As legend has it, John Knoll gets the credit for coming up with the idea behind Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. An iconic VFX Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic, whose credits include everything from the original Star Wars trilogy to Avatar and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Knoll created the concept of a movie centered around Rebel spies stealing the Death Star plans while bouncing ideas off of ILM friends and colleagues at trivia nights. They'd spend hours expanding on the idea, throwing in amazing sequences they'd love to see in a finished film. One day, Knoll was convinced to pitch the idea to Kathleen Kennedy, and the rest -- as they say -- is history. So when I had the chance to interview John Knoll on behalf of Rogue One, I asked him about things that were in those brainstorm sessions that didn't make it into the final film, and he opened up with:
In what I wrote originally, when we first meet the Rebellion, they're on Dantooine. Then, some of the events of the film sort of forced the evacuation. I really liked that idea of, one, being able to see a different Rebel secret base. And then, to tell that story of why they had to get out of there. But, you know, as we were getting into deeper story development, we were trying to simplify some of the ideas and make things flow better. And we realized we just don't have time to tell that story anymore.
Dantoonie, for those unfamiliar, is a planet in the Outer Rim Territories that is first mentioned in Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope as a former secret base for the Rebellion. Many Star Wars storytellers have used Dantoonie as a location for battle scenes (as in the Clone Wars), or when Princess Leia lied and said that the Rebellion was stationed there -- even though she knew that they'd safely moved away. The Rebel base that typically replaces Dantooine is Yavin 4, which we DO see in Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story when a detained Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is brought before Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) and asked what she knows about her father's plans for the Death Star.
I'm guessing the sequence on Dantoonie that John Knoll discusses in Rogue One would have taken place before the scene on Yavin 4. Or maybe the scene between Jyn, Cassian (Diego Luna) and Mon would have played out differently? As we know, Rogue One went through various rewrites and reorganizations during its production, though it's always fun to hear about alternate scenes and sequences. Watch my conversation with John Knoll at ILM below: