Ah, Star Wars. The mystical space opera franchise that has been dominating childhoods since the ’70s, and pretty much all of popular culture along with that. Much of its characters, scenes, costumes, musical scores and lines of dialog are considered to be iconic, and it’s hard to picture what geek fandom would look like without the Death Star-sized place the sprawling saga takes up. It’s even harder to imagine those beloved and recognizable elements any other way either. And yet, early concept art, scripts and interviews with production staff reveal that characters like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and R2-D2 could have turned out completely different — and in some cases, a lot worse.
It’s very rare that first, second, or even third drafts of a product end up being the fully-realized, finished result. Usually, brainstorming ideas — including bad ones — helps creators whip their creation into shape. In the case of A New Hope, J.W Rinzler’s book, The Making Of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind The Original Film, reveals that Lucas’ script was a work in progress even while the film was being shot. Very early drafts had Luke Skywalker as female, while others named him “Annakin Starkiller,” two names that would, of course, be recycled in later films and video games. Changes like those wouldn’t necessarily have been any better or worse than what we ended up with but other changes — like the ones on this list — would have been much harder to swallow.
15. EVERYONE GETS A LIGHTSABER
You know those super-awesome, multicolored, laser swords that only Force-sensitive beings like Jedi and Sith can wield? You know, highly-trained, mystical space warriors that fight for the forces of good and evil in a time-old struggle dictated by destiny? Well, now imagine if anyone had that weapon. Literally anybody. That’s exactly what Lucas envisioned early on in his writing process.
Lightsabers were once going to be standard weapons, like blasters, that required none of the intense training that Jedi and Sith undertake to earn them. If Lucas had run with this idea, we could have seen the ultra-cool swords swinging from the hips of low-level Stormtroopers, or being used as a substitute can opener by Watto. Thank goodness Lucas realized this ubiquity would dampen their powerful potential.
14. YODA THE GARDEN GNOME
As you can see from the concept art, to describe early iterations of Yoda as looking like a “garden gnome” is no exaggeration. With the short stature, white beard and pointed hat, the resemblance to the garden accessory is uncanny. These watercolor sketches from The Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook reveal the design development of the Jedi Master from Joe Johnston as his assistant Nilo Rodis-Jamero.
Of these original ideas, the staff and large ears seem to be the most consistent element that carried through to the finished result. Sculptor Stuart Freeborn — who created the final design — seems to have borrowed elements from both of these potential versions, and while this process of elimination was clearly necessary, we’re lucky we’re ended up with something more alien than Tolkien-esque.
13. DARTH VADER AND BOBA FETT: BROTHERS?
This idea isn’t entirely ridiculous but it’s unlikely that it would have been any kind of improvement on what made the final cut. In fact, considering what we perceive to be the strengths of Darth Vader and Boba Fett, it’s more likely that it would have really detracted from their impact. Vader and Fett answer to a master and an employer respectively, but the sense of peerless isolation around them is a significant part of their appeal.
Until the prequel series, Boba Fett’s muted mystery (and cool look) was what propelled him into cult favorite status, while a sibling for Anakin would’ve been a needless complication, one that the Emperor probably would have ordered him to snuff out long ago anyway as part of his Dark Side conversion. (And no, Uncle Owen doesn’t really count.)
12. DARTH MONSTER
With his red and black skin, yellow eyes, and devilish horns, Darth Maul is a fearsome and undeniably cool-looking warrior. Amidst the negative light that the Star Wars prequels are seen in by most fans, the Emperor’s alien apprentice is definitely one of the brighter spots and provides a worthy opponent for Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in one of the series’ most incredible lightsaber duels.
Imagine then, that instead of the intimidating badass we got in The Phantom Menace, we got this bone-chilling horror movie monster designed by artist Ian McCraig. It looks like it belongs in The Grudge rather than Star Wars. McCraig explained that he created Nightmare Maul after George Lucas suggested he draw “his worst nightmare.” After seeing the picture, Lucas amended his suggestion to, “your second worst nightmare.”
