‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Writers Talk about Previous Versions of the Script

     December 20, 2015


It’s probably years away from happening, but I can’t wait until an official, unvarnished, Star Wars: The Force Awakens making-of book is released. When you consider that screenwriter Michael Arndt was replaced by director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and yet the fixed release date put them in a time crunch, it probably made from some unusual story choices and ones where fans will be struggling to fill in gaps that were a consequence of a rushed schedule rather than careful planning.

Nevertheless, I love “What Ifs” when it comes to any movie, and The Force Awakens has no shortage of those. In a post-screening Q&A on Saturday, Abrams, Arndt, and Kasdan talked about the script’s development and struggling to position certain characters and plot beats.

Spoilers ahead for The Force Awakens.


Image via Lucasfilm

One of the major challenges was where to introduce Luke Skywalker. Arndt says that in earlier drafts of the script, once Luke came in, he ended up upstaging Rey.  Per EW:

“Early on I tried to write versions of the story where [Rey] is at home, her home is destroyed, and then she goes on the road and meets Luke. And then she goes and kicks the bad guy’s ass,” Arndt said. “It just never worked and I struggled with this. This was back in 2012.”


The trouble was a simple case of upstaging. “It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over,” Arndt said. “Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character anymore because, ‘Oh f–k, Luke Skywalker’s here. I want to see what he’s going to do.’”


Image via Lucasfilm

I can see how that could be a bit of a problem, although by the same token, the finished movie brings in Han Solo at the beginning of the second act, he fights alongside Rey, and we never lose interest her just because he’s on screen.

Perhaps Arndt needed more time to crack it, but for Abrams, the solution was to put Luke at the end. Earlier versions of the script tried to use a Macguffin like the search for Vader’s remains or wreckage from the second Death Star that would lead to a sacred Jedi site, but ultimately Luke became the Macguffin, which is tricky. The movie asks you to believe that Luke will behave like an inanimate object and therefore a map will always be up to date (I suppose Episode VIII could try to drop in a line like Luke’s been transmitting his coordinates to R2 the entire time or some such nonsense).

Reading this post-release info, it makes me wish the film had been screened for junket press since the film raises so many more interesting questions and now’s the time to answer them. I’m not interested in Episode VIII right now. I’m fascinated with VII, and now that the “mystery box” is open, I want to search inside. Hopefully, we’ll get more info on the film’s development in the weeks and months ahead.

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