Whatever way you look at it ‘Rogue One’, the first of Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ standalone movies directed by Gareth Edwards, has been a roaring success.
The fans love it, the critics love it (it’s at 85% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer), and it’s been a big hit at the box office too, but since its release it’s emerged that the film could have been very different if Disney hadn’t reshaped the movie between its principal shoot that ended in February 2016 and the much-discussed reshoots that happened in June last year.
You only have to watch the film’s trailers to see huge scenes that were initially shot but didn’t make it into the finished film.
Two of the film’s editors John Gilroy (editor of ‘Suicide Squad’/’Nightcrawler’/’Pacific Rim’ and brother of Tony Gilroy, the ‘Michael Clayton’ and ‘Bourne Legacy’ director brought in to oversee the reshoots) and Colin Goudie (editor of Edwards’ 2010 breakout ‘Monsters’) chatted with Yahoo Movies UK to discuss their roles on the movie, explain how the reshoots reshaped the movie, and share how some classic footage from ‘A New Hope’ made it into ‘Rogue One’ with help from the original actor who played Gold Leader.
WARNING: PLOT SPOILERS COMING UP
Yahoo Movies: There were three editors on ‘Rogue One’ – John Gilroy, Colin Goudie, Jabez Olssen – can you explain how the work was divided up?
John Gilroy: I got involved a little bit later. Jabez and Colin were on from the beginning. I was finishing up a movie and I got a call from Lucasfilm at the beginning of the summer. They were reconceptualising some of the story and there was some additional photography and they wanted a fresh pair of eyes in the room, so I went off and joined Colin and Jabez.
They’d been carrying the water for a long time.
Colin Goudie: I’d worked with Gareth [Edwards] previously. I cut his movie ‘Monsters’ so we’d already got a relationship and I’d actually done a couple of projects with him before that as well. So he got me on board in September of 2014 and asked me to do a story reel for ‘Rogue One’.
There was no screenplay, there was just a story breakdown at that point, scene by scene. He got me to rip hundreds of movies and basically make ‘Rogue One’ using other films so that they could work out how much dialogue they actually needed in the film.
It’s very simple to have a line [in the script] that reads “Krennic’s shuttle descends to the planet”, now that takes maybe 2-3 seconds in other films, but if you look at any other ‘Star Wars’ film you realise that takes 45 seconds or a minute of screen time. So by making the whole film that way – I used a lot of the ‘Star Wars’ films – but also hundreds of other films too, it gave us a good idea of the timing.
For example the sequence of them breaking into the vault I was ripping the big door closing in ‘Wargames’ to work out how long does a vault door take to close.
So that’s what I did and that was three months work to do that and that had captions at the bottom which explained the action that was going to be taking place, and two thirds of the screen was filled with the concept art that had already been done and one quarter, the bottom corner, was the little movie clip to give you how long that scene would actually take.
Then I used dialogue from other movies to give you a sense of how long it would take in other films for someone to be interrogated. So for instance, when Jyn gets interrogated at the beginning of the film by the Rebel council, I used the scene where Ripley gets interrogated in ‘Aliens’.
So you get an idea of what movies usually do.
John Gilroy: I never thanked you for doing all that!
Colin Goudie: [Laughs] So that was our starting point, and then six months after that I spent working with The Third Floor, the pre-viz team editing all the pre-viz big action scenes, so that was the Eadu platform where Jyn rescues her dad, the going through the shield gate and all of the battle on Scarif, and a little bit on Jedha where they flee the planet as it explodes.
So then it’s down to shot by shot basis and then that feeds through and informs the production department for building sets, working out what shots can be done by stunt persons and what shots will be done by a digital double, a CGI character, something like that.
Then when we actually started shooting was when Jabez came on board and then we just divvied up the rushes. For instance the Eadu scene, on the mountain in the rain, he just gave me that entire reel because there I’d already cut about 20 minutes of pre-viz and then I could just do that, and he would be off cutting another scene, so we would work it that way.
It was such a team effort, it had to be. There was so much material that was filmed for the big scenes like the battle in Jedha market place, and I would just wade through that material, and knowing what it was like working with Gareth, I knew what things would catch his eye, what things he liked and then I would sub that down, feed that through to Jabez and then he would go and do his cut of that scene, and then maybe a couple of weeks later I would go back and do a cut of that scene as well.
There were all those different versions for you to look at so you’re kind of seeing the woods for the trees.
Yahoo Movies: Was it clear from those first assemblies what parts required reshoots?
Colin Goudie: I think everyone knew, from the offset, everything was always scheduled from day one for there to be pickups like on every film. We did exactly the same thing on ‘Monsters’, we always knew we were going to go back and do pickups, and it was the same thing with ‘Rogue One’, it was just something that was on the schedule.
