Back when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was still an upcoming project shrouded in secrecy rather than the highest-grossing movie of all-time, fans of a galaxy far, far away were desperate for any kind of information about the film. The rumor mill was extremely active during this time, churning up countless bits of speculation that moviegoers placed under a microscope and dissected. Director J.J. Abrams even mentioned that some of the Internet reports were true, meaning those cautious about potential spoilers had to tread lightly for nearly a year as they waited.
The opening sequence of the film was one of its most discussed aspects prior to the release. In the finished product, viewers saw the First Order invade a village on the desert planet Jakku, forcing Resistance pilot Poe Dameron to hide a map leading to Luke Skywalker in his trusty droid BB-8. This played mostly in line with one rumor that came out, only Luke's old lightsaber was the MacGuffin instead of the map. But even before the attack on Jakku was revealed, a different scoop indicated a completely different first scene: the severed hand of Luke floating through space, still grasping the lightsaber used on Bespin.
At the time, there was obviously no way of verifying the validity of the report, but now that the film's been out for several months, its creative team is a little more open to revealing secrets. Talking to The Sun (hat tip Birth. Movies. Death., who originally posted the hand rumor), no greater authority than Mark Hamill admitted that this was intended to be the first shot of The Force Awakens:
“I can tell you now that in the original opening shot of 7, the first thing that came into frame was a hand with a lightsaber, a severed hand that enters the atmosphere, and then the hand and bone burns away and goes sticking into the surface of Jakku. And this alien hand comes in, don’t know if it was Maz but it was an alien hand who takes the lightsaber way, and then the movie proceeds as you see it.”
In Episode VII, it's revealed that Maz Kanata is in possession of the Skywalker family lightsaber, though it's never stated how she acquired it. It's one of the many questions that The Force Awakens poses and saves for another day. This alternate opening isn't exactly concrete, but it could serve as a possible clue. If an alien hand grabbed the lightsaber, it stands reason to believe that Maz was the one who snagged it. Considering that's the case, Jakku is a buzzing hive for Resistance allies apparently, as it's also coincidentally where Poe went to meet Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) to receive a portion of the map to Luke. There's no explanation provided for why it was cut, meaning that even after the movie's release, there's still plenty of hypothesizing to be had.
Ideally, the mystery of the lightsaber will be solved in one of the upcoming films. Actress Lupita Nyong'o is returning as Maz for Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII, so hopefully that will mark the "another time" she alluded to when Han Solo asked her where she got the weapon. How Maz retrieved the lightsaber and why specifically it called out to Rey on Takodana are things fans are desperate to learn. As Rey commences her training and learns more about what's happened in the post-Return of the Jedi galaxy, chances are some of these crucial details will finally be shared. If Maz is coming back, it's most likely to help the young heroine (and perhaps even Luke) understand how things have come to be. She may not be a Jedi Master like Yoda, but Maz is full of interesting stories to tell.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode 8 on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: The Sun (via Birth. Movies. Death.)