Creatively and commercially, the Star Wars series hasn’t missed a beat since it passed from the hands of its creator, George Lucas, to a new generation of filmmakers who grew up immersed in the adventures of that far, far away galaxy. The first three films of the post-Lucas period — The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi — have won strong reviews (as well as multiple Oscar nominations) and occupy the top three slots on the franchise’s overall box-office chart. Nevertheless, one question can’t help but loom over this era of Star Wars, like those dual suns shining above Tatooine: What would George do (WWGD)? The exact details of Lucas’s plans for his galaxy in the wake of Return of the Jedi are a hotly debated topic in Star Wars circles, in large part because they kept shifting, and the writer/director himself has mostly declined to clean up the historical record.
Erstwhile Jedi Master Mark Hamill, on the other hand, is more than happy to wade into the fray. The dearly departed Luke Skywalker (RIP?) recently set off a tempest in a TIE Fighter when he spilled details about Lucas’s original ending for the ninth — and likely final — episode in the Skywalker saga, which is currently being co-written and directed by the director of The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams. “I happen to know that George didn’t kill Luke until the end of [Episode] 9, after he trained Leia,” Hamill confessed to IGN. “Which is another thread that was never played upon [in The Last Jedi].” And, according to Hamill at least, Lucas had a lot of threads that haven’t been woven into the latter-day sequel series. “George had an overall arc — if he didn’t have all the details, he had sort of an overall feel for where the [sequel trilogy was] going — but this one’s more like a relay race. You run and hand the torch off to the next guy, he picks it up and goes.”
In The Last Jedi, of course, writer/director Rian Johnson gave Luke an unexpected, but ultimately heroic farewell, Force-casting himself across the galaxy from Ahch-To to Crait and distracting Kylo Ren just long enough to allow the ragtag Resistance fighters — led by his twin sister — to escape and fight another day. Johnson also made it clear that Leia didn’t require Luke’s tutelage to get in touch with her inner Jedi, as she ably used the Force to escape an icy grave in the vacuum of space. Instead, Rey took on the role of Luke’s designated disciple — not that he was all that eager to teach her.
Interestingly, Johnson’s bold story choices have their roots in Lucas’s plans for Episodes VII-IX … one version of them anyway. As detailed in the lushly illustrated coffee-table book, The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, story treatments that Lucas penned in 2010 placed Luke on the remote island that became Ahch-To, home of the first Jedi Temple and a gaggle of tasty porgs. It’s here that he grudgingly took on a padawan in the form of Kira — not Leia — a female Jedi in training who evolved into Rey.
So where does the “Luke training Leia” scenario that Hamill describes come from? You’ll likely have to go back further in Lucas’s archives to find evidence of that “original” original ending. In the wake of The Phantom Menace‘s release in 1999, producer Gary Kurtz outlined how his former collaborator’s nine-film series was supposed to unfold, with Princess Leia rising in rank to Queen Leia (and losing her status as a Skywalker) around Episode VI, and Luke meeting his for-real sister in Episode VIII.
Meanwhile, Lucas biographer Dale Pollock has said that when he wrote his 1983 book Skywalking, he was granted permission to read the treatments for what would have been a sprawling 12-part franchise, elements of which were eventually collapsed into Return of the Jedi. Hamill himself referred to that 12-part version in 2004, saying that Lucas planned to have Luke pass off the baton, uh, lightsaber, to a new Jedi Master in Episode IX of XII.
Perhaps one day Lucas will share his various endings with the world. For now, though, The Last Jedi brings Luke’s journey to a moving conclusion … at least until he inevitably returns as a blue-hued Force Ghost in Abrams’s trilogy-capper. Not that Hamill is spilling the beans about his alter ego’s future. “No one’s really talked to me about it,” he said (rather unconvincingly) to IGN. If he’s telling the truth, though, Episode IX could be a finale free of the original generation of Skywalkers, as Carrie Fisher’s tragic death in 2016 means Leia won’t be part of the Resistance’s final battle. We like to think that they are both one with the Force, training each other in the art of being better Jedi.
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