[Chewie pauses by a pier-glass to slick down his hair]
November 21, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe

In 1978, the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back was penned by a writer named Leigh Brackett. She passed away shortly thereafter and the script underwent a number of changes, first by George Lucas, before Lawrence Kasdan developed the final and more well-known screenplay. Brackett's initial draft is available for download here. The blog at starwarz.com highlights some of the more notable changes, such as Darth Vader not being Luke's father (though Luke's father appears as a character as a ghost Jedi on Dagoba), and a distinct lack of Boba Fett and carbon freezing. (Empire recently on the Blue)

Author Saladin Ahmed has been tweeting screencaps of some of the more notable and entertaining pieces of the first draft, including:

Some awesome stage direction;
Expository Vader monologues (with a much more fleshed-out argument for joining The Dark Side);
An awkward dinner scene with Vader, Han, and Leia; and
A different take on Lando Calrissian

Ahmed's tweets have prompted some thoughtful discussion about whether the prequel trilogy should have happened to begin with, best summarized in this numbered thread by culture journalist Jeet Heer (including some input on the writers and filmmakers that covered up Lucas's myriad flaws by MeFi's own mightygodking)
posted by dry white toast (25 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a strong believer in The Machete Order, which goes Ep 4-5-2-3-6. You miss nothing by skipping Episode 1.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Footnote: Jeet Heer is a great Twitter follow and has made a little name for himself for his numbered Twitter essays on a wide range of cultural topics (with a Canadian focus). For example: Sideshow Bob, Rob Ford, race and libertarianism in America, Captain America, and too many literary figures to link to here. His thoughts and reference to the conversation is what led me to the draft script. (seriously, read the Sideshow Bob essay.)
posted by dry white toast at 11:38 AM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


NB: The point of the discussion of the prequels isn't that they were obviously poorly executed, but that by taking away the obliqueness of references to things like the Clone Wars, they were always going to harm the impact of the original trilogy narrative, irrespective of their quality.
posted by dry white toast at 11:41 AM on November 21, 2014


More on Leigh Brackett; unjustly neglected IMHO.
posted by gudrun at 11:42 AM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Episode 1, despite its flaws, is an enjoyable movie with many redeeming qualities.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:43 AM on November 21, 2014


The reference to Doyle's "Giant Rat of Sumatra" in the Twitter thread brings Watterson's "noodle incident" to mind...
posted by duffell at 11:45 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


More on Leigh Brackett; unjustly neglected IMHO.

I agree. She co-wrote the movie adaptation of the Big Sleep with William Faulkner, and she wrote Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye as well.
posted by jonp72 at 11:45 AM on November 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


As well as being a major figure in pulp-era SF.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:48 AM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm a strong believer in The Machete Order

I've often thought a Twenty-First century reboot would have the original trilogy intercut with flashbacks to the prequel trilogy. So, we'd see parallels between Luke's time on Tatooine getting "recruited" by Ben Kenobie with a [much revised] story of Anakin Skywalker joining the Jedi. Eventually, "Luke, I am your father" cuts over to their birth, and the first duel between Vader and Kenobie. RotJ wraps it up with a story of redemption.

Exactly how the cuts back and forth line up, the order of some plot points, and, especially, Anakin's recruitment get revised (I kinda see an older Anakin, but leave in something akin to the podracing ("he's a great pilot"), paralleling Luke bullseying womprats in his T-16).

Unfortunately, "Luke, I am your father" is the ultimate spoiler--I don't think you could do it that way again.
posted by MrGuilt at 12:09 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would have thought every bit of minutia had been wrung out of Star Wars lore, but then there is this.

Reading the script of the original Star Wars is surreal. If you gave that script cold to someone who never had seen or heard of Star Wars, I don't think they would have imagined anything like what it became. That movie was so visual and evocative that words on paper just can't get there.
posted by dios at 12:26 PM on November 21, 2014


You miss nothing by skipping Episode 1.

Qui-Gon and Darth Maul make your argument invalid, but also prove your point in that both were awesome characters that deserved much more screen time in future episodes.

