How much do you know about Star Wars? You might throw trivia at people like it’s 1981, but would you be able to name Luke Skywalker’s sister who by the way, isn’t Princess Leia? Gasp!! I know right.
Listen, anyone can flip open a Collector’s Edition encyclopedia or browse through Blu-Ray extras… but how much do you really know about that fabled galaxy far, far away? I’ve compiled a list of 15 Star Wars secrets that only true die-hards know about; bits of trivia from production sets, or juicy nuggets of information from early drafts of the movies. From facts about Lando Calrissian being a Clone, to Kylo Ren’s original name, to The Empire Strikes Back being an indie film… these are some deep cuts from the world of lightsabers and Force-wielders that isn’t on your regular “Did You Know” in-game loading screen. So sit back, relax, and let your mind absorb these paragraphs chock-full of geeky goodness so that the next time someone asks you what a “Starkiller” is, you can melt their faces with a verbal barrage of Star Wars history that they didn’t ask for… instead of boring them with the usual, “Isn’t that Kylo Ren’s base?” Welcome to the big leagues, kid. This isn’t your granddad’s Star Wars trivia sheet.
15. “Now, I Am Vader” – Luke Skywalker
Before there was Fight Club… before there was M. Night Shyamalan, there was George Lucas, master of the plot twist. As if revealing Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father didn’t already send a shockwave through the cinematic landscape (the ripple effects of which we can still feel today), he then dropped that giant bombshell about Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker being brother and sister! Without a doubt, George Lucas is the undisputed emperor of the plot twist.
But there was another, more sinister twist that Lucas had planned for Return Of The Jedi that didn’t quite make the cut. He wanted to complete his twist trifecta, his grand hat-trick, by turning Luke Skywalker into Darth Vader by the end of the third movie! After Vader would come back to the Light and reveal his true face in front of his son, Luke would pick up the helmet and put it on himself, thereby proclaiming “Now, I am Vader”, in a twist that would mirror Vader’s heart wrenching reveal in Empire. Thankfully, Lucas came to his damn senses and went with the ending we got, but storylines of Luke being seduced by the Dark Side have been considered way more than once. We’re just lucky Lucas wasn’t as trigger happy back then as he was with the prequels.
14. Lando Calrissian: Clone Wars Veteran
Lando Calrissian is probably the only man in a galaxy far, far away who can out-smooth Han Solo. The guy is cool, calm, cunning, and casual all rolled into a single character, which is what makes him such a favorite among Star Wars fans both young and old. But what if I told you that there may be tens, or even hundreds, of Landos out there across multiple solar systems? Suddenly he’s not such a one-of-a-kind guy, is he?
The concept of Lando Calrissian being one of a thousand clones was originally planned by George Lucas after they briefly teased the Clone Wars back in 1977. He thought it would make sense that Han’s old buddy used to be a clone who fought in the War, and then settled into his own routine once the battle was over. Thankfully, Lucas decided against this reveal and would only focus on the Clone Wars during the prequel trilogy, in which we learned that the clones were copy-paste versions of Jango Fett, father of famed bounty hunter, Boba Fett. As for Lando, we’ll get to dive into chunks of his backstory in May 2018 when Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover humbly takes the reigns of the character from the old guard, Billy Dee Williams.
13. Han Solo Was Killed Off In Carbonite
You would think that with the groundbreaking success of A New Hope, everyone would be quick to sign on for as many sequels as possible, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. In fact, there was a time when everyone in Lucasfilm, including George Lucas, didn’t know if Han Solo would be in Return Of The Jedi, which is why they killed him off in The Empire Strikes Back! Gasp! But wait, Han Solo didn’t die in The Empire Strikes Back, so what gives? Well, remember when he was frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba the Hutt as a trophy item? That plot was pretty much George Lucas killing off Han Solo as a backup plan in the event that Harrison Ford didn’t sign on for a third movie. We would have had a very different Return Of The Jedi, and Solo would have been frozen in carbonite forever. It’s actually pretty grim when you think about it.
Luckily Harrison Ford decided to sign on for a third film and the character of Han Solo would be an integral part in defeating the Empire, and would go on to live a long and happy life with nothing to worry about ever again.
12. Yoda Speaks The Truth
Speaking of crazy twists, that scene where Darth Vader reveals to Luke that he is the Jedi’s father might seem like a staple in pop culture now, but back when The Empire Strikes Back was still in cinemas, fans didn’t really buy into the reveal because they thought Vader was lying. Heck, even James Earl Jones, who voiced Darth Vader, said in an interview that he didn’t believe Vader was telling the truth! To make matters worse, fans sided with Obi-Wan’s story of Vader killing Anakin as the real deal, although we know now that Obi-Wan was so full of sh*t with that long-winded lie.
