8 Changes From the Original Star Wars Trilogy Drafts

The original designs for the Imperial Stormtroopers by artist Ralph McQuarrie, who would provide concept art throughout the original trilogy.
The original designs for the Imperial Stormtroopers by artist Ralph McQuarrie, who would provide concept art throughout the original trilogy.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images Entertainment

Very rarely does a movie completely nail its story on the first draft, and that's especially true when you're bringing a whole new world to the big screen. In 1974, George Lucas finished a rough draft for what would eventually become Star Wars, with multiple other drafts to follow, including one titled Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars.

Though fans like to think of Star Wars as a sprawling saga that was meticulously thought out from day one, it turns out Lucas made numerous changes to his core story, not only before the 1977 release of A New Hope, but all the way through the final film. Here are eight notable changes from those early drafts.

1. HAN SOLO HAD GILLS // STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE

Han Solo, everybody's favorite suave smuggler, originally wasn't going to be played by a young, handsome Harrison Ford. In fact, he wasn't going to be very human at all. In an early script for Star Wars, Solo was described as a tall, reptilian creature with green skin, no nose, and a hefty set of gills. As the drafts evolved, Star Wars slowly transformed from niche sci-fi/fantasy to a more relatable brand of space western; inevitably Han Solo turned into the space cowboy everyone knows today.

2. THE STORY OF MACE WINDU // A NEW HOPE

Despite what you've been led to believe, the Star Wars saga didn't just appear to Lucas in a fever dream one strange night—in fact, the first couple drafts of A New Hope are basically unrecognizable from what we know today. One of the biggest omissions in those first few attempts is Luke Skywalker himself. Instead, the movie originally involved a character named Mace Windu, with the script beginning with the impenetrable intro "The Story of Mace Windu: a revered Jedi-Bendu of Ophuchi who was related to Usby CJ Thape, Padawaan learner to the famed Jedi …"

The problem was that no one understood a word of it, and rightfully so. As the drafts evolved, Mace Windu was replaced by Kane Starkiller, who was eventually turned into the far more relatable Luke Skywalker. The character of Mace Windu did live on in the prequel trilogy, though all that "Jedi-Bendu of Ophuchi" nonsense was left on the cutting room floor.

3. FAMILIAR NAMES, NEW FACES // A NEW HOPE

Luke filled the typical Joseph Campbell hero mold in the first Star Wars trilogy, but the character was originally much different from the farm boy who left home to take on the Empire. In those early drafts, Luke Skywalker was a battle-worn war hero and one of the last surviving Jedi (called the Jedi-Bendu at first).

Vader was there, too, but without the trademark mask, cape, and intergalactic asthma—he was even known as General Vader at one point. In the beginning, he was conceived as an evil henchman for Prince Valorum, a masked Sith Knight tasked with hunting down the remaining Jedi-Bendu. Eventually Vader became an amalgamation of several characters throughout different drafts, with his signature mask coming from artist Ralph McQuarrie, who thought it necessary since Vader would literally be traveling from ship to ship in the vacuum of space.

4. NELLITH SKYWALKER// THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

The Skywalker family tree has more branches than a Colorado spruce, but the original draft for 1980's The Empire Strikes Back would have rattled the clan's genealogy even further. Written by Leigh Brackett, the first go-around at the movie's story did introduce the idea of Luke having a sister, but it wasn't Leia. Instead, the Princess remained a born-and-bred Organa, while Luke's twin was revealed to be a woman named Nellith.

At the same time Luke was training under Yoda, Nellith would also be learning the ways of the Force on the road to becoming a Jedi Knight. How this all was going to pan out is unknown, as it was supposed to be resolved in a third movie. But when this draft was rejected, so too was the story of Nellith.

5. ENDOR: HOME OF THE WOOKIEES // RETURN OF THE JEDI

It wasn't until 2005's Revenge of the Sith that fans finally got a glimpse of a full-fledged Wookiee army going into battle, but the original idea for 1983's Return of the Jedi had it happening nearly 20 years earlier. Instead of a battalion of teddy bears taking on the Empire for the final installment in the trilogy, Lucas wanted Endor to be the home of the Wookiees, culminating in a climactic battle between the two factions.

However, Lucas eventually felt that the Wookiees would be too technologically advanced for his vision of the story. He wanted to showcase a primitive species besting the evil Empire (a veiled metaphor for Vietnam), and apparently the Wookiees were a bit too tech-savvy for that to work. 

6. THE (ORIGINAL) DEATH OF HAN SOLO // RETURN OF THE JEDI

At this point, pretty much everyone knows that 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn't go according to plan for Han Solo. But before he was gutted by Kylo Ren, Harrison Ford and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan wanted Solo to sacrifice his life for the Rebel squad early in Return of the Jedi. Ford hoped that this would add some depth and gravitas to a movie that featured an elephant playing the keyboard. Plus, the actor has gone on the record to claim that Solo was never that interesting to him.