11. HAN SOLO WAS AN ALIEN
Considering that Star Wars takes place in a technologically-advanced universe in which the human populace has spread and colonized a vast number of planets, it’s actually more likely that Luke, Leia, Han and other human characters would have been at least part-alien. But, within the original ragtag team of heroes, Chewie serves as the only token non-human.
According to earlier versions of A New Hope though, it seems that at one point Han Solo was going to fill this role instead, or maybe as well as. In the Dark Horse comics’ adaptation of Lucas’ early plans, Han is depicted as a big, green-skinned “Ureallian.” Though his personality may have remained the same, it’s hard to believe that anyone other than Harrison Ford could have elevated the character to the loveable heights that he reached.
10. PALPATINE: ANAKIN’S FATHER?
Star Wars seems to be filled with as many absent, morally-questionable dads as Padme has wardrobe changes, so it’s pretty crazy to think we could have gotten one more added to the already overly-soapy operatic mix. To really hammer home the religious references, Shmi Skywalker claims in The Phantom Menace that Anakin was the product of an immaculate conception.
Qui-Gon later drops some midi-chlorian truth-bombs onto her (shattering all the fun magic and mysticism of the series so far in the process.) In a deleted scene, Emperor Palpatine then reveals to adult Anakin that he used the Force to “will” the midi-chlorians into creating him. “You might say I’m your father.” Wait, cellular manipulation from planets away? Is there anything the Force can’t be used for at this point?
9. ADMIRAL ACKBAR NOT AN AMAZING FISH MAN
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Admiral “It’s a trap!” Ackbar is one of the greatest side characters in all of Star Wars. A member of the deliciously named, Mon Calamari — a race of humanoid, aquatic creatures with webbed hands and goggled, fish-like eyes — the peaceful Admiral was galvanized to join the Rebel Alliance after the Empire disrupted the lives of his Ocean-dwelling people.
As well as a distinctive, jowly voice and delivering one the most quotable lines in the series, Ackbar left an indelible impression on audiences thanks to his charmingly unique design. Yet, when the Admiral was initially introduced into the Return of the Jedi script, he was described as a “pale blue, non-human creature,” which sounds a lot less endearing than the orange, shrimpy face we were blessed with.
8. FEWER WOOKIES, MORE… YUZZUMS?
When it comes to furry aliens in Star Wars, the pecking order is Wookies first, Ewoks last. Though many younger fans are more endeared to the little, bear-like creatures that gave Leia that fabulous, forest make-over, others view them in the same category of irritation as Jar Jar Binks. So, it may frustrate those fans even more to learn that we could have gotten another race of critters running around alongside the Ewoks.
The “Yuzzums,” who resemble Furbies with flamingo legs, were planned to be a secondary race inhabiting Endor but were ultimately cut when it was realized (rightly) that it would be too distracting from the main story. Even more disappointing is that they were created to substitute the inclusion of more Wookies. Yuzzums eventually made their debut as the antagonists in the Star Wars: Ewoks cartoon series.
7. R2-D2 SPEAKS
R2-D2 and C3-PO are one of cinema’s great comedy duos, which is an amazing feat considering we can only understand what one of them is saying. Part of the diminutive astromech’s charm is his bleeps, bloops and wails, which somehow express so much through so little. Our impressions of his cheeky and adventurous personality are glimpsed through others’ reactions to him, rather than his own voice.
Imagine if we did hear the little droid speak using words, though? Imagine how different our impression of him would be. That’s what we could have gotten according to one of Lucas’ rough drafts, as was later brought to life in the Dark Horse comic adaptation. While this difference wouldn’t have had a huge impact, it’s sad to think we could never have gotten any of his excited cries that are so fun to impersonate.
6. HAN SOLO, SON OF CHEWIE
As well as a big, green-skinned alien, there was a point decades later at which Han Solo — the stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking “nerf herder” — was envisioned as once being an orphaned boy Chewie adopted and raised, making him Han’s… Dad? Ugh, that dynamic just doesn’t sound right, at all. This backstory for the character would have popped up in Episode III.
