After months of waiting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is finally in cinemas with critics widely praising the Star Wars spin-off. However, as eagle-eyed fans have pointed out, numerous scenes from the trailers are missing from the final film.
In a phone interview with The Independent, one of the film's editors, John Gilroy – who previously worked on Pacific Rim, Nightcrawler, and Suicide Squad – spoke about those infamous reshoots.
Along with confirming “a lot of the movie changed”, Gilroy talked about looking through the dailies from A New Hope, working on Suicide Squad, and whether fan reactions' to trailers effects the final film.
I thoroughly enjoyed Rogue One, and had a massive smile on my face the whole time. Were you a Star Wars fan beforehand?
Of course, I’ve always loved the Star Wars movies. I was a young man when they first came out. I’m not a fan the way I know there are fans. I really enjoyed them and wanted to make a movie that would please those people and people uninitiated to Star Wars.
Was there a sense of responsibility making this, knowing it was the first Star Wars spin-off?
Sure, I know there was a lot riding on the movie and they were branching out. Other films following this one. It was really important this one turned out well. It may have made me work a little harder, if not faster.
The film feels different to other Star Wars film, particularly the beginning with the planet hoping and name tags. Was there ever a worry this could be too different to the main saga, that maybe you had made it too unlike Star Wars?
I think all the filmmakers were gauging that, asking themselves that question all the way down the line. Naming the planets became very helpful to us. We didn’t have that opening crawl and we did have to bounce around these planets at the beginning to really set up this story. The title card was a new thing for Star Wars but was also very helpful. We decided it was a good change and what we wanted for the film. We wanted to keep it Star Wars faithful but also pressing the envelope of what we wanted a Star Wars movie to be.
I was reading how you watched the dailies from A New Hope. When you were watching those, were there any surprises or highlights from what you saw?
For my part, I was very much focussed – in terms of A New Hope Dailies – on the pilot footage: the Red Leader and Gold Leader. There were ideas about ‘Can we get them into our movie? Can we get them into the battle?’ Certainly – in the timeline – it was possible they would be part of that battle. It’s always very interesting to see dailies from a movie 40 years old. You watch the little mistakes, all the coaching, the directing, hearing George [Lucas] in the background.
Was it very different the way George was directing his crew and the way Gareth Edwards directed his?
No, not really. For that bit, you have an actor sitting in a fake cockpit. They have to pretend everything. “Now something's coming from your right. Now you’re banking left.” It’s all pretty mechanical but it’s very interesting. I guess, in that sense, they were very similar. It’s a very artificial situation.
How did editing Gareth’s footage compare to working on other films? He’s very hand on, apparently.
I was given some free range to do things. I came on and helped shape a few things, to try some things, and I did. We had reshoots. In terms of being hands-on, I would say it was about normal for directors.
You mentioned reshoots. How much input did you have with those?
I came on a little bit later than the other two editors. When I came on, there was a plan, so we did some photography. I was very much set on the movie that you see. There have been other incarnations of the movie, with different scenes that were not used, but I didn’t think about them that much. I was thinking about the movie that we had to make.
In some of the trailers, there’s some very different footage.
They were trying different things, obviously, as they went along.
There was one where Jyn was holding the Death Star plans and running through what looks like a London tube. Was there another ending in sight at the beginning?
[SPOILERS] 13 scenes from Rogue One's trailers cut from the film
[SPOILERS] 13 scenes from Rogue One's trailers cut from the film
1/13 'I rebel'
Straight off the bat, that instantly infamous line from Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso - "This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel" - is missing from the final cut. Probably a good thing, considering nobody needs Jyn's entire character motivation spelled out in quite such obvious terms.
2/13 Moody Orson Krennic
This brilliantly moody shot from the film's teaser never makes it into the final cut, but there's a good chance it was never intended to, having all the hallmarks of footage deliberately shot for the trailer.
3/13 Moody Jyn Erso
The same goes for this look at Jyn Erso in her Imperial disguise, which definitely has the look of a promotional shot to it.
4/13 'What will you become?'
The look at Jyn's Imperial outfit coincides with the final line of a cut monologue from Saw Gerrera: "What will you become?" The confusing part here is that Saw is seen with the close-cropped hair he sports only in the prologue scenes, when Jyn is only a child. When she visits him in Jedha, his hair is much fuller and he's sporting a beard. So, was this speech somehow originally delivered to Galen Erso in a cut prologue segment? In the context of Galen's work with the Empire and his later attempts to evade them, Saw's words would make a lot more sense.
5/13 And Moody Darth Vader
Potentially another promo shot, considering this was used as the very first reveal of Darth Vader in the trailers.
6/13 Krennic and Vader
However, this shot also shows a cut scene between Krennic and Vader, in which the former talks about the "power we are dealing with here".
7/13 'The captain says you are a friend. I will not kill you'
K-2SO has many similar lines directed to Jyn throughout the film, but they're a lot less sinister than this one.
8/13 Captured rebel pilots
This shot from Jedha is missing. It doesn't exactly add anything to the story, but it's an added touch of grit which sets the tone nicely in the trailers.
