In the wake of 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story's' release and high-flying performance at the box office (one of the strongest weekend openings of the year), director Gareth Edwards has sat down with the Empire Podcast to discuss the original ending of the film. This ending was very different to what we've seen in theaters and would have drastically altered the entire tone of the movie. Please be warned that this article will contain spoilers about the ending of the final, theatrical version of the film!
'A film is a very creative, organic process, and it evolves over time. There's no right or wrong. There's just 'better' and 'best,' and with Star Wars, nothing but the best is going to do', that's the word directly from Gareth Edwards
If you've seen 'Rogue One', you know that it ranks among the darkest of Star Wars films to date. The ending of the film, which has all of our main characters, from the wise-cracking droid K-2SO to Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso) and her Rebel companion Cassian Andor, along with Donnie Yen's spiritual Chirrup, being sequentially killed off, had some of us wondering if George R.R. Martin was involved in the screenwriting process! The original conclusion of the film, however, had at least Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor surviving. Being a Star Wars film (known for being somewhat family-friendly), the cast, writers, and Edwards felt that they couldn't possibly end the movie with everyone being killed off. Edwards felt that Disney simply wouldn't let them do it. When asked by the Empire Podcast if he had intended from the start to end the film in this unconventionally dark way, he sarcastically responded, 'I mean, it's a great Disney tradition, isn't it? For every single character to die in all their movies'.
This is the only movie from the series where there is only one true user of the force (Darth Vader), all of the other characters are not able to use the force
According to Edwards, he struggled to end the film with the main characters surviving, but when read by the cast and crew it didn't seem natural. There was general agreement that the film should end with the characters dying. This was something of a risk for a Star Wars film, and Edwards says he kept expecting to get a request to shoot an alternate, happier ending, or a request to film a scene with Jyn and Cassian living in peace on some other planet. Neither of these requests came, however, and so the director was lucky enough to stick with his preferred ending.
Disney and Kathleen Kennedy (president of Lucasfilm) should be given credit for allowing Gareth Edwards the leeway to end the film how he wanted. They realized that it wouldn't make much sense for the main characters to survive, as stealing the Death Star plans is definitely a 'suicide mission'. Rogue One is the first gritty war film we've received from the Star Wars franchise, and the deaths of the characters show the heroic sacrifice of the Rebellion against the overwhelming odds of the Empire's might. Despite the dark final act, the film ends on a hopeful note, especially since we know that Rogue One's sacrifice was not in vain and that the Death Star will eventually be destroyed as a result of their efforts.
This is the second live-action Star Wars film to feature a female lead character
Since the film was a one-off, stand-alone story, the characters don't need to survive in order to be alive for a sequel, so to show the struggle of the Rebel Alliance in such a dark way was a smart choice. The ending which had the main characters surviving never made it beyond the original screenplay, and so, unfortunately, we can't expect to see this alternate ending in a special edition Blu-ray release or anything like that.