Director Gareth Edwards: 'We’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves until the very end'
Not since Greedo vs. Han Solo have Star Wars fans been so obsessed over what was shot first.
Reports of additional filming this summer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story have understandably alarmed the faithful, many of whom have interpreted that as a sign of trouble for the first stand-alone movie from Lucasfilm.
Others have found reassurance in the fact that reshoots are not only commonplace on large-scale films like this, they’re the norm for projects with deep pockets and the ability to regroup cast and crew for a few weeks of alteration late in the editing process.
Still, hand-wringing persists, partly because a Star Wars film is never just another movie. It’s one of the most powerful pop culture touchstones that exists, and now the pace of releasing films from this universe has increased to one a year, putting extra pressure on the studio and filmmakers to not mess up.
When Entertainment Weekly spoke with the makers of Rogue One for our new cover story, we asked them point-blank to discuss the reshoot situation and explain why it was necessary to change course.
But first, the background:
What is true and false?
Rumors about the reshoots are so varied, it’s hard to know what to believe. Some reports say nearly half the movie is being redone and that the tone is being shifted from heavy war film to a lighthearted caper.
EW’s sources have insisted that’s impossible — that an effects-heavy film like this couldn’t reshoot that much of its story in the summer and still be finished in time for the Dec. 16 debut. In our own deep-dive into the rumors, we found that about five weeks of reshoots were set, wrapping up just before Star Wars Celebration in mid-July.
Our confidential sources also revealed that Bourne screenwriter and Michael Clayton filmmaker Tony Gilroy was being brought in to write additional dialogue and direct some secondary units on the movie — alongside director Gareth Edwards, who collaborated with Gilroy in a similar capacity on 2014’s Godzilla.
But what fans want to know is: Why? What do they need that they didn’t capture the first time?
The movie has not been screened for test audiences, but EW’s sources on the film say that Lucasfilm’s in-house braintrust — which weighs in on films similarly to the way it’s done at Pixar — felt Rogue One needed to punch up its emotion and action beats. (They also confirm that although it went largely unreported last year, The Force Awakens also underwent weeks of reshoots in the summer of 2015.)
RELATED: Exclusive Rogue One scoop from EW’s cover
What do the filmmakers say?
Edwards was candid about the situation and even acknowledged in the interview that he was due back on set in the morning.
“I mean it was always part of the plan to do reshoots. We always knew we were coming back somewhere to do stuff. We just didn’t know what it would be until we started sculpting the film in the edit,” he says.
What’s the nature of the material being reshot? “There’s lots of little things that we have to get, but it’s all little things within the preexisting footage,” he said. One complication, he added, was that the cast is large, so individual shots with small groups of them add to the schedule.
“Obviously, you’ve got to work around everyone’s schedule, and everyone’s on different films all over the world, and so it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s been blown out of proportion a little bit.”
He sounded exasperated by the wilder rumors. “It’s funny, making a film stops you believing anything you’ve ever read on the Internet,” he said.
Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm and producer of Rogue One, said the tone of the movie — which was billed as a Band of Brothers-style combat tale at last year’s Celebration event — isn’t being altered.
“There’s nothing about the story that’s changing, with a few things that we’re picking up in additional photography,” she said. “I think that’s the most important thing, to reassure fans that it’s the movie we intended to make.”
What is the tone?
By all accounts, it’s still a war film. Always has been, from the first pitch by ILM visual effects supervisor John Knoll, and will be when it hits theaters in December.
“One of the things we’re doing with these Star Wars stories is embracing the uniqueness of the different genres, and we’re very deliberately leaning into the various styles of directors that we’re approaching so that each of these movies will very intentionally have a very different tone and style from the saga films,” Kennedy says, referring to the trilogy movies. “Gareth has shown a stylistic preference that’s much more handheld, visceral, inside-the-action kind of feel.”
She said that remains the look and the feel of Rogue One. “He does a lot of handheld, intimate, close-up work. That’s not something you’ve necessarily seen in a Star Wars movie before,” Kennedy says. “And we brought in [cinematographer] Greig Fraser, to shoot it, who had done Zero Dark Thirty. So a combination of Greig and Gareth has been, I think, fantastic, and it just gives it a really unique style.”
Edwards reiterated that the hardscrabble vibe of the movie has not been undermined.
“I’d definitely describe it as: It’s got dark tone,” he said. “The studio has been very supportive of that. I mean, the sort of tone we were going for when we started was the tone you have in films like The Empire Strikes Back. And that’s not in any way been compromised.”
What happens now?
After the reshoots wrap and the new footage is woven into the movie, the edit is on track to be locked in August, with the score by Alexandre Desplat and the sound effects added in September. (By comparison, The Force Awakens locked its edit in October.)
Another thing they’re grappling with, Kennedy says, (and it has nothing to do with the reshoots) is whether Rogue One should incorporate some of the standard tropes of a Star Wars film, like an opening crawl, or whether it should distance itself stylistically from the “saga” trilogy films.
“We talk about that all the time. It’s something that we’re right in the midst of discussing even now, so I don’t want to say definitively what we’re doing,” she said. “The crawl and some of those elements live so specifically within the ‘saga’ films that we are having a lot of discussion about what will define the [stand-alone] Star Wars Stories separate and apart from the saga films. So we’re right in the middle of talking about that.”
Whatever they decide will likely set a new template for future stand-alone films. The next one, based on the adventures of a young Han Solo, is coming in 2018.
As for the reshoots on Rogue One, it’s as natural for the people involved in a film to want to protect it as it is for fans of a franchise to feel anxious or uncertain about it. Edwards said he understood the concern. “We have a lot of attention on this. I’d be [worried] the same if I wasn’t involved in it,” he said. “So it’s just part of the privilege of making Star Wars. But hopefully, people will get to see it when it comes out, and everyone will feel the same way we do.”
He also said fans should try to understand that retooling is an important part of telling a story. “A film is a very creative, organic process, and it evolves over time,” he says. “There’s no right or wrong. There’s just ‘better’ and ‘best,’ and with Star Wars, nothing but the best is going to do. So we’re just putting a lot of pressure on ourselves until the very end, making this the greatest film it can be.”
Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebels acquired the plans that revealed the Death Star had a fatal flaw — that tiny port that allowed Luke Skywalker to fly in and blow it up with one shot.
Whatever you choose to believe about the reshoots, there may be a metaphor there: If the Empire could go back and plug that exhaust hole in the Death Star, wouldn’t that just make sense?
RELATED: Rogue One exclusive details – EW Radio
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Tomorrow on EW.com: The return of Rebel leader Mon Mothma.