9/13 'Good.' 'Good.'
A cut moment between Jyn and Cassian, though it's a little hard to tell where this comes from - there's no moment where Jyn sits as co-pilot on the U-wing, since it's usually K-2SO in the seat.
10/13 Jyn faces off against a TIE fighter
What's interesting is that this shot of Jyn limping across the Scarif communications tower is, of course, in the final film. It's just that the TIE fighter is entirely absent. Was this a cut moment? Was Krennic piloting that thing? Or was it even just cut into the trailer to keep audiences off the scent?
11/13 Krennic on the Scarif beaches
And what about this great shot of Krennic marching amongst the dead? The set-up and lighting seem to imply he survives the initial battle without getting shot by Cassian, and is on the ground when the Death Star destroys Scarif - if that's indeed the source of the glow in the background.
12/13 Jyn and Cassian in the Scarif battle
In fact, the trailer footage seems to hint at a drastically different ending, which may point to what exactly got changed during the re-shoots. We see multiple shots of Jyn and Cassian running along the Scarif beach with the Death Star plans. Considering the battle is still in full swing, it suggests the archives and the communications tower may have been separate locations in the original version.
13/13 Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO running through Scarif base
And here, again, we see Cassian, Jyn, and K-2SO running with the data plans through the Scarif base. That means the droid wasn't originally meant to die (or whatever happens to droids) defending the archive room.
I would say a lot of the movie changed. That’s the simplest way to put it. I’ve said we definitely changed things at the beginning, added scenes developing those characters, and that has a ripple effect through the whole movie. So, I know people have been watching and clocking the deleted scenes and saying, “I wonder how that fit in?” but I was mostly concerned with the movie you saw. I was there to put that movie together.
In a previous interview, I believe someone said there was a rough cut of Rogue One made using other films.
Colin [Goudie, another editor] said that. He saw everything at every stage of this journey. And that happens – I’ve been on films where you make a pacemaker. Taking scraps of other films and making a sketch with other films, It’s not unheard of at an early stage of a film.
It actually reminded me of the first Star Wars film when George Lucas took old Second World War film footage and used them for the Tie-Fighter scenes.
Exactly! So they could really understand the star battle. He could pull all that aerial combat footage. It was a big eye-opener for ILM (Industrial Light & Magic). I saw a documentary about that and people were talking about that.
What were the other films that influenced you when working on Rogue One?
I don’t bring in any preconceived idea. I’m a firm believer that the film tells you what to do and you have to be a very good listener when you’re a film editor. We had a good plan and you need to mine every scene, get the most out of every scene. Then put them together in sequence, see how that goes. I’m a conduit, I let the movie tell me what to do.
You worked on Suicide Squad earlier in the year. Because these two films feel very similar, in that both feature teams of strangers teaming up to do good. The beginnings of both in particular, one starts with planet hoping, the other with briefings on their background: did you see similarities between the two?
Suicide Squad had a Dirty Dozen sort of aspect to it, taking these misfits and putting them in a group. In a way, Rogue One sort of does that. It’s just happenstance that I happened to be working on them back-to-back like that. It’s funny, when I was putting Rogue One together I didn’t even think about that connection. But I can see how one would make that connection. There is some similarity.
It’s interesting that both those films had a lot of talk of reshoots and deleted scenes from the trailers.
A lot of things happened on Suicide Squad too. I’m not going to go into all that, but sometimes on these very big features, there’s a lot at stake. And when there’s a lot at stake, you need to get it right. Filmmakers need to feel they’re getting it right. So, people sometimes change their mind. People add different ideas and I guess you can say that about both these films.
Because these trailers are sent out so far beforehand, does the reaction to them change the way you edit the film? Or are you completely oblivious to them, ignoring the reaction from fans at places like Comic-Con?
I ignore it. A trailer or a comic-con piece is a totally different thing to what we’re really doing. But, it’s really nice to clock. What the early trailers on Suicide Squad did was show Warner Bros. people are very interested in the movie and the series. I’d say those short form things are an art in and of themselves. That’s a whole other thing. I don’t normally think about it too much and there’s not a lot of interface between the two disciplines.
Working on the CGI Tarkin and Leia, you must watch the actors and choose the scenes before the CGI is placed on.
With Tarkin, we had an actor playing him – Guy Henry – who is really acting. Then ILM’s task is to replace him with Governor Tarkin. We’re cutting and they’re doing their work and we’re trying not to make too many changes because every time I make a change I make a lot of work for people over there. You have to get the edit first, then work on the shot. Every frame has to be lavished on, every frame has to be right.
Your brother Tony worked on the script. Did it feel like a family affair?
Yeah, Tony did. I guess it did, in a way. Tony was invaluable to the process.
Were there any Star Wars tropes, like using the wipes, that you in particular wanted to put in the film?
The wipes were part of the film during its early inception. But we wanted to keep it original. We realised we really didn’t need them. And once you remove something you realise you don’t need, it fell away. We tried, gave them their run, and then they fell away. But the movie played better without them.
‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is in cinemas nowReuse content