Star Wars: Anakin Was Almost in The Force Awakens

How Anakin Skywalker almost made it into Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was originally called "Shadow of the Empire."

Over the past two years and chance, we’ve learned tons of secrets about the making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can find never-before-seen concept art from the film right here, for example. Oh, and there’s the little tidbit about just how involved George Lucas was in the creative process.

Then there’s this next behind the scenes tale revealed by Pablo Hidalgo, who sits on the Lucasfilm Story Group, over Twitter. Hidalgo revealed that The Force Awakens had a very different title in its early stages, one that will be very familiar to Star Wars Expanded Universe fans. The film was originally called Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire.

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Yes, that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Shadows of the Empire multimedia series from the 90s, which included a fantastic book, comics, and an equally awesome video game that took place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi

While Shadow of the Empire (yes, “Shadow,” not “Shadows”) might have been a fitting title for the film, you don’t have to really dig deep into this to understand why it was scrapped. The confusion the title would have caused due to its resemblance to the Legends stuff would have probably hurt the film in the end. And I think The Force Awakens is a good title, subdued like “A New Hope,” which, in retrospect, is probably something the Story Group was probably going for. 

This next bit of news might give you a migraine or cause you to Force choke a Stormtrooper. During the early stages of production, J.J. Abrams and friends considered including Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost in the film. According to The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Phil Szostak, there was early concept art of Hayden Christensen as an Anakin-Vader hybrid Force ghost. Check it for yourself:

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Artist Iain McCaig, who did this particular piece of concept art, said in the book:

When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow. That inspired me to propose, for the first time, that Anakin’s ghost could come back […] If we see Anakin Skywalker, because he does flow back and forth between Darth Vader and Anakin, let’s see him as a character with a dark and light side. The reason Luke is this whole new entity is because he was the first to acknowledge his own dark side — that it was not separate from him.

There were rumors during production that Hayden Christensen would appear in the new film, but it does seem like the idea was scrapped somewhere in the early days, although you could see where his appearance might have fit in. I think that Kylo Ren’s scene with the Darth Vader helmet was ambiguous enough to suggest that it might have included a conversation with the Force ghost in an earlier draft of the film. But that’s just me talking. 

Let’s just be glad this didn’t happen.