Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – How George Lucas’ Episode IX Was Different

George Lucas' version of Star Wars Episode IX would have looked really different from The Rise of Skywalker.

Ever since Star Wars returned to the big screen in 2015, there have been plenty of fans wondering about the Sequel Trilogy that might have been had Disney followed George Lucas’ outline for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. We’ve learned that Lucas’ ideas for VII influenced the story of The Last Jedi, and thanks to an IGN interview with Mark Hamill, we know what the father of Star Wars intended for the end of the Sequel era. 

For one thing, Lucas hadn’t planned to kill off Luke so soon: “I happen to know that George didn’t kill Luke until the end of [Episode] 9, after he trained Leia,” Hamill told IGN. “Which is another thread that was never played upon [in The Last Jedi].”

Yes, Lucas had planned to make Leia a Jedi by Episode IX. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has said in the past that IX would have been Leia’s movie (VII focused on Han Solo and VIII on Luke Skywalker’s legacy), and Carrie Fisher’s brother recently revealed that Leia was originally going to be “the last Jedi” left in The Rise of Skywalker. You can see how this plot line made its way into the Sequel Trilogy that made it onto the big screen. 

The Last Jedi featured a direct demonstration of Leia’s powers, of course, when she survived the cold and vacuum of space using only the Force, but it sounds like Lucas would have gone one step further and confirmed Leia’s Jedi status, giving her a similar path to what we saw in the old Expanded Universe (now known as the Legends timeline). By the end of Legends continuity, which expanded the Star Wars story to decades after the Return of the Jedi, Leia had become a powerful member of the Jedi Order.

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This major revelation about Lucas’ Episode IX also goes hand in hand with comments Hamill made last year about the direction TLJ director Rian Johnson decided to take with Luke’s story. Hamill expressed his reservations about Luke’s story arc back in December, saying, “He’s not my Luke Skywalker, but I had to do what Rian wanted me to do because it serves the story well.”

Hamill didn’t agree that Luke would give up on the galaxy the way he did after Ben Solo fell to the dark side and destroyed his Jedi academy. 

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About The Rise of Skywalker

“I said to Rian ‘Jedis don’t give up,'” Hamill said in that interview back in December. “I mean, even if he had a problem, he would maybe take a year to try and regroup. But if he made a mistake, he would try and right that wrong. So right there we had a fundamental difference, but it’s not my story anymore. It’s somebody else’s story – and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective.”

At SXSW (via Indiewire), Hamill said that his initial reaction to learning Luke would die in VIII was to ask if the character’s demise could be pushed to IX.

My first reaction was, ‘Can’t we push this off until [Episode] 9? Luke eventually does the right thing selflessly for the good of the Rebel Alliance, and [I realized] I should do the selfless thing for the betterment of the movie. Seriously. I’m not trying to be self-aggrandizing, I’m just saying, in the greater scope of things, number one, I never expected to come back, so this is all like found money.

Hamill has made it no secret that he wishes Disney had followed Lucas’ original outline for the Sequel Trilogy more closely. When the House of Mouse bought the rights to Star Wars in 2012, the purchase included Lucas’ notes for the new trilogy. Lucas was also going to serve as creative consultant on the new movies but decided to part ways when Disney made it clear that it was going to scrap his ideas and go in a different direction. That said, Lucas did sit in on the earliest creative meetings for The Force Awakens

Lucas’ plan for the Sequel Trilogy wasn’t entirely fleshed out, Hamill explained to IGN. The actor said that Lucas had an overall outline for the movies, which differs from the way Disney has been operating, passing on the baton from director to director. 

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Said Hamill: 

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.

Ryan didn’t write what happens in 9 – he was going to hand it off to, originally, Colin Trevorrow and now J.J. […] It’s an ever-evolving, living, breathing thing. Whoever’s onboard gets to play with the life-size action figures that we all are.

Daisy Ridley separately revealed that J.J. Abrams had written scripts for Episode VIII and IX as more cohesive follow-ups to The Force Awakens, but that Johnson had decided to scrap the VIII script for his own take – one closer to Lucas’ original vision.

There’s one other major element missing from Disney’s Sequel Trilogy that Lucas was keen on exploring in his own version: midi-chlorians and their connection to the mythical beings known as the Whills. Midi-chlorians of course are the much-maligned microscopic lifeforms that enable people to use the Force, as explained in The Phantom Menace. The higher the midi-chlorian count, the more powerful in the Force a Jedi or Sith is. The Whills, microbiotic beings who feed off the Force and witness and record galactic events (Lucas once considered the Whills as the narrators of the Star Wars saga), have been around since Lucas’ earliest drafts of the original Star Wars. Lucas meant for the Sequel Trilogy to finally decipher the mystery behind the Whills.

“[The next three Star Wars films] were going to get into a microbiotic world,” Lucas said in segment from James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction. “There’s this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force. Back in the day, I used to say ultimately what this means is we were just cars, vehicles, for the Whills to travel around in. We’re vessels for them. And the conduit is the midi-chlorians. The midi-chlorians are the ones that communicate with the Whills. The Whills, in a general sense, they are the Force.”

What we can take this to mean is that Lucas’ story, and Episode IX by extension, would have delved deeper into the mysteries of the Force. But it seems even Lucas was uncertain of this direction after the reception his first attempt at explaining the Force received in 1999.

“If I’d held onto the company I could have done it, and then it would have been done,” Lucas said. ”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.”

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One plotline that remained from Lucas’ original vision for Episode IX is a final, decisive showdown with Emperor Palpatine. Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz told IGN in 2002 that, while working on the Original Trilogy in the ’70s and ’80s, Lucas had “enough material for three earlier films and three later films, to make a total of nine, and there were outlined materials certainly for a later three that culminated with this big clash with the Emperor in Episode IX.”

It’s unclear if this was still the plan by 2012, as Lucas’ plans for the Skywalker saga continued to evolve over time. At one point, for example, Lucas had planned to make 12 Star Wars movies in total. That said, things like the look of the Emperor’s throne in The Rise of Skywalker date back to Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the Original Trilogy, meaning some of the visual language originally considered by Lucas has made its way into Abrams’ movie. 

In the end, we likely won’t know just how much the Sequel Trilogy took from Lucas’ original outline until The Rise of Skywalker has had its go in theaters. What we do know is that things would be just a bit different had Lucas stuck around for one more trilogy.

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John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9

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