The synopsis for Rogue One was released long before the movie came out — 40 years before, in fact. Taken straight from the opening crawl to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the new movie finally reveals how the Rebel Alliance obtained those all-important Death Star plans. Except, that's not what originally happened at all
A New Hope went through several script drafts before the final cut of the movie, but every piece of cut dialogue formed part of the canon story — as George Lucas saw it. Many of these snippets later played a bigger role in the wider #StarWars narrative — like the Whills — but some were lost to history. Such is the case of Leia Organa's original role in how the Death Star plans were stolen by the Rebellion, as we discovered when Carrie Fisher's audition tape was released.
Apart from pulling at our heartstrings in the wake of Carrie Fisher's death, this audition also reveals some key plot details from the original Star Wars Episode IV script. As it turns out, not only was Leia far more involved in the theft of the Death Star plans, but she also knew the Empire tracked the Millennium Falcon to Yavin — and she was counting on the Death Star's attack.
Leia Stole The Plans
The script Carrie Fisher read from in her audition was a draft of the shooting script, and was subject to many alterations before the final cut of the movie. This is an early version of the scene between Leia and Han after they escape the Death Star, as Leia explains how the Rebellion acquired the plans hidden in R2D2.
"We captured the plans in a raid on the Imperial shipyards. But we fell under attack before we could get the data to safety, so I hid it in this R2 unit and sent it off."
This explanation of the mission has some striking differences to #RogueOne. Leia says the plans were stolen during a raid on a shipyard, an Imperial facility that housed and produced starships. In Rogue One, the plans are hidden in the Empire's massive hard-copy database, in amongst the documents for many other ominous Imperial projects.
Admittedly, this is a pretty small change, and moving the action to Scarif made for a much more interesting situation — not to mention some glorious visuals of jungle and beach combat. But in the original version of the story, it seems Leia herself took part in this mission.
Her use of the word "we" when describing the capture of the plans implies she was there, especially as this leads right into her description of how her ship, the Tantive IV, was attacked. Technically, this dialogue does just about work with how Rogue One, but it certainly seems that Leia was originally intended to have a bigger role in this precursor to A New Hope, and her mission was actually detailed in the Expanded Universe comic, Star Wars: Empire: Princess... Warrior.
This makes for an interesting case of what-might-have-been — had Rogue One been made 40 years ago, Carrie Fisher may have had a starring role as Leia leading the team. But that's not all this audition tape reveals: It also solves a plot hole that's been annoying fans for decades.
Luring The Death Star To Yavin
In the audition tape, Leia responds to Han's concern that the Millennium Falcon was tracked by revealing that she knows — and this is all part of her plan.
"I know they'll follow, and they'll bring the Death Star. Our only hope is to destroy it before it destroys us. Look, hiding is useless now! With the Death Star they'll continue destroying systems until they've found us. We have no alternative but to process the information and use it while there's still time."
Paralleling Jyn's plea to the Rebel council in Rogue One, Leia is the one to decide to attack the Death Star head on, before it's too late. This tiny piece of dialogue doesn't just establish Leia as the same kind of headstrong, proactive rebel as Jyn was, but it also answers the question of why — if they knew they were being tracked — the main characters of A New Hope would lead the Death Star to the Alliance's secret base.
It's a shame Leia's plan was deleted from the final cut of the film. In the final version of this scene, Leia merely suspects the Falcon is being tracked — though Han refuses to believe it. By cutting the rest of her dialogue, George Lucas turned Leia from a shrewd strategist to a pawn in Tarkin's plan to pursue the Falcon to Yavin.
Of course, if Leia didn't intend to put her plan to destroy the Death Star into action, she could have just acted on her suspicions and diverted the Falcon to another system, before continuing on to Yavin in another ship. But this is supposition — it's just as easy to watch the final version of the film and assume that the Death Star following the Falcon to Yavin is a plot hole, not a deliberate move on Leia's part.
Ultimately though, the major takeaway from Carrie Fisher's audition tape isn't lost plot details from A New Hope — this is a snapshot of when she was promising young actress, and losing her last year really was tragic. I'll just go back to crying into my copy of The Princess Diarist now...
Tell us in the comments: Did you think Leia planned to lead the Death Star to Yavin IV?