We were always going to be there and it was a case of working out, as the story went on, which pieces need a bit more clarification, which places needed a bit more character.
Yahoo Movies: How long were the first assemblies running at?
Colin Goudie: It was not much longer than the finished film. I think the first assembly was not far off actual release length. Maybe 10 minutes longer? I genuinely can’t remember because that was nearly a year ago now. There’s no mythical four hour cut, it doesn’t exist.
Yahoo Movies: You’ve said Gareth likes to film lots of takes, and he also shot scenes on 360 sets – does that cause you difficulties in the edit suite?
Colin Goudie: I usually factor it in on a Gareth film. He likes to operate himself, Greig [Fraser, cinematographer] did a lot of operating actually, Gareth by no means operated everything, but when he does operate in those sorts of battle scenes – he likes to do that – what he likes to do is to try lots of different compositions on shots.
He would move around in the set and run the line again and again. As he’s doing it, he’s trying those out, he’s slightly to the left, or slightly to the right, he’s always moving.
Of course, what that means is that generally the latter takes are the ones that we prefer because he’s blocking it out the performance. You just get used to that when you work with him. It’s a lengthier process.
John Gilroy: The 360 sets are mainly just Jedha city [the planet where Jyn and Cassian travel to to find Saw Gerrera], it wasn’t always like that. You definitely pick your moments for when you use that. Jedha was built so you could go 360, but everything wasn’t like that.
Colin Goudie: When you walked on the Imperial sets they weren’t like that at all. They were simply a corridor on a set and if you turned around it was the Pinewood lot.
Yahoo Movies: How did the reshoots change the film?
John Gilroy: They gave you the film that you see today. I think they were incredibly helpful. The story was reconceptualised to some degree, there were scenes that were added at the beginning and fleshed out. We wanted to make more of the other characters, like Cassian’s character [Cassian Andor, the Rebel spy played by Diego Luna], and Bodhi’s character [Bodhi Rook, the defected Imperial pilot played by Riz Ahmed].
The scene with Cassian’s introduction with the spy, Bodhi traipsing through Jedha on his way to see Saw, these are things that were added. Also Jyn [Jyn Erso, the reluctant leader of the film, played by Felicity Jones], how we set her up and her escape from the transporter, that was all done to set up the story better.
Of course, things like that have a ripple effect all through the movie so there was a lot of work to do, and as Colin said, there were three of us, we rolled up our sleeves and we got to work and made the movie you see.
Colin Goudie: It was like life imitating art. Let’s get a band of people and put them together on this secret mission and that’s what’s happening in the film but that’s also what was happening editorially.
We were all jumping in and taking part in the mission and pulling that master switch. It was a bit like that really.
John Gilroy: I don’t know who’s Jyn or who’s Cassian, but it’s a good analogy, I like that analogy.
Colin Goudie: All we need is the blind monk and I think we’re good to go. A blind editor doesn’t sound so good though.
The point with the opening scenes that John was just describing was that the introductions in the opening scene, in the prologue, was always the same. Jyn’s just a little girl, so when you see her as an adult what you saw initially was her in a meeting. That’s not a nice introduction.
So having her in prison and then a prison break out, with Cassian on a mission… everybody was a bit more ballsy, or a bit more exciting, and a bit more interesting.
They got there eventually in the film, but this way we came in on the ground running, which was better.
John Gilroy: It became very important to plant the seeds the right way, you’ve got to set up the movie the right way, and then things pay off in the second and third acts.
Yahoo Movies: How much of the film’s final third changed?
John Gilroy: It changed quite a bit. The third act has a lot going on. You have like seven different action venues, the mechanics of the act changed quite a bit in terms of the characters, and I don’t want to go into too much detail about what had been there before, but it was different.
We moved some of the things that our heroes did, they were different in the original then they were as it was conceived.
Because you needed to figure that out, and everything else changes. Everything was connected to everything so doing something to one venue would change all the other venues, so really we had to… we were working on that until the last minute, because we working closely with ILM, they were giving us temporary shots and we’d put them in, we’d work them, we’d reconceive again.
It was really like a very tight puzzle and we had to keep honing that and honing that, and I’m very proud of what we did there.
Yahoo Movies: Did you face any continuity issues blending the new stuff with the old stuff?
John Gilroy: That’s mostly a production issue. The whole thing on a ‘Star Wars’ movie you have such professionalism at every level. Everybody that’s working on the movie is just at the top of their game so that wasn’t so hard for us.
Colin Goudie: You talk about trying to make things match from the original shoot and the pickup shoot done a couple of months later: that’s nothing.
We were matching a film that had been shot 40 years earlier.
