Interesting Insight and Details Revealed About ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY During Livestream Commentary

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On there being no opening crawl:

Gary Whitta: “The way that the movie opens is really one of the first interesting conversations that Gareth and I had – should there be an opening crawl? I did write one. You’ll never see it, but I did. I wrote more than one, back when we were still experimenting with the idea of doing one. But one of the things that we arrived at fairly early on in the process was that it was OK to liberate ourselves from the traditional storytelling language of Star Wars. A lot of the visual tropes – the iris wipes, the opening crawl, things like that – we felt like these standalone movies had more license than the saga films to try to do something a little bit different.”

The opening scene references Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds:

Whitta: “Gareth and I talked a lot about how much we love the opening of Inglourious Basterds, if you remember that, with the French farmhouse and Christoph Waltz, the Nazi, comes to interrogate the French farmer. This scene was very much inspired by that. Krennic is basically the Christoph Waltz Nazi coming to interrogate the poor innocents who have to hide this girl. It’s one of the more direct cinematic references in the film, I’m surprised more people didn’t pick up on it.”

Jyn’s mother was originally a Jedi:

Whitta: “I don’t know if that’s ever been talked about. The kyber crystal is the last tiny piece of that that’s left, but the original idea was that she was a Jedi in hiding. It was one of the first things that got killed, and rightly so. That was kind of a vestige of me as a fanboy wanting to feel like we were checking all the Star Wars boxes. As much as I love the whole military angle of Star Wars, the Rebellion and the Empire, I remember saying to Gareth and to Doug Chiang, who was in the room as well, ‘This is going to be the very first Star Wars movie that doesn’t have a lightsaber in it. How does that make you feel?’ And they were like ‘It makes us feel great! We want to try these different things.’ Of course, it ended up not being true. We had an amazing lightsaber sequence at the end of the movie.

Chris Weitz: “Something interesting that Gareth eventually was keen on was to imagine a world where there was no direct evidence of the Force. So what was the period like before Luke Skywalker came along and met Obi-Wan and there was this new hope. It’s a period of possible despair.”

Kyber crystals played a bigger role in the story originally:

Weitz: “Galen Erso originally intended to be able to use kyber crystals as a source of energy for the galaxy so there would be no more conflict, and it became weaponized under the Empire.”

Whitta: “I believe they touch on that in some of the spin-off novels…the idea that kyber crystals were going to power the Death Star was an idea that had been floating around and we crystalized it, forgive the pun, in this movie. But I always loved the idea, because Jedi lightsabers are powered by kyber crystals. So this crystal, which had once been used to power the weapons that protected peace and justice in the galaxy, are now powering the weapon that threatens all of that. I don’t know how much of that was really deliberate, but after the fact, it occurred to me that there was a nice bit of poetry in that idea.”

Saw Gerrera was included in the film thanks to former Lucasfilm Story Group head Kiri Hart:

Whitta: “Gareth was interested in the idea of it not being black and white. That there be shades of grey on both sides…we very quickly honed in on the idea of an extremist, militant rebel. Someone who had legitimately crossed over from being a freedom fighter into just being a terrorist… ‘Who’s our Colonel Kurtz? We want the guy at the end of the river, Marlon Brando, Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now type of character who’s gone off the deep end.’ And [former Lucasfilm Story Group head] Kiri Hart said, ‘Well, George actually created a character for The Clone Wars that might fit that really well.’”

The film was originally going to be more paced like Zero Dark Thirty:

Whitta: “In earlier versions, the Death Star is something that Jyn goes and finds. It’s much more like Zero Dark Thirty, where she’s putting together the clues of bin Laden is in this house in Pakistan… the Empire is building this terrible weapon. It was a battle for Jyn to try to convince the rebels to take it seriously. I think the feeling is that was too much of a slow burn. The idea was to front-load that a lot more and introduce the idea that the Empire was building a planet-killing weapon right up front.”

