MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Princess Leia wasn’t intended to be Luke's sister until Return of the Jedi.
A couple of months back, I wrote a piece on Comics Should Be Good about the moments in the original “Star Wars” comics where Luke and Leia kiss, which look odd in hindsight, following the revelation in “Return of the Jedi” that they’re twins. However, there are similarly awkward scenes in the “Star Wars” films -- notably the kiss Leia plants on Luke in “The Empire Strikes Back.” That, though, leads to a question that’s been on many “Star Wars” fans minds ever since: Did George Lucas intend for Luke and Leia to be siblings during “The Empire Strikes Back”?
I think the answer is no, although interestingly enough, Lucas has never expressly addressed the topic, which makes it difficult to get a definitive answer. Part of that comes along with the "Lucas had everything planned on from the beginning!" myth the filmmaker himself has had a hand in perpetuating. For instance, we've already addressed whether Darth Vader was originally intended to be Luke’s father. However, Lucas has been rather quiet about his intent with Vader, despite it seeming pretty clear that he didn’t intend for them to be related. His silence allows the "Lucas planned everything years ago!" myth to gain ground.
As I featured in the aforementioned legend, screenwriter Leigh Brackett's original draft for “The Empire Strikes Back” included a scene in which Luke is visited by the spirit of his father, Anakin Skywalker. Here is the initial exchange:
You’ve grown well, Luke. I’m proud of you.
(Luke, not knowing what to say, says nothing)
Did your uncle ever speak to you about your sister?
My sister? I have a sister? But why didn’t Uncle Owen….
It was my request. When I saw the Empire closing in, I sent you both away for your own safety, far apart from each other.
Where is she? What’s her name?
If I were to tell you, Darth Vader could get that information from your mind and use her as a hostage. Not yet, Luke. When it’s time…
(he looks gravely at his son)
Luke. Will you take, from me, the oath of a Jedi knight?
Slowly, proudly, Luke draws his light saber and activates it, bringing it to the salute. Skywalker does the same.
Brackett's screenplay was based on a story treatment by Lucas, so clearly, Luke DOES have a twin sister in this movie. However, it’s clear that it’s NOT Leia, as Brackett initially names the sister, Nellith, but then crosses that out.
Even after Lucas revised Brackett's screenplay to introduce Darth Vader as Luke's father, he kept a sequence where Luke and Leia discuss their feelings for each other, with Luke telling her she’s better off with Han Solo. An even LATER revision included a near SECOND kiss between the two!
So no, I don’t believe Lucas intended Leia to be Luke's sister during “The Empire Strikes Back.” Around the time of “Empire,” Lucas spoke of the trilogy of films that would follow the end of the original trilogy:
Q: At one point there were going to be twelve “Star Wars” films.I cut that number down to nine because the other three were tangential to the saga. “Star Wars” was the fourth story in the saga and was to have been called "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope". But I decided people wouldn't understand the numbering system so we dropped it. For “Empire” though we're putting back the number and will call it “Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back.” After the third film in this trilogy we'll go back and make the first trilogy, which deals with the young Ben Kenobi and the young Darth Vader.
Q: What is the third trilogy about?It deals with the character who survives “Star Wars III” and his adventures.
This is important because it lends credence to comments by “The Empire Strikes Back” producer Gary Kurtz, who told TheForce.Net:
She’s not his sister. That dropped in to wrap up everything neatly. His sister was someone else way over on the other side of the galaxy and she wasn’t going to show up until the next episode.
So at the time of “Empire,” Lucas intended to make future films with Luke, just as Kurtz said. But then Lucas stopped at “Return of the Jedi.” Kurtz said Luke was going to meet his twin in the new trilogy. If that’s true and Lucas decided NOT to produce a new trilogy, then it makes sense for him to have Leia revealed as the twin in “Return of the Jedi,” as it allows him to wrap up his intended plot for Luke/Leia.
Yes, in “Empire,” Luke speaks to Leia through his mind, which later is part of their connection as siblings, but I think that’s more of a retroactive element where Lucas said, "Hey, we had Luka talk to Leia through her mind - why not have THEM be twins?" As it also neatly wraps up the love triangle that Lucas was clearly intending on wrapping up no matter what.
Plus, that would naturally explain away why Lucas had siblings kiss in “Empire<,” s they WOULDN'T have been siblings when it first happened.
Because the only definitive answer exists in Lucas' mind, I suppose we'll never know for sure. But I think there's enough evidence that I'm comfortable going with the legend as...
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