By now, it’s common knowledge that Rogue One does not end happily for any of the main characters. Sure, they accomplish their goal, and that goal makes many major things possible, but they never get to see the fruits of their labour. In early versions of the script, however, that was not the case.
While director Gareth Edwards has admitted this in the past, Rogue One’s first writer Gary Whitta just gave all the details of the original ending to Entertainment Weekly.
After Jyn and Cassian stole the plans, they ran across the beach (a shot seen in early preview footage) and a Rebel ship dropped down to pick them up. Once in space, Leia’s ship met up with Jyn and Cassian’s, but with Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer in pursuit. They transferred the data to Leia’s ship just as their ship was destroyed. However, as the first shot of A New Hope happened in the back of the frame, a small escape pod ejected from the destroyed wreckage, indicating Jyn and Cassian had survived.
It’s obviously a much happier ending, but Whitta said it just didn’t feel right.
“The fact that we had to jump through so many hoops to keep them alive was the writing gods telling us that if they were meant to live it wouldn’t be this difficult,” Whitta told EW. “We decided they should die on the surface [of Scarif], and that was the way it ended. We were constantly trying to make all the pieces fit together. We tried every single idea. Eventually, through endless development you get through an evolutionary process where the best version rises to the top.”
It’s worth noting this version was never shot. It just existed on the page.
Entertainment Weekly has many more details at the link, and it’s definitely worth a read. Rogue One hits digital download March 24, followed by Blu-ray on April 4.