John Gilroy: That was fun. In the star battle we see Red Leader and Gold Leader. They had these dailies, and they thought it would be a really great idea if we could work it in. So we’re going through the dailies from 40 years ago, picking up pieces that were not used in the original, and then working them into scenarios in the air battle.
You’re grabbing a microphone making up some lines and putting them in someone’s mouth, and then you finally have this finished thing. It’s exciting!
Gold Leader, that actor [Angus MacInnes] is still alive, so we looped him [re-recorded new dialogue to dub over footage] and I think it was a really heady experience for him to be looping himself 40 years later, but that was a lot of fun.
Colin Goudie: What was interesting about that was that we had one day right at the beginning of the process back in 2014, and Gareth and I had just done a tour of the archives at Skywalker ranch, and as we were leaving we came out of the back. And out the back there were racks and racks of film and Gareth said ‘what’s that?’
And they said ‘that’s the original reels from ‘A New Hope’’, and Gareth said ‘can we see that? See what’s on it?’ And they were like ‘yeah, I guess!’
And that’s where the idea came from. We went through those cans of film and looked at them and it was like ‘oh my gosh, we can and integrate the pilots in somehow.’
Yahoo Movies: Well, it got a round of applause when we saw it, so we’re glad you figured it out.
John Gilroy: [Laughs] You know what’s really fun? I’m a fan, but not like Colin. By the way, Colin was our ‘Star Wars’ fan, any time I had to understand the authenticity of something, I would ask Colin: he is a true fan.
But it was so much fun to plant, and to put in all these little ‘Star Wars’ nuggets through the movie, and when we finally showed it… we didn’t have previews. But to see people respond to those things… you know, we’re not making too much of them, because if you didn’t know, it would be OK too, but when people see those little things, they’re so happy, it was touching to see.
Colin Goudie: I would also say what’s interesting there that John just alluded to – [having no previews] – was actually one of the hardest challenges on this film.
It’s certainly unlike anything I’ve ever done, and John’s got much more experience of huge movies than I have but normally with everything I’ve ever done we previewed. Even the smallest films, the smallest independent movies, we previewed them. And based on those reactions, you get this feedback in the room from an audience. Is it too slow? Is it too fast? What’s working, what isn’t?
And as John just said, because of the secrecy on a ‘Star Wars’ film, they don’t preview. And so the first time we saw that was with 2,700 other people at the world premiere.
And that means you just don’t know until you see it like that.
John Gilroy: This happens with movies that are this popular. The preview thing just becomes very problematic. We’ve done friends and family screenings in the past, but we were really busy right to the end, that’s the only way I can put it, and we had a lot to do.
We added our composer Michael Giacchino really, really late to the game and we were really running at the movie very hard right up to the very end. So it’s a combination of security and time that didn’t permit us to show this to people, which is what you would normally do because you learn a lot from preview screenings.
I think we thought that we had… we were all very excited. I know I was very excited by the movie even before people saw it, I could look back at it and go ‘oh yeah, I think people are going to like this.’ So many things were coming together it was really fun to watch, and to be a part of.
Colin Goudie: It’s interesting because when we used to watch it in the dubbing theatre or when making IMAX copies or things like that to review it, I was just sat there thinking ‘this is really good now’.
But it was also this thing of thinking ‘have I just become delusional after two years?’
John Gilroy: I think editors have a… you have to have a sturdier compass than most people, because you are seeing things over and over and over again. But it’s true, we’re all human, you could watch things so many times that you get a little numb.
Colin Goudie: We thought it was surprising because every time I sat and watched it, I enjoyed it. Sometimes I was watching the whole movie, particularly in that last week, reviewing those prints two or three times a day, and each time I’ve thought ‘I’m still feeling it… thankfully!’
It’s a good thing.
Yahoo Movies: Were there any particularly challenging scenes that you were tinkering with right up until the end?
John Gilroy: I think the most – and I’ve said this before in other interviews – I think sensitive dialogue scenes, you have to have a finer sort of touch and they require even more attention than the big action scenes, but that said I think what we did in the third act, because there were so many things going on, I’m very proud of that. It was really hard to do.
The movie also has some great scenes between the characters. I think one of the things about this movie that really works is that it’s very intimate. It’s really about this one woman’s journey.
She collects these other people that help her, and there’s some really great scenes in the movie. When she confronts Cassian after Eadu [the planet where Jyn finally catches up with her father Galen Erso, played by Mads Mikkelsen], or after Jedha. There’s some great meaty dialogue scenes and those were just a lot of fun to put together and they were done really well.
I’d say on this movie the action was probably harder than those dialogue scenes, but the dialogue, you have to have a very sensitive touch and you have to very attuned to what those people are doing to really cut a great dialogue scene.
