth Vader kicking ass I cannot take credit for,” Weitz said. “That was a later invention.” And in Weitz’s screenplay, it wasn’t intended to be obvious that it was the Death Star the Rebels were dealing with. “It was just the sense that the rebellion — that something bad was going down and we need to find out about it,” he said. “There was this developing sense of dread throughout the film.”
None of the above should be taken to mean that Weitz didn’t like Rogue One as it was revealed to audiences. Indeed, just the opposite is true. “I feel great about the final cut,” he said. “I had no idea what it was going to look like until I sat down at the premiere. It was like watching a movie I had written and a new movie at the same time: I really, really liked it.”