Given how much behind-the-scenes knowledge we have about Star Wars, it's easy for fans to think they know the franchise inside and out. But production on Star Wars: A New Hope was a grueling affair running for several years, beginning in 1973 when George Lucas wrote the first synopsis for the epic space-opera. Right up until the movie started filming on March 22, 1976, the story and the characters underwent countless changes, ranging from the minor, like the spelling of Wookiee (it was originally Wookee), to massive changes in the plot, like C-3PO's key role in the destruction of the Death Star.
A New Hope's script had at least four major revisions after Lucas penned the film’s synopsis, simply titled The Star Wars. Lucas said the following about the writing process: “I had been making notes, doing research over the years, but it wasn’t until I finished American Graffiti in ’73 that I actually started writing it. My original 14-page treatment didn’t bear much relationship to the final production, though.”
It’s not that difficult to imagine what the film would be like if these Star Wars: A New Hope changes were never implemented, since Lucas would go on to revive some of his discarded ideas in future films and other media within the Star Wars canon. Still, it’s fun to speculate how the very first film might have been different. Pull a George Lucas and re-imagine the original Star Wars trilogy one more time.
Luke Was An Old, Grizzled Jedi General
In Lucas’s first synopsis for the film, Luke Skywalker was not the young, naive, hungry-for-adventure Jedi hopeful audiences were introduced to in A New Hope. Instead, Luke was an old, battle-hardened Jedi General who was tasked with protecting a yet-to-be-named rebel princess as she made her way back to her home planet.
Luke is described as being incredibly powerful, effortlessly taking out an Imperial patrol comprised of twelve men. The following passage from Lucas’s original synopsis for the film highlights Luke’s demeanor as he interacts with a group of rebel boys:
“The boys laugh in anticipation of the blow they will strike the Empire in the name of the princess. They all stop laughing, but the laughing continues and they look around in consternation. Into the sanctuary ambles Skywalker, scratching himself, amused at the idealism of the youths. He barely glances at them. The contrast between the boy rebels with their terse nods, their meaningful glances, and Skywalker, a real general, a real man could not be greater.”
In 2013, Dark Horse released an eight-issue comic titled The Star Wars which adapted Lucas's original synopsis for the film, giving fans a glimpse of the director's original vision for Star Wars and the grizzled General Skywalker.
Obi-Wan Was Supposed To Survive
In one of the early drafts of A New Hope, Obi-Wan was supposed to survive his fight with Darth Vader. In fact, he was even meant to live all the way through The Empire Strikes Back! At the suggestion of Lucas's then wife, Marcia (also the editor for the film), he killed Obi-Wan at the end of the movie to up the stakes. Lucas said the following on his decision to kill the beloved Jedi Master:
“I was rewriting, I was struggling with that plot problem when my wife suggested that I kill off Ben, which she thought was a pretty outrageous idea, and I said, ‘Well, that is an interesting idea, and I had been thinking about it…’ But then the more I thought about Ben getting killed the more I liked the idea because, one, it made the threat of Vader greater and that tied in with The Force and the fact that he could use the dark side. Both Alec Guinness and I came up with the thing of having Ben go on afterwards as part of The Force.”
Darth Vader Was Originally A Bounty Hunter Like Boba Fett
Originally, Darth Vader was not the menacing Emperor’s Hand, but rather a (still very menacing) bounty hunter. He was always evil, but he lacked the defining characteristics that catapulted him to the top of everyone’s best villain list – he didn’t have the cape or the signature mask, and he wasn’t half machine. Interestingly, in early drafts of the film, the protagonist Annikin Starkiller’s father was described as being half-man and half-machine, a feature Lucas would later transfer to Vader.
Lucas had this to say about Vader’s evolution as a character: “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.”
Luke Was A Girl Who Was In Love With Han
In a very early draft of the film, Luke was a 16-year-old girl who fell in love with a bearded version of Han. The female Luke was essentially the same character – still living on Tatooine, still harboring that heroic idealism. Lucas entertained the idea of a female Luke long enough to even get Ralph McQuarrie, the conceptual designer for the film, to draw some concept art of the heroine.
As many have noted, this early concept art for the female version of Luke looks strikingly similar to Rey's character design in The Force Awakens.