The year was 2003. John Knoll had been involved with Industrial Light and Magic’s visual effects department as a supervisor. He had helped create many of the FX for the prequel films that were fantastic… the FX not the prequels. He has been nominated for Academy Awards and worked on such great hits as Pacific Rim, Avatar, and even Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. But who could have guessed that he would come up with the pitch that would eventually become Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?
When the prequel hype was big, Lucasfilm was working on creating a live action TV series for Star Wars, and that got Jon Knoll thinking about what he would like to see. He came up with an idea for a series similar to Mission: Impossible focusing on Rebel Agents who had to steal the Death Star plans. He asked about what the TV shows plans were and realized that the two just didn’t make the perfect fit. Years later after Star Wars was purchased by Disney, John discovered that there were plans to make stand-alone Star Wars films. He pitched the ideas to his friends who encouraged him to make an official pitch. With a little work, that pitch became the Rogue One film. Knoll explained:
“What about a ‘Mission Impossible’-style break-in into the most secure facility in the Empire to steal the Death Star plans? There could be a lot of tension of potentially being discovered and overcoming security measures. That could be a lot of fun!” I started tinkering with this idea internally. Then a day or two later, I asked Rick [McCallum], I heard you were developing this TV show. He started telling me about the era that it takes place in, and the themes of the show. As soon as he started going into that, I realized, actually, that idea has no place in that show, so I just dropped it completely.
It just goes to show to hold on to your story ideas, you never know when they could work. The full interview and story about John Knoll’s process and how he became such a huge fan of the Star Wars Universe can be viewed on CBR.com.