They went through several different version of Jyn Erso’s backstory:

Weitz: “At one point, Jyn was already a rebel soldier. We toyed with various other possibilities that she was a deserter, that she was a Rey-like scavenger, but obviously you can’t do that when you learn what the other hand of the Star Wars universe is doing.”

Grand Moff Tarkin’s appearance was aided by a mold of his face that taken for the 80s Val Kilmer movie Top Secret:

Weitz: “This was one of the things John Knoll said they could do, and they sort of built the parachute as they were falling. One interesting thing about it is that obviously you can’t scan Peter Cushing, but what John explained to me that they were able to do was take shots from the original Star Wars and unused takes and treat when he would turn in a shot as though it were their version of a 3D scan.”

Whitta: “When I first wrote Tarkin into the movie, I wrote him like he was always in shadow. I was trying to give ILM as much wiggle room as possible. He didn’t have a lot of dialogue. He wasn’t in the movie a lot. They eventually wrote him into the movie way more and gave him much more dialogue because ILM were confident that they could really do it. Peter Cushing was in a movie called Top Secret, the Val Kilmer movie from the 1980s. For that movie, Peter Cushing had to be fitted with a prosthetic, because there’s a visual gag where he has a huge eye. So they took a mold of his face, a 3D sculpture of his head. John found that sculpt, sitting on someone’s shelf in a prop workshop for decades. He found it, brought it to ILM, 3D scanned it, and that ended up being part of how they recreated Peter Cushing’s face for Tarkin.”

Bor Gullet was originally going to be more like Hannibal Lecter:

Weitz: “The first version of him, my great sadness in life is that on the cutting room floor is a Bor Gullet who’s a memory trader. He lives on memories, and he especially delights in traumatic memories. They’re more delicious to him. There was, at one point, kind of a space Hannibal Lecter scene where Bor Gullet made Jyn trade her traumatic memories for information that she wanted. That is all I have to say. It makes me sad that’s it not in there, and yet I understand.”

There’s a non-holographic version of the classic board game Djarik in the movie:

Whitta: “I don’t know how many people ever really pick up on it, but the guys in Saw’s hideout are playing an old wooden version of Djarik, the Star Wars chess game. No holographic characters, just like original wooden pieces.”

Weitz: “I looked at the original screenplay of Star Wars, which is pretty cuckoo-bananas in terms of ideas. There’s some amazing things in it, but it’s unfilmable. It’s gigantic and kind of shaggy. I was like, ‘I’m going to take things from here because there’s so many cool things in it.’ You can see that happening in other things in other movies in the Star Wars canon. Starkiller Base, originally, Luke was Luke Starkiller. So the Book of the Whills was originally the great Bible tome that all of these movies were adaptations of. I thought, ‘That’s kind of cool. Whills has a cool sound to it, and I like the idea of these people who are keeping an old faith alive, so we’re going to go there.’ I believe there’s also a notion of the Whills somehow connected to midi-chlorians that I don’t fully understand, the metaphysics of it all. But I was just doing some magpie poaching from deep old stuff. Chirrut doesn’t say this, but originally the Force was called the ‘Force of Others’ by Lucas. I had Chirrut often referring to the Force of Others rather than the Force.”

Cassian Andor was a double agent:

Weitz: “Cassian was always meant to be compromised. I think in Gary and my versions, he was severely compromised.”

Whitta: “He was a double agent.”

Weitz: “For a long time he was working for the Empire. I think this was rationale that I added in, but he had lost people who had been killed by Saw Gerrera. All he wanted from the Empire was the go-ahead and ability to kill Saw Gerrera, rather than Galen Erso. That transmogrified along the lines, post me and Gary, to a rebel intelligence officer who had done terrible things.”

Whitta: “He was a rebel soldier who was secretly working for Krennic. But as he grew closer to Jyn and realized that the Empire had built this weapon, he’s like, ‘I never signed up for this. I never signed up for killing planets.’ He has a change of heart and flips to the rebel side. But that’s after he’s exposed as a spy, and at that point in the third act, he kind of has to win Jyn’s trust back. That was all fun and interesting, I think they actually shot some of that stuff early on, but [the final] version ended up being more nuanced and more interesting.”

