While the rest of the universe is talking about Solo - the latest stand-alone Star Wars story - being announced as a surprise premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Tony Gilroy's finally spoken at length about how much work he performed behind the scene on Gareth Edwards' non-Trilogy entry, Rogue One. It's been fairly common knowledge that Gilroy not only re-wrote a fair amount of the Star Wars picture's script, but also oversaw extensive reshoots at the behest of franchise overlord Kathleen Kennedy.
Though Edwards was still the sole credited director on Rogue One, even early trailers originally hinted at a totally different take on the material, with whole moments being excised or reworked entirely. The production strife has unfortunately become a staple of this series, as Ron Howard notoriously stepped in for a fired Phil Lord and Chris Miller, completely retooling Solo in their absence.
Well, Gilroy just appeared on Brian Koppelman's (Billions) podcast The Moment, in order to promote the upcoming Jon Hamm-starring thriller Beruit, which he wrote. Along the way, Gilroy rather candidly spoke about the "troubled mess" that was Rogue One's production, finally adding some solid facts to the many rumors. He talks about how he approached fixing the movie from a thematic standpoint first (which, according to the writer, is a rarity for him):
“If you look at Rogue [One] all the difficulty with Rogue and all the confusion of it, all the smart people [working on it], all the mess and in the end when you get in there, it’s actually very simple to solve, because you go, ‘oh, this is a movie where…everyone’s going to die.’ So, it’s a movie about sacrifice."
He continued on about which aspects of the script he wanted to clarify:
"So, it’s all a question about why are these [characters], why are all these people going to sacrifice themselves? And you need to motivate them with a purity throughout the [story] and every scene has to be about the movie. And so, is that a theme, that everyone’s going to die, sacrifice? In that sense, in that film, yeah, I thought about it.”
However, when he was called in to start work on Rogue One, it sounds like not everything that needed to be done was readily apparent. But he looked at working on a Star Wars film as a chance to really get his juices flowing again as a director, and Edwards' footage provided a better picture:
“Well, everything was up in the air... Here was a call to go do something—and I knew exactly when I saw what I saw [the rough footage], it was instantly clear the first thing that had to happen which was immediately attractive.”
Though he never exactly spells out what that first thing was, it sounds like he even had to get back to square one regarding the characters and their driving motivations:
"I saw the purity that was missing and I saw, at least in terms of one or two of the characters - cause who knew how big the fix was going to be, who knew what people would do - I saw something very… if you do nothing else, do this.”
Being the consummate professional, Gilroy plays coy somewhat (as he'd like to keep working in the big studio system, and probably shouldn't talk outside of class):
“I have to be careful because I don’t know what the statute of limitations… I’ve never really told… I’ve never done an interview about Rogue. You know what the easiest thing to say is? You’ll understand this better than anything else, I came in after the director’s cut [and] I have a screenplay credit in the arbitration that was easily won.”
Whoa. That "director's cut" comment doesn't reflect well on Edwards, as Gilroy's essentially saying that the picture was done (at least by its original author's standards), and he still did enough work to warrant placing his name in the credits. Koppelman even asks him to clarify a bit, as Gilroy keeps insisting Rogue One's "someone else's" movie, to which he says:
“Right, well…at a certain point, it kinda tipped, at a certain point everybody’s looking at you like, [makes a noise suggesting everyone’s looking at him for the answers], but through a lot of it I was pretty calm, I was pretty chill.”
However, as positive as Gilroy is about the whole experience (even going as far as to call working on a Star Wars film like driving "a Ferrari" at one point), don't expect him to helm his own entry any time soon. When asked if he'd ever want to, the writer/director was super blunt:
"No. Because that was my superpower. A) I don’t like Star Wars - not that I don’t like it, but I’ve never been interested in Star Wars ever, so I had no reverence for it whatsoever, I was unafraid about that and they were in such a swamp…they were in so much, terrible, terrible trouble that all you could do was improve their position.”
Well, OK then. Spoken like a true gun for hire.
If you've got the time this weekend, do yourself a favor and go listen to the full interview. As always, Koppelman gets a really fun yet informative look at the sausage factory that is Hollywood filmmaking.