George Lucas has not made a Star Wars movie since Revenge of the Sith, but that hasn’t stopped him from imagining where his franchise might have gone. As long as there’s been a Star Wars series, Lucas has talked openly, even after selling Lucasfilm to Disney, about how his version would have wrapped up. The story of the Skywalker Saga, which will end in just a few weeks with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, has been in the planning for the better part of 50 years, and for most of those, the only person that could see the whole picture was George Lucas.
According to Mark Hamill, the first he heard of a proposed sequel trilogy was all the way back in 1976, on the set of the first Star Wars. Sitting in the desert between takes, Lucas told him that he planned 12 movies in this series, and that they’d film Episode 9 somewhere in 2011, when Hamill was the right age. And since then, it seems, Lucas never stopped planning those sequels. The filmmaker has kept the details of his future films under wraps over the years, but in 2012, when Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney, he finally started to open up about what Star Wars would have looked like if he remained at the helm. Here’s what could have been.
The characters of George Lucas’ Star Wars sequel trilogy
According to Lucas, there were always plans for a Star Wars sequel trilogy. But the conception of the story only started in earnest as he prepared to sell Lucasfilm, the idea being that he could send whichever conglomerate bought his company in the right direction on a new set of films.
During a Tribeca Film Festival panel in 2015, Lucas explained that his trilogy idea would have more or less picked up the mantle laid down by the Expanded Universe novels. Lucas wanted his sequels to represent yet another generational change. “The original saga was about the father, the children, and the grandchildren,” Lucas said during the panel.
Along with a return from the original cast, which we got in Disney’s sequel trilogy as well, Lucas’ sequels supposedly covered the stories of Anakin’s two grandchildren, who were supposed to be around 20 in the films, so it wasn’t “Phantom Menace again.” In the book, The Art of The Force Awakens, one of the characters, a Jedi named Kira, is described as a “loner, hothead, gear-headed, badass.” The other teen was most often referred to as Sam, and mostly appears depicted with a blaster, which seems to indicate that he didn’t have Force powers himself. Kira and Sam eventually morphed into Rey and some of Finn, which makes sense: Lucas had been developing his sequel movies with the help of screenwriter Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), who went on to receive a writing credit for The Force Awakens, the first of Disney’s trilogy.
Another major character who appears to have gotten a similar arc to their original version is Luke Skywalker. Phil Szostak, the writer behind the art books for both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, gave a small description of the Luke character in a tweet about Episode 8.
”So, the late-2012 idea of a Luke Skywalker haunted by the betrayal of one of his students, in self-imposed exile & spiritually in ‘a dark place’, not only precedes Rian Johnson’s involvement in Star Wars but J.J. Abrams’, as well,” Szostak wrote.
In 2018, concept artist Christian Alzmann posted a Lucas-approved image on Instagram that looks incredibly close to the version of Luke we see in The Last Jedi. The painted piece portrays a grizzled, older Luke Skywalker. “Luke was being described as a Col. Kurtz type, hiding from the world in a cave,” Alzmann wrote.
View this post on Instagram
My first image I made for Star Wars : The Force Awakens. This was January of 2013. Luke was being described as a Col. Kurtz type hiding from the world in a cave. I couldn’t believe I was getting to make this image and I got a George “Fabulouso” on it to boot. #starwars #lukeskywalker #conceptart #theforceawakens
The parts of Lucas’ Episode 7 that didn’t make the cut
One small detail we know about the story of the later Lucas trilogy is that it would have focused on diving into the “microbiotic world,” where viewers would learn more about the Force and the way it works. Lucas planned to dig deeper into the science of midi-chlorians, the biological explanation for the Force that was first mentioned (and contended with by fans) in The Phantom Menace.
For James Cameron’s 2018 Story of Science Fiction book, Lucas explained that his trilogy would have focused on “the Whills,” an ancient life form that fed on the Force. According to Lucas, the Whills essentially “are the Force.” The midi-chlorians within Force-sensitive beings communicate directly with the Whills, allowing the super-powerful beings to control the galaxy.
“Back in the day, I used to say ultimately what this means is we’re just cars, vehicles, for the Whills to travel around in […] We’re vessels for them,” Lucas said.
While the Whills would have been a new element added to Lucas’ sequel trilogy, they aren’t new creations. In Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplay, Lucas is quoted as saying that in an early version of the script for A New Hope, the entire story was going to be told from the perspective of the Whills.
”Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else (an immortal being known as a Whill); there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events,” Lucas told author Laurent Bouzerau. “I eventually dropped this idea, and the concepts behind the Whills turned into the Force. But the Whills became part of this massive amount of notes, quotes, background information that I used for the scripts; the stories were actually taken from the Journal of the Whills.”
Back in the mid-’70s, Lucas imagined the “Journal of the Whills” as the historical text of the Star Wars universe, the story of the galaxy as written by the Whills itself. (He gave his original 40-page outline for the saga the same name.) This eventually morphed into an early version of the original Star Wars script, subtitled From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills. As Bouzerau notes in the Annotated Screenplay, chapters of Dune, a clear inspiration to Lucas, also begin with excerpts from a fictional history text. No wonder Frank Herbert was a little peeved when Star Wars hit screens.
What Lucas thought of the actual Star Wars sequels
Disney did not move forward with Lucas’ vision for Episodes 7, 8, and 9. But what did he make of J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Kathleen Kennedy’s ultimate direction?
In a profile with The Washington Post published in the lead up to The Force Awakens premiere, Lucas compared selling Lucasfilm to a divorce and watching the movie after like reluctantly attending a wedding. “I gotta go to the wedding. My ex will be there, my new wife will be there,” said Lucas. “I’m going to have to take a very deep breath and be a good person and sit through it and just enjoy the moment, because it is what it is and it’s a conscious decision that I made.”
By the time The Force Awakens actually rolled around, Lucas had apparently seen it and had a slightly more amiable response. “I liked it,” Lucas said on the red carpet. “I think the fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for.” Alongside Lucas’ previous remarks about the version of the story he wanted, and the way he thinks fans would have reacted, the reaction reads like faint praise.
Lucas has always had a difficult relationship with Star Wars fandom, and classifying The Force Awakens as a movie it’ll like isn’t exactly an endorsement. According to the filmmaker, he’s always been disappointed that fans didn’t really, in his estimation, understand Star Wars, and to him Disney and J.J. Abrams’ film was a reaction to that fact.
“The issue was ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans.’ People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems – it’s not about spaceships,” Lucas said in an interview with CBS This Morning. “So they decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing so I decided, ‘Fine.’”
For all his struggles with Star Wars fans, particularly their reaction to the prequel trilogy. It does seem that George Lucas wanted his version of the story told. As much money as the Lucasfilm deal made him, it’s hard not to see Lucas as a little bit disappointed. Lucas himself may have summed his feelings up best in The Story of Science Fiction.
“If I’d held onto the company I could have done it,” Lucas told James Cameron. “And then it would have been done. Of course, a lot of the fans would have hated it, just like they did Phantom Menace and everything, but at least the whole story from beginning to end would be told.”