No matter how long you’ve been a Star Wars fan, there’s always something new to discover. The Star Wars universe is almost infinitely dense with planets, characters, creatures, and stories. As a result of that density, the franchise itself is just as full of deep trivia and alternative paths.
George Lucas’s willingness to experiment with the mythology and design of his epic space saga set a precedent that continues in the franchise's current iteration. For every casting choice, story arc, or vehicle design, there are a hundred alternatives that came really close to becoming reality in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars might have the most meticulous fans on the planet. Every element of every piece of the franchise is carefully studied and obsessively logged by fans, crystallizing every corner of the Star Wars universe.
Replace any one piece of the puzzle and the whole thing looks drastically different to the people who have followed it so closely. That’s why it’s perpetually fascinating to dive into all the might-have-been moments that Star Wars has collected over the past 40 years.
For a thorough introduction to the alternative galaxy far, far away, here are the 15 Things That ALMOST Happened In Star Wars.
15 Han Dies in the Original Trilogy
It’s common knowledge that Han Solo’s death in The Force Awakens was a long-held wish fulfilled for star Harrison Ford. Ever since he was frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back, Ford has been trying to kill off the character that made him famous, but the reasons were less malicious and more a matter of artistic integrity.
In Ford’s view, a self-sacrificial death for Han near the end of the original trilogy would have made a more satisfying character arc. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan agreed, and both he and Ford petitioned George Lucas hard to let them kill off Han for the sake of good drama.
Of course, Lucas nixed the idea and the rest is history. In any case, Han himself would likely rather have been killed in a heroic act of self-sacrifice than by the hand of his own emo son.
14 An Obi-Wan/Anakin/Padme Love Triangle
Fans have speculated for years whether or not there might be an unspoken love triangle going on between Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan in the prequel trilogy. But what if that love triangle is was originally more intentional than even the most hopeful of fans originally thought?
According to some sources close to Lucas, there was a point early on the development of the prequel trilogy where the director may have included a love affair between Obi-Wan and Padme as the central motivation for Anakin to abandon the Jedi Order and turn to the dark side.
There are certainly suggestions in Revenge of the Sith that the full-fledged love triangle angle was there at some point. On Mustafar, for example, Anakin sounds eerily like a jealous partner when he accuses Padme of bringing Obi-Wan there to kill him.
The final product may only vaguely suggest that there’s something going on between Padme and Obi-Wan, but there’s definitely enough there to strongly suggest that a romantic relationship between the two is buried somewhere in the DNA of the story.
13 Boba Fett is the Central Villain of Return of the Jedi
George Lucas experimented heavily with his Star Wars stories long before any of them even made it past the first-draft phase. An early iteration of Return of the Jedi, for example, focused solely on Han Solo’s rescue, making Boba Fett the central villain of the movie. The idea was then to save Luke’s final confrontation with Vader for another episode down the road.
Eventually, the Han Solo rescue plot was condensed into Return of the Jedi’s first act, leaving Boba Fett to be killed off prematurely. The fact that Boba has become an iconic fan-favorite seems to demonstrate how much the character deserved more screen time than he ended up with. Here’s hoping we still get the Boba Fett spin-off movie somewhere down the line.
12 Emperor Palpatine’s Lava Lair in Return of the Jedi
Darth Vader’s Castle on Mustafar made its debut in Rogue One, and is rumored to return in future movies. What fans may not know is that the concept of Vader’s volcanic hideaway has existed in some form or another since the early days of the original trilogy.
Vader’s castle was first proposed as a location for The Empire Strikes Back, but was scrapped in the pre-production process when there wasn’t room for it in the final draft of the story. It was then repurposed as a lair/throne room for Emperor Palpatine for is big reveal in Return of the Jedi.
Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the scene gives us a glimpse at just how epic the big showdown between Palpatine, Luke, and Vader would have been at such a foreboding location.
There’s no doubt that the Palpatine lava lair paved the way for Revenge of the Sith’s Mustafarian lightsaber battle, but one wonders if this type of setting would have been better serviced as a smaller, real set with practical effects.
