5 Axed Ideas From the Original Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Script

Lucasfilms
Lucasfilms

By December 1977, not even a year after the original Star Wars hit theaters and became the all-time domestic box office champ, a science-fiction writer named Leigh Brackett was already at her typewriter, clacking away at the script for the next chapter in creator George Lucas's nascent blockbuster franchise.

Known as the "Queen of Space Opera" for her work in sci-fi magazines like Planet Stories and Astounding Science Fiction in the ‘40s and ‘50s, Brackett certainly understood what it took to make an entertaining piece of space fantasy. She had even found success in Hollywood, having written screenplays for The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), and The Long Goodbye (1973). Armed with a deep understanding of the genre, bona fide screenwriting chops, and Lucas’s own story outline to follow, it seemed like the perfect recipe to deliver the follow-up fans were waiting for. But, what Brackett wrote [PDF] was far from what Lucas had in mind.

The characters in Brackett's script just didn’t sound like they were supposed to, according to George Lucas: A Life, and there were story decisions that were inconsistent with the first movie (her script implied it was Luke who damaged Darth Vader’s Tie-Fighter in A New Hope rather than Han, for example). Many of Lucas's notes just consisted of him scribbling “NO” on parts of the draft he wanted removed wholesale, and director Irvin Kershner wasn’t happy with the snow battle or the ending, as detailed in The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Unfortunately, before Lucas could give Brackett notes for a second draft, she had taken ill and passed away soon after from cancer at just 62. Though she received a writer’s credit for her script, much of the final product was penned by Lawrence Kasdan, who’d go on to write Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi for Lucas. Still, Brackett’s original draft for what would become The Empire Strikes Back remains one of the franchise’s more intriguing "what if?" stories. And here are some of the original ideas from that script that never saw the light of day.

1. Darth Vader wasn’t going to be Luke Skywalker’s father.

There’s a thought out there that the complicated Skywalker family tree was all part of George Lucas’s plan from the beginning. But if it was, he must have forgotten to let Brackett in on the secret, because while she did reveal Luke’s father in this script, he certainly wasn’t wearing a black cape and mask.

Like in the final script, Luke still trains with Yoda (who is referred to as "Minch" in the first draft) on a swamp planet as he prepares to become a Jedi and fight Vader. In Brackett’s version, however, one of Minch’s final tests is for Luke to conjure up Obi-Wan's Force ghost for guidance, since dead Jedi can't just appear at will. Not only does Kenobi show up when Luke calls for him, but he brings Luke’s unnamed father's Force ghost (he’s just called “Skywalker”) along for the trip.

It’s here where Luke’s father makes his son take the (ridiculous sounding) Jedi oath, and afterward Minch, Obi-Wan, and Skywalker officially declare Luke a Jedi Knight by literally knighting him with their lightsabers during an induction ceremony, according to Den of Geek's script breakdown. Though not much is revealed about the elder Skywalker, it could be that he was a victim of Darth Vader's Jedi purge after the Clone Wars, as Obi-Wan detailed in the original.

2. Luke was going to have another sister (and he loses Leia to Han).

If that wasn’t enough, it's also revealed that Luke has a twin sister named Nellith somewhere out in the galaxy, according to his father. We never actually meet Nellith in the script, and the whole subject is dropped almost instantly, but it's possible her role was meant to be expanded upon in later movies, as producer Gary Kurtz once spoke about at a fan convention. Because of this new wrinkle, Leia has nothing to do with the Skywalker family and was probably never meant to be Luke's sister until the Return of the Jedi writing process was underway.

This means the love triangle that Brackett presents between Luke, Han, and Leia early on in the movie is far less creepy than it could have been. But even that doesn't last long, because once Han and Leia are alone on the Millennium Falcon in the second act, their hands are all over each other. And because Star Wars is nothing if not romantically awkward, they're usually watched by Chewie and C-3PO as they kiss, with Threepio remarking, "I’ve never been able to understand the pleasure human beings get from placing their mouths together."

3. Darth Vader lived in a giant castle with his pet gargoyles.

With the familial conflict missing, Darth Vader doesn’t have a whole lot to do in Brackett’s draft; he basically spends his time searching for Luke through the Force from across the galaxy until their eventual face-to-face showdown at the end of the movie. But while Vader lacks the imposing presence he has in Empire, he does have one thing the final product does not: A giant castle where he can brood in the company of his pet gargoyles.

Described as “black iron that squats on a rock in the midst of a crimson sea,” this castle is where Vader feeds his winged pets from a big gold bowl and attempts to use Force telepathy to seduce Luke to the Dark Side. But the whole scene gets spoiled when the Emperor calls him on a video chat and basically chews him out for not just killing Skywalker in person. It wouldn't be until 2016's Rogue One that Darth Vader's castle actually makes the jump to the screen.

4. Lando CAlrissian was a clone.

Until Attack of the Clones was released in 2002, the only clue fans had about the Clone Wars was the one throwaway reference Obi-Wan made during A New Hope, fueling decades of theories and speculation. If Brackett had her way, though, we would have gotten answers far sooner, because her version of Lando Calrissian (Lando Kadar here) would have actually been a clone of a solider from the original war.

