*Spoilers, spoiler, spoilers.* If you have not seen “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” yet, please turn back and return once you’ve seen the movie.
What ifs are always fascinating. Even in Slashfilm’s recent interview with J.J. Abrams you can tell the writer is trying to pry development details from the director, without much luck. And who can blame him? There’s a fascinating, untold story there. First, there’s George Lucas’ treatments, which LucasFilm decided to abandon — though we basically know from all of Lucas’ hints that they’re more “generational” stories centering on the children of Luke, Leia, and Han — but we don’t know any deeper details.
Then there’s the fact that Pixar screenwriter Michael Arndt originally worked on the screenplay for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and eventually left the project, supposedly because he had other commitments. According to a THR piece from January 2014, Arndt was perhaps leaning on the generational aspects of Lucas’ trilogy pretty hard. Arndt was apparently focusing on the offspring of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), with the parents being more of supporting characters. Instead, Abrams brought Solo, and, to a lesser extent, Leia and Luke back into the foreground in a bigger way (the article also reminds us that Tye Sheridan was once being tested for an offspring, and given the actor's age, would have been a teenager or an adolescent nearing his 20s, but this character was wiped from the script).
In a recent Q&A with J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt, the screenwriter revealed some pretty intriguing details about early drafts of ‘The Force Awakens.’ The most eye-opening is that in earlier versions of the screenplay, Luke Skywalker was a much bigger force (pun intended) in the movie.
“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 (via EW). “It just never worked and I struggled with this. This was back in 2012.” Apparently the issue was Luke’s presence was always upstaging everyone in the script. “It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over,” Arndt continued. “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.’”
EW also says there were other big plot ideas dropped: "a search for Darth Vader’s remains, or a quest to the underwater wreckage of the second Death Star to recover a key piece of history about sacred Jedi sites in the galaxy." These of course, totally different movies and one could argue fairly different from the remake and remix-ness of 'The Force Awakens.'
And apparently R2-D2 and C-3PO were far more linked in the movie as well. “I had originally written R2 and C-3PO showing up together, and Larry [Kasdan] very intelligently said, ‘You want to keep them separate from each other. And of course I’m like, ‘No, no, no, Larry. You don’t get it at all!’” Arndt joked.
Abrams got into the convoluted story of R2-D2. Essentially he’s in a grief-stricken kind of coma because of Luke vanishing. And the data in his system is apparently tied into ‘A New Hope,’ when he plugged into the Death Star and apparently downloaded all kinds of secrets — one of them being intel on location of Jedi Temples.
“We had the idea about R2 plugging into the information base of the Death Star, and that’s how he was able to get the full map and find where the Jedi temples are,” Arndt said. Abrams didn’t want all this backstory bogging down the plot so it was included indirectly. He didn’t want the story to devolve into, “how s–t happened 30 years ago.” But the idea was that in that scene where R2 plugged in, he downloaded the archives of the Empire, which was referenced by Kylo Ren,” Abrams explained.
So the idea is that BB-8 awakens R2-D2 from his coma by telling him about a loved one — Luke — and his potential whereabouts. “BB-8 comes up and says something to him, which is basically, ‘I’ve got this piece of a map, do you happen to have the rest?’” Abrams said. “The idea was, R2 who has been all over the galaxy, is still in his coma, but he hears this. And it triggers something that would ultimately wake him up.”
I don’t know if I totally buy that, and it sounds a bit silly — thankfully they didn’t lean hard on that in the movie — but to hear their intentions, and some of the development process, is really fascinating. I would really kill to interview Arndt, so I’ll put that out there. Thoughts? Does any of this change the experience of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at all?