Yahoo Movies UK has posted a fascinating, if unsurprisingly circumspect, interview with the editors of Rogue One that reveals how the first of the spinoff Star Wars movies came together. The article’s selling point is their discussion of the film’s substantial reshoots, which included new introductions for the characters played by Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed and a different entrance for the adult version of Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso. John Gilroy and Colin Goudie, two of the film’s three editors, are cagey when it comes to getting into specifics, and there’s clearly a push-pull on how much to give away about the movie’s original version; director Gareth Edwards revealed in a podcast with Empire magazine that several of the characters who died in the film survived in the initial drafts. (ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer has done a fine job of piecing together what the original ending might have looked like from the copious trailer footage that did not end up in the finished movie.)
But for those who aren’t up on the finer points of modern blockbuster-making, the most fascinating passage might be the one where Goudie describes piecing together a story reel—basically an extremely rough mock-up—before the script had even been written:
There was no screenplay, there was just a story breakdown at that point, scene by scene. [Edwards] 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. …
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. …
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.
For those inclined to bemoan the state of modern studio product, the idea that a $200 million blockbuster would begin by literally being pieced together from spare parts is all the indication you need that Hollywood has definitively run out of ideas. On the other hand, that’s pretty much how they built the Millennium Falcon, and that thing can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.