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Why The Rogue One Prequel Series Was Almost Cancelled At Disney+

Apparently, there was a time not that long ago when the Force wasn't with the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story prequel series

On October 15, it was announced that Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, had signed on to pen the pilot for Disney and Lucasfilm's Rogue One prequel series centered around Diego Luna's character Cassian Andor. That same day, Collider editor-in-chief Steven Weintraub took to Twitter to share that he had heard the Rogue One prequel series was actually "shut down a few weeks ago" at Disney+, and "everyone working on it was sent home." 

As it happens, the story that Variety TV reporter Joe Otterson ran on October 15 about Gilroy's on-boarding to the Disney+ series originally bore the headline "Cassian Andor Series Not Going Forward at Disney Plus" while he was prepping the story in advance. Otterson rewrote the story according to new information prior to publication, but the old headline accidentally ran first. He then changed the headline to "'Rogue One' Writer Tony Gilroy Joins Cassian Andor 'Star Wars' Series at Disney Plus (EXCLUSIVE)." Otterson explained on Twitter that the "original tip" he received was that the Rogue One prequel series had come to a screeching halt, but "then it turned out to not be the case."

So why was the Rogue One Disney+ nearly cancelled before it even officially got off the ground? 

The initial culprit, it seems, was of the same nature as the troubles that dogged the production of the Rogue One movie itself. According to Weintraub, the series' stories and scripts were simply not up to snuff. More specifically, anonymous sources indicated to him that the scripts weren't "good enough."

That news is surprising given Disney's clear affinity for everything Star Wars — and particularly on its Disney+ streaming service. It's even more shocking when you consider Disney and Lucasfilm announced the series to great fanfare at the 2019 D23 Expo just a couple of months ago — accompanied by the news that Luna would be reprising his role for the still-untitled series and take the spotlight as the star of the show. That news was followed with even more good tidings for the Rogue One series when Disney announced that Luna would be joined by his Rogue One co-star Alan Tudyk, who would again provide the voice for Cassian Andor's faithful droid K-2SO.

As for Luna, the gifted actor seemed more than game to return to the galaxy far, far away, offering sunny thoughts to Entertainment Weekly

"Going back to the Star Wars universe is very special for me. I have so many memories of the great work we did together and the relationships I made throughout the journey," he shared. "We have a fantastic adventure ahead of us, and this new exciting format will give us the chance to explore this character more deeply."

Those adventures were initially slated to begin shooting in early 2020, with an anticipated premiere date sometime in 2021. If the series really was almost tossed to the curb, one has to imagine that the series' shooting schedule and premiere date may change because of behind-the-scenes complications.

How the Disney+ Rogue One series can be salvaged

This latest word of possible production chaos isn't entirely a surprise for the Rogue One-verse. The original film, itself the first of the planned Star Wars spin-off movies, reportedly went through hell and back while in the production phase — with reports of infighting between the director and producers, countless reshoots, and a screenplay that was constantly being written (and re-written) on the fly. Still, even if Rogue One didn't make quite the desired impact on the Star Wars fandom, the film fared reasonably well with critics and ended up grossing north of $1 billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales. 

The film's ultimate successes (and possibly even its existence) can be attributed to Tony Gilroy, who was brought on late in production to get the troubled film across the finish line and into theaters. As we now know, Disney is once again tasking Gilroy with whipping a Rogue One story into shape. (Coincidence? Maybe not.)

According to Variety, Gilroy — who also has credits on Michael Clayton, the Bourne franchise, Nightcrawler, and more – is starting anew on the screenplay for the pilot episode of the Cassian Andor-centered series, and is now set to direct multiple episodes of the show as well. Gilroy will work in tandem with Stephen Schiff, who is on board as the series' showrunner. 

As for the series itself, it was initially touted as a "spy thriller" centered on Andor, and will reportedly focus on his early days as a double-agent trafficking news of the nefarious empirical forces to his pals in the Rebellion. While no official announcement has been made, there's little reason to suspect Gilroy's screenplay will stray far from that original narrative plan. Given Gilroy's pedigree, that "spy thriller" setup will play very much in the filmmaker's wheelhouse. 

However you felt about the divisive Rogue One, there was legitimate excitement in the Star Wars universe when this prequel series was announced — if only because Luna's Cassian Andor was frequently the most intriguing character in the film. Some of that hype may be flagging in the wake of the latest Rogue One production kerfuffles, but only time will tell if Gilroy can once again work his magic and bring Star Wars fans the Rogue One story they deserve. 

At the moment, there's no telling how long we'll have to wait to find out. Luckily, Star Wars fans have plenty of Galaxy-centric fiction on the horizon to tide them over — with The Mandalorian series headed to Disney+ on November 12 and The Rise of Skywalker hitting theaters on December 20. Plus, there are plenty of Star Wars projects in the works from Rian JohnsonGame of Thrones gurus David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and Marvel's Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige. May the Force be with all of those upcoming stories — but especially with the Rogue One prequel series.