ORIGINS OF STAR WARS, PART ONE
ORIGINS OF STAR WARS, PART TWO
By John L. Flynn
January 1975--The second screenplay was finished with the title "The Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode One of the Star Wars." The new story was set in the Republic Galactica, which was ravaged by civil war, and focused on a quest for the Kiber Crystal, a powerful energy source which controlled the Force of Others. [Fans of Allan Dean Foster's Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye will no doubt recognize the reference to the crystal.] The roll-up concluded with a prophetic promise: "In times of greatest despair there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as 'The Sons of Suns.'"
The Jedi-Bendu, led by General Skywalker and his twelve children, represent the good side of the Force (known as the Ashla Force), while Lord Vader, a seven-foot-tall black hooded knight, dominates the dark side. Obsessed with possessing the powerful crystal, Vader has been eliminating the Jedi-Bendu one-by-one. Luke Starkiller, a teenage boy, has lost both of his parents on a planet destroyed by the Death Star, and seeks out a nameless "seer" for advice about the Force and his future. Meanwhile, Leia's rebel cruiser has come under the attack of an Imperial warship, far above Luke's homeworld, and her efforts to provide a detailed map of the location of the Kiber Crystal to General Skywalker has failed. That map, along with vital construction data about the Death Star, is concealed in a small robot and jettisoned to the planet below.
After discovering the small robot (and his talkative android companion), Starkiller journeys to the space port to enlist a star pilot. There, he meets Han Solo, a young Corellian pirate who was formerly a cabin boy. Solo is burly, bearded, and flamboyantly dressed, and has a guinea pig-like creature named Boma for a girlfriend and a two-hundred year-old Wookee companion named Chewbacca. They join forces with Luke, and eventually link up with General Skywalker and his twelve children. (Skywalker has been training his children in fighter craft for an assault on the Death Star, and the information provided by the small robot gives them the edge they need.)
Luke manages to rescue both Leia and his older brother Deak from Vader, and during the final assault on the Death Star, he takes aim at its singular weakness. Starkiller destroys the Empire's battlestation, but there is still much to be accomplished. Vader is still on the loose, and the Kiber Crystal is still hidden in an unknown region of the galaxy. The script ends with a teaser, entitled "The Princess of Ondes," in which Leia and her family are kidnapped and a perilous search begins.
This screenplay had finally brought George Lucas's epic vision into focus. While the story remains consistent with his original synopsis, the action, broken into three distinct locations, was certainly manageable from both an aesthetic and technical point-of-view. He had pared his story down, blended characters and discarded material which would eventually comprise the other two films. Lucas had also transformed the two most endearing characters in the saga into their final forms. Darth Vader was now a Dark Lord of the Sith and the chief adversary of Luke and the forces of good. Han Solo is no longer a green-skinned alien (like the bounty hunter Greedo) but a young Corellian pirate. In fact, Solo's character is drawn as a thinly disguised version of George's own mentor, Francis Ford Coppola. And although the Kiber Crystal would ultimately be dropped from the series (as the physical embodiment of the Force, Lucas had found the central impetus (--Hitchcock often referred to it as a "maguffin"--) upon which the action would turn.
Lucas now also knew that this story was only part of a much greater whole. In May 1975, he retitled The Star Wars as episode four in The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, and sent a synopsis of the screenplay to Alan Ladd Jr. The Fox executive greeted the draft with much enthusiasm, but questioned George about the other episodes. It seemed strange to everyone (but Lucas) to start a motion picture in the middle of the action.
While writing and revising the various drafts of the screenplay for Star Wars, Lucas had kept changing his mind as to the focus of the story. He scribbled out in longhand on specially selected blue-and-green lined paper various story synopses. Between drafts one and two, he wrote a prequel of sorts which dealt with Luke's father and his relationship to Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi. George decided he didn't like it, and wrote a completely different treatment with Luke as the central figure. The plot was not all that different from the second screenplay (or the finished film, for that matter), but featured Han Solo as Luke's older, battle-weary brother. He returns to Tatooine to enlist Luke in the rescue of their father, an old Jedi Knight. At one point, Lucas even toyed with the idea of making Luke a young girl, who fell in love with Solo; but the climatic assault by hundreds of Wookees on the Death Star remained unchanged. Several revisions later, George knew he had enough material to make several motion pictures. He determined that the first trilogy would tell the story of a young Jedi named Ben Kenobi, Luke's father and the betrayal of Darth Vader. The series would be set twenty years before the action in Star Wars. The middle trilogy would feature Luke as a young man, struggling to learn about the Force, and the final three films would focus on Luke as an adult helping to dismantle the last remnants of the Empire. The whole saga would take place over a sixty-year period, with C-3PO and R2D2 as the common narrative thread to the whole series.