George Lucas even consulted a child psychologist who told him that kids under the age of 12 would pretty much dismiss Vader’s revelation as bull crap unless it was clearly reinstated as fact. So Lucas had to rely on the one character he knew audiences would buy more than Luke, Vader, and Kenobi combined: Yoda. In Return Of The Jedi, Lucas specifically added that scene with Luke going back to visit Yoda to put an end to all the speculation. When Luke asks Yoda to verify Vader’s claims, Yoda responds with a clear “Your father, he is”, forever ending all those wild speculations in one fell swoop.
11. Luke’s Sister Wasn’t Always Leia
One mystery that even the most die-hard Star Wars fans cannot figure out is who Yoda was referring to when he said “There is another”, in response to Obi-Wan claiming Luke Skywalker was their last hope of defeating the Sith. After Return Of The Jedi, it became clear that Yoda was (probably) talking about Princess Leia, who we all know is Luke’s sister and was even a potential Jedi. But if we rewind to a time before the trilogy was complete, we might find another answer to Yoda’s cryptic hints… because there was a time when Leia was never meant to be Luke’s sister at all, and his true sister was an all-new character named Nellith Skywalker! That’s right, George Lucas had originally planned a sequel trilogy that would take place after Return Of The Jedi with Nellith as its hero figure in place of Luke Skywalker. Much like Luke, Nellith was hidden at birth in another part of the galaxy, away from the gaze of the Empire. Her existence would be revealed to Luke during the Dagobah training scene, which is when audiences would have had their first hint of another savior. Does this mean that Luke would have eventually turned to the Dark Side, only to have his sister challenge his power much like he challenged his father’s? It’s an interesting storyline to ponder.
Unfortunately, filming The Empire Strikes Back took a toll on George Lucas’ personal life, which is why he scrapped the idea of a sequel trilogy and removed the concept of Nellith Skywalker altogether. Weirdly enough, throwing Nellith in the mix probably explains why there was a budding romance between Luke and Leia before Lucas made it gross with that siblings reveal. What’s even crazier is that now, four decades after the first Star Wars film changed pop culture forever, we have a female protagonist in Rey spearheading the new Star Wars trilogy; a concept George Lucas envisioned for his movies all those years ago.
10. Boba Fett’s First Appearance Wasn’t In Empire
Boba Fett is a true blue pop culture anomaly. He barely shows up in The Empire Strikes Back and then falls into a Sarlacc Pit in the opening sequence of Return of The Jedi, yet he’s such a beloved fan-favorite that his helmet has become an iconic Star Wars staple. Heck, no one even calls Boba Fett by name in the movies, and he still managed to become one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars galaxy! Maybe it’s because he looks like a badass shrouded in mystery and managed to outwit Han Solo, one of the slickest smugglers in this part of the universe.
But did you know that Boba Fett’s first appearance in Star Wars wasn’t in The Empire Strikes Back? It’s a little known fact, but Boba Fett was actually introduced in an animated segment in The Star Wars Holiday Special back in 1978! The movie is universally hated by Star Wars fans and Lucasfilm never acknowledges its existence (it has never been re-released), but one of the segments that stood out as surprisingly watchable was the one starring Boba Fett. And when George Lucas wants to promote a character, he goes all out to do it. Fett became the first action figure to be released from Empire which made fans even more curious as to the identity of this mysteriously masked bounty hunter.
9. Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye (The Original Star Wars Sequel)
Lucas always envisioned Star Wars as a saga spanning either three or six movies, but he also knew that A New Hope could flop at the box office. With that in mind, he hired novelist Alan Dean Foster to pen a sequel to the first Star Wars with one condition; it had to be deliberately low budget, avoiding big action scenes and expensive effects. The novel was called Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye. This was Lucas’ backup plan in the event Star Wars failed to make big money. In that scenario, he would just turn this book into a movie while reusing props and costumes from the old film. Splinter follows the story of a romantically-linked Luke and Leia as they are shipwrecked on a planet called Mimban. They soon learn of something called Kaiburr Cystals – rare stones with the power to amplify and magnify the Force. The duo desperately search for them, but Darth Vader and the Empire are not far behind. Han Solo isn’t even in this book because at the time, Harrison Ford hadn’t committed to doing more movies.