In Lando’s case, he was cloned from his great-grandfather in order to keep his bloodline pure, and he was originally conceived as having the genetically perfect good looks of a Rudolph Valentino-type, according to the Blast Points podcast episode about the script. This version of Lando gets introduced when Han and Leia visit “Hoth” while fleeing from the Empire. Here, Hoth is the name of what would become Cloud City, and the city’s natives are described as noble beings with white skin and white hair that travel through the skies on giant manta rays (think the Kaminoans from Attack of the Clones.)

5. Han Solo’s stepfather was the key to victory.

So much of Han Solo’s appeal comes from his loner status (it’s literally in his name), but in this draft, he gets involved in some very Star Wars-y family drama when it’s revealed that he has an estranged stepfather named Ovan Marekal, the head of the Transport Guild and one of the most powerful men in the galaxy behind Emperor Palpatine and Vader.

It’s Leia who convinces Solo to reach out to Marekal to join the Rebel Alliance and use his influence to help take down the Empire, but before we see how it plays out, the script ends. Han’s journey to meet his stepfather is basically the cliffhanger at the end of the movie—there’s no Boba Fett or carbonite freezing chamber in sight. And like Nellith before him, Ovan Marekal winds up a casualty of later rewrites.

Celebrate Season 2 of The Mandalorian With These 10 Products

LEGO/Amazon
LEGO/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The second season of The Mandalorian is here, and that means a tidal wave of new merchandise is already on store shelves for eager fans to devour. And, of course, when we're talking about Mandalorian merch, we're really talking about anything with Baby Yoda's face printed onto it. And there's plenty of that available for the series' sophomore season on Disney+, whether you want to invest hours in a new LEGO set or just want to kick back and have a drink out of a Baby Yoda-shaped tiki mug. Check out some of our favorite products below.

1. Star Wars: The Mandalorian Polaroid Camera; $140

Polaroid/Amazon

Polaroid cameras are as classic as Star Wars itself, so this collaboration feels natural. The instant camera has The Mandalorian logo etched onto it, and the unique i-Type film prints photos with little Baby Yoda illustrations decorating the borders.

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2. Amazon 3rd Generation Echo Dot The Child Stand; $25

Otterbox/Amazon

Amazon Echo Dots have become so popular, it seems most homes have a couple lying around. With this Baby Yoda stand, you can make sure you'll always know which one is yours. The iconically elongated ears will brighten up any Star Wars fan’s room and get them ready for the new season of the show.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars: The Mandalorian Marshmallow Cereal; $11

General Mills/Amazon

It feels like cereal hasn’t changed too much over the past couple of years, which is why this Mandalorian cereal is a real treat. It's not just that Baby Yoda's grinning on the box; the cereal itself also has marshmallow pieces shaped like the character.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Baby Yoda Socks; $11

Disney

Even your feet can join in on the Mandalorian hype with this set of Baby Yoda socks from Disney.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Stanley Mandalorian Insulated Mugs; $30-$35

Stanley/Amazon

The famous thermos mug brand, Stanley, has teamed up with Disney to create three exclusive bottles featuring imagery from The Mandalorian. The models include a vacuum bottle with The Mandalorian logo, a trigger-action mug showcasing The Child, and an insulated tumbler with Mando's helmet on it. And since these are from Stanley, you know your drinks will be kept at just the right temperature for up to 24 hours.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Mandalorian-Themed Monopoly; $30

Hasbro

The world of intergalactic bounty hunting makes a seamless transition into Hasbro’s classic game of property management and armchair capitalism in this special edition of Monopoly. Here, staples like Park Place and Baltic Avenue are replaced by the Armorer’s Workshop and a Jawa Camp, with boot and thimble tokens making way for Mando, Baby Yoda, and Moff Gideon pieces.

Buy it: Amazon

7. LEGO Razor Crest Ship; $130

LEGO/Amazon

Mando’s bulky star cruiser is one of the most memorable additions to the Star Wars ship library since the Disney acquisition. This 1023-piece LEGO set allows you to recreate the vessel brick by brick. The Razor Crest set even opens up to reveal a cargo hold, cockpit, and an escape pod—which are all the perfect size to fit the minifigures of Mando, Greef Karga, and Baby Yoda that come along with it.

Buy it: Amazon

8. 10-Inch Chrome Mandalorian Funko Pop!; $40

Funko/Amazon

If any duo deserved an extra-large Funko Pop!, it’s this one. Here, the Mandalorian, real name Din Djarin, is decked out in a special chrome helmet variant meant to resemble his fancy beskar armor. In his clutches is Baby Yoda, and the pair strikes a pose that's perfect for displaying on a desk or bookshelf.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baby Yoda Tiki Mug; $27

Geeki Tiki/Toynk

This tiki mug is firmly in the “at this point, why not?” category of Baby Yoda merchandise. At 16 ounces, it’s an adorable vessel for your favorite island drink, ensuring that even your beverages are on brand while you binge the latest season of The Mandalorian.

Buy it: Toynk

10. Baby Yoda 39-Inch Area Rug; $50

Robe Factory LLC/Amazon

For floors that have a distinct lack of Baby Yoda, this 39-inch area rug sports a vivid illustration of everyone’s favorite pint-sized Force wielder sitting in his adorable floating bassinet. Made of 100 percent polyester, this rug would be right at home in your bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom.

Buy it: Toynk

Related: 11 Great Gifts for Star Wars Fans

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.