August 1975--The third screenplay demonstrates Lucas's command and final understanding of his great saga. The narrative, which is tighter and considerably more focused, tells a story that seems very familiar. Luke, son of the famous late Jedi Knight, Anakin Starkiller, works as a farmboy for his bitter uncle Owen, who has stolen his nephew's savings to rescue his farm. His older brother Biggs has already gone to the Space Academy, and he longs to follow him there. But when Luke discovers a holographic message from Princess Leia in the memory systems of an R2-D2 unit, he seeks out General Kenobi, his father's comrade. Ben Kenobi is "a shabby old desert rat of a man," who may be insane (according to Owen); however, after he manages to save Luke from the sand people, the young farmboy begins to doubt his uncle's words.
Allied in a common cause to save Leia and return R2 to the rebel forces, Luke and Ben seek out a "tough James Dean-style starpilot," named Han Solo. Solo and his copilot, a Wookee nicknamed Chewie, agree to take them and their two robots to the rebel base on their space freighter which they use for smuggling. The group is ultimately forced to blast their way out of the space port when Imperial troops arrive to arrest Luke. Later, while traveling through hyperspace, Kenobi feels the presence of a mysterious force, the Kiber Crystal, and orders that they penetrate the defenses of the Death Star to obtain the crystal. Once aboard the battlestation, Han and Luke rescue Leia, who has been using the mind-control powers of a witch to keep the interrogators at bay. Ben also searches for the Kiber Crystal and encounters his former nemesis, Darth Vader. The two struggle in a fierce battle with light-sabres, and Ben is wounded but saved by Han and Luke in the nick of time. The aging Jedi knight passes the crystal onto Luke, who then uses its magical powers to destroy the Death Star. (During the climatic space battle, Luke's older brother Biggs appears as one of the rebel pilots.) They are welcomed as conquering heroes at the rebel base, and Leia rewards them with medals and honorary titles.
Even though the dialogue is still somewhat crude, the third screenplay captures the spirit and imagination that would become the Star Wars movie. Now all Lucas had to do was polish some rough edges and rethink his notions about the Force. He would eventually jettison the Kiber Crystal in the fourth screenplay, and convey the Force in metaphysical terms.
March 1976--The fourth screenplay was actually the one that George Lucas chose to film. The narrative covers most of the action in the movie, with two important deletions. In the script, Biggs, who is now Luke's older friend, returns to Tatooine to discuss the Space Academy and his decision to join the rebels in their war against the Empire. This scene was actually filmed, but later trimmed during the final editing of the motion picture. The other sequence details Han's negotiations with Jabba the Hut prior to his liftoff from Tatooine. Again, parts of this sequence were filmed but later discarded. George Lucas also changed Luke's surname from Starkiller to Skywalker, and took out any references to the Kiber Crystal or Leia's witch-like powers. The final product of Star Wars, which many consider to be one of the great motion pictures of all time, is a testament to Lucas's persistence and creative imagination.
CHARACTERSThe inspiration for many of the characters in the Star Wars saga came from many of the sources George consulted while writing the first film; whereas the characters themselves may have undergone various changes in gender and form, their basic personalities remained firmly rooted in mythic or literary traditions. Lucas studied dozens of ancient legends, including King Arthur, read a variety of fantasy and science fiction stories, including Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and isolated the most common elements and archetypal characters in an effort to produce a story that is somewhat universal. It's fascinating to view these characters in hindsight, to see how certain premises and personalities were kept intact and how others were transformed or simply abandoned.
Luke, the hero of George Lucas's space-fantasy, was originally imagined as a swashbuckling freebooter like Flash Gordon (from Alex Raymond's famous series) or John Carter (Edgar Rice Burroughs's Warlord of Mars). Adept with both sabres and blasters, the character had risen to ranks of General and Jedi knight. In the thirteen-page summary, General Skywalker leads a rebel band of teenage boys against the Empire. By the first draft screenplay, Luke was still a general in his early sixties, and the hero of the piece was now Annikin Starkiller, aged eighteen. Several revisions later, Luke was again the center of the story. He had became a teenager, who must to rescue his brother Deak from the clutches of Darth Vader. George felt there was much more room for character development, if he introduced a young innocent who must grow to manhood, and kept the story central to him. By the next to final draft, Luke had become a farm boy, son of a famous Jedi knight, who must deliver R2D2 to a rebel stronghold on a faraway planet. The evolution of his character was nearly complete; all he needed was a mentor.
Throughout the many rewrites, Luke's thoughtful, old mentor who appears as "a shabby old desert rat" was to have been the central role in the piece. Lucas saw the character as a cross between Gandalf the Wizard in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Merlin the Magician and the samurai swordsman often played by Toshiro Mifune. (In fact, George first imagined Mifune in the role of Ben Kenobi, but later went with Alec Guinness when he realized that distinguished actor was available for the part.) He wanted Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi to be a kind and powerful wizard who had a certain dignity and could influence the weak-minded. As first envisioned, Kenobi was probably the early General Skywalker; then, in later drafts, Kane Starkiller, an anonymous "seer," and finally the crazed desert hermit who was also a Jedi master.
