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'Rogue One' Blu-ray extras reveal 'sleepless nights' making CGI Leia

The bonus content for Star Wars spin-off "Rogue One" hints at the film it could have been -- but not the way fans might expect.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..Stormtroopers..Ph: Jonathan Olley..© 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm

Every film goes through changes before it debuts. But "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is a film haunted more than most by the movie it could have been.

The entire ending was extensively reshot, and main character Jyn Erso reshaped during production. Reshoots are pretty routine in Hollywood, but attention has hotly focused on the what-ifs here for two reasons. One, Star Wars fans love picking over such stuff. Two, the early trailers heavily showcased shots, scenes and hints at story that disappeared from the finished product.

Suffice to say, if ever a film is worth having deleted scenes on the Blu-ray release, it's "Rogue One". Sadly, Disney and Lucasfilm have other ideas. The Blu-ray and DVD of "Rogue One" feature no deleted scenes -- not a single one.

While the discs don't offer the material to assemble a different version of the film, they do fill in some of the backstory the film doesn't quite spell out for you -- one of my gripes with the movie.

For example, one featurette video gives an insight into the faith of warrior monk Chirrut Îmwe and his slightly different take on the Force. We also learn more about Saw Gerrera, a character whose story I found frustratingly vague in the finished movie.

The short videos also show how the film was created. A highlight is the one dedicated to the creation of sardonic droid K-2SO, one of the film's standouts, by actor Alan Tudyk and the effects team.

Then there's a look at how "Rogue One" is stitched into the fabric of the Star Wars universe. It's the first film to spin off from the main saga of the Skywalker clan, but it doesn't stray far. A featurette details how the filmmakers went back to the timeless designs of Ralph McQuarrie, who created the distinctive look of the Star Wars universe, to find new and interesting designs that still felt true to the original films -- matching the Empire's monochrome geometric shapes, for example, and the rebellion's earth-toned complex shapes.

Perhaps most interesting, a video titled "The Princess and The Governor" reveals how the film used cutting-edge special effects to re-create characters from the very first Star Wars film. "Rogue One" famously evokes a youthful Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and resurrects the image of the late Peter Cushing as the villainous Governor Tarkin, played by actors Ingvild Deila and Guy Henry on set before CGI was overlaid over the faces.

It's fun seeing the actors study the original films for the nuances in the faces of Fisher and Cushing, before the effects team take over sticking special motion capture dots on their faces to record their performances in close-up. It's eye-opening seeing the army of effects wizards at worked on these short but pivotal performances that caused the technicians' "many sleepless nights".

"There wouldn't have been a decision to have a character reappear like this unless [visual effects supervisor] John Knoll could reassure us that it was going to be completely believable," LucasFilm President Kathleen Kennedy explains in the video. The results are certainly technically impressive, even if fans are divided on whether the CGI faces are compelling or creepy.

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"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is available in digital HD in the US on March 24, followed by Blu-ray and DVD on April 4. The Blu-ray, DVD and digital download all land in Australia on 5 April and the UK on 10 April.

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