The Episode VII crawl sets up POE DAMERON as a key character:
Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to Jakku, where an old ally has discovered a clue to Luke’s whereabouts….
But after helping Stormtrooper FN-2187 desert the First Order, Poe is seemingly killed when their hijacked TIE Fighter crashes on Jakku.
Finn takes up the name Poe gave him, and his jacket, and sets off.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on Jakku, scavenger Rey rescues and adopts Poe's droid BB-8.
Poe's mission and subsequent death sets up the main plot of the film for our unlikely new heros.
Later, Poe is shown to have miraculously survived.
Soon after the release of The Force Awakens, it was reported that Poe was originally written to have truly died died in that TIE Fighter crash:
J.J. Abrams had pitched him the character of Poe Dameron, a badass fighter pilot battling against the remnants of the Empire.
“He’s amazing!” said Abrams.
“Sounds good!” thought Oscar Isaac, whose first experience in a movie theater had been seeing The Empire Strikes Back.
“He opens the whole movie!” said Abrams.
“Sounds great!” thought Isaac.
“And then,” Abrams went on. “He dies.”
“Oh,” thought Isaac.
“I’d done that before,” he told me later. “Set up the plot for the main guy and then die spectacularly.” (He had played just such a role in The Bourne Legacy.)
“I went back home [to New York], and I thought about it,” he says. “Then I wrote him and said, ‘Okay. I’ll do it!’ I figured it would be a cameo: I’ll come in, do my thing, and maybe it’s actually better not to have to sign myself up for three movies.” By that time, though, things had changed and Abrams soon wrote back: “Never mind. I’ve figured it out. You’re in the whole movie now.”
If Poe Dameron was originally written to be killed in the first act, why was he re-written to survive in the final draft?
What caused Abrams and Lucasfilm to reconsider this death? How far into the production schedule did this rewrite or reshoot occur?