Despite his untimely “death” at the end of The Phantom Menace, cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi and sent tumbling into the depths of Naboo, Star Wars just can’t seem to quite Darth Maul. Years after his initial demise, Lucasfilm decided Palpatine’s former Sith apprentice had in fact survived the fall, and proceeded to bring him back in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, first as a rage-fueled monstrosity with spider legs made out of trash and later as a crime lord who at one point even ruled over Mandalore from the shadows. Most recently, we saw him return to live action in Solo: A Star Wars Story in a cameo that seemed to tease that there was still much more of his story to tell.
Yet, as Prequel Trilogy fans, the villain’s resurrection didn’t happen over night. It took over a decade, from his death in the 1999 blockbuster to his surprise return in 2012 in The Clone Wars episode “Brothers,” to bring him back to the galaxy far, far way.
But if George Lucas had gone with his original plan for the Prequel Trilogy, Maul would have returned much sooner and in a far more unlikely form. Speaking with Slashfilm, Clone Wars writer Henry Gilroy revealed Lucas’ alternate idea for the horned Sith’s comeback: “George was considering that Grievous was Maul behind the armor plate,” Gilroy admitted, referring to the cybernetic baddie and lightsaber aficionado General Grievous. According to Gilroy, under Lucas’ original plan, Grevious would have revealed his true identity to Obi-Wan before his death in Revenge of the Sith.
Grievous first appeared in Genndy Tartakovsky’s brilliant Clone Wars micro-series as a Separatist General obsessed with replacing his body parts with the droid equivalents and collecting the lightsabers of the Jedi he’d killed on the battlefield. Studying under the Sith Count Dooku, Grievous became a master of the lightsaber, despite having no Force abilities (the robot parts probably helped out there). He also has a fierce rivalry with General Kenobi, with the two facing off in a final duel in Revenge of the Sith that ends with the villain burnt to a crisp.
As strange as Lucas’ idea may sound now, the Maul connection made sense to Gilroy at the time. “[Maul]’s cut in half, and he’s in this robot body or whatever.”
And to be sure, Grievous does pop up into Revenge of the Sith with a real hatred for Obi-Wan, which, had he secretly been Maul all along, would have been an easy enough grudge to understand. When Maul did finally show up in The Clone Wars, he was hellbent on getting back at Kenobi and the Jedi, and was eventually refitted with cybernetic parts similar to Grievous.
In the end, Gilroy is happy with the way things turned out: “I’m glad that Grievous is his own thing anyway, but I thought it was interesting that the concept guys almost talked George into that.”
The question remains: will we ever see Maul back in live-action? There’s still plenty of stories to tell about the villain between the end of the Prequel Trilogy and his death at the hands of Kenobi in the Rebels animated series. And if we’ve learned anything in the last two decades, it’s that you can’t keep a good Star Wars character down.