Ever since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story commenced reshoots earlier this summer, the production has been trailed by rumors of a change in tone and authorial intent. At the time, it was suggested that The Bourne Identity writer Tony Gilroy had taken over the additional photography from director Gareth Edwards.
At Star Wars Celebration, the message presented was clear: Edwards was still in charge and supported by Lucasfilm.
Now, just a few weeks later, Gilroy is again said to be taking a lead post on the film, this time as a uncredited post-production supervisor. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gilroy is in the editing room with "input" from Edwards. The two worked together on Edwards' Godzilla remake. And while the site paints Gilroy as a collaborator in Edward's vision, the belief that the film has been substantially altered from the downbeat war film the director first envisioned is hard to shake.
The Star Wars brand is fairly bulletproof to apparent backstage drama, but the reports of Edwards being relieved of key responsibilities paints a picture of a film concern in which the director is not the ultimate authorial voice.
Of course, as Frank Capra once said, it is not always required that the director take authorship of a film as long as someone is in that role — granted he did add that "it might as well be the director." In the case of successful studio series, the lack of directorial authorship is increasingly the state of play. Few would call David Yates the author of his Harry Potter flicks and over at Marvel Studios, there is definitely an executive steering the boat. Though there is an almost romantic need to see the director as author — a situation which can and does happen — but studio product is not so simple with its merchandise tie-ins and need to generate sequels and franchises.
So is word of Edwards' apparent demotion just a lot of hot air? Is Lucasfilm, and its story group, the real author of Rogue One or is the notion of authorship antiquated in the era of tentpole franchises and massive movie universes?
There are no easy answers as each brand and production line comes with its own challenges and requirements, but for Star Wars, there seems to be some sort of mutual understanding if the reports of Gilroy and Edwards' collaboration are true. The results will be seen when the film is released on December 16th.