Late last night, a moderator of the subreddit r/SaltierThanCrait revealed that they had been in contact with a verified source who worked on The Rise of Skywalker with JJ Abrams, and had information to share. This information, which seemed to imply that executive meddling was to blame for TRoS’s failure–and, moreover, that an earlier version of the film still exists–quickly grew into a mainstream news story and sparked a hashtag campaign on social media. For those who don’t have the time to read the full rundown (linked above), here’s a quick summary of the main takeaway points.
NOTE: this information comes from a source that is verified to have been involved with the production of The Rise of Skywalker, but we cannot guarantee the veracity of specific information they have provided. These facts reflect one interpretation of events as the source witnessed and/or heard about them.
- There were 3 major versions of the film made–an Abrams cut, a “compromise” cut, and the theatrical release. Though the exact timeline on these cuts is a bit unclear (and it’s possible that there were intermediate versions of each one with similar run times) it would appear that Abrams’ original 3 hour cut was finalized around early November, the 2 hour 37 minute “compromise” cut, which Abrams still wasn’t thrilled with, was chosen in early December, and a 2 hour 21 minute final cut was shown at the world premiere in mid-December. The source did not disclose which cut was shown at the cast and crew screening earlier that month, but given the time frame it was most likely the 2 hour 37 minute cut.
- Although Abrams was promised creative freedom on TRoS, Disney reneged on this promise shortly after production began. Several weeks into filming he was denied permission to film two apparently crucial scenes, due to budgetary concerns, and the problem continued throughout the production process.
- Rey and Kylo Ren’s romantic connection was demanded by Disney, and Abrams was not happy with it. It was a “script-level mandate” that Rey and Kylo’s relationship at least be left open to romance, but the kiss itself was seemingly not demanded until later. It is unclear how long Abrams was able to fight the inclusion of the kiss and/or romance, so it is possible that it exists in all cuts of the movie, in the compromise and final cuts, or only in the final cut.
- Rose’s scenes were cut heavily shortly before release. She originally had at least one scene with Rey, as well as other things to do throughout the film.
- There was originally a scene with the spirits of all the former Jedi appearing physically to Rey, including Luke, Anakin, Mace Windu, and Obi Wan. This was filmed with actors during the secret October reshoots at Bad Robot, and was the scene Abrams alluded to with Kevin Smith, expecting it to be the peak moment of the film. However, Disney ordered it cut last-minute, and the source speculates it was because of concerns that China would not distribute a film with so many ghosts in it, due to the country’s well-known policy of censoring supernatural elements in film.
- Abrams and the team were “blindsided” by the version of the film screened at the premiere, and the changes that had been made without their approval. Important scenes and exposition were missing, and even the scoring had been changed for certain sequences. Abrams felt the movie had been hacked to pieces and then “taped back together with weak scotch tape,” in his own words.
- The leaker theorizes that Disney’s choices were motivated, in part, by a desire to protect the MCU. In June of 2019, Bad Robot finalized a deal with Warner Brothers, which would likely lead to Abrams being brought on to direct for the DC franchise. As Marvel is Disney’s cash cow, company execs did not want competition from a successful director reviving the DC franchise, like Abrams had revived Star Trek, Mission Impossible, and Star Wars. Since Disney notably cleared its financial goals for the year after the release of Frozen II, the source suggests they felt they could take a chance on stripping TRoS of Abrams’ most shining directorial moments, leaving the film still profitable, but deliberately less critically acclaimed and beloved than it could have been.
- Alan Horn, not Bob Iger or Kathleen Kennedy, appears to be the main force pushing against JJ’s vision. Abrams and Kennedy appear to get along well, contrary to industry rumors, and Abrams and Iger are “at least professional,” even after TRoS. Horn apparently harbors a strong distaste for Abrams and preferred Rian Johnson’s vision for the franchise.
- The sources that leaked the plot to u/JediPaxis and Jason Ward of Making Star Wars were affiliated with Disney. The source does not know much more than this, but claims that the leak source has an “agenda” of some sort. The source also confirmed that John Boyega’s lost script was a PR stunt, and that neither Abrams nor the cast knew why Disney had asked them to play along with it.
- #ReleaseTheJJCut is now trending on Twitter. Newsweek magazine has also picked up the story, and SWSC is monitoring all upcoming information as well. We will post updates on the site and social media as they arise.