Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is unique among Star Wars films because the heroes don’t live to fight another day. Jyn, Cassian, k-2SO and the gang don’t get the happy endings that other Star Wars characters got, but that’s one of the aspects of Rogue One that make it so great. In the early drafts of the movie however, things were a little different. Ace reporter Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly interviewed Gary Whitta, who told him how Jyn and Cassian originally escaped the Empire:
The Death Star emerges from hyperspace to lay waste to Scarif and protect the Empire’s secrets by destroying the special weapons facility along with the Rebel incursion.
But this time there was no last-second broadcast of the plans from a satellite tower. Jyn and Cassian were to escape the surface of the beach world carrying the data tapes.
“A rebel ship came down and got them off the surface,” Whitta says. “The transfer of the plans happened later. They jumped away and later [Leia’s] ship came in from Alderaan to help them. The ship-to-ship data transfer happened off Scarif.”
Darth Vader was still in pursuit and began attacking Jyn’s shuttle as the Rebels tried desperately to transfer the information from the data tapes to Leia’s vessel. Finally, Vader was successful in breaching their shields and destroying the craft.
The audience would have been left fearing the heroes were dead. But as Vader’s Star Destroyer ventures off to chase Leia’s Tantive IV, we would have remained focused on the shuttle fragments floating in the vastness of space.
“They got away in an escape pod just in time,” Whitta said. “The pod looked like just another piece of debris.”
Whitta continues to say that he felt like the writers “had to jump through hoops” just to keep Jyn and Cassian alive.
“We decided they should die on the surface [of Scarif,] and that was the way it ended. We were constantly trying to make all the pieces fit together. We tried every single idea. Eventually, through endless development, you get through an evolutionary process where the best version rises to the top.”
Personally, I think the third act of Rogue One is the best in all of Star Wars. Every member of the team contributes in getting the Death Star plans to the Rebellion, and then each dies a noble death. Having the heroes survive would’ve been uplifting, but it would’ve lacked the gravitas that the final edition of Rogue One has. These characters gave their lives for something they believed in. Gary Whitta and the entire Rogue One team did a great job on the final drafts, but it’s always interesting to pull back the curtain and see what might’ve been. Hopefully more juicy details are revealed when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is released in Blu-Ray and Digital on April 4th.