There was even a scene written where he helped out Yoda. In The Art of Revenge of the Sith, artist Ian McCraig describes lil’ Solo as, “an absolute slob” to contrast with his “persnickety” habits as an adult. Thankfully, this filthy, street rat origin story was scrapped, maybe because it conflicted with the one in the Extended Universe where he freed Chewie from slavery.
5. BOBA FETT: STORMTROOPER
Given the cult status of Boba Fett’s character, it’s laughable to learn that he was once planned to be little more than a generic background baddie. In the early stages of Star Wars’ development, he was part of a group of five elite stormtroopers known (not so creatively) as “supertroopers.” He wouldn’t have been named either, so there would have been little for audiences to remember him by.
Through hashing out different options for the supertrooper helmet, the bounty hunter’s distinctive look began to take shape, albeit with a different color scheme. As well as the key role he plays in serving Darth Vader, his enigmatic, shady presence is a big part of the Star Wars mythos. Considering how much of a fan following he’s cultivated, this would have been a great loss to the series.
4. JAR JAR ALMOST HAD A SIDEKICK
With the exception of those who first saw The Phantom Menace when they were the same age as lil’ Anakin, Jar Jar Binks was as welcome in the Star Wars films as sand in Hayden Christensen’s robes. Though he was clearly created as light comic relief to entice young audiences into buying into a series chronicling the origins of a child-killer, at one point Lucas felt Jar Jar alone wasn’t enough.
Enter Jar Jar’s pet “blarth,” a chubby, canine-like creature that would have come as part of a 2-for-1 special on idiot sidekicks that Qui-Gon regrettably stumbled into. The concept art of the pair illustrates the hideous levels of tomfoolery we could have gotten from them interrupting all the cool Jedi stuff. We’d also probably have gotten twice as many gross tongue gags by the looks of it, too.
3. VADER SANS HELMET
For proof of the symbolic power of Vader’s helmet, you need only watch its reveal in The Force Awakens. Even as a half-decayed relic, its presence projects a commanding and eerie aura that’s sure to send shivers down any fan’s spine. But, even without the legendary history it’s become imbued with, its existence throughout the original trilogy was vital in building Vader’s shadowy mystique. Just who or what was the man behind the mask?
Amazingly for such a strikingly haunting design, concept artist Ralph McQuarrie explained in the Kevin Burns documentary, Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, that its inclusion had been merely practical. McQuarrie only decided to add it when he learned Vader would travel through a vacuum to board a Rebel ship. Without this afterthought, we would have been robbed of one of cinema’s great facial reveals.
2. YODA: THE MONKEY NAMED BUFFY
It sounds far, far too crazy to be true, but everyone’s favorite little, green space sensei very nearly looked like Abu from Aladdin. In 2013, rare, never-before-seen photos emerged of a screen-test for The Empire Strikes Back of an unnamed monkey in a waistcoat and a Yoda mask (an early version of the character’s face.)
The idea had to be thrown out when — after continually pulling the mask off — it became clear that working with a monkey was going to be as hard as, well, working with a monkey. This problem (luckily) forced Jim Henson to create the world’s first fully animatronic puppet for the character instead. Not only were we saved from a Jedi Master picking fleas out of Luke’s hair, but he would have been called Buffy, too. Buffy!
1. JAR JAR BINKS: NAKED, PLAYED BY MICHAEL JACKSON
Just let that sink in for a second. Jar Jar Binks, cinema’s most hated alien clown-turned-diplomat, is widely accepted to be the worst thing to happen to the franchise since the Holiday Special. In a weird case of unintended Disney foreshadowing, he was inspired by Goofy, and early concept art depicted him as not wearing any clothes. (As if he couldn’t get any grosser.)
To make things even stranger, in an interview on Reddit, Jar Jar actor, Ahmed Best, revealed that George Lucas turned down Michael Jackson for the role as the pop star wanted to perform in costume rather than use CGI, which by that point, Lucas was religiously converted to. So, to recap: we could have gotten a naked alien racist stereotype played by an eccentric singer accused of abusing kids in a kid’s movie. Looks like the prequels really could have been worse.
Are there any of these changes that you think would have actually made Star Wars better? State your case in the comments below!
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!