MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: “Splinter of the Mind's Eye” was originally written as a movie sequel to “Star Wars.”
We’ve learned from previous “Star Wars” legends (like whether Darth Vader was always supposed to be Luke's father or Luke and Leia were always supposed to be siblings) is that George Lucas was often playing things by ear in the early days of the blockbuster franchise. This makes sense, of course, as there was no way for him to know the first “Star Wars” film would become such a sensation that it would spawn a sequel, let alone an entire saga and tie-in materials.
That uncertainty led to the intriguing origin of the first full-length novel based on “Star Wars,” Alan David Foster's acclaimed “Splinter of the Mind's Eye.” While the book is famous for being the first notable expansion of the “Star Wars” universe, it was also, remarkably enough, originally written as the basis for a possible sequel to the original film.
Foster was hired in 1976 by Lucas to ghost-write the novelization of “Star Wars.” At the same time, he was commissioned to pen a second novel that could work as a low-budget sequel to the movie if it performed well enough for Fox to greenlight a follow-up.
Foster came up with an intriguing story in which Luke and Leia are forced to land on a swampy planet while on a mission for the Rebellion. While there, they learn of a powerful crystal that could magnify and focus the use of the Force. Luke and Leia search for the crystal, only for Darth Vader to arrive, igniting a battle ( ironically enough, it ends with the Sith Lord’s arm being sliced off, as a sort of reverse of what happens when Luke and Vader finally duel in “The Empire Strikes Back”). Han Solo and Chewbacca are absent from the story because Harrison Ford was only under contract for the first film.
Lucas gave Foster a great deal of leeway with the story. As the author told Ethan Adler of Yahoo Movies:
The only restriction placed on me was that the follow-up novel had to be filmable on a low budget. That’s why I set it on a fog-shrouded planet. A lot of the action takes place in the fog or underground, which facilitates shooting with cheap backgrounds. The book originally opened with a fairly complex space battle that forces Luke and Leia down on this planet, and George had me cut that out because it would have been expensive to film.
Amusingly, “Splinter of the Mind's Eye” is also pretty explicit in showing Luke and Leia as romantically interested in each other. So Lucas clearly didn't have a problem with that idea at the time (because, of course, they were not yet brother and sister in his mind).
Naturally enough, the first “Star Wars” was a blockbuster, and there was no longer a need to use the book as a basis for a second film, as Lucas was able to produce a big-budget sequel. So the novel instead just became a nice little diversion for fans while they waited for “Empire.”
Foster continues his involvement in the world of “Star Wars”: He wrote the novelization of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
The legend is...
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