Rogue One director explains why the original ending didn't work and says Darth Vader's big scene was a late addition

Star Wars: Rogue One has come and gone from theaters, but it’s poised to re-enter the pop culture conversation when it comes out on Blu-ray and home video next month. Director Gareth Edwards is getting a jump on that now by doing some interviews leading up to its release, and he’s revealed a couple of interesting facts about the movie’s original ending - including the fact that Darth Vader’s best moment nearly didn’t make the final cut.

We know one version of the movie had Cassian and Jyn survive their mission, but in an interview with /Film, Edwards addressed the reason why so many moments from the trailers of our heroes running across the beach on Scarif didn’t make it into the finished movie. “I think the main thing that changed at the end… what used to happen, and you can get a sense of this in the early trailers, the transmission tower for the plans was separate from the main base on Scarif. To transmit the plans, they had to escape and run along the beach and go up the tower. In cutting the film, it just felt too long.” He says the third act was already running long in the first place, so they had to come up with ways to trim the whole run time. “And one real, fast, brutal solution was to put the tower in the base, so they don’t have to run across the beach and do all of that stuff to get there. That became a decision that eliminated the shots you see in the trailer of the back of Cassian and Jyn and the AT-ATs. That was some of the reinvention that happened. It was all to do with compression.”

That’s a shame, because some of those cool-looking moments from the trailers contained shots I was really looking forward to seeing in the context of the movie. But at least we got to see Darth Vader slicing his way through Rebel soldiers in that hallway, right? Turns out we’re lucky to have seen that scene at all, because it was added at the last minute only a few months before the film debuted.

Edwards told Fandango the idea for that sequence, which he calls the “Walk of Death,” actually came from editor Jabez Olssen during the post-production process. “And then Jabez was like, 'I think we need to get Darth on that ship,' and I thought, yeah, that's a brilliant idea and would love to do it, but there's no way they're going to let us do it. It's a big number and we had, what, like 3 or 4 months before release. Kathy [Kennedy] came in and Jabez thought, f*ck it, and pitched her this idea, and she loved it. Suddenly within a week or two we were at Pinewood shooting that scene." And while his crew members pitched all manner of crazy ways for Vader to display his power, cooler heads prevailed and Edwards ended up sticking with what we’d seen the character do on screen before. “It really is just the greatest hits of Darth; that corridor. And we really didn't want to do anything you haven't seen him do so it didn't throw people off. We kept it to what had been established.”

I’m glad Edwards ended up sticking with ‘classic’ abilities there, because as cool as it might have been to see Vader use some jaw-dropping new Force power, it would have made us retroactively question why he didn’t repeat that skill at any point during the original trilogy. Smart decision.

In any case, I think I speak for all of us when I say: thank you, Mr. Olssen. The movie wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without that corridor moment, and the Star Wars franchise as a whole has gained a new iconic sequence because of your idea.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives on Blu-ray and home video on April 4, 2017.

Images: Lucasfilm

Ben Pearson
Ben is an entertainment journalist who has written about movies online for nearly a decade. He loves the Fast & Furious franchise, prefers Indiana Jones to Star Wars, and will defend the ending of Lost until his dying day. He shook Bill Murray's hand once (so he's got that going for him, which is nice). Ben lives in Los Angeles with his wife.