Some of the unused titles for the film were Dark Times, Shadow of the Death Star, and more:

Weitz: “There was one point where we were kicking around titles for this. Rogue One was a good choice eventually, but one of them was Dark Times.”

Whitta: “We had a lot. At one point, John Schwartz, who is one of the creative executives of the film, had a list, and we all voted on the ones we liked. I contributed two: one was Rogue One, [and the other was] Shadow of the Death Star, all these fancy titles. I went back and looked at all the previous films – and this continues to be true even with the sequel trilogy now being completed – the titles of Star Wars saga films are always either three or four words long. They just all are. So it occurred to me that one of the ways we could differentiate this movie from the rest was if we had a title that was only one or two words long. So Star Wars: RebellionStar Wars: Rogue One, things like that. I wanted to do a title that was shorter so even from the title of the movie, you know this is something that doesn’t necessarily conform to the unwritten rules of the saga films.”

Princess Leia almost showed up earlier in the movie:

Weitz: “Briefly, we toyed with, or maybe it was just me, a Leia appearance in the Yavin 4 council scene. She is referred to when Bail Organa chats with Mon Mothma, but it’s best I think for Jyn to give the rousing speech here.”

They didn’t think Disney would let them kill off characters:

Whitta: “We went back and looked at the ending of Gladiator when Maximus dies. The idea that you can have a righteous death, you can be triumphant even in death because you’ve accomplished your greater goal, was something that was really important to us. But we thought Disney would never let us do it. We’ll fall in love with killing all the characters, Disney won’t let us do it, and we’ll have our hearts broken. So we didn’t follow through on our initial creative instinct, and I wish we had because it turns out that Disney and Kathy and all those guys were fully supportive of it.

“When I left the movie and Chris came on, the first thing he said was, ‘I feel like these characters need to die’ and Gareth was like, ‘Oh yes! I’m so glad you said because that’s what Gary and I talked about.’ We got there in the end, but I guess the moral is, trust your instincts and write the version of the movie that you believe, not the version you believe people will say yes to…In my version, K-2 always died, but Jyn and the others survived. I think that would have been a far inferior version of the film. I’m so glad that Chris came along and had that same instinct to kill the characters because it ended up, I think, being some of the most powerful stuff in the film.”

They talk about the alternate takes that were incorporated from Star Wars: A New Hope:

Whitta: “Those aren’t actually shots from A New Hope. Those are alternate takes that never got used. But they found them, digitally cleaned them up, matched them with the extra footage, and even tracked down the original actors and had them re-record new dialogue.”

Explanation of why footage from the trailer didn’t end up ion the finished film:

Weitz: “I’ve heard it on good authority that the TIE Fighter hoving into view right in front of Jyn was actually never intended to be used. It was a trailer-specific moment, even though it’s pretty awesome. I don’t know how she would have gotten out of that one. Originally K-2 died on the beach. I’m not always sure why these things happen. All I can say is that while you’re cutting these things together during production and in post, all kinds of narrative necessities arise. ‘Oh, we can’t do that part anymore if they’re going to have to get to the master switch.’ So eventually they get elided. But nevertheless, some of these shots are so cool that they’re perfect for trailers.”

Whitta: “I can speak to it a little bit. My understanding is, when I originally wrote the battle, there were two separate facilities on Scarif, on that stretch of beach. There was a building where the plans were held in a vault, and then there was a separate building which was a communications tower, and they were separated by a stretch of beach. So part of the mission was to liberate the plans from the vault and then get them across the beach to the tower where they could transmit them. So when you see those scenes in the trailer of Jyn, we actually shot those scenes of Jyn running with the Death Star plans in her hand across the beach. That’s them trying to get from the building where they stole the plans to the comms tower where they could transmit them. I think as they looked at what they had, there were too many moving parts. They wanted to simplify it, and I think the solution, quite an elegant solution, was just to put both the vault and the tower in the same complex.”

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