Leia was first conceived by Lucas as an amalgamation of Dejah Thoris (from A Princess of Mars), Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien (from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Dorothy (from The Wizard of Oz). Never really named in the original story treatment, she was an eleven year-old princess, with "goddesslike" powers, who needed rescuing from Imperial troops. Subsequent drafts of the screenplay portrayed her as sixteen year-old princess who fell in love with Han Solo, the central male figure, and finally the twin sister to Luke Skywalker. At one point, in the third draft, George Lucas even gave Leia the mind-control powers of a witch, but later revised that when she became Luke's long lost sibling.
Han Solo was first introduced in the first screenplay as a huge, green-skinned monster with gills and no nose, and only later developed into a human. Lucas probably saw Solo as an amalgamation of all the great sidekicks in literature and film, from Lancelot (in the Arthurian legends) to Tonto (in popular culture), but he eventually evolved into a fully-realized, leading player. By the second screenplay, Han had been transformed into burly individual resembling Francis Ford Coppola. Though somewhat comic in appearance, with flamboyant clothes and a guinea-pig girlfriend, he was clearly a person to be reckoned with. Lucas later made him a cynical smuggler, and thought of him like a James Dean, "a cowboy in a starship: simple, sentimental and cocksure." That persona stuck to Han Solo in the first film, but he gradually emerged as "a sexy Clark Gable," in the subsequent films, easily winning Leia from Luke.
Artwo Detwo and See-Threepio began life as two bumbling bureaucrats in the original treatment, George's primitive notion of comic relief. Their characters are derivative of Samwise Gamgee and Pippin Took in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the famous comic duo of Laurel and Hardy. Much later, after George had made them bumbling construction robots on the Death Star, they began to evolve into personalities all their own. See-Threepio was the overbearing android who complained too much, and Artwo, as his much smaller counterpart, was the brunt of Threepio's angry jibes. While Artwo resembles one of the hapless drones in "Silent Running" and Threepio the Robotrix in "Metropolis," they were both original creations of Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had given him free reign to create whatever he thought was appropriate, and McQuarrie relied upon his background as an illustrator for Boeing Aircraft and NASA to visualize George's ideas.
Lucas used Ming the Merciless, the evil ruler of Mongo (and later Mars) in the Flash Gordon comics, as the model for his emperor. Several early drafts described the Emperor as simply an evil sovereign who had taken control of the Alliance and proclaimed himself king. But Lucas was not satisfied with that back story, and began thinking of the character in terms that a contemporary audience would recognize--Richard Nixon. The Emperor became a corrupt politician who, with the help of his two cohorts (General Darth Vader and Valorum, the Black Knight), destroyed all but one of the Jedi-Templar. Then, in a time of great chaos, he had himself declared ruler. By the final draft, the evil sovereign had evolved into a master of the Dark Side of the Force, as well as the tutor of Kenobi's young apprentice, Darth Vader.
The evolution of Dark Vader is also interesting. He was conceived by George Lucas as the epitomy of evil, the Black Knight in the Arthurian Tales or Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Though he did not appear in any form in the original treatment, the character had two roles in the first draft screenplay: General Darth Vader, and Valorum, the Black Knight. In the second draft of that screenplay, Vader (under the name Captain Dodona) was an intergalactic bounty hunter, who was hired to track down and murder Jedi Knights for the Emperor. Then Vader became a Dark Lord of the Sith, and Lucas created Boba Fett from that early concept of Vader as a bounty hunter. However, in the novel Star Wars and the final screenplay, the reference to Vader as some sort of bounty hunter remains. According to Obi-Wan, Vader betrayed and murdered the pilot Skywalker, then "helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights." Darth Vader was also given Kane Starkiller's exoskeleton to help him survive, and a background story was worked up by Lucas to explain his severe injuries. (Apparently, many years before, Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader faught a fierce light-sabre duel, and Vader was driven into the molten lava of an active volcano. He survived, but his body was ruined, and he was forced to wear an ominous black breathing mask that also hides his disfigurement, like The Man in the Iron Mask. No much more is revealed about his character in the first film; but by the third audiences learn that he was, in fact, Anakin Skywalker, a former Jedi knight and father of Luke.
George Lucas's vision for Star Wars began as a simple thirteen-page story treatment, and evolved into its own galaxy of heroes and villains, 'droids, and creatures of a thousand worlds. The series of three films also broke all existing box office records, and went onto become the most successful movies ever made. Perhaps, many of those discarded story ideas, characters and creations will one day resurface in a new saga set "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . ."
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN NOT OF THIS EARTH, SUMMER 1994 SPECIAL.