Almost everyone is familiar with those iconic words before every Star Wars movie.
And in the time of greatest despair there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as THE SON OF SUNS.’ Journal of the Whills, 3:127 No? Doesn’t ring a bell? Oh, that’s right, that wasn’t in the final draft. Here we go, this is it, A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, an amazing adventure took place. No, that’s still not from the final draft. In this paper we will look at how George Lucas got the idea for Star Wars, the many changes he made from draft to draft, and where Star Wars is now.
The date is March 11, the year 1971 and a new movie titled THX-1138 has just been released. It’s a dark, disturbing story about the future of humanity where the population lives in large underground cities, and everyone is forced to take pills that remove their free will. The movie was not well received and it’s young director was discouraged to say the least. George Lucas had genuinely believed in his story and it’s poor reception shocked him. A few years after the rejection of his first sci-fi film, George Lucas was ready to take another shot at directing a film in the genre. James Smith, New Statesman writes, George Lucas told composer Lalo Schifrin that he wanted to make a Flash Gordon’ picture, an updating of the 40s sci-fi serials that he’d enjoyed as a child. It would, however, be those serials not as they were, but how he remembered them as having been. When the rights to these proved unavailable, he began to work on original idea, hoping to create something similar, but which he would own himself (Smith, 1). So with the relative failure of THX-1138 and his inability to gain the rights to Flash Gordon, George decided it was time to come up with his own story while incorporating the elements he loved from the stories of his childhood. George began weaving together elements of stories from the Bible, Flash Gordon, The Odyssey, and the filmography of legendary director Akira Kurosawa, but he had a problem. His story didn’t feel real, it felt like a made up fairy tale that was completely unrelatable, with early drafts being referred to as gobbledygook by long time friend and collaborator of George Lucas, Gary Kurtz. George racked his brain trying to find a way to make his story seem realistic until it finally hit him. He would create a fantasy story that drew inspiration from historic events, the Galactic Empire would be based on Nazi Germany, the Emperor would be based on American President Richard Nixon, the Rebellion would be based on the VietCong, and the Jedi would be based on the Knights Templar. Now began the arduous journey of drafting the story.
Rarely does a story change from draft to draft as much as Star Wars did. It is believed that the final version of the story present in the movie is George’s fourth attempt at writing the story of Star Wars. The changes from the early version of the story to the final are outlined by B. Myint, A&E Television Networks, early drafts of Star Wars would be unrecognizable to even die hard fans: Luke Skywalker is a grizzled old general, Han Solo is a frog-like alien, there’s a main character named Kane Starkiller, and the dark side of the force is called the Bogan.(Myint, 1) Not only did the story itself drastically change, the title itself went through many iterations, one of the names on an early draft was The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as Taken from the Journal of the Whills. (Saga 1) Star Wars. Finally after several drafts, writing the script, and a tumultuous production Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was finished. The big question then was, where in the world was George Lucas? His movie was about to enter theaters and you would think he would want to see what happened. Instead, fearing his movie would be a failure, he was on a flight to Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg. Those few days ended up being tremendously important days as not only did Star Wars instantly become a mega hit, he also sat down and wrote Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark with Spielberg. When George arrived back in the continental United States he realized that over the course of a few days his name had gone from relatively unknown to being on the lips of practically everybody.
The lasting legacy of that one movie has stretched way beyond its initial May 25, 1976 release. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released on May 19, 1999, followed by Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones on May 16, 2002, then the trilogy concluded with Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith which was released on May 19, 2005. George’s work with Star Wars concluded with the animated movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars (August 15, 2008) followed by six seasons of the animated television show of the same name which aired from October 3, 2008 till March 7, 2014. On October 30, 2012 it was announced that George Lucas had sold the rights of Star Wars to Disney for about $4 billion. Sense then, a plethora of new content has been released including Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (December 18, 2015), a spinoff movie entitled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16, 2016), Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (December 15, 2017), as well as 4 seasons of the animated tv show Star Wars: Rebels (October 3, 2014 – March 5, 2018), two video games, Star Wars: Battlefront (November 17, 2015) and Star Wars: Battlefront II (November 17, 2017), as well as more than thirty novels. Disney has also announced several more projects in the works including at least seven more movies, Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25, 2018), Star Wars: Episode IX (December 20, 2019), a trilogy of films to be written and directed by Rian Johnson, a series of films to be written and produced by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as a new live action tv show set to be written by Jon Favreau, an animated television series titled Star Wars: Resistance directed by Dave Filoni, several new books, several new video games, and an immersive Star Wars themed area called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge coming to Disneyland and Disneyworld.
As we have looked at in this paper, Star Wars has made a long journey from concept, to drafting, to its current iterations. Star Wars is truly a story with significant cultural and historical impact that will shape the imaginations of many generations to come. I leave you with a quote from the legendary Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Remember, the force will be with you. Always (Lucas, 1).
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