We now live in a world where there's going to be a new "Star Wars" movie every year for possibly decades to come. But even with that embarrassment of nerd riches, we can't help but dwell on the Star Wars movies that never were.
"Star Wars" (1977)
1. "Journal of the Whills"George Lucas had already begun writing "Star Wars" in earnest as early as 1973, but the early drafts bore little resemblance to what fans would actually see on the big screen.
The earliest incarnation of "Star Wars" came in the form of a two-page treatment called "Journal of the Whills," which revolved around a character named CJ Thorpe, a pupil of "Jedi-Bendu" master Mace Windy. Basically, the treatment featured a bunch of weird names and concepts that Lucas had yet to forge into a real story.
2. "The Star Wars"Eventually, Lucas managed to expand that early treatment into a full script he dubbed "The Star Wars." The original screenplay features characters like General Luke Skywalker and brothers Deak and Annikin Starkiller. Han Solo and Chewbacca were also present, though at that point Han was envisioned as a reptilian alien (see above). Elements like the Sith Empire and the Death Star were also present in this early draft.
"The Star Wars" evolved over the course of several drafts, with each new iteration bringing the story closer to what fans know today. But for those curious about what might have been, Dark Horse Comics published a 2013 mini-series -- cover art above -- that adapts the original screenplay.
"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
3. Leigh Brackett's Draft
Not her fourth draft, which many fans have read and debated over at conventions. No, this is the plot from her first draft -- and it has very, very little in common with the film we all know and love.
Here, Han Solo goes in search of his father-in-law, Ovan Marekal, who has political ties with Darth Vader. Luke still goes to Dagobah, but here, it's just "the Bog Planet." And instead of meeting Yoda, he meets a frog-like Jedi named Minch, who teaches our favorite intergalactic farm boy the ways of the Force.
In 1978, Lucas gave the screenwriter a shot to write the then-untitled sequel. He hired her based on her promising and prolific work as a science fiction author. (That explains the very prose-y way the script reads.) Brackett would never get to see how the final film turned out; she died one year after she turned in her script.
"Return of the Jedi" (1983)
4. The Early Lucas/Kasdan DraftsWhile it's not clear exactly how many revisions the "Return of the Jedi" screenplay went through during pre-production, over the years both Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan have revealed many major and minor edits that were made.
Early on, the duo had to account for the very real possibility that Harrison Ford might not return. At one point, the film featured an early death for Han and didn't include Yoda at all. Early drafts also featured Wookiees in place of Ewoks, the resurrection of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a spaghetti Western-worthy denouement as Luke walks sadly into the sunset instead of partying it up on Endor.
5. Steven Spielberg or David Lynch's "Return of the Jedi"Even after Lucas and Kasdan completed their screenplay, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to who would actually direct the film. At varying points, Lucas approached David Lynch (who opted for for rival space fantasy film "Dune" instead), David Cronenberg (who did the same for "Videodrome") and even Steven Spielberg.
We can't help but wonder how a Spielberg-directed "Episode VI" might have turned out. Would it still be considered the weak point of the Original Trilogy?
"The Force Awakens" (2015)
6. Lucas' Sequel Trilogy
Lucas has given conflicting reports over the decades as to whether he ever planned to continue his "Star Wars" saga beyond the events of "Return of the Jedi." But when he sold the franchise to Disney in 2012, Lucas reportedly handed over story treatments for "Episodes VII," "VIII" and "IX." Little is known about the content of those treatments, other than the fact that Disney elected not to make use of them.
Novelist Timothy Zahn offered probably the closest glimpse into Lucas' plans for the sequel trilogy, saying "The original idea as I understood it -- and Lucas changes his mind off and on, so it may not be what he's thinking right now -- but it was going to be three generations. You'd have the original trilogy, then go back to Luke's father and find out what happened to him, and if there was another seventh, eighth, or ninth film, it would be Luke's children."
7. The Michael Arndt Draft"The Force Awakens" went through many rewrites before Disney and J.J. Abrams settled on a final shooting script, as the studio understandably wanted to make a good impression with jaded "Star Wars" fans.
We don't know a great deal about the plot of Michael Arndt's original draft, other than the fact that it brought Luke Skywalker into the plot midway through rather than at the very end of the film. But even Arndt admitted that Luke's presence distracted from the new cast of characters.
We also know that earlier drafts of the screenplay featured Rey having a flashback to Luke and Vader's fateful duel on Cloud City, and Poe dying when his stolen TIE Fighter crashed on Jakku. Thankfully for all the Poe/Finn shippers out there, he was later spared that fate.
"Rogue One" (2016)
8. The Original Cut
"Rogue One" worried a great many "Star Wars" fans once word got out that Disney was moving forward with weeks of extensive rewrites and reshoots in summer 2016, a process that was overseen by Tony Gilroy rather than director Gareth Edwards. The goal was apparently to craft a lighter, more adventurous take, with many Disney and Lucasfilm higher-ups fearing the project was veering in too dark a direction. (Also, they had concern that Edwards' sense of story was less-than-strong for what they needed their first "Star Wars" film post-"TFA" to be.)
The early trailers for "Rogue One" offer a taste of the film as it existed in its original form, as they feature many shots that were entirely absent in the final cut. That includes a glimpse of Director Krennic and his Stormtroopers wading through the beach on Scarif, alternate scenes with Vader, and a sequence where Jyn and Cassian charge directly into fire from a fleet of AT-ACT Walkers.
9. The "Happy Ending" Version"Rogue One" is notable for its relatively dark ending, as the film's entire cast of heroes is killed during the Battle of Scarif. But that wasn't always the case.
Writer Gary Whitta revealed that early drafts of the screenplay provided a happier ending for Jyn and Cassian (while other characters like Baze, Bodhi and Chirrut were completely absent). The film would have ended with Jyn and Cassian escaping the planet's surface and surviving the destruction of their ship by fleeing into an escape pod.
But Whitta ultimately decided it just wasn't worth the effort, saying "The fact that we had to jump through so many hoops to keep them alive was the writing gods telling us that if they were meant to live it wouldn't be this difficult." That alternate ending exists only in storyboard form.