Study Guide

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Screenwriter

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George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan

A Restless Red Pen

Luke Starkiller. It's got a nice—albeit kind of sinister—ring to it, right?

Star Wars creator George Lucas is famous, and downright infamous, for making revisions to his screenplays. In early drafts of the first Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke was originally a Starkiller, which sounds significantly less Jedi-riffic than the Skywalker that he would become in later drafts. Lucas' writing and rewriting efforts, which span all six of the first Star Wars films, prove that it's never too late to change your mind and flip your script.

Third Time's the Charm

By the time Return of the Jedi rolled around, Lucas had already knocked out two Star Wars films: A New Hope, which he wrote and directed, and The Empire Strikes Back, for which he has a story credit, which means he didn't write the script, but he came up with a heck of a lot of ideas.

Lucas returned to full-on screenwriting with Return of the Jedi, and enlisted the help of Lawrence Kasdan. Odds are, Kasdan has written some of your favorite movies—and some of your parents' picks, too. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Big Chill. The Bodyguard. All Kasdan screenplays.

By the time Kasdan and Lucas got down to business on the Return of the Jedi script, they'd already collaborated twice before: on the aforementioned Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well as on Jedi's predecessor, The Empire Strikes Back. In other words, when it comes to a certain galaxy far, far away, these two dudes knew what they were doing.

Lucas and Kasdan's past successes didn't take the pressure off the Jedi writing process—we mean, they were still trying to tie up all the loose ends of a monstrously successful trilogy—but they did squash at least some of the stress.

"We'd proved we could [write a sequel], so now it was just a matter of doing it again," Lucas told author J. W. Rinzler. "And the second one had done really well, so we knew the third one would do really well. By then a lot of the uncertainty had been taken out of the process."

Hundreds of millions of dollars and adoring fans worldwide will do that for you.

Say It Ain't So-Lo!

Lucas and Kasdan may have known they had the goods, but that doesn't mean they didn't have to duke it out over a few plot points. For example, Kasdan wanted to bump off Han Solo early in the script in order to amp up the tension and show audiences that no character was safe. Lucas said no. We all know who won that fight. Kasdan may have co-written Return of the Jedi, but, at the end of the day, the Star Wars saga is Lucas' baby.

To Revise or Not to Revise, That is the Question

For Return of the Jedi's rereleases in theatres and on disc, Lucas and Kasdan continued making revisions to the flick 14+ years after its release, proving that there's no such thing as "too much time" when it comes to letting your drafts cool between revisions—you know, as long as you don't have your English grade on the line.

Take the galaxy-wide victory parties after the Rebels defeat the Empire, for example, where we see celebrations on a handful of different planets. Those scenes were added to the movie for the 1997 Special Edition rerelease, but Lucas and Kasdan had wanted to include them all along.

Why didn't they? They couldn't think of a name for the planet that would ultimately be called Coruscant, so they junked the entire idea. "It was only after Timothy Zahn came up with the name in his Heir to The Empire novel that the Imperial Capital had a name," explains Wired's Graeme McMillan.

Wait—there's more! Lucas made a boatload of other revisions to Return of the Jedi, like adding more musicians to Jabba's funky palace band and swapping in Hayden Christensen's young Anakin for Sebastian Shaw's older Anakin in the film's finale. Some fans were delighted and happily rolled with the changes.

Others, not so much. In fact, some fans and critics have accused Lucas of straight-up ruining the Star Wars trilogy with his rewrites. Others have taken it upon themselves to personally restore the films to their original versions.

Lucas' response? "It's like this is the movie I wanted it to be," he said of his revised rereleases, "and I'm sorry if you saw a half completed film and fell in love with it, but I want it to be the way I want it to be."

In the end, whether you love Lucas'senthusiasm for revision or you loathe the Star Wars mastermind's constant tinkering with his scripts, one thing remains rock-solid. It's Lucas' movie, and he'll revise if he wants to.

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