'Rogue One' Almost Had A Very Different Ending, Reveals Director Gareth Edwards

In very broad strokes, we've always known how Rogue One: A Star Wars Story would end. It's right there in the opening crawl of the original Star Wars, which reveals the Rebels successfully stole the Death Star plans. But everything else about the finale was left up to the filmmakers and the Lucasfilm team to figure out. And as director Gareth Edwards revealed in a recent interview, Rogue One almost had a very, very different ending.

I don't have to warn you that MAJOR SPOILERS lie ahead, do I? Consider yourself warned. 

If you've seen Rogue One – and I assume you have, if you're still reading — you know it ends with all of the major characters dying. Saw and Galen perish in the middle of the movie, and then Jyn, Cassian, Baze, Chirrut, Bodhi, K-2SO, and Krennic are all killed off in the Battle of Scarif. It's a bold choice, and kind of a surprising one. As one friend put it to me after a screening, "I'd been saying all along that they were all going to die, but I didn't really think they were all going to die."

During an appearance on the Empire podcast (via Heroic Hollywood), Edwards revealed that killing off the entire team was not always the plan:

I mean, it's a great Disney tradition isn't it? For ever single character to die in all their movies. I think there was an early version – the very first version they didn't [die] in the screenplay. And it was just assumed by us that we couldn't do that and they're not gonna let us do that. So we're trying to figure out how this ends where that doesn't happen. And then everyone read that, and there was just this feeling of like, "They gotta die right?" And everyone was like, "Yeah, can we?" And we thought we weren't gonna be allowed to, but Kathy [Kennedy] and everyone at Disney were like, "Yeah, makes sense." I guess they have to because they're not in A New Hope. And so from that point on, we had the license and I kept waiting for someone to go, "You know what, can you just film an extra scene where we see Jyn and Cassian, they're okay, and they're on another planet and la la la..." And [that] never ever came, and no one gave us that note so we got to do it.

Rogue One writer Gary Whitta said a similar thing when asked by a fan on Twitter:

All those deaths make for an incredibly tragic finish to the Battle of Scarif, even if the film itself ends on a more hopeful note. It's easy to imagine a studio exec worrying that it'd be too much of a downer, or wanting to keep some of the characters around in case they later decide to make a sequel. So kudos to the Rogue One team for having the guts to go there, and to the Lucasfilm and Disney folks for agreeing to let them. I'd still have liked the movie if Jyn or Cassian survived, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see another movie with this cast. (It doesn't even have to be another Star War — collect these people again and I'll be there, no questions asked.) But I think killing them all adds a real emotional punch to the film, which is all about the costs of war.

For even more about what changed in Rogue One over the course of making the movie, check out Peter's comprehensive post about the missing trailer footage and what it tells us.