11 Poe Dameron dies in Force Awakens
The Force Awakens screenplay went through quite a few iterations, both before and during production. In addition to the transfer of writing duties from original screenwriter Michael Arndt to director J.J. Abrams and original trilogy writer Lawrence Kasdan, one of the most drastic changes to the TFA script was the ultimate fate of ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron.
As many fans now know, Poe was originally supposed to go down with his and Finn’s stolen Tie Fighter after their crash landing on Jakku. However, after his initial meetings with Oscar Isaac, Abrams retooled the role to fit into the rest of the film.
Poe’s miraculous off-screen escape from harm on Jakku is a bit of a storytelling cop-out, but really, who’s complaining about the outcome?
10 Prequels directed by Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Ron Howard
However you may feel about the Star Wars prequels, there’s no question that they’re a pure execution of George Lucas’ artistic vision— so much so that it’s hard to imagine them being directed by anyone else. But that was nevertheless Lucas’ original plan for all three prequel films.
Much like Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Lucas originally envisioned the prequel films as a space to collaborate with his peers, letting them take the director’s seat and make their stamp on his universe.
Long before he was brought in by Kathleen Kennedy to save the upcoming Han Solo spin-off film, Ron Howard was approached by Lucas to direct The Phantom Menace— as were other Hollywood giants like Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and even Francis Ford Coppola. Given the singularity of Lucas’ vision for the prequels, they were all probably right to turn the job down.
9 Luke’s Lightsaber in The Opening Shot of The Force Awakens
Almost a year before the release of The Force Awakens, the film’s opening shot was rumored to feature Luke’s dismembered hand and lightsaber floating through space right after the title crawl. This turned out not to be the case for the finished product, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the original plan.
Since the film’s release, we’ve had multiple confirmations that Luke’s lightsaber was indeed the opening shot through multiple iterations of the script. However, story changes during the film’s production transferred Luke’s saber from the clutches of space to Maz Kanata’s basement.
As the macguffin of The Force Awakens, the Skywalker family lightsaber is crucial—both visually and thematically—to the film’s entire narrative arc. It’s a shame that the story couldn’t make room for the original opening shot as it changed over time.
8 Benicio Del Toro as Darth Maul
Nearly 20 years before he was cast as the mysterious DJ in The Last Jedi, Benicio Del Toro was set to play the most beloved villain and standout visual icon of the prequel era. As Darth Maul, Del Toro would have have surely been a revelation. Unfortunately, the prolific actor left the project after Lucas cut the majority of Maul’s lines out of the script.
As portrayed by Ray Park in The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul was a rare, silent physical threat. It was an approach that undoubtedly worked for the character, but watching Maul’s extended role in The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels gives us a glimpse at what Del Toro might have been able to do with the character, had Lucas not cut down his portion of the screenplay.
7 Star Wars is Flash Gordon Instead
You can’t talk about the inception of Star Wars without also talking about Flash Gordon. George Lucas came up with the whole idea for Star Wars out of a desire to combine the mythological explorations of Joseph Campbell with the retro-futuristic camp of the Saturday matinee Flash Gordon serials he grew up watching.
However, what if Lucas had ditched the Star Wars idea altogether in favor of a direct Flash Gordon adaptation? Had the director been able to afford the Flash Gordon rights, that’s exactly what would’ve happened.
Not long after making his first sci-fi feature, THX-1138, Lucas sought the rights to Flash Gordon from Universal. He was obviously taken with the whole space opera idea, and thought he could take what he loved about the Flash Gordon property and update it with better special effects and craftier storytelling.
Luckily for us, the rights to Flash Gordon were unattainable to the young filmmaker, a new, improved space opera was born.
6 Glynn Turman as Han Solo
A lot of young actors that have since become household names were up for the role of Han Solo in 1976. Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Kurt Russel, and even Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger himself) are just a handful of the notable stars who auditioned to play everyone’s favorite Corellian smuggler. But the most intriguing name in the bunch is actor Glynn Turman.
In addition to drastically changing the entire landscape of 20th century action cinema, casting Turman as Han Solo instead of Harrison Ford would have had highly influential cultural implications.