Colin Goudie: That hologram scene [on Jedha], talking of dialogue scenes, that was an interesting one because there was so much going on. The camera moves, the hologram moves, and the Death Star moving as well. There were shots from ILM with the actors and then you’ve got to record Mads [Mikkelsen] to match the movement as well, based on which takes we used. Things like that were very technically difficult scenes.
But I think that last battle scene, it’s like an hour, once they get through the gate on to Scarif [the tropical planet that holds the Empire’s Death Star plans]. I think people are surprised that when the movie feels like it’s going to end, it carries on but not in a bad way as well.
It suddenly kicks up another notch. You’ve gone from the beach scene to suddenly another huge action scene with [Darth] Vader and stuff.
John Gilroy: That’s actually very rare that you can do that. You go from your main characters – they die – and it’s incredibly poignant, then you go from there to Vader boarding the ship and there’s this earned action sequence which is really quite mind-blowing especially for ‘Star Wars’ fans. Then finally you go to Leia and emotionally you’ve turned, you have three different emotions in the space of ten minutes, but I don’t think anyone feels manipulated. And that’s really cool. That’s a great way to end a movie.
So that people when they get up they’re like ‘yeah, OK good, I feel good. Let’s go have a drink and talk about it.’
Colin Goudie: That last piece was a real jigsaw. Because those scenes, up until that moment, most scenes followed on logically. If you look at them, you have Galen on the platform in the rain, that’s A follows B. Jyn leaves the shuttle and goes off, C follows then D.
The last hour of that movie, certainly once the Rebel fleet arrives, the intercuts go from the vault to the fleet above to the Rebels on the beach, there is almost an infinite number of ways you can actually choose which scene to go to next.
John Gilroy: But we were only interested in the right way. We were interested in the right way and that’s what we went for.
Colin Goudie: Yeah, that was probably the hardest nugget to find. I think. Because that always something that’s a difficult one to crack. It’s come together beautifully, but I think that’s one of the hardest pieces.
John Gilroy: It was something that had to be right. You had a lot to keep track of. There was quite a bit of expository information that was being set up and you had to pay attention to, and you had to make everything arc. You’re making all these things arc and come to meet at the end, so it was very tricky.
It was challenging. But it was fun. It’s funny when something like that, something complicated like that, you can feel when it starts to click in. We were feeling those clicks early on, but when you finally get it right you can really feel it all snap together and you go ‘aha!’
Colin Goudie: It’s kind of like a Rubik’s Cube. Whereby you have to mess it all up until you do that last piece of the puzzle. You get closer and closer and closer, then suddenly on that penultimate move you mix the entire Rubik’s Cube up and then you slot it all back in and then that’s it. And I think that was how I felt that last hour went.
John Gilroy: That’s a good analogy, I like that.
Yahoo Movies: Are there any deleted scenes or cut scenes that you’re really proud of that you’d like to see the light of day eventually?
Colin Goudie: Hmm.
John Gilroy: I don’t know. For me, no. I can’t think of anything.
Colin Goudie: There’s a handful that if people see them they’ll be like ‘oh that’s interesting’, but I don’t think there’s anything whereby you’d be like ‘why did they cut that out?’
John Gilroy: We were in a different position. It wasn’t like ‘the movie’s great, but we have to lose 10 minutes’ or whatever. It was a different situation.
Yahoo Movies: Did you ever discuss having transition wipes like the original films?
John Gilroy: Sure.
Colin Goudie: It was discussed very early on.
John Gilroy: With this movie we really wanted to do some things different. This movie has a prologue, it doesn’t have the crawl at the beginning and so on.
Wipes were experimented with but…
Colin Goudie: I think we used all those original wipes and we temped [a temporary soundtrack] it with John Williams as well, and it would feel right. Like when we did the original story reels, I was using footage from other movies, so having those wipes and having the John Williams score helped with making the hodge podge of shots I’d put together feel like what we were aiming for.
Once we actually got in everything we’d shot, we no longer needed those things and I was initially sad to see the transitions go, but then when I watch the final film, I don’t miss them, because it feels like a different beast.
It feels familiar but at the same time fresh.
John Gilroy: I think that it’s wonderfully… it’s just the right amount of different from other ‘Star Wars’ movies, but it also feels very much like a ‘Star Wars’ movie.
It’s a very tricky line to walk but I feel like we got it right. Because true ‘Star Wars’ fans can really get a lot out of it, but it’s also what it is. It’s a different movie and it kind of morphs, right at the very end with Darth Vader and Leia, it morphs into ‘A New Hope’.
You can see it in the last little while, it starts to morph into and cut more like the original movie and feel more like the original movie. I just think that’s great, that we had our own film language and then we were able to – at the end – move ourselves so that we could touch the beginning of that first movie.
‘Rogue One: A Star Wars’ story is in cinemas nationwide now.