It was only a matter of time. While J.J. Abrams is the director and co-writer of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, we know that he wasn’t the film’s first director or writer. Those honors went to Colin Trevorrow, who was tapped to take the helm way back in 2015. He developed the Star Wars 9 script with his frequent collaborator Derek Connolly over the next few years, but in 2017 Trevorrow departed the project due to creative differences. That’s when Abrams came aboard and set about reworking the story, with the final credits on Rise of Skywalker giving Abrams and Chris Terrio “screenplay by” credit and Trevorrow and Connolly “story by” credit.
But since Trevorrow was on Star Wars 9 for so long, we knew that he had certainly developed at least one draft of a screenplay, which meant that somewhere out there was an alternative version of Episode IX. And now the major plot beats of one of Trevorrow’s drafts has leaked online.
The script leak hails from YouTuber Robert Meyer Burnett, who posted a video yesterday supposedly breaking down the major story beats of Trevorrow’s version of Star Wars 9, titled Star Wars: Duel of the Fates. It had the opening crawl, the story arcs for Rey, Kylo, Finn, Poe, and even Rose Tico, and of course the ending. That video then made the rounds on reddit, and while fans were curious as to the veracity of the whole thing, sources familiar with Trevorrow’s script confirm to Collider that the plot details revealed in Burnett’s video line up with what was in that particular draft. TL;DR “It’s true. All of it.” The veracity of Burnett’s video was also independently confirmed by the folks over at The Playlist, if you need more convincing.
So was Colin Trevorrow’s Star Wars 9 very different from J.J. Abrams’ version of the film? Absolutely. Before we dig into specific plot points it’s important to keep in mind two things. 1. This draft is apparently dated December 2016, so there no doubt would have been further changes had Trevorrow remained onboard and 2. As we’ve seen time and time again, major changes can happen to a script once cameras roll. So there’s no guarantee that if Trevorrow had remained on Star Wars 9 that this is exactly what that movie would have been, but this does give us an idea of what Trevorrow was thinking for the direction of this particular story.
The opening crawl from the script—written by Trevorrow and Connolly—is as follows:
The iron grip of the FIRST ORDER has spread to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Only a few scattered planets remain unoccupied. Traitorous acts are punishable by death. Determined to suffocate a growing unrest, Supreme Leader KYLO REN has silenced all communication between neighboring systems. Led by GENERAL LEIA ORGANA, the Resistance has planned a secret mission to prevent their annihilation and forge a path to freedom…
The beginning of the film very much picks up from The Last Jedi in that the First Order has cut off all communication between planets in order to suppress a rebellion inspired by Luke Skywalker’s stand off at the Battle of Crait. So the spark of the rebellion did work in this version of the movie. In fact, the opening sequence of Duel of the Fates finds Finn (John Boyega), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), and BB-8 stealing a Star Destroyer that’s chock full of Imperial weapons. During the heist, Finn sees a Stormtrooper with his helmet off that he recognizes, with his story arc in Duel of the Fates nicely concluding the one that began in The Force Awakens. Oh and Rose? Apparently front and center through the whole movie, which is a damn shame given that she’s completely sidelined in Rise of Skywalker.
In Trevorrow’s version, Rose and Finn are on a mission to Coruscant to ignite an ancient beacon in the old Jedi Temple, which will call the galaxy to war. They get imprisoned, Rose gets interrogated by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and Finn leads an uprising of defecting Stormtroopers in a ground battle in the streets of Coruscant. At the very end of the movie, Finn and Rose lead a group of Force Sensitive youth to a remote planet where Rey is waiting to train the next generation of Jedi. And yes, “Broom Boy” is one of them.
As for Reylo, well, Kylo Ren still dies at the end of Duel of the Fates, but his arc in the film—as well as Rey’s—is completely different. For one, there’s no Emperor Palpatine. At the beginning of the movie, Kylo Ren has vanished off to Mustafar (Darth Vader’s lava planet) and is wallowing around in Vader’s old castle. There, he’s “haunted” by the Force Ghost of Luke Sykwalker (Mark Hamill’s return) and even fights a hallucinatory version of Darth Vader a la Luke’s fight in the cave. He comes into contact with the Sith teacher of Palpatine, Tor Valum, via an ancient Sith device as he’s trying to put an end to the Jedi and the Sith once and for all. But he’s bad, bad, bad in this version of the story—he’s gone full Heisenberg, so to speak.
Rey (Daisy Ridley), meanwhile, still believes there’s good in Kylo Ren and has teamed up with Poe (Oscar Isaac) to put an end to the Jedi/Sith in her own way—another story point this film picks up from the ending of The Last Jedi.
And Rey’s parents? Still nobodies (i.e. Rey is not a Palpatine), but Kylo Ren killed them at the behest of Snoke. Ouch. The finale of the movie finds Rey and Kylo Ren duking it out on the mystical planet Mortis, with Rey getting an assist from the Force Ghosts of Luke, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor, presumably), and Yoda. The Jedi try unsuccessfully to bring Kylo Ren back to the light, but he’s too far gone and in the end he is “extinguished.”
This is honestly what many felt the crux of Episode IX should have been: the battle for Kylo Ren’s soul. Instead, Abrams and Co. decided to muddle everything up with this Palpatine nonsense, which is just unnecessary added external conflict that detracts from the emotional thrust of this trilogy.
I’m very curious to know what, exactly, Kathleen Kennedy and the folks at Lucasfilm took issue with in Trevorrow’s story and why they ultimately parted ways. Perhaps we’ll never know, but it is fascinating to hear how one version of Trevorrow and Connolly’s script panned out. It’s certainly better than the constant pulling of punches and lazy fan service in Rise of Skywalker.