‘Star Wars’: ‘Rogue One’ Almost Had An Entirely Different Ending — Guess Who Would’ve Survived
Star Wars films have always had more than their fair share of drama. George Lucas’ legendary franchise consistently takes viewers on an emotional journey, with every film featuring humorous dialogue, intense conflict, and shocking deaths. Alternatively known as the “tragedy of Anakin Skywalker,” the original Star Wars films never failed to tug on fans’ heartstrings.
However, once Disney purchased the rights to the Star Wars franchise, many assumed that the movies would take on a lighter tone—including Rogue One director Gareth Edwards. Because Disney has traditionally only allowed family-friendly content, he assumed that the film’s rather somber current ending wouldn’t get approved. Instead of presenting the film’s current ending to the studio, he initially presented a different ending that didn’t have several major characters dying.
Luckily, after a few conversations with the team, he realized they wanted the same outcome, and changed it to the ending everyone knows today.
‘Star Wars’ films have traditionally had happy endings
With the exception of Revenge of the Sith, every Star Wars movie has a generally-happy ending. In the sequel trilogy, each film ends with Luke Skywalker either winning a small victory over the Galactic Republic and/or escaping the clutches of Darth Vader. In the prequel trilogy, the Jedi are able to engage in victorious battles against the Empire, typically losing a few Jedi in the process.
Either way, Star Wars had set a standard of primarily happy—or at least optimistic—endings to its films. After Star Wars was purchased by Disney, it seemed only right that the Star Wars would continue this trend. Disney’s brand has always been happy, positive, and aspirational, so it seemed unlikely that viewers would get dark, unsettling content that would disturb its younger audience.
‘Rogue One’ doesn’t really have a happy ending
In Rogue One, the primary themes are resistance and sacrifice. Everyone in the film understands the risks that come with being a part of the rebellion, and are willing to put their lives on the line to fight oppression. There is a mutual acceptance that the importance of collecting the Death Star plans trumps any individual fighter’s personal agenda.
Rogue One deviates from traditional Star Wars films because of the fact that every main character loses their life. While many viewers are used to at least one of the protagonists making it to the next film, none of the rebel fighters we see on screen survive. This sobering truth is considerably dark for a Star Wars movie, but it’s actually because the writers wanted to maintain the continuity between characters in Rogue One and A New Hope.
The ‘Rogue One’ director was uncertain about the film’s ending
Edwards knew that the film’s ending was a big jump away from the traditional model of Star Wars films, and had a strong feeling that the studio wouldn’t approve of it. Because of his doubts, he and story developer Gary Whitta presented a different ending to the studio at first, one in which Jyn Erso and Cassian Endo both survived. After executive Kathy Kennedy read it and asked why they didn’t die, the two went back to the drawing board and revised the ending.
After making some edits, the presented the script to the team at Disney with similar expectations that the film’s current ending wouldn’t be approved, but things went differently. According to an interview Edwards did with the A.V. Club, Disney’s staff was very pleased with the film’s new ending.
“So we wrote it so everyone died, and then we went for a meeting at Disney,” Edwards said. “As they’re going through their feedback … we’re getting to the end and it’s like ‘Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes’ and they just went ‘That’s it, great’ … We walk out the room, and we’re like ‘We can kill them all, that’s cool.’”
Even though Edwards still expected the executives to change their minds, they never did, and viewers were given the sad, dramatic ending that currently closes out Rogue One.