As Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues to break box-office records, small pieces of information about the making of the film are finally beginning to appear. Tie-in books such as the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary and the official novelization have provided a few subtle hints to the story and characters, and multiple short stories have given us a look at some of the background characters. But creators are also more open about their creative processes and the making of the film. J.J. Abrams, for example, recently revealed that Maz Kanata was based on his high-school English teacher.
One such creator is Pablo Hidalgo, a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group. The group supervises the entire story for Star Wars including the films, television shows like Star Wars Rebels, comics, novels, and even video games. And he recently had some juicy information for fans of the many Star Wars books often referred to as the Expanded Universe.
In a Twitter exchange with Jedi News editor Justin LaSalata, Pablo had this to say about the original title for The Force Awakens:
@justinlasalata for longest time, the TFA title was the same as an old novel. Thankfully it changed. :) With so many books, it's inevitable— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) December 25, 2015
So The Force Awakens had the title of Shadow of the Empire. Fans of the non-canon Star Wars Expanded Universe will recognize the title from the book Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry, written in 1996. The book was accompanied with multimedia tie-in stories that included a video game, comics, and even a soundtrack. The title fits The Force Awakens since the First Order, featured in the film, emerges from the “ashes of the Empire.”
However, the book has no other similarities to the plot of The Force Awakens. Perry’s novel told a story between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi during which Luke, Leia, and some new characters like Dash Rendar dealt with a crime syndicate known as Black Sun. Meanwhile Darth Vader continued to search for Luke Skywalker to try and turn him to the dark side. The story gained popularity with many fans over the years, but has nothing to do with The Force Awakens other than having a title that works for both stories.
Lucasfilm rebranded the Expanded Universe as Legends back in 2014 to make way for canonical stories about a galaxy far, far away. None of those early stories remained in the canon, though pieces of them have been used in canonical stories, such as the existence of the entity known as the “New Republic” in The Force Awakens.
The title Shadow of the Empire would have been a nice nod to the Expanded Universe, but The Force Awakens serves as a title that focuses on the heroes rather than the villains, which was probably for the best. Shadow of the Empire would also have caused marketing problems for those searching for the film and discovering the completely different novel instead.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.