We've known since well before it was released in December of 2016 that the version of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story we saw was the result of significant reshoot work in the final months of production.
Oscar-nominated writer-director Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Identity, Michael Clayton) joined the film in mid-2016 and ended up altering things enough that his work landed him a screenplay credit, but to this day — though we know quite a bit — we're not sure exactly how much of the final film is reshoots and rewrites and how much survives from Gareth Edwards' original cut. Now, while he's not divulging everything, Gilroy himself has finally opened up a bit about the process.
On a recent episode of The Moment with Brian Koppelman podcast (beginning at about the 46:00 mark), Gilroy clarified his role in the film by saying "I came after the director's cut. I have a screenplay credit in the arbitration that was easily won," essentially confirming reports that he oversaw much of the film's restructuring. As for exactly what he restructured, Gilroy doesn't discuss certain scenes, but he did see a need for zeroing in on the film's theme of sacrifice.
"Things require a purity, If you look at Rogue, all the difficulty with Rogue, and all the confusion of it...and all the smart people, and all the mess, and in the end when you get in there, it's actually very, very simple to solve," Gilroy said. "Because you sort of go, oh this is a movie where, 'folks, just look. Everyone is going to die.' So it's a movie about sacrifice. So, it's all a question about 'Why are all these people going to sacrifice?' and you need to motivate them with a purity throughout the way, and every scene in the movie has to be about the movie. And so, is that a theme, that everyone's gonna die and sacrifice? Well, in that sense...in that film I thought about it."
This basically lines up with what Gilroy's brother, film editor John Gilroy, said about his own work on the film, which included incorporating additional scenes setting up character arcs for Cassian (Diego Luna) and Bodhi (Riz Ahmed).
Gilroy made it clear in the interview — which he said was the first time he's ever really publicly discussed Rogue One — that he's still not sure what he can and can't say about his work on the film, and so was careful with the words he used. When Koppelman asked him what drew him to the film, Gilroy said he "saw the purity that was missing," and the clarity he had as a storyteller attracted him to the project at a time when he was having trouble getting his own films off the ground. When Koppelman asked if he was at all intimidated by stepping into a franchise as big as Star Wars, Gilroy made it clear that wasn't a factor, because he's simply never been a fan.
"That was my superpower. I've just never been interested in Star Wars, ever," he said. "So I had no reverence for it whatsoever. I was unafraid about that. And they were in such a swamp … they were just in so much terrible, terrible trouble that all you could do is improve their position."
So Gilroy signed on, oversaw the reshoots, was very well paid, and Lucasfilm got the movie the studio apparently wanted. At this point, more than a year after the film's release, you have to take Rogue One for what it is, whether you're a fan or not, but exactly how we got the film we ended up seeing remains an interesting story unto itself. Maybe one day, on a super-special 25-film Star Wars mega box set Disney unveils in the not-too-distant future, everyone will sit down and finally give us the full story.