Obviously, Lucas didn’t need to go back to Splinter because the first Star Wars broke the box office and the director was able to start work on a big budget sequel… but fans still found elements in Splinter that they would have loved to explore. We see again how Leia was never meant to be Luke’s sister in early drafts of the trilogy, and the concept of Kaiburr (Kyber) Crystals finally came into major play in Rogue One. One aspect of the book that fans have begged for but never got was Leia having a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader. Now that would have been awesome!
8. Anakin and Vader Were Totally Different People
Everyone knows and accepts that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, but aficionados and cynics alike have always wondered if this was indeed George Lucas’ plan from the beginning… or something that was only decided after the first film. While the overall belief is that Lucas always knew Vader and Anakin are the same person, evidence of some very peculiar documentation says otherwise. The biggest telltale is in the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back screenplay – written by the legendary sci-fi author Leigh Brackett – in which Anakin Skywalker shows up as a completely separate character! In this version, Luke Skywalker travels to Dagobah to communicate with the spirit of his father, Anakin, who would appear as a Force ghost and teach his son the ways of the Jedi and the Force.
But with production looming closer and decisions needing attention, George Lucas flipped the script and turned Anakin and Vader into the same person somewhere in those rewrites. There’s also the possibility that George portrayed Anakin as a separate character in the early draft just to make that plot twist near the end all the more shocking. Or maybe Lucas truly believed that the Jedi in Anakin had to be destroyed in order to give rise to the monster known as Darth Vader.
7. George Lucas Self-Funded The Empire Strikes Back
Do you know that technically, The Empire Strikes Back qualifies as an indie film? It’s hard to fathom that one of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood history is an indie movie, but because George Lucas funded the entire production with his own cash (now you can imagine how much the first Star Wars made), it pretty much is just that!
George Lucas loves to have complete creative control over his projects, and rightfully so, because we’ve all heard horror stories of studio execs getting involved in the creative process and then f*cking up the entire movie. What’s even more ridiculous is that 20th Century Fox allowed Lucas to retain rights to all sequels because the studio “saw no future” for the series. Talk about being embarrassingly short-sighted. This basically meant that George Lucas could keep every dollar of profit that his movies made plus ancillary income – all that sweet moolah that comes from toy and merchandise sales. This horrendously huge amount of cash went into building Skywalker Ranch as well as a few philanthropic programs for film students. However, things changed slightly after Empire because of how the budget spiralled out of control, but you have to give it to Lucas for being ballsy enough to go into production for himself. The very thought of it is as radical now as it was back then.
6. NSYNC Was In Star Wars: Episode II
Star Wars movies are no strangers to big cameos. Everyone who’s anyone wants to be in a Star Wars flick, even if it isn’t for a big role. Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Keira Knightly, Rose Byrne, and Kevin Smith are just some of the names that have had cameos or secret roles in the Star Wars movies. But there was one big cameo that was filmed but never made the final cut… and it involved 90s pop boyband sensation, NSYNC! As if Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones wasn’t horrendous enough, Lucas decided to add all members of the boyband in a quick scene at the request of his daughters, who were obviously fans of Justin Timberlake and co.
Thankfully, amidst all those bad decisions Lucas was making with regard to the sh*tacular visual effects and convoluted storyline, he decided to wave “Bye Bye Bye” and leave the scene with NSYNC on the cutting room floor. It didn’t exactly save the movie, but seeing NSYNC pop up in the middle of a Star Wars flick would have been nothing short of cringe-worthy.
5. Kylo Ren’s Original Name Is “Starkiller”
I don’t care what people say, Kylo Ren is an awesome villain for the new Star Wars trilogy. He’s broken, extremely powerful with the Force, and completely f*cking unhinged, which is what makes him a dangerous and unpredictable adversary. But Kylo Ren didn’t always go by that name. Early drafts of The Force Awakens referred to the fallen Ben Solo as a name that many die-hard fans will find familiar; Starkiller!
The name “Starkiller” goes back a long way. George Lucas originally named Luke “Starkiller” instead of “Skywalker”, which makes you wonder if rumors of Luke falling to the dark side by the end of Return Of The Jedi actually held some truth to them. Early drafts of The Force Awakens spoke of Starkiller as a dangerously powerful Force wielder who could draw energy from nearby suns to augment and amplify his Force abilities. The character’s costume was also vastly different from Kylo’s wraith-esque garb, and there were also notes of a torture droid that followed him around as a sidekick of sorts… which is pretty cool if you ask me. Obviously the droid evolved into Captain Phasma and Starkiller became Kylo Ren. However, we still got to see the name Starkiller used in The Force Awakens as the planetary-system-destroying hub of The First Order, Starkiller Base!
