The first script for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story saw the heroes escape Scarif in a much more hopeful ending and now we know exactly how.
It’s not even a secret anymore, but I’ll say SPOILERS! anyway.
Now, everyone at the end of Rogue One died on Scarif. Obviously, they managed to transfer the Death Star schematics to the Rebel Alliance beforehand, but anyone who watched the trailers once, twice or a few hundred times knows that there are some scenes with Jyn Erso running away from the Imperial soldiers with the plans in hand. But no such scene appeared in the final cut.
However, there were many things that changed between Gary Whitta’s first draft and Chris Weitz’s revisions. For example, Whitta’s draft made some plans for an opening crawl, but didn’t include characters like Chirrut Imwe or Baze Malbus. Additionally, Rogue One originally made Jyn a sergeant in the rebellion as opposed to a felon on the run.
According to Whitta’s interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jyn Erso and Cassian (originally named something else) got off Scarif:
"“A rebel ship came down and got them off the surface. The transfer of the plans happened later. They jumped away and later [Leia’s] ship came in from Alderaan to help them. The ship-to-ship data transfer happened off Scarif.”"
However, note that Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO didn’t survive in any iteration of the script.
Plus, Whitta adds the heroes more or less just floated off into space. So if you were expecting Jyn and CGI Princess Leia to have some sort of facetime, this wouldn’t have been the case.
"“They got away in an escape pod just in time. The pod looked like just another piece of debris.”"
Unfortunately, the heroes’ survival didn’t serve the story as well and Lucasfilm decided to go another way. If only because it made much more sense.
"“The fact that we had to jump through so many hoops to keep them alive was the writing gods telling us that if they were meant to live it wouldn’t be this difficult. We decided they should die on the surface [of Scarif,] and that was the way it ended. We were constantly trying to make all the pieces fit together. And we tried every single idea. Eventually, through endless development you get through an evolutionary process where the best version rises to the top.”"
I mean, I like the movie how it is, but I also block out the part where everyone dies slow, emotional deaths as Jyn and Cassian hug in the middle of a massive explosion. Thank god for fanfiction, right?
You can buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on DVD/Blu-ray on April 4.