One of the biggest highlights of Rogue One—maybe the biggest—is when the Dark Lord of the Sith boards the doomed Rebel ship that’s trying to get the Death Star plans to Princess Leia’s Tantive IV. But it turns out the scene was conceived at practically the last minute.
We know, of course, that the ending to Rogue One went through a lot of changes. We’ve seen a number of scenes from the trailer that didn’t make the final cut, and we’ve seen behind-the-scenes footage of deaths that changed completely. But the Darth Vader scene is one so full of action and effects, you’d kind of expect that it was planned out and shot far in advance.
Not so, says director Gareth Edwards in an interview with Fandango. We’ve known for a bit that the scene was added later, but Edwards shares more details, including exactly how late it was and how fast they had to film:
He arrives and obliterates the Calamari ship, and then the blockade runner gets out just in time and he pursues the blockade runner. And then [editor] Jabez [Olssen] 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 three or four months before release. Kathy [Kennedy] came in and Jabez thought, fuck it, and pitched her this idea, and she loved it. Suddenly within a week or two, we were at Pinewood shooting that scene.
Only four months before the release date and only at most two weeks to plan! That’s pretty ridiculous.
A persistent rumor has been that the original ending had Darth Vader confronting—and possibly killing—our heroes on the beaches of Scarif. This made more sense when the ending had the team reuniting after getting the plans and then making a separate journey to a new location to transmit them. In the final film, everyone stays separated, and the place where the data is stored and the place it’s sent from were merged into one location. Since the team was no longer fighting together, no single storyline really warranted an appearance by Darth Vader anymore.
Edwards added that he felt the new corridor scene was “the greatest hits of Darth,” and that he literally sent the stunt team off to do whatever they could think of, and then he did some editing. “They came up with a whole shopping list of ideas. Seventy percent we used, and maybe 30 percent felt a little too extreme. They were things you hadn’t seen him do before, and I wanted to stick to what Darth does in the original trilogy.” In a way, the scene is pure fanservice, but in the best possible way.
Next time you watch Rogue One, think about the idea that there were ideas “too extreme” for it. Hard to believe, isn’t it?