Over the last several years, there have been a few high-profile blockbuster films that have had historically troubled productions. In 2017, there was all the behind-the-scenes drama with the finishing of “Justice League.” A year prior, David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” went through its fair share of issues. But perhaps the most troubled of them all is 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” And thanks to a new interview with one of the writers, we are finally getting a sense at what all changed between all the drafts, reshoots, and the final product that was presented for fans and earned over $1 billion at the box office.
On a recent episode of the Cult Popture podcast, writer Chris Weitz was interviewed about his career. And while ‘Rogue One’ was featured prominently, it must be said that the screenwriter is also responsible for films like “About a Boy” and “American Pie.” But really, this is all about ‘Star Wars.’
First, the discussion turned to what it’s like being asked to write a ‘Star Wars’ film, which Weitz said is just as mysterious as you might expect, with him not even aware of which film he’d be working on.
“I didn’t know until I was in the room, which one it would be,” he revealed. “This is a hot take, but I really don’t like Boba Fett and I was worried it was going to be ‘Boba Fett.’”
Lucky for the writer, “Boba Fett” was a whole different can of worms that he wasn’t involved in. Instead, he landed ‘Rogue One,’ which had already been through one draft by writer Gary Whitta. And immediately, Weitz was able to see what he wanted to change which his version of the script.
“The version prior to that didn’t have everyone die. As a matter of fact, it ended with a wedding. I think it was on the presumption that Disney wouldn’t allow characters to die with such abandon,” Weitz said.
He added, “I felt it was necessary because nobody ever mentions them or sees them again. But also because we’ve done this whole sort of theme about sacrifice that it was appropriate that all of our main characters die.”
But Weitz wasn’t the final person to have a shot at the film. After director Gareth Edwards shot the principal photography, it is a widely known that writer/director Tony Gilroy came on to “fix” the film with reshoots and thus, large chunks of the original story were changed. That being said, Weitz has zero hard feelings and actually likes what the final cut looked like.
“I feel great about the final cut,” the screenwriter said. “I really liked the movie.”
He continued, “I had no idea what it was going to look like until I sat down at the premiere. It was like watching a movie I had written and a new movie at the same time. I really, really liked it.”
So, what changed after Weitz and Edwards handed the project over to Gilroy? Well, quite a bit, as you might have already pieced together.
“If you imagine the beginning of the second act and the end of the second act kind of swapping places, that would not be an inaccurate way to portray how it structurally was changed,” Weitz said.
He added, “The Darth Vader kicking ass I cannot take credit for. That was a later invention. That was quite different…A lot of the deaths were put in different locations than they were originally put in the script and were originally shot. I’m not sure why, for instance, K-2 died in a different place.”
One thing that was changed, and was something that Weitz understands is the way the studio didn’t want to hide that the mission involved the Death Star. If you’re a fan of the series, you knew going into ‘Rogue One’ that the story involved the planet-killing weapon. But for Weitz, he wanted to have a bit of mystery.
“It wasn’t clear at the beginning of the movie that the Death Star was going to be the Death Star,” Weitz said. “It was just the sense that the rebellion that something bad was going down and we need to find out about it. There was this developing sense of dread throughout the film.”
“I was pushing for something that had more of a sense of dramatic irony,” Weitz said.
Overall, the writer says that most of what you read online about the changes to the film is actually true. As a film fan, one can hope that there’s a nice long book written about the film’s production, as we’ve only been able to piece together bits here and there. Whatever the case, it would appear that ‘Star Wars’ fans lucked out and were presented a product that most approved of. Not like that pesky Rian Johnson film. (kidding)