The filmmaking process is a curious thing. When a writer or director first maps out the story for a movie and visualizes what it’s going to look like, it’s usually unrecognizable from how it eventually turns out. This was particularly true of Star Wars, which George Lucas was writing to be the first chapter of a long-running saga. The characters and plot points changed drastically over the course of the writing stage, with Lucas drawing from influences as disparate as Japanese cinema and old sci-fi serials.
10 Star Wars was just the subtitle
In 1977, the first Star Wars movie was released under the title Star Wars. This would eventually become the title of the ensuing media franchise, with the film itself later getting retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (and later getting retitled again by Disney to Star Wars: A New Hope). But originally, Star Wars was just the subtitle. The first draft was titled Journal of the Whills, while the second draft had the long, unwieldy title Adventures of the Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars, before being shortened to just Star Wars.
9 Luke Skywalker was a girl
The protagonist of the first Star Wars film has always essentially been a young kid who was raised on a farm on Tatooine who dreamed of becoming an intergalactic hero. But in the early drafts, this character was not the male Luke Skywalker, but rather a 16-year-old girl who fell in love with Han Solo (who was the same age then as he is in the final film, so that was kind of creepy). The character remained female long enough for conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie to draw up some sketches – sketches that look suspiciously similar to Rey, the female protagonist of Disney’s sequel trilogy.
8 Obi-Wan survived
One of the most iconic moments in the finished movie is when Darth Vader strikes down Ben Kenobi in front of Luke, but it wasn’t in the original script. Originally, Ben was supposed to survive all the way to The Empire Strikes Back. It was George Lucas’ then-wife Marcia who suggested killing off Ben to up the stakes. The director has explained, “The more I thought about Ben getting killed, the more I liked the idea, because...it made the threat of Vader greater and that tied in with the Force and the fact that he could use the Dark Side.”
7 Skywalker was a title, not a name
In the early drafts of Star Wars, Skywalker was not Luke’s surname – it was his title. In the initial version of George Lucas’ Jedi mythology, Jedi Knights had titles, and Luke’s was “the Skywalker.” However, the hero did have a similarly structured surname: Starkiller. At that point in the writing process, Luke wasn’t the hero of the story. That distinction went to an ultimately unused character named Annikin (not Anakin) Starkiller. The name Starkiller would later go on to be used as the name of Darth Vader’s apprentice in the video game The Force Unleashed and the name of the Death Star stand-in in The Force Awakens.
6 C-3PO and Wedge Antilles blew up the Death Star
R2-D2 and C-3PO have remained pretty much the same since the first conception of Star Wars, as the comic foil pairing was taken directly from Seven Samurai, but in the first draft, Threepio fired some of the shots that destroyed the Death Star, and second-tier character Wedge Antilles fired the rest.
Luke Skywalker had to be the one to blow up the Death Star, because it concluded the story of the movie. He was a simple farm boy who dreamed off jetting off into the stars and making something of himself, so if Threepio and Antilles stole that thunder, it would’ve made the movie anticlimactic.
5 Jabba wasn’t a Hutt
Although he wasn’t identified as human in the original draft, Jabba also wasn’t identified as a Hutt. For the first three drafts, he was described only as a vicious killer with a scar on his face. It wasn’t until the fourth draft that he was finally called “a fat, slug-like creature with eyes on extended feelers and a huge ugly mouth.” Ouch! During shooting, an actor named Declan Mulholland played Jabba as a human, but this was just as a stand-in to be eventually replaced by a stop-motion model (and then, in the much-maligned special editions, replaced by a schlocky CGI knock-off).
4 Han Solo had green skin and gills
Han Solo, the lovable rogue who joins Luke Skywalker on his quest and ends up learning the virtues of heroism and being there for others, was originally an Ureallian alien creature and not a human. This original version of Han has been described as “a huge, green-skinned monster with no nose and large gills.” He was also a Jedi – although it was called “Jedi-Bendu” in this version of the script – and he was already acquainted with Luke. George Lucas decided to make Han a human described as a “tough James Dean style starpilot” to strengthen the bond between the central trio of characters.
3 Luke Skywalker was an old, grizzled Jedi General
In the early drafts of the original Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker was much older. He was already an experienced Jedi who had become grizzled and bitter after years of battle. This is the closest thing to the role that Obi-Wan would eventually fill in the story. This early version of Luke is close to how he’s been characterized in Disney’s new sequel trilogy, but that characterization has been quite controversial with fans, who feel that the Luke they know and love would never act that way. If Lucas had stuck with his original draft, that would be the Luke they know and love.
2 Mace Windu was the main character
Originally, the main character of A New Hope was Mace Windu. Well, technically, it was “Mace Windy,” and the Jedi were called the “Jedi-Bendu,” but of course, this was eventually shortened to cut down the syllable count by half. Mace Windy was conceived as the story’s narrator, the brother of Princess Leia, and a friend of Luke Skywalker, but he was eventually cut.
Presumably, when it came to writing the prequel trilogy, “Windy” and “Bendu” were combined to create “Windu” and the character as we know him today, played by Samuel L. Jackson and wielding a purple lightsaber, was born.
1 Darth Vader was a mercenary like Boba Fett
George Lucas has said that when he was first coming up with the villain for his Star Wars script, he envisioned the kind of cold-blooded mercenary that would become Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back: “I wanted to develop an essentially evil, very frightening character. He started as a kind of intergalactic bounty hunter, evolved into a grotesque knight, and as I got deeper into the knight ethos, he became more a dark warrior than a mercenary. I split him up and it was from the early concept of Darth Vader as a bounty hunter that Boba Fett came.”