We didn't make this up: 6 bizarre things George Lucas almost did in Star Wars
Even before its release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is already predicted to gross over a billion dollars in profit. The estimate is a no-brainer for industry analysts because the hysteria surrounding its release has underlined Star Wars' status as Hollywood's most iconic original series.
Birthed in the scripts of George Lucas rather than comic books, novels or TV shows, no other Hollywood original has endured the way this franchise has. Since the release of the original Star Wars in 1977, it has spawned and sustained a rabid, ever-growing fan base.
How rabid? Fans have camped outside theatres for its release. Some have followed the series since it was conceived, some weren't even conceived when the saga began. The series is vividly etched in the memory of nerds worldwide. But what a lot of people don't realise is that the fictional world they grew up with could have been very, very different. George Lucas might be a creative genius, but as Jar Jar Binks proved, he sometimes makes some very strange choices.
Here are 6 things that almost happened that would have changed the way we view the series for ever, for starters because...
George Lucas' biggest success before Star Wars was American Graffiti. Haven't seen it? Most of your fellow Star Wars fans probably haven't either. But it's the movie you have to thank for the very existence of Star Wars.
Back in the 1970s, movie studios didn't want to throw money away on sci-fi movies. In fact, 2001: A Space Odyssey, arguably the most successful sci-fi movie of its time, took almost 7 years just to break even.
The vision Lucas had for Star Wars meant he was going to need a far bigger budget than 2001 did. The problem was that no movie studio shared his vision. Luckily for Lucas, Alan Ladd Jr, the president of 20th Century Fox, loved Graffiti - which got Lucas a budget of $8 million (one they would overshoot by a further $3 million.)
But while he was struggling to raise funds for the movie, he almost shelved it altogether - to make Apocalypse Now. He'd co-written the initial script of the cult-classic, but luckily chose to make Star Wars instead. His mentor Francis Ford Coppola would later make the movie which almost destroyed him both physically, mentally and financially.
Lucas on the other hand is alive and kicking with over $5 billion in the bank.
It wasn't just that movie studios originally turned down Lucas' Star Wars because they had no vision. Well, it wasn't only because they had no vision. The original script for Star Wars was long-winded and confusing according to studio executives. But even after Lucas managed to secure a preliminary deal with 20th Century Fox, his script got rejected - because it was too long.
While a screenplay is usually around 90-125 pages long, Lucas' 'final' script for Star Wars clocked in at a whopping 200 pages, long enough for over two movies!
So what did Lucas do? He chopped off the final two acts of the screenplay, meaning Star Wars fans would miss out on an even more epic vision. Luckily, Lucas is nothing if not enterprising. The two acts were later fleshed out and turned into the sequels that formed the initial trilogy and changed Hollywood forever.
The little green Jedi master Yoda is probably the most iconic Star Wars character after Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. But if George Lucas had his way, Yoda would've been very different...because Lucas wanted Yoda to be a monkey.
No, not Andy Serkis. Not even just a monkey-like character. Lucas wanted Yoda to be played by an actual monkey. He even went as far as getting an old man mask made for the monkey and getting it measured for costumes. You'd think at this point he would've realised that Yoda scratching his ass while delivering Jedi wisdom and picking fleas out of Luke's hair while teaching him to use the force would be the deal-breaker.
But you'd be wrong. Lucas only scrapped the idea after a technician who worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey, told him that the monkey would spend the whole movie trying to take his mask off. Luckily Lucas listened and Yoda went on to be the unmistakable character we know and love today. Oh, and he was also named Buffy. Yeah. Still it's not like the series would've miss out on a do-gooding green alien even if Yoda had been a monkey because...
That's right, the swash-buckling pilot of the Millenium Falcon was initially envisioned as a green-skinned alien, with gills just for good measure. This wasn't just in the initial drafts, he made it through a large portion of the rewrites. Far from the badass smuggler essayed by Harrison Ford, Swamp Solo was supposed to be an undercover operative. You'd imagine a green swamp monster wouldn't survive long in Lucas' world; after all, look what happened to poor Greedo.
But you'd be wrong.
Lucas originally intended for Solo to be an integral companion of Luke and Leia's. However while it kept Solo alive, the world wasn't ready for inter-species love affairs, so it would have killed off Han's romance with Leia.
Finally though, Lucas decided that making Han an alien would take away from his relationship with Luke and Leia, which is what turned the character human. And also led to Chewbacca.
Deprived of a zany alien sidekick character, Lucas came up with everyone's favourite Wookie, Chewbacca. But things could still have turned out very differently for Han because...
Despite surviving the various re-writes of the original script (both as man and monster), Han almost met his end in The Empire Strikes Back.
At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, when Solo is frozen in carbonite, Lucas and co decided to leave his fate ambiguous. Out of a Hitchcock-ian sense of suspense?
They initially did it because Harrison Ford, who played Han, was only contracted for the first two movies. In fact, even after Ford agreed to come back for The Return of the Jedi, which meant he didn't have to be killed in the carbonite, he had a request: He wanted the writers to kill off his character as he thought Han had run his course.
Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote the movie with Lucas even agreed, hoping to keep fans on the edge of their seats by showing even major characters could die. Yeah, he was George RR Martin before George RR Martin.
Mercifully, for the franchise and for Han, Lucas vetoed the idea, deciding instead to go with a happier ending. It also means we get more Han Solo-Harrison Ford bad-assery in The Force Awakens, so maybe we'll forgive Lucas casting Hayden Christensen.
But even Solo's death pales in comparison to this last one...
Lucas' vision of the original movie was anything but coherent. While we were originally introduced to Luke Skywalker as the starry-eyed farmer on Tattooine, he was originally envisioned as many different things:
- A) A Jedi general who was an assistant to the king
B) A portly 18-year-old name Luke Starkiller
C) A hot, lady version of Luke Starkiller, creatively name Luka Starkiller.
Option A would have changed the movie entirely. Option B would've just resulted in everyone laughing themselves senseless at Vader's real last name. But option C? Now that would've been a game-changer in Hollywood. A female heroine in space? At a time when sexism wasn't so much an issue as it was a way of life? It was almost unthinkable. Luka could've been the first truly iconic female Hollywood heroine.
But Hollywood wasn't ready and executives at 20th Century Fox shot down the idea. Instead, the heroine Star Wars got was Leia - who started out warrior princess, but will ultimately be remembered for wearing a bikini.
Take that, women's empowerment!