10 Weird Early ‘Star Wars’ Concepts
Many of the iconic images from the Star Wars movies were originally different than what we have grown to love. Here are 10 of the weirdest earlier versions of the characters and story events that will leave you scratching your head.
10 Human Jabba The Hutt
The sluglike Jabba the Hutt appears in Return of the Jedi and is one of the most iconic aliens in the Star Wars franchise. Originally, though, Jabba the Hutt was quite different. George Lucas had included Jabba in the script for A New Hope, but due to technical limitations and budgetary constraints, he was played by actor Declan Mulholland.
As shown in the video above, Lucas shot a brief scene with Jabba confronting Han Solo in a Tattooine hanger and dressed Mulholland in heavy clothes to make him look more alien. The footage never made it into the final edit of A New Hope.
But Jabba as a humanoid stuck in the Marvel Comics version of Star Wars. In the comic books, the artists went with Lucas’s original production notes on the character, depicting him as a spindly alien that was like a walrus. This was one of the many inaccuracies of the original Marvel comic line and is noncanonical, especially since other drafts of the Star Wars script describe Jabba as fat and sluglike.
Lucas had to wait until Return of the Jedi to put Jabba on film but did not give up on having him in A New Hope. When Lucas released the special editions of the original trilogy, he put Jabba back in A New Hope but covered up Mulholland with a CGI Jabba, much to the dismay of fans. Interestingly enough, back in 1977, Lucas almost cast William Hootkins as Jabba the Hutt. Hootkins did not get the role but still appeared in A New Hope, playing the overweight X-wing pilot Jek Porkins who died during the Death Star run.
9 Han Dies In The Empire Strikes Back
After the shocking success of the first Star Wars film, Lucas began work on the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Realizing that the script would take a darker and more emotional turn, Lucas hired famed director Ivan Kershner to film the movie. All was going according to plan, except for the fact that Harrison Ford seemed disinterested in doing another Star Wars film.
In the original script of The Empire Strikes Back, Han and Chewbacca escape from Cloud City while being chased by Darth Vader. However, Harrison Ford was not signed on to film a third movie, and both Kershner and Lucas thought that he would not return. With that uncertainty, Kershner changed the script to include the iconic carbon-freezing scene. This gave the franchise some leeway. With Han frozen, they could kill him off if Ford did not return or devise a way for the characters to save him if Ford signed on for a third movie.
Of course, Ford returned for a third movie, and the carbon-freezing scene became one of the best-known parts of the franchise. Ford was still dissatisfied with playing Han Solo, stating that the character had become boring to him because of his growing affection for Princess Leia. In 2010, Ford still expressed discontent with the character, even stating in an interview that he wished Lucas had killed him off. But with another Star Wars movie coming out in December 2015, it seems like Ford has changed his tune.
8 C-3PO The Used Car Salesman
Early drafts of Star Wars did not include either C-3PO or R2-D2, but they later became an integral part of the story. R2-D2’s personality was easy to pin down, but Lucas had a harder time deciding on the personality for C-3PO. The robot’s face was purposely designed to be bland, allowing the viewers to read whatever emotions they wanted into the robot. As a result, Lucas originally auditioned a mime to play the role.
When the mime did not work out, Lucas became interested in getting Shakespearean actor Anthony Daniels to play the role. The original voice and mannerisms of C-3PO were entirely different. Lucas imagined C-3PO with the characteristics of a slimy car salesman with a thick Bronx accent. Daniels convinced Lucas to go with more vulnerable, prissy mannerisms for the character. Oddly, C-3PO was later used in Mitsubishi car commercials in Japan, so he actually did end up selling cars after all.
7 Return Of The Jedi Originally Had A Darker Ending
The Empire Strikes Back performed wonderfully at the box office, and soon Lucas was putting together drafts for the next installment in the series. Unfortunately, Return of the Jedi saw the beginning of Lucas having issues with his cast and crew.
As mentioned before, Harrison Ford was unsure if he wanted to return. But the production team was also having issues. Ivan Kershner drafted a story treatment for the new movie. Producer Gary Kurtz supported Kershner’s draft and advocated for a more emotional and mature ending for the franchise. Ultimately, Lucas went with what we have today, which caused both Kershner and Kurtz to leave Star Wars.
