**WARNING – SELECT PLOT SPOILERS**
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in October of 2012, it was a natural expectation that the studio would re-energize the dormant live-action landscape of the Star Wars saga. As George Lucas himself had first announced Star Wars to be a nine-part series, additional entries in the main nine, being episodes VII, VIII, and VIX, were expected. However, Disney also announced standalone feature films, including a Han Solo origins story among others.
First up after Episode VII was released in December of 2015 was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, now in general release, a standalone film which stitches together the events following Episode III and preceding Episode IV. Indeed, Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards, was a standalone which aimed to tie together elements which infuse the plot of Episode IV, the first film released in the series back in 1977.
Enter editor John Gilroy who was brought in during post-production to assist in the completion of the film. “I was finishing another movie at the beginning of the summer,” said Gilroy. “I got a call from Lucasfilm to work on Rogue One. They wanted a fresh pair of eyes. They had already shot the movie. I joined with [editors] [Jabez] Olssen and [Colin] Goudie who had been on the movie.”
Surely, joining a film which had long been in-progress and was largely edited was a challenge for Gilroy, but he was up to the task with many features to his credits, both in the genre and outside of it. “It was cut, but what happens is that you need to rethink your story and reshape,” he said. “You are always trying to find the truth of the movie through editorial and additional photography.”
Gilroy explained that he had often served in the role of editing a film which was already deep in to post-production even though he prefers to start editing a movie from the very beginning. “I was on the movie for six months,” he said of the eighth Star Wars film to be produced. “I saw what they had. They were reshaping the conceptualization of the story points in the movie and what the characters were doing. We were interfacing and changing things. There was a plan that we all agreed on.”
Concerning the origin of the critical Death Star plans and their eventual abduction by the Rebellion, centered around Felicity Jones’ lead character, Jyn Erso, Rogue One features many new characters, planets, and plot lines, and Gilroy’s hands touched each of these aspects of the project. “I worked on every part of the film,” he said. “The biggest challenge was finding the intimacy of [Jyn’s] character and the relationship to the other characters. People are invested in her. We pay attention to her as much as the other elements.”
Of note, when Gilroy came aboard, many of the aforementioned plot threads began to evolve. “We changed certain aspects of the story,” he stated. “The big thing was the whole back end of the movie. There are a lot of pieces to that puzzle. You can’t develop one unless you develop them all. It was complicated. You are telling a two-hour story. It sounds unlikely but it really is true — the film will tell you what to do if you listen. It’s about understanding and leading you to what you need to do. That comes down to the very last frame.”
As he progressed through his six months on the project, Gilroy realized that Rogue One needed special care, both due to it being a Star Wars movie, plus many of its themes and people being new to audiences. “It’s an intimate movie and has these delicate meaningful scenes with these actors,” Gilroy revealed. “Balancing that intimacy with the epic-ness that everybody associates with Star Wars movies. I had the most fun with the space battles. They were so much fun to put together.”
After his time on the film wound down, Gilroy had a chance to reflect upon his work on the project. “What really works about the movie is how you feel when you walk out of a movie theater,” the editor related. “We take you on this incredible journey with these characters. Within a few minutes, very organically, we have an action sequence with Darth Vader. Then you end up with Leia—you are touching the very first movie. It’s a very satisfying thing — it’s rare that you can do that with a movie and not have the audience feel manipulated by it. Everything in there, we earned and led to something.”
With Rogue One out in theaters for audiences to enjoy, John Gilroy described his ultimate feelings about the project. “It was so rewarding,” he noted. “It was such an honor to work on a film like this. So many people are counting on this film; that pushed myself that much harder. It was so great to be touching this franchise.”