/queues up Duel of the Fates
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:44 PM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cannot find the link right now, but I remember one of the movie script sites pointing out how Brackett's script would have been a disaster in the hands of an unconstrained "I can render anything in my computer" prequel era Lucas. E.g. how Vader is introduced; in the Brackett script, we first meet him in his Vader office in a gigantic Vader city on the Vader planet, far away from the action, yelling "coordinates, man, coordinates!" at his Vader minions and striding around in his offices with a mighty Vader purpose. In the film, we meet him on the flight deck just as they've located the rebels. Much more efficient storytelling.
posted by effbot at 1:03 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


by taking away the obliqueness of references to things like the Clone Wars, they were always going to harm the impact of the original trilogy narrative, irrespective of their quality.

Yeah, this. One of the things that I always thought was charming about Star Wars was how it didn't necessarily explain every little thing. The universe just existed, and had its own history, and we the viewer were just sort of dropped into it.

I'm going to engage in some sacrilege here and say that's also a problem with TESB and RoTJ as sequels, too. Although the original three-movie trilogy is justly well-regarded, the original movie taken just on its own (as "Star Wars" rather than "Episode IV") is very strong. And part of the strength is in leaving some things, like who Vader is, unexplained.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:08 PM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


That dialogue is fucking painful.
posted by empath at 2:19 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought this looked familiar.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:59 PM on November 21, 2014


You miss nothing by skipping Episode 1.

I kind of miss the six act structure, so I throw in Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars (the traditionally animated one, not the CGI "The Clone Wars") between episodes 2 and 3.

I know Machete would relegate that to a "For the kids" appendix along with Episode 1, and the Ewok movies, but it fills in the gaps nicely without being overly long. You get a sense of what the conflict was like in the thick of it, and not just the opening and closing battles, and they also demonstrate why Grievous was someone to be feared instead of just a coughing, -handlebar-mustache- lightsaber twirling cybernetic Snidely Whiplash tying -Nell- Palpatine to the railroad tracks.

And it ends on a cliffhanger that leads you straight into episode 3 where it gets resolved in the first act, which makes up for the suspended version of the same that happens when you plug 2 and 3 between 5 and 6.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:00 PM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


As well as being a major figure in pulp-era SF.

Yeah, her novel "The Sword of Rhiannon" is a perfect example of its genre: sword and sorcery science fantasy. Like Conan but with ray guns.

She's a great writer, but her version of Empire was very old fashioned in its talky, dialog heavy way. No question that the Kasdan version is a huge improvement.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:24 PM on November 21, 2014


She's a great writer, but her version of Empire was very old fashioned in its talky, dialog heavy way. No question that the Kasdan version is a huge improvement.

The only part where I disagree is that Vader's pitch about the Dark Side was always pretty thin. Even a little more about the attraction of switching horses would have made the choice somewhat harder. In both Empire and Jedi, there's never even a moment of doubt in Luke, aside from the conflict about whether to kill his own father.
posted by dry white toast at 3:42 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


That dialogue is fucking painful.

You can type this shit, George, but you sure as hell can't say it.
posted by rokusan at 3:49 PM on November 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I guess, in the Star Wars universe... Jedis don't have doubt. If the force is strong in you, then there is no uncertainty. You just know that you're in sync with the cosmos. Vader's plan to recruit his son was never going to work, because the son was stronger than the father. Any chance of Luke turning to the dark side died in that cave on Dagobah.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:50 PM on November 21, 2014


>As well as being a major figure in pulp-era SF.

Her Black Amazon of Mars is on Project Gutenberg and every single page will paint a Frank Frazetta poster in your head. It's great stuff.
posted by Erasmouse at 4:09 PM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Related: The Hollywood Reporter posts its original 1978 TV review of the Star Wars Holiday Special. (Spoiler: they actually liked it.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:40 PM on November 21, 2014


Those complaining about the dialogue - it was a *first draft*. It would have improved; her work on other screenplays makes this pretty clear.

Don't be dissin' Brackett, lest we set the Hounds of Skaith on you.
posted by kyrademon at 4:43 PM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I kind of miss the six act structure, so I throw in Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars (the traditionally animated one, not the CGI "The Clone Wars") between episodes 2 and 3.


Tartakovsky's work is underappreciated IMNSHO. I like it. I think the reason [spoilers] that 3 fell flat for a lot of people was that they did NOT see Tartakovsky's work, which really filled a narrative gap in perhaps the best way possible. I'm glad they went through the effort, and I can see how 4-5-2-Clone Wars TOS-3-6 works.
posted by mikelieman at 11:11 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Editor Strikes Back
posted by thelonius at 12:01 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


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