Which paths through the galaxy weren’t taken? That’s a question Star Wars fans still have about Rogue One, and EW has provided answers this week leading up to the movie’s digital debut today. (It’s out on Blu-ray April 4.) The final installment in our Rogue One Revelations series:
The famous planet we almost saw … the TIE fighter scene explained … and more on the race across the beach.
Maybe it’s better not to know.
Ever since that Rogue One trailer featured a wounded Jyn Erso limping forward onto a windblown gantry to face down the spider-eye cockpit of a TIE fighter, fans have been wondering: What comes next?
“That’s going to have to remain a mystery,” says director Gareth Edwards. And there’s a very good reason for that.
There was no “next.”
Related: Jyn Erso’s Mother Was a Slain Jedi in Early Version of Rogue One
The hovering TIE was an image without a story point, and it only existed for the sake of the trailer, capturing the David vs. Goliath tone of the nascent Rebellion and the overpowering Empire.
“It was something the marketing team fell in love with,” Edwards says. “We knew it would not be in the film. It’s one of those things where all the trailers are put together way before the film comes out. It wasn’t a specific part of the story.”
So, for everyone who imagined a spectacular showdown, or a surprise rescue, or … anything at all, we now turn to The Dude from The Big Lebowski for comment:
Anybody want to start a petition asking Lucasfilm to just say it was supposed to be, um, I don’t know … Zuckus?
THE LOST WORLD
The planet of Dantooine has been waiting for its close-up for a long time, but it almost got that starring role in Rogue One.
Almost. But it turns out no one wanted to spend millions to explore the galactic version of the boonies.
The only time we’ve laid eyes on Dantooine was the animated Rebels episode Secret Cargo, which saw the heroes of that series piloting Mon Mothma to the remote agrarian world.
“We did a few things to save money and one of them was they go to a Rebel base in the first half of the film, then go off on their adventure, and the second half of the film they return to a Rebel base,” says Edwards. “It used to be that the first half of the movie was not on Yavin it was Dantooine.”
We first heard about this planet in the original Star Wars, when Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader are holding the Death Star at Princess Leia’s home world of Alderaan. “Princess Leia tells them to blow up Dantooine. The idea was that she knew that they weren’t there,” Edwards says.
Later in that movie, Imperial scouts report that they did find the Rebel base there, but that it was abandoned. Rogue One’s first half would have shown the headquarters in operation before the Rebels fled.
“We wanted to put that moment in the film, where they evacuated and went to Yavin instead. All these little things would tie up when you watch A New Hope,” Edwards said. “But the idea of building two sets was very expensive. We ended up trimming things like that.”
So what did we miss? Not much. Dantooine is described in Star Wars canon as a vast farmland world with a small population. A little Rebel stronghold on the prairie.
Budget constraints were also the reason Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera was moved to the sacred world of Jedha instead of his original hideout – a moon with an electrically charged atmosphere.
“Trying to make it more efficient and make the story not get too large, we decided the obvious thing to do was to put Gerrera on Jedha to keep it all the same place,” Edwards says.
There was talk about inserting more classic Star Wars characters into Rogue One, but screenwriter Gary Whitta says the filmmaking team decided restraint would be better than too much fan service.
“We did have some other characters but the reason why they’re not in the film is because any time we did something like, where I’m wearing the fanboy hat and not the professional writer’s hat, someone would come along and say, let’s not do that character again,” Whitta says. “We don’t have to be winking at the audience all the time.”
In fact, he disagrees with the decision to insert two characters from the cantina brawl in A New Hope – Ponda Baba (a.k.a. Walrus Man) and Dr. Evazan – in the streets of Rogue One’s Jedha city.
“I thought having Evazan and Walrus Man was a little too much,” Whitta says. “You have to reign in that instinct to go back and put things in just because you loved them when you were a kid.”
Some classic characters would have been noticeable in their absence, such as Imperial Grand Moff Tarkin, which was a partially digital recreation of late actor Peter Cushing, and Rebel leader Mon Mothma, played by Genevieve O’Reilly, reprising her cut performance from Revenge of the Sith.
“The number one mandate we got from Lucas was to show things we have not seen before. Don’t show us the stuff we’ve seen already. Show us some new stuff,” Whitta says.
The original script also featured Admiral Ackbar, the crustacean-like fleet commander from Return of the Jedi, leading the Rebel strike on Scarif. “I always loved Admiral Ackbar. I wanted to have him in there, but J.J. Abrams got to him first,” Whitta says. “We didn’t want to use him again after The Force Awakens. So Ackbar became Admiral Raddus. You will see those little evolutions.”
Where there any other major cameos considered for the movie?
“Yeah, but I’m not going to tell you,” Whitta says. “You will write it up and it will become a big deal. It’s not a big deal. They were just little things that we put in there.”
FIXING A PLOT HOLE
The effort to make Rogue One match up with the chronology of its 1977’s original Star Wars often led the filmmakers on detours as they tried to tell the story of the theft of the Death Star plans.
“The first thing we did on day one was watch the original film and make notes of every line of dialogue,” Edwards says. “The problem is that in A New Hope, they contradict themselves. At one point, they say, ‘conjure up the stolen data tapes’ and at another point they say, ‘several transmissions were beamed aboard the ship.’ Did they steal data tapes or was it transmissions?”
The only option was to try to do both, and trying to reverse that decision is what led to several weeks of reshoots last summer when the climax proved to be meandering.
“The original version was that they stole the plans, tried to get back to the ship and on their way, it all went wrong,” Edwards says. “They were forced to go to the transmission tower and send them to the Rebels. It was too long. We tried to compress things. One of the obvious solutions to compress the time was to put the transmission tower at the base [where they steal the data tapes.]”
That’s why early footage featured Jyn Erso holding a hard drive while running across the beach with Cassian Andor and K-2SO, dodging blaster fire from the AT-ACTs. In those deleted scenes, she was racing from the archive to the separate transmission tower, but the fates of the heroes would have been the same – just in a different location.
“They no longer have to go on a journey across the beach, and some of those decisions can be heartbreaking because I loved a lot of the material we got from that moment,” Edwards says. “The film as a whole always wins. We needed to keep the duration down to two hours. No matter how well you’re doing in a movie there’s always the point where the audience gets a bit antsy. You don’t want people to have that feeling in a Star Wars film.”
Here are the other stories in EW’s Rogue One Revelations series:
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released digitally this Friday and will be available April 4 on Blu-ray.