The original version of Return of the Jedi was much darker than the current movie. While the first draft was being written, Ford signed on for the new movie, but Kurtz still wanted Han Solo to die. In this draft, Han Solo died in the middle of the movie during a raid on an Imperial base.
Kurtz opposed the idea of having a second Death Star because he felt that it was too derivative, but his version still ended with a giant space battle. The Rebel Alliance won the final battle, but the ending was more bittersweet. The Rebel Fleet suffered tremendous casualties, and Leia accepted the role of queen. With Han Solo dead and Leia in government, Luke Skywalker would “walk off into the sunset” and disappear from the public sight.
As the draft changed, the bittersweet aspects got toned down, but another script had a different ending for Luke Skywalker. In this version, the ending played out almost exactly as in the movie we know. However, when Luke pulled off Vader’s mask after fighting with the Emperor, he put it on his own face and proclaimed himself as the heir to Darth Vader. Lucas decided that this was too dark, so we got the lighthearted celebration that ends Return of the Jedi.
6 Han Solo The Green-Skinned Alien
Han Solo is one of the most iconic characters of the franchise and the character who underwent the most revisions during the drafts of Star Wars. Originally, George Lucas wanted the main character to have an alien sidekick, so he wrote Han Solo as a giant, green-skinned alien with gills. Although Lucas liked the idea of Han being an alien or monster, he eventually decided to go with a human who could relate better to the other characters. Chewbacca filled the role of the alien sidekick.
Changing Han to a human was not the only revision of his character. In the second draft, Han was a bearded, burly character. Lucas also toyed with the idea of casting an African American as Han Solo before settling on the description of Han that ended up in the final film.
Harrison Ford was not originally considered for the role of Han Solo. Lucas was adamant about using unknown actors and had already worked with Ford in American Graffiti. Instead, Ford fed lines to other actors auditioning for the roles of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Lucas had a list of actors that he thought would be good as Han Solo, including Kurt Russell. But in the end, Lucas went with Harrison Ford, and the rest is movie history.
5 Luke Was Originally An Old General
Luke Skywalker was quite different in the original version of Star Wars. In the first draft, Luke was an old general and Jedi Master, more akin to the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He also wasn’t the main character in the story. Instead, the main character was Annikin Starkiller, son of Kane Starkiller. The father and son spent most of the script on the run from the psychopathic Knights of Sith.
After Annikin’s brother was killed by the knights, Kane brought Annikin to be trained by General Skywalker, who protected the royal family of the planet Aquilae. Luke spent most of the movie training Annikin while Kane had wacky adventures with the green-skinned Han Solo.
The early script had strange plot points involving General Skywalker. In the middle of the film, Annikin had a romantic attraction to a woman on Aquilae, enraging Luke so much that he tried to kill Annikin. The original script also ended with an attack by spaceships on an Imperial base. However, they attack an evil castle, and the pilots are all Wookiees trained by General Skywalker.
Most of these elements did not make it into the final version of A New Hope, and Luke Skywalker eventually became the protagonist. However, some of these plot elements did appear in later Star Wars films.
4 The Ewoks Were Originally Wookiees
Depending on whom you ask, Ewoks are either the cutest or the most annoying aspect of the original Star Wars trilogy. But if Lucas had gone with his first draft, the Ewoks would have been much cooler and more frightening. Initially, the Ewoks were Wookiees (Chewbacca’s race), and Return of the Jedi had them attacking an Imperial outpost fully armed with tanks and laser cannons.
The Wookiees were trained by the main characters and even learned to fly spacecraft. However, when Chewbacca evolved into a more technologically adept character, Lucas reworked the plot with a new species called Ewoks to make a Vietnam allegory in which the technologically inferior culture defeated the mechanized might of the Empire.