Casting a black actor as Han Solo in an otherwise predominantly white male cast would have set a precedent of diversity that ended up taking over thirty years to establish within the Star Wars franchise. Even in 1980, an interracial onscreen romance between Han and Leia would almost certainly have been groundbreaking.
5 Vader/Anakin Dual Force Ghost in The Force Awakens
The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens book unveiled a number of concepts that were ultimately left on the movie’s cutting-room floor. One of the most intriguing was a force ghost that would have moved fluidly back and forth between the personas of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader.
A dual Anakin/Vader force ghost is a provocative proposition for Star Wars— bridging the gap between the light and dark sides of the force that both the Jedi and Sith have been pushing for millennia.
Perhaps the Anakin/Vader force ghost may have symbolized ideas a bit too heady for the nostalgic romp that The Force Awakens ended up being, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the spirit of Anakin/Vader to appear in the future.
4 Leonardo DiCaprio as Anakin
Hayden Christensen has probably endured more abuse than anyone could ever deserve for his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. That being said, it’s impossible to learn that Leonardo DiCaprio was initially offered the role but turned it down, and not pine over what might have been.
When casting for Anakin in Attack of the Clones, Lucas considered nearly every young actor in Hollywood, but DiCaprio’s decision to turn down an offer is a particularly interesting case, considering the way his career panned out post-2000.
DiCaprio would have undoubtedly turned in a winning performance as Anakin. He might have even saved some of Lucas’s less-than-stellar dialogue with some apt delivery. However, ultimately, turning down Star Wars was probably the best decision ever made by one of Hollywood’s finest contemporary actors.
3 Episode V: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
Had his first Star Wars film not become a worldwide phenomenon, Lucas had a backup plan for the sequel firmly in place. In 1976, he hired Alan Dean Foster to write a Star Wars novel called Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the basis for a low-budget sequel that would re-use props and sets from the first film.
The story featured Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO on the run from Darth Vader on a remote mining planet that vaguely resembles Dagobah.
It’s hard to imagine a pop-culture landscape that isn’t dominated by Star Wars, but the entire enterprise was a big risk in the late '70s. When one considers the gritty cinematic climate of the time, it’s a lot easier to imagine a world where Star Wars was a tiny cult sci-fi flick that spawned little more than an even tinier low-budget sequel, instead of a worldwide phenomenon.
2 A Live-Action TV Series
Before Disney’s Star Wars takeover, Lucas had spent years teasing a live-action TV series that would take place between Episodes III and IV. Speculatively titled Star Wars: Underworld, the show would explore the seedy underbelly of Coruscant in a 1940s film-noir fashion. It would also have tied into the canceled video game Star Wars: 1313, which would have focused on Boba Fett’s formative days in the same time period.
Star Wars: Underworld was one of a handful of projects that to be tossed out when power was transferred to Kathleen Kennedy and crew, but rumors of the show’s revival under have recently surfaced.
With Rebels about to debut its final season, and interest in the anthology films potentially waning, now would be the perfect time for Disney to invest in a fresh new Star Wars project for TV.
1 The Original Trilogy Spread Out Over Six Films
George Lucas did not meticulously plan out the original trilogy ahead of time in the way that big tentpole franchises are planned out today. For a while, the original trilogy might even have been more than just a trilogy.
Lucas had always planned for the Star Wars saga to contain multiple trilogies taking place across multiple eras, but there was a time when the original trilogy era may have been spread out over six films instead of three.
If Lucas had stuck with his original plan to make Han’s rescue the central plot of Return of the Jedi, Luke’s final confrontation with Vader and Emperor Palpatine would have likely spanned across another entire trilogy of films.
Given the unfathomably epic scale of the Star Wars universe, the original trilogy could easily have been spread out over six features, and it would have been a real treat to see both the respective adventures and collective story of the original characters told in such sprawling detail.
What else almost happened in Star Wars? Is there some epic bit of trivia that we missed? Do you think that the original trilogy would have been better as six movies? Join the conversation in the comments!