It’s four days until the United Kingdom foreign preview release of Star Wars: the Force Awakens – Episode VII in the saga. At least, officially. There are some midnight screenings, but the official release date is still the 17th. Which is the date I’m sticking with regardless – it makes the counting-down easier. So, rather than going in release order like everyone else, I’m doing it in Episode order. Nyer. Here’s George Lucas‘ screenplay to STAR WARS Episode IV A NEW HOPE From the JOURNAL OF THE WHILLS. A rough draft for Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller can be found through the Jedi Bendu Script Site, as can ADVENTURES OF THE STARKILLER (episode one) “The Star Wars”, The Star Wars, Star Wars: the Adventures of Luke Starkiller, The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from “The Journal of the Whills”, “THE STAR WARS” From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller.
“The way I work is that I cut the movie together, I look at it and figure out what I’m missing. At that point, it’s more about how the movie flows together rather than how the script flows together. I’m acknowledging more and more that a script and a movie are two different things.”
In May 1974, the outline was finalised, and Lucas wrote the first screenplay draft, which now included elements such as the Sith, the Death Star, and General Annikin Starkiller. Starkiller became an adolescent, and the General’s role was changed to a supporting Dwarf character. Han Solo at this point was a large, green-skinned creature with gills. Solo’s co-pilot Chewbacca was inspired by Lucas’ Alaskan Malamute, Indiana, who’d sit in Lucas’ passenger seat. The original story was of a son who’s trained in the ways of the Jedi by his father – a hero, who remains alive by the end. The opening crawl was as such:
Until the recent GREAT REBELLION, the JEDI BENDU were the most feared warriors in the universe. For one hundred thousand years, generations of JEDI perfected their art as the personal bodyguards of the emperor. They were the chief architects of the invincible IMPERIAL SPACE FORCE which expanded the EMPIRE across the galaxy, from the celestial equator to the farthest reaches of the GREAT RIFT. Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one they have been hunted down and destroyed as enemies of the NEW EMPIRE by a ferocious and sinister rival warrior sect, THE KNIGHTS OF SITH.
The full synopsis has been published by Wookipedia. In January 1975, draft two, titled The Star Wars, was complete. It was much simplified and now introduced the young hero as Luke Starkiller, who grows-up on a farm. Annikin was Luke’s father and Jedi Knight, who’s learned in the ways of the Force, a mystical energy field. This second draft included Luke’s brothers, working more as a fairy tale than the sci-fi action adventure of the first draft. The text crawl initially was placed at the end, setting-up the events of a sequel:
Until the recent GREAT REBELLION, the DAI NOGAS were the most feared warriors in the universe. For one hundred thousand years, generations of DAI perfected their art as the personal bodyguards of the King. They were the chief architects of the invincible ROYAL SPACE FORCE, which expanded the King's power across the galaxy, from the celestial equator to the farthest stars. Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one, they have been hunted down and destroyed as enemies of the NEW GALACTIC KINGDOM by a ferocious and sinister rival warrior sect, THE LEGIONS OF LETTOW.
Lucas realised the Force could be used for evil, and dropped-in a reference to the first Jedi to use the Dark Side, training the Sith in its ways. This second draft was delivered with concept art inspired by its scenes. The third was completed 1st August 1975, now titled The Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. It was here that Annikin was dead, leaving Luke as an only child brought-up by Ben Kenobi:
The REPUBLIC GALACTICA is dead. Ruthless trader barons, driven by greed and the lust for power, have replaced enlightenment with oppression, and "rule by the people" with the FIRST GALACTIC EMPIRE. Until the tragic Holy Rebellion of "06", the respected JEDI BENDU OF ASHLA were the most powerful warriors in the Universe. For a hundred thousand years, generations of Jedi Bendu knights learned the ways of the mysterious FORCE OF OTHERS, and acted as the guardians of peace and justice in the REPUBLIC. Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one they have been hunted down and destroyed by a ferocious rival sect of mercenary warriors: THE BLACK KNIGHTS OF THE SITH. It is a period of civil wars. The EMPIRE is crumbling into lawless barbarism throughout the million worlds of the galaxy. From the celestial equator to the farthest reaches of the GREAT RIFT, seventy small solar systems have united in a common war against the tyranny of the Empire. Under the command of a mighty Jedi warrior known as THE STARKILLER, the REBEL ALLIANCE has won a crushing victory over the deadly Imperial Star Fleet. The Empire knows that one more such defeat will bring a thousand more solar systems into the rebellion, and Imperial control of the Outlands could be lost forever...
This was then rewritten again, with draft four submitted on 1st January 1976, titled The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars. The pre-production script became draft five, with co-writing assistance from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck.
“Dialogue has never been my strong point, and so I talked to Willard and Gloria and asked them to do a quick dialogue polish. I gave them the fourth draft of the script, and they just improved the dialogue where they felt they could make a contribution. Then I took their changes, and sometimes I rewrote some of their lines. Some of their dialogue of course changed again when we started shooting. Some of it survived; some of it didn’t. They did about thirty percent of the dialogue.”
This was the version bought by the studio, with unwritten ideas protected by Lucas negotiating sequel rights. This also has a published synopsis on Wookipedia, which ended with a closing crawl:
...And a thousand new systems joined the rebellion, causing a significant crack in the great wall of the powerful Galactic Empire. The Starkiller would once again spark fear in the hearts of the Sith knights, but not before his sons were put to many tests... the most daring of which was the kidnapping of the Lars family, and the perilous search for: "THE PRINCESS OF ONDOS."
The familiar “A long time ago,
in a galaxy far, far away…” was first written as “‘…And in the time of greatest despair there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as: THE SON OF THE SUNS.’―Journal of the Whills, 3:127″. Rd2-D2 and C-3PO first appeared in this draft. The Death Star plans were instead the Kiber crystal, which contributed little to the plot other than being a MacGuffin. Lucas considered making Luke female due to the lack of female characters, but instead decided to introduce Leia Organa. The final script was finished in March 1976.
“What finally emerged through the many drafts of the script has obviously been influenced by science-fiction and action-adventure I’ve read and seen. And I’ve seen a lot of it. I’m trying to make a classic sort of genre picture, a classic space fantasy in which all the influences are working together. There are certain traditional aspects of the genre I wanted to keep and help perpetuate in Star Wars.”
It wasn’t until during production that Luke Starkiller became Luke Skywalker. The title was shortened to The Star Wars and then simply Star Wars. The script was further rewritten during production to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi when Lucas realised he contributed nothing from that point onwards.
“In the original script Ben Kenobi doesn’t get killed in the fight with Vader. About halfway through production I took Alec aside and said I was going to kill him off halfway through the picture. I was struggling with the problem that I had this sort of climactic scene that had no climax about two-thirds of the way through the film. I had another problem in the fact that there was no real threat in the Death Star. The villains were like tenpins; you get into a gunfight with them and they just get knocked over. As I originally wrote it, Ben Kenobi and Vader had a sword fight and Ben hits a door and the door slams closed and they all run away and Vader is left standing there with egg on his face. This was dumb; they run into the Death Star and they sort of take over everything and they run back. It diminished any impact the Death Star had.”
The famous opening crawl featured six paragraphs with four sentences each:
“The crawl is such a hard thing because you have to be careful that you’re not using too many words that people don’t understand. It’s like a poem.”
The final opening crawl was written by Lucas’ friend, Brian De Palma, who considered Lucas’ opening crawl too complicated. Lucas received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay nomination.