‘Rogue One’ Had Several Different Alternate Endings at First
If you saw Rogue One then you already know that (spoilers) things don't turn out so well for anybody in this movie.
The good guys all die, including the ones whose names you never learned. Several bad guys and a whole mess of stormtroopers die. That one guy who was in the background of that one scene holding a gun? He's dead. If the character didn't appear in A New Hope, like Vader or the CGI of Princess Leia, they were killed off.
But that wasn't always the plan. It turns out that ending, which was originally longer, wasn't the only one on the table. io9 spoke to John Knoll, the Visual Effects Supervisor who initially pitched the idea for Rogue One and conceived several different versions of the story.
1. The Martyrs
In one version, Jyn (Felicity Jones) and Cassian (Diego Luna) steal the Death Star plans and successfully escape the beaches of Scarif on a Rebel ship. Darth Vader is close behind, attacking them until they endure too much damage to continue on. Knoll continues:
Jyn and Cassian come to the conclusion that if they don't get their plans off the ship, the entire mission will have failed.
Their hope proves naïve, as the plans are detected, and they realize that regardless of whether Vader catches Leia's ship, they will be tortured by the Empire to reveal the Rebellion's secrets, a risk they are not willing to take. They respond by blowing up their own ship in the name of the Rebellion.
2. "Name's Andor, Cassian Andor"
The second alternate ending involves a double agent hiding among the Rogue One crew, who'd have a change of heart at the end. This version would have also introduced something called a "carbon freeze bomb," which sounds like it would freeze everyone around it in carbonite when it detonates. Which sounds awesome.
This would have the advantage of keeping everybody around for future movies, once they finally get unfrozen. This may have been the plan back when Felicity Jones was supposed to be in a Rogue One sequel, which is obviously a challenge with the ending we got.
3. Happily Ever After
Thanks to EW, we also know of a third alternate ending, brought to you by Gary Whitta, one of the writers of Rogue One. In this version, Jyn and Cassian steal the plans and run across the beach to a Rebel ship that dropped down to pick them up. Once in space, their ship meets up with Leia's with Darth Vader's close behind. They transfer the plans to Leia's ship just as their ship is destroyed. All is not lost, however, a small escape pod ejects from the wreckage, implying that Jyn and Cassian survive.
Not a bad ending, but not the first idea or the right one according to Whitta:
Although we can see why having at least one of the characters you've been invested in for the past two hours survive would be great, the actual ending of Rogue One makes sense. Too many movies have the heroes survive against all odds, which let's face it, isn't realistic for a franchise with "wars" in half the title. Although there is a sense of loss, the Rebellion as a whole still comes out ahead and their sacrifice allows for bigger wins in the future, and of course, more films.