Back in July 1981, few people were privy to the idea that was starting to form in George Lucas‘ mind: an origin story for the iconic Star Wars villain Darth Vader. But at least three people learned the details at a story conference for Return of the Jedi, in which the Star Wars maestro revealed to Richard Marquand, Howard Kazanjian, and Lawrence Kasdan his vision of Anakin Skywalker’s origins. Lucas’ pitch for Anakin Skywalker’s original backstory, which is revealed in the new book The Star Wars Archives: 1995-2005, bears more than a few similarities to what we would eventually see onscreen in the divisive Star Wars prequels, with a few minor differences and references to real-life political figures like…Richard Nixon?
All kinds of nuggets have been revealed from author Paul Duncan and publisher Taschen’s new The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005 book, which pulls the curtain back on the making of the prequel trilogy in illuminating and surprising ways. The latest reveal was unveiled by Duncan himself.
In a tweet this past weekend, Duncan set the scene: “July 13-17, 1981: This is George Lucas explaining to Richard Marquand, Howard Kazanjian, and Lawrence Kasdan the background for Anakin, Obi-Wan and the Emperor during a story conference for Return of the Jedi, so they have context for the end of the movie.”
Here is the full passage detailing Lucas’ pitch during the five-day story conference for Return of the Jedi from The Star Wars Archives: 1995-2005:
Anakin Skywalker began hanging out with the Emperor, who at that point nobody knew was that bad, because he was an elected official. He was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the senate and finally took over and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy. Luke’s father gets subverted by the Emperor. He gets a little weird at home and his wife begins to figure out that things are going wrong and she confides in Ben, who is his mentor.
On his missions through the galaxies, Anakin has been going off and doing his Jedi thing and a lot of Jedi have been getting killed — and it’s because they turn their back on him and he cuts them down. The President is turning into the Emperor and Luke’s mother suspects that something has happened to her husband. She is pregnant. Anakin gets worse and worse, and finally Ben has to fight him and he throws him down into a volcano and Vader is all beat up.
When he falls into the put there is hardly anything left of him by the time the Emperor’s troops fish him out of the drink. Then when Ben finds out that Vader has been fished out and is in the hands of the Empire, he is worried. He goes back to Vader’s wife and explains that Anakin is the bad guy, the one killing all the Jedi.
Mrs. Skywalker has had the kids, the twins, two little babies who are six months old or so. The Skywalker line is very strong with the Force, so Ben says, “I think we should protect the kids, because they may be able to to help us right the wrong that your husband has created in the universe.” Ben takes one and gives him to a couple out there on Tatooine and he gets his little hideout in the hills and he watches him grow. Ben can’t raise Luke himself, because he’s a wanted man. Leia and Luke’s mother go to Alderaan and are taken by the king there, who is a friend of Ben’s. She dies shortly thereafter and Leia is brought up by her foster parents. She knows that her real mother died.
I think you can make Ben take the blame for Vader. “I should have given him more training. I should have sent him to Yoda, but I thought I could be as good a teacher as Yoda. I wish that I could stop the pestilence that I’ve unleashed on the galaxy.” His burden is that he feels responsible for everything that Vader has done.
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