THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett

It’s three 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 Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett‘s screenplay to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

The working title was Star Wars IIThe Empire Strikes Back came to exist as a handwritten treatment from producer George Lucas after story conferences held up to November 1977. The treatment followed the same plot as the final film, except for Luke’s confrontation with Vader being prepared by a visitation from his father, Anakin. Brackett finished this draft in early 1978, much to Lucas’ dissatisfaction. Brackett wouldn’t complete a second draft due to death from cancer. Draft two was therefore written by Lucas, who had no other writers available. Lucas’ second draft was the first instance of Star Wars Episode numberings – “The Empire Strikes Back” became the subtitle of “Star Wars Episode II“. Unlike what was now Star Wars Episode I, Lucas enjoyed writing Star Wars Episode II: The Empire Strikes Back when merging Anakin with Vader, creating the twist of Vader claiming to be Anakin – inspired by the emotional weight created by Anakin visiting Luke. This inspiration helped Lucas write draft two quickly, followed by drafts three and four in April 1978. Han’s imprisonment in carbonite and uncertain fate emerged by the fourth draft to give the sequel a darker edge. Vader claiming to be Luke’s father caused a continuity problem – it’s debated amongst Star Wars scholars whether Vader had ever been intended as Anakin and if Lucas had even considered that possibility before writing Star Wars Episode II: The Empire Strikes Back‘s second draft. Though Vader reveals himself to be Anakin, nothing in the series had foreshadowed this – leading to the argument that Lucas improvised this twist, rather than planning it. Hence, the fourth draft was influenced by back story developed during the writing of drafts two and three; Anakin was Ben’s student and is Luke’s father, who was turned to the Dark Side of the Force by Emperor – who was now a Sith and not just a politician. Anakin was wounded by Ben during a fight on a volcano, and was resurrected as Vader. Ben hid Luke on Tatooine as the Galactic Republic became the Galactic Empire while Vader hunted down and killed the Jedi. Hence, draft four moved The Empire Strikes Back from Star Wars Episode II to Star Wars Episode V; the Saga was now a duology of trilogies. Draft five was written by Kasdan, who was hired by Lucas, working from material in draft four. Director Irvin Kershner also had creative input. Producer Gary Kurtz considered it a mature development of the adventure genre.

Nominee: Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay [1980].

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Author: the Purple Prose Mage

I'm not Batman, but I wish that I were.

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