4. Luke’s Hand Floating In Space
One of the most debated Star Wars topics in recent memory is the “Force Flashback” that Rey experiences when she comes into contact with the Skywalker lightsaber for the first time. We know that Obi-Wan speaks of Rey’s “first steps”, and we see and hear terrifying remnants of Darth Vader echoing through time and space. And then to cap it off, a thunderous shot of the feared Knights of Ren, before Rey is pulled back to reality. It’s all very mysterious and makes for some very interesting fan theories.
However, the scene was originally meant to show the journey of the lightsaber and how it got to Maz Kanata. Early drafts of the script described a much longer sequence that opens with Cloud City and the events of The Empire Strikes Back. The saber falls to the planet’s surface where it is discovered by a villager. It then travels from villager to junk dealer to collector to pirate, all across the galaxy, turning from weapon to relic to artifact of legend… until it comes into contact with Maz Kanata. Other drafts also noted how J.J Abrams wanted to open The Force Awakens with a shot of a severed hand floating through space, still gripping the lightsaber. Thankfully someone told him it was a stupid idea and we didn’t get an opening befitting a cheap slasher flick.
3. Poe Dameron Was A Short-Lived Character
Did it seem odd in The Force Awakens when Finn was convinced Poe Dameron died in the Tie Fighter crash, only to have him pop up later without any real explanation? Well, that’s probably because by all accounts, Poe Dameron was never supposed to make it back into the movie beyond that point. Yup that’s right, everyone including J.J Abrams killed off the character early in the screenplay… until actor Oscar Isaac himself convinced them to let Poe Dameron survive the crash! And we’re so happy he did! Poe is by far one of the most charismatic characters in the Star Wars universe, and we’re immediately invested in his story from the moment he opens the movie.
It would have been a terrible disappointment if the character got killed off in such an anticlimactic way. Interestingly enough, Poe Dameron went through a lot of changes before the filmmakers finally settled on the version we got. In drafts by Michael Arndt, and later, Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams, Poe was described as a bounty hunter who would bump into Rey and Finn during their journey. There were also rumors of Poe being a Jedi in training… which I have to admit, would have been pretty awesome as well.
2. Liam Neeson Didn’t Read The Phantom Menace
If you were given the opportunity to play a major role in a Star Wars movie, you’d take it in a heartbeat, right? That’s exactly what actor Liam Neeson did when he was offered the role of Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And while he was one of the better aspects of that movie, I wonder if he would have still accepted the part if he had read the script beforehand. That’s right folks, Master Qui-Gonn signed the dotted line without even reading the script for the movie!
And I don’t blame him. This was Star Wars after all, making a comeback 16 years after the last film. This was George Lucas himself returning to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker, of the Clone Wars, of the Sith resurgence, and of the Jedi. This was bound to be the biggest movie in cinematic history. Not even Liam Neeson could have known that he’d be spending his time delivering bad dialogue about midichlorians into an electric shaver. Not even Liam Neeson could have foreseen the bumbling mess that was Jar Jar Binks. So I guess I’m happy he didn’t read the script, because the only thing that could have made this movie worse is a bad actor trying to be a Jedi master.
1. Rey’s Original Name Was Kira
When I hear the name “Kira”, I think of a Lion King character from one of those awful straight-to-DVD sequels Disney churned out back when they were into that sort of thing. I’m wondering if that naming convention influenced Star Wars: The Force Awakens early on in the script, because for a long time, Rey was supposed to be called “Kira” in the movie. And that’s not all… back when Michael Arndt was penning the script, early placeholders for Rey were “Sally” or “Rachel”, which were obviously never meant to stick, while an early version of Kylo Ren was called “Jedi Killer” and Finn was originally named “Sam”. You have to admit “Jedi Killer” does sound pretty badass.
After deciding that the new trilogy would be led by a female protagonist – something that George Lucas had reportedly intended to do way back in the 70s for a sequel trilogy that would follow Return Of The Jedi – rumors started to spread that the lead character’s name would be Kira. It was only after these leaks that Disney officially revealed our mysterious protagonist’s name as simply… Rey. We’ll have to wait until Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi to see if a “Skywalker” or “Kenobi” surname will be attached to just “Rey”.