The Empire Strikes Back – That Almost Was (Chewie-Wampa Cage Match!)

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Late last night, I was catching up on news from the weekend, and I stumbled upon a casually written headline concerning The Empire Strikes Back – and a newly-leaked original script that would have taken the best big-screen sci-fi franchise in history in a crazy, different direction.

I’m having a hard time tracking down any specific version of the script, so who knows if this whole thing is a hoax (if you know more about this than I, please, share below). But just consider the possibilities of these revelations: Darth Vader apparently was not going to be Luke’s father and Luke was never going to lose an arm. Instead, Luke channels the dark side of the Force in the final showdown with Vader, which could have been an interesting, evil turn for our young emerging hero. (More at Techland: The 5 most underrated sci-fi masterpieces of all-time)

All of these details were apparently contained in the original script by Leigh Brackett, who died before she was able to conduct re-writes. Clearly her rough cut then went through significant changes before the movie launched into production. As a result, Luke lost an arm.

But reading through Brackett’s ideas, I was still fascinated by the many Star Wars conventions that almost never came to be. Leia’s real name was almost Nellith. Lando almost revealed himself to be a clone. In the Cloud City, residents apparently fly manta rays all over town (the original Avatar?)

Personally, though, my two favorite revelations concern Hoth. This has always been one of my favorite Star Wars environments, and in the first draft of this script, a whole bunch of giant Wampa ice creatures attack the rebel outpost, decimating the base’s life support generator. They are trying to rid their world of this whole rebel-Imperial war, and doing a darn good job at it apparently. Even Chewbacca goes out into the cold to battle a beast. Yes, just imagine, a hand-to-hand fur-brawl. (More at Techland: Hoth, and the all-time greatest ice worlds)

What I really love about this Wampa idea is the notion of an unexpected species affecting the battle plan. Yes, Star Wars is mostly about Luke and Darth Vader, but how cool wold it have been to have random species interfering in the plan, monkeying up the machinery of war? The possibilities are limitless.

With the 30th anniversary of the film this year, we’re expecting a whole slew of archival information to hit stores soon – including  J.W. Rinzler’s upcoming book The Making of the Empire Strikes Back, due out this fall. So hopefully we’ll get some clarification on all of this soon. But the most interesting observation made by Crave editors is that many of the omitted scenes, species and concepts in Empire are resurrected later in some form in the Star Wars prequels.

Maybe George Lucas decided that Brackett had some strong ideas in her first draft after all…

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