Rogue One: A Star Wars Story more than achieved its goal of giving us a new perspective on the Star Wars universe, taking us to cool new places, introducing us to a great cast of original characters and letting audiences wallow in that timeless OT aesthetic. It’s almost easy to forget, then, that throughout 2016, it sounded as if it was in seriously bad shape. There were extensive re-writes and reshoots, complete with rumors that director Gareth Edwards had all but had his film taken from him and given to someone else to finish up.
Said ‘someone’ was writer Tony Gilroy, who’s been sounding off about Rogue One‘s production while on the press rounds for his new film, Beirut. First, he made waves by saying on podcast The Moment that when he arrived the project was in “terrible, terrible trouble.” Then, he expressed his displeasure in an interview with MovieFone about the experience of dipping a toe into possibly the most loved fictional universe of all-time:
“33 million live viewers staring over [your] shoulders, constantly in a town square, screaming about everything that’s going on while it’s happening. No one’s ever had to do that before. No one’s ever had to make movies like this before. It’s a beautiful thing, it’s a passionate thing, it’s been an amazing thing, but it makes filmmaking really, really difficult.”
He then goes on to talk about trying to fix a film in the midst of a disinformation campaign that’s insisting everything is hunky dory when it’s not:
“Imagine somebody who’s online, who is with absolute authority, turning everything that you’re writing upside down and they say that’s what you’re doing. And that gets magnified by 28 million people who go, ‘Oh my god! That guy must really know what he’s talking about, or she must really know what she’s saying because look at the authority with which she said it,’ which is nothing! The idea of trying to run a marathon while someone’s cutting you up to try and figure out what’s going on inside your body is just impossible. Imagine if they had to do this on Gone With the Wind. It would’ve been really hard.”
Gilroy is talking about the widespread (and, by this point, largely substantiated) rumors that he ended up reshooting upwards of 40% of the movie, in the process completely altering major character arcs and changing the tone of the film – the most notorious alteration was to soften heroine Jyn’s rougher edges and make her into a more sympathetic character. When he’s talking about the mixed signals, it’s got to be a reference to the moments in which Gilroy insisted he’d spent nine months reshaping the project, while Lucasfilm executive Kathleen Kennedy kept saying he’d only spent four weeks on it.
I’m sure one day the full unexpurgated truth will come out, but until then, it’s fortunate for all that Rogue One turned out to be a roaring success, ending up as 2016’s highest grossing release. You only have to flick your eyes to similar projects in which the director had their movie taken from them midway through production (*cough* Justice League) to see that Lucasfilm and Disney dodged a serious bullet. Only time will tell whether they can repeat the same trick with Solo: A Star Wars Story next month.