One of the great cinematic mysteries of our time concerns George Lucas' original treatment for the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Where did the creator of that galaxy far, far away intend for these characters to go? Thanks to a new book, now we know.
Star Wars Fascinating Facts lives up to its name. Pages from the book, posted on Twitter, reveal that Lucas was going to kill Luke Skywalker in Episode 8, similar to what happened in Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The book also notes that a female Jedi Knight who is trained by Luke was always going to be the central character and that Luke was going to be a Colonel Kurtz-type character – Kurtz being the elusive maniac in Apocalypse Now.
"Years before The Last Jedi began development, the treatment left behind by George Lucas in 2012 also had Episode VIII be the one wherein Luke Skywalker would die," reads one page. Another, titled Colonel Kurtzwalker, states: "Although Luke Skywalker only barely appears in The Force Awakens, the concept artists had a lot to imagine based on the fragments of the story they were hearing as it developed.
"Rey was on a mission to seek out Luke Skywalker, who had disappeared. As described by George Lucas, Rey is like Willard going up river seeking out Colonel Kurtz, an allusion to Apocalypse Now. The story had Rey find Luke on a Jedi temple planet, but he is a recluse, withdrawn into a very dark space and needs to be drawn back from despair."
The new book "Star Wars Fascinating Facts" delivers on that title with this one: in George Lucas' 2012 treatment for the sequel trilogy, Luke died in Episode VIII. #StarWars pic.twitter.com/jcwhyGi967October 13, 2020
The book also reveals that Rey's name was not always Rey. Previous reports already indicated that the leading female character was, at one stage, going to be called Kira. However, a new excerpt reveals that, in the original outline, the lead character was a 14-year-old girl named Taryn. That name later changed to Thea, and then Winkie (no comment). When Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams came on board, the name changed to Sally (a placeholder), then Kira, then Echo, and finally Rey.
Abrams also used some other interesting placeholder names for other characters: Kylo Ren was Jedi Killer, Finn was Harry, and Poe was John Doe. You can also see an image of Lucas' vision for Thea on the page.
And things get crazier: in George's original outline, Rey was a 14 year old girl named Taryn. In later iterations, he changed her name briefly to Thea and also to, I swear, Winkie. J.J. gave her the codename Sally, then she was Kira, Echo, and finally Rey. pic.twitter.com/1Mc1uUebxwOctober 13, 2020
This isn't the first we've heard of Lucas' sequel trilogy. We already had some idea of the story of Kira going to visit Luke Skywalker, living as a hermit on a distant planet. These elements, of course, came to be in Disney's movies. What didn't make the big screen was Lucas' hopes of exploring more of the midi-chlorians, the microscopic life forms described as living everywhere and within everyone during the prequel movie Phantom Menace.
“Everyone hated it in Phantom Menace [when] we started to talk about midi-chlorians,” Lucas told fellow director James Cameron in his book James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction. “There’s a whole aspect to that movie that is about symbiotic relationships. To make you look and see that we aren’t the boss. That there’s an ecosystem.”
Lucas added: “[The next three Star Wars films] were going to get into a microbiotic world. But there’s this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force.”
The Whills were, as established by Lucas in the earliest drafts of Star Wars, an order of immortal beings who controlled everything through the Force. “Back in the day, I used to say ultimately what this means is we were just cars, vehicles for the Whills to travel around,” Lucas continued. “We’re vessels for them. And the conduct is the midi-chlorians. The midi-chlorians are the ones that communicate with the Whills. The Whills, in a general sense, they are the Force.”
Reports have also previously indicated that Lucas was disappointed by the direction Disney took the movies, with former CEO Bob Iger noting in his memoir that Lucas was "upset" as Abrams and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy described the plot of their sequels during a meeting at Skywalker Ranch.
We will likely never know Lucas' full plan for the sequel trilogy, but everything we hear sets our imaginations wild with what could have been.