SPOILER ALERT: Be aware that spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens follow.
When the full cast for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was originally announced, it was exciting to see how many phenomenal actors J.J. Abrams had brought together for the highly anticipated sci-fi sequel. However, this being the first entry in a new Star Wars trilogy, there was a pretty safe bet that someone wasn’t going to make it through the first film. But who would it be? Speculation ran rampant, and now that the film is in theaters, we know exactly who lives and who dies—but that wasn’t always the way it was going to go.
When Oscar Isaac was first approached to play Poe Dameron in the film, his character was supposed to die. Speaking with GQ, Isaac recounted the conversation:
“He’s amazing!” said Abrams. “Sounds good!” thought Isaac, whose first experience in a movie theater had been seeing The Empire Strikes Back. “He opens the whole movie!” said Abrams. “Sounds great!” thought Isaac. “And then,” Abrams went on. “He dies.” “Oh,” thought Isaac.
While the allure of being in a Star Wars movie is strong, Isaac wasn’t crazy about playing yet another character who helps set up the plot and then bites the bullet, as he did in The Bourne Legacy. In Abrams’ mind, it was a chance to “create a role that could live on in all corners of the Star Wars universe—novels and comic books and video games and so on.” Isaac was still hesitant, but he reluctantly agreed, only to have Abrams change his mind about the character’s fate:
“I went back home [to New York], and I thought about it,” he says. “Then I wrote him and said, ‘Okay. I’ll do it!’ I figured it would be a cameo: I’ll come in, do my thing, and maybe it’s actually better not to have to sign myself up for three movies.” By that time, though, things had changed and Abrams soon wrote back: “Never mind. I’ve figured it out. You’re in the whole movie now.”
Of all the new central Star Wars characters, Poe Dameron is the most undercooked—he’s a fine character and Isaac is a great actor, but we don’t really get to know Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens. The character’s original fate kind of explains his minimal dimensionality in the film, but Abrams must have had a reason to keep him alive beyond just filling the Luke role in destroying the Empire’s First Order’s Death Star new weapon, so here’s hoping he’ll get some significant fleshing out in Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII.
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