Speaking with our ComicBook.com's Patrick Cavanaugh, writer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Gary Whitta said he always thought the cast of characters in the film would have to die by the movie’s end.
“I never believed that they would let us kill off all the characters in the film,” Whitta said. “That was our original instinct. The very first meeting with Gareth I remember saying, ‘I kind of feel like they all need to die, but there's no way Lucas ... There's no way Disney'll let us do that. We can't kill everybody. It's a Disney movie.’ And yet, they were fully supportive of it, and it's actually one of the coolest things about the film.”
Rogue One chronicles the journey of a ragtag group of Rebels who band together in an effort of recovering the Death Star’s plans, in which there’s one crucial flaw to be exploited planted within by the superweapon's creator.
The crew ultimately sacrifices their own lives so that the plans can get into the hands of Princess Leia and her cohorts, leading directly into the first Star Wars film released 40 years ago.
“It's one of the thing that I hear the most is that last 20 minutes when you've got all these characters are basically going to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Whitta said. “It's the biggest kind of emotional punch that I think the movie has. I'm so glad that they supported that decision.”
Whitta elaborated that there was an enormous pressure from day one—not from Lucasfilm or Disney, but from himself. He said that he and Gareth Evans were determined not to be responsible for being the ones who “screwed up Star Wars.”
“It took us awhile to get to grips with what it really meant to do a standalone film, but then once we understood it, we realized that it's actually really liberating,” Whitta said. “These characters are kind of one and done characters. There was never going to be a Rogue Two. Rogue Two already exists. That's what the original Star Wars is, and those characters aren't in it apart from Leia and Vader, and so we knew that we, now didn't necessarily mean that we had to, but it meant we had the luxury to, you know, we had the full spectrum of options in terms of what the fate of these characters were.”
He added that their deaths wasn’t in the first draft of the story because they didn’t think Lucasfilm or Disney would allow it, possibly leaving main character Jyn Erso on the table to appear in a future film.
“We always felt that it was the right thing to do, that these characters make the ultimate sacrifice,” Whitta said. “It wasn't that way in my original script, but again, we never felt that we would get away with it. K-2 always died, but Jyn survived in the very first version of the movie that we developed, and then it was Gareth who kept pushing for it, saying, ‘I feel like they need to die. They need to die.’ Eventually he convinced [Disney and Lucasfilm].”
Ultimately, the film benefitted from having a sense of finality in the greater, ongoing Star Wars saga.
“We kind of went back to that original idea of these characters, you know, it was kind of okay that they died, because they completed the mission,” Whitta said. “They die so that the whole Star Wars franchise can live, basically.”
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits digital HD on March 24. The film will then be released on Blu-ray and DVD April 4.
Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star.