In another version of the script, Ewoks teamed up with a species called Yuzzums. Lucas had considered adding the Yuzzums as a secondary Endor species to replace the Wookiees. The Yuzzums were furry but much taller than the Ewoks, requiring the actors to use stilts in costume. For most of preproduction, the team considered hiring Venezuelan stilt walkers to handle the puppets, but eventually, Lucas eliminated the Yuzzums and focused solely on the Ewoks.
3 R2-D2 Spoke English
What makes the stubby robot R2-D2 so iconic is his electronic gibberish voice. During production, the sound team came up with a lot of the noises using their own voices. However, in the original draft of Star Wars, R2-D2 actually spoke English, which turned his banter with C-3PO into more of a verbal comedy than the slapstick antics of the final film.
If you’ve ever wondered what R2-D2 was saying during the movie, the original draft gives you a hint. Every bit as fussy as C-3PO, R2-D2 was actually a bitter little robot. He spent most of the movie mocking C-3PO and uttering sarcastic quips. R2-D2 would be much less lovable if the original version had become the final film.
Interestingly, the design for R2-D2 also changed over time. Initially, he had two small arms sticking out of the side of his head that could be used to grasp and manipulate things. In one of production designer Ralph McQuarrie’s early sketches, R2-D2 rolled around on a single ball bearing. It seems as though J.J. Abrams and his crew borrowed this concept to design BB-8, the small ball-shaped droid that will appear in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
2 Yoda Was Originally Played By A Monkey
In The Empire Strikes Back, Frank Oz operated and voiced the Yoda puppet. However, the final design of Yoda took a lot of time and went through a variety of phases. Early concept art shows Yoda as a gnomelike character with much different facial expressions. By the time the Yoda design was finalized, Lucas still had not decided how to portray the character in The Empire Strikes Back. Puppets seemed like an obvious choice, but Lucas also considered having a trained monkey in a mask play Yoda.
For years, rumors of the monkey playing Yoda floated around the Star Wars fandom universe. In 2010, J.W. Rinzler wrote a book about The Empire Strikes Back and confirmed that the rumors were true. But it was not until 2013 that pictures surfaced showing what this Yoda would have looked like.
Lucas has never revealed the name of the monkey playing Yoda, but pictures show that he wore silver shorts and a shirt and had a mask that looks like the Yoda puppet. The monkey handlers trained the simian to hold a cane and walk around with it.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. A member of the Lucasfilm team had worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey and knew the difficulty of working with monkeys. He eventually convinced Lucas to go with the more standard, practical approach of using puppets, and the monkey idea never got past preproduction.
1 Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye
When producing A New Hope, George Lucas had no way of knowing that the movie would become such a cultural phenomenon. He had ideas for the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, but it needed an even bigger budget from the studio for production.
Lucas implemented a backup plan by hiring a writer to develop another sequel to A New Hope that could be filmed quickly on a low budget, if necessary. Alan Dean Foster, who ghostwrote the novelization to A New Hope, was tapped to write this backup script, an oddity known as Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
Splinter was a fairly simple story with a few strange features. The story followed Leia and Luke as they crash-landed on the planet Mimban during a diplomatic mission. There, they met an old woman named Halla who promised to take them to the “kaiburr crystal,” a sort of Force-amplifying device. Led by Darth Vader, the Imperials also wanted the crystal, so the plot became a standard adventure story. In the end, Luke fought Darth Vader and recovered the crystal.
What makes Splinter so weird is that many of the elements of the Star Wars universe had not been worked out before Foster wrote the script. As such, Luke and Leia had awkward sexual tension because Lucas had not yet established that they were siblings. In the book, they flirted with each other and even had a mud-wrestling match.
The story was also missing Han Solo and Chewbacca because Harrison Ford had not yet signed on for a sequel to the original Star Wars. In Splinter, Luke was also far better at fighting with a lightsaber than he was in The Empire Strikes Back, winning the duel with Vader by chopping off his arms.
Ultimately, A New Hope was a box office success, and Lucas did not need the Splinter script. He published the script as a novel, which became the first book of the official Star Wars Expanded Universe. For years, fans have had to wrap their minds around the canon-defying weirdness of the story.
Zachery Brasier is a physics student and lifelong Star Wars fan who likes to write on the side.