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 troubled production ever since. At a Montclair State University Event, he talked about the state the movie was in after it’d been rewritten and reshot so many times:
“When things pass through many hands and there’s a great deal of confusion … and there’s all kinds of accessories and jewelries and bootstraps and zippers, and all the rest of the stuff. The purity for the characters, if it’s not there to begin with, it just deteriorates and just turns into an absolute mush.”
The way he talks about the film makes it sound like it’d completely lost its direction, with Edwards’ original concept for the characters and plot having been buried under a blizzard of edits, studio-mandated cuts and alterations. Gilroy went on to explain how he approached fixing the movie in an episode of The Moment with Brian Koppelman, saying:
“If you look at Rogue, all the difficulty with Rogue, all the confusion of it … and all the mess, and in the end when you get in there, it’s actually very, very simple to solve. Because you sort of go, ‘This is a movie where, folks, just look. Everyone is going to die.’ So it’s a movie about sacrifice.”
I kind of like his no-nonsense, Gordian Knot style approach to filmmaking – boiling the characters back to their most basic elements and story beats and reconstructing them from there. This dispassionate practicality seems to have pretty much saved the movie, too, which is interesting given that Gilroy has no reverence for Star Wars and treated it like just another gig.
“I’ve never been interested in Star Wars, ever. So I had no reverence for it whatsoever. I was unafraid about that. And they were in such a swamp … they were in so much terrible, terrible trouble that all you could do was improve their position.”
It sounds like it’s a miracle that Rogue One turned out as great as it did. And it seems it was a miracle Lucasfilm thought they could repeat, too, when they booted Phil Lord and Chris Miller off Solo: A Star Wars Story and got steady hand Ron Howard in to finish the film. Sadly, that attempt wasn’t quite as successful.