Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the movie depicting the vital heist of the Empire’s Death Star plans might not have seemed like a story that needed telling, but thanks to Gareth Edwards’ vision, some stellar performances, and eerily accurate CGI, the majority of moviegoers (and hardcore Star Wars fans) left screenings feeling pretty satisfied. But, things could have turned out very differently had some major changes not been made to the story….
Spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Follow
Undoubtedly, Rogue One’s strongest moment was its ending. Bringing the spin-off right up to the moments that opened Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was a touch that was greatly appreciated by the majority of Star Wars fans. During Rogue One‘s closing moments, we were not only treated to a surprise cameo from a digital Princess Leia, but a scene depicting Darth Vader in a rare muscle-flexing display in which he dispatches with a dozen or so Rebel soldiers with a few flicks of his robotic wrists.
However, preceding those moments of pure popcorn enjoyment were some dark and, at times, heartfelt scenes in which Rogue One’s heroes gradually gave up their lives for the Rebel cause. It was a refreshingly realistic ending, especially given that this was a movie from a studio that traditionally loves a clean happy finale. In the wake of Rogue One’s release, we’ve learned that there were multiple different endings considered throughout the production.
From more Disney-friendly ends for our heroes to a drawn out death for the movie’s main villain, here are all the ways Rogue One’s ending could have been drastically different.
Happily Ever After
From the offset, the plan had always been for the majority of Rogue One‘s good guys to die, but the movie’s writers were aware that such a dark finale might not sit well with Disney.
“The first ever screenplay by Gary Whitta…we were chatting about this and it was clear we were going to kill a lot of people,” Gareth Edwards told /film. Potentially everyone. We just felt “There’s no way they’re going to let us do this. So for this first draft, let’s try to do the best version we think of with Jyn and Cassian surviving.”
That ending would have seen Jyn and Cassian escaping from Scarif and transferring the Death Star plans to Leia off-planet. As the transfer is underway, Vader’s Star Destroyer attacks the rebel ship. Before their ship is destroyed, the transfer is completed and Jyn and Cassian are able to slip through Vader’s grip by way of an escape pod.
This wasn’t the only version of the ending which saw Jyn and Cassian escape Scarif. ILM’s John Knoll told io9 that one idea was to have the pair make it all the way to Coruscant in an attempt to get Leia the plans. During their journey, they’re hounded all the way by Vader and by the time they reach their goal, their ship is in pretty bad shape. Once they arrive in the cloud of ships that is Coruscant, they successfully transmit the Death Star plans to Leia’s ship. Unfortunately, their own vessel is so badly damaged that they realize they’re unable to escape the clutches (and inevitable torture) of Vader and his cronies. Their only choice? Hit the self-destruct button and prevent any Rebel secrets from ever making it into Imperial hands.
Carbon Freezing Bomb & Double Agents
If you think that previous ending sounds like a stretch, just wait until you hear another ending that Knoll considered.
Then I had a version of it where the Cassian character, originally, was a double agent. He was a spy planted by the Empire into the Rebellion. And over the course of the mission he becomes aware that the Death Star actually is a real thing and it’s not just propaganda. The Empire really built it, intends to use it and its only purpose is a genocide weapon. He realizes a lot of what he’s been told is a lie and that he’s been on the wrong side. So he switches sides to the Rebellion and he realizes he can let everyone live.
They’ve got a carbon freeze bomb on the ship and the idea is that he forces everyone into the airlock. “I’m going to set this off and you’re all going to survive.” He sort of times it with one of the hits from Vader’s ship so he blows up the ship and sets off this carbon freeze bomb and everyone is frozen. Then on Vader’s ship they detect no life signs and they think everyone’s dead. And they’re like, “Where’s that ship the plans were transmitted too?” and they go. So I was going to leave our heroes out of the picture. It’s why they don’t show up in Empire or Jedi — they’re stuck in [carbon freeze].
A Beach Too Far
Footage from Rogue One’s trailers showed Jyn and Cassian sprinting across the Scarif beach under heavy fire. In this footage, it’s clear that Jyn has the Death Star plans in her hand. As we all now know, these scenes never made it into the final cut.
Initially, the data tower was not actually part of Scarif base, which meant Jyn, Cassian, and even K-2S0 had to take a perilous journey from the base to the data tower in order to transmit the plans. Thankfully, this version was deemed too drawn out, and we ended up with the condensed version in which the data tower was in the middle of the base. It’s believed that this was one of the main focal points of those fabled reshoots everyone was talking about last year.
One part of Rogue One‘s ending that did feel anti-climactic was the death of Director Krennic. Krennic, like so many others, is killed off by the Death Star blast on Scarif, but one version of the ending actually saw the lead villain survive….for a while, at least. Screenwriter Gary Whitta recently revealed that an original version of the ending saw Krennic survive the blast, only to be taken to Lord Vader to answer for his mistakes.
“They tore him out of the rubble and they brought him back,” Whitta told EW. “When they’re going over the ruins, he somehow survived. It’s a bit of a reach, which is why it isn’t in the finished film. He survived the blast and they pulled him up and brought him to the Star Destroyer to report to Vader. He’s all beat up, his cape’s all torn up and stuff, and he thinks he has survived. Vader kills him for his failure.”
Granted, for anybody to survive that amount of destruction would have been a bit of a stretch, but this would have been a more fitting end for a villain like Krennic.