However, Ford said, "George didn't think there was any future in dead Han toys," so Solo was left amongst the living (for the time being). 

7. HAD ABBADON, ABANDONED // RETURN OF THE JEDI

The first two installments in the Star Wars trilogy showed the Empire's mammoth space stations and star cruisers littered throughout the galaxy, but Return of the Jedi was going to one-up that visual with an up-close look at the Empire's homeworld of Had Abbadon. This proposed city-planet was going to be the location of much of the film's action, including a lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader in the Emperor's fiery throne room.

So what happened? Logistically, putting a city-planet on film just wasn't feasible in the '80s. The massive sets, models, and matte paintings would be too cost-prohibitive, and even with a small fortune at his disposal, the technological advancements simply weren't in place to get the idea off the ground. The idea was revised in the Prequel Trilogy, though, with the introduction of the global metropolis of Coruscant.

8. TWIN DEATH STARS // RETURN OF THE JEDI

#McQuarrieMonday - A concept depicting a network of multiple Death Stars. pic.twitter.com/naEUSZOEn9

As interesting as the planet surface of Had Abbadon sounds, what's even more intriguing is what was set to orbit the Imperial capital: two massive Death Stars. Instead of the lone moon-sized space station from the final film, there were going to be twin destructive globes under construction around the planet.

Concept artist Ralph McQuarrie even produced some paintings of what the Death Stars were going to look like. While they never actually saw the light of day, elements of them seem to have inspired the look of the Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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HBO Max: Everything You Need to Know About the New Streaming Service

What will you binge-watch first?
What will you binge-watch first?
WarnerMedia

This week, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, the long-awaited streaming platform that the company hopes can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+. But with HBO GO and HBO NOW already in existence, the addition of a third platform for HBO content has caused no small amount of confusion among both prospective customers and current HBO subscribers. Here are answers to all your burning questions about the buzzworthy new service.

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is a direct-to-consumer streaming platform that you can download as an app or access through your cable or internet provider. Just like Apple has Apple TV+ and Amazon has Prime Video, WarnerMedia now has HBO Max.

How is HBO Max different from HBO NOW and HBO GO?

hbo max streaming platform
This user's viewing habits are eclectic, to say the least.
WarnerMedia

Before HBO Max, WarnerMedia had two different apps with the same library of HBO series and certain Warner Bros. films. HBO GO is for viewers who already pay for HBO through their cable TV provider, which is why you have to log in through your TV provider. HBO NOW is for independent subscribers who pay $15 a month for access to the same content. In other words, HBO GO is for customers with cable, and HBO NOW is for those without it.

Like HBO NOW, HBO Max is an independent subscription service that you don’t need a TV provider in order to access. The main difference comes down to content: While HBO NOW and HBO GO only include HBO series and some films, HBO Max offers tons of additional shows and films licensed from other distributors—plus new, exclusive originals (more on that in a minute).

How much does HBO Max cost, and how do I get it?

You can sign up for HBO Max here. Your first seven days will be free, and it will cost you $15 per month after that.

Do I already have access to HBO Max?

If you’re already an HBO NOW subscriber, your app should have automatically updated to the HBO Max app (if you don’t have automatic updates enabled, make sure to update it manually), and you can log into HBO Max using your existing HBO NOW credentials. Your recurring monthly payment of $15 will also now automatically start applying to HBO Max instead of HBO NOW.

If you watch HBO through your TV or mobile provider, there’s a good chance you can access HBO Max at no additional cost, too. Apple TV channels, AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Hulu, Spectrum, Verizon FIOS, Xfinity, and many other providers are included—you can see the full list here.

Which platforms will HBO Max be on?

You can stream HBO Max on your desktop on HBOMax.com, or you can download the app through the Apple app store, Google Play, or Samsung TV. You can also access HBO Max content on your TV through any of the providers listed here.

What's playing on HBO Max?

hbo max channel hubs
Elmo and James Dean in the same place, at last.
WarnerMedia

HBO Max boasts 10,000 hours of content that includes all HBO shows, many Warner Bros. films from the past century, new Max Original series, and other programs from CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, TCM, Adult Swim, and more.

To name a few highlights, the service currently offers all eight Harry Potter films, all 10 seasons of Friends, an exclusive selection of Studio Ghibli classics like Howl’s Moving Castle (2005) and Spirited Away (2002), and 2019’s Joker. The first few episodes of some highly-anticipated Max Originals are also available, including Anna Kendrick’s rom-com series Love Life, the voguing house reality competition Legendary, and Sesame Workshop's The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo (featuring guests Kacey Musgraves, John Mulaney, the Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, and more—so far).

Will I get to see the Friends Reunion?

Yes, the Friends reunion will definitely debut on HBO Max, but no air date has been confirmed yet. Production was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re tentatively hoping to film it sometime this summer. (But hey, at least you have access to all the other Friends episodes to help you pass the time.)