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Behind the Secrets of 'The Force Awakens'

Behind the Secrets of 'The Force Awakens'

To bring Star Wars: The Force Awakens to screens, and to recapture the tone and texture of the original Star Wars trilogy, the creative team behind the newest Star Wars adventure studied some classic sources. What they found drove the direction of this seventh episode in the saga, and in ways you probably didn’t expect. Warning: Some of these may be considered SPOILERS.


Starkiller Was Originally Luke’s Name

In the earliest drafts of what would later become George Lucas’ script for Star Wars, the protagonist was named Luke Starkiller. He later would change it to the iconic Skywalker. Since then, the original moniker has shown up various times in the extended Star Wars universe, most notably as the name of Darth Vader’s apprentice in The Force Unleashed video game.


BB-8 Is R2-D2’s Brother!

Sort of, anyway. Early concept sketches for Artoo included a droid that looked like a ball with a dish on top. Lucas rejected the design, in large part because it was unfeasible to build a model that could work as a functioning prop at the time. Using the familiar garbage-can design for Artoo also allowed actor Kenny Baker to inject some humanity into the droid, which proved pivotal. Modern technology allowed the effects men of The Force Awakens to bring the ball design to life, and little BB-8 is already one of the most popular characters from the series.


Captain Phasma Was a Possible Darth Vader Design

One of concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s original paintings during the development of Star Wars featured the familiar Stormtrooper design, yet wielding a lightsaber and wearing shinier armor. Disney revisited the design for The Force Awakens and integrated it into the story, first as a possible design for Kylo Ren, and finally as a design for the brutal Captain Phasma.


Maz Kanata’s Castle Was a Design for the Jedi Temple

Maz’s 1,000-year-old castle, complete with a giant statue of her diminutive stature, was actually the original concept for the Jedi Temple for use in Return of the Jedi. When the temple was dropped as a location during script rewrites, the concept fell by the wayside. It makes a return in The Force Awakens as Maz’s pirate lair.


The Starkiller Makes a Cameo in Star Wars

Believe it or not, the superweapon known as the Starkiller (an homage no doubt to Luke’s original family name) has a brief role in the original Star Wars film, though more by accident than design. Early designs for the Death Star had the notorious round cannon positioned over the equator of the station. Computer animators were operating under the assumption that the design was final when they designed the wire animation used as the Death Star technical readouts the rebels get from R2-D2. When artists moved the cannon to the upper hemisphere of the Death Star, it was too late to change the technical readout animation. The Starkiller in The Force Awakens recycled the original design, which is why it more accurately matches the design used in Star Wars.


The Incendiary Trooper Uniforms Were Intended for a Certain Bounty Hunter

The incendiary troopers seen at the opening of The Force Awakens were actually early designs for bounty hunter Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back. George Lucas, again working with Ralph McQuarrie, developed a design similar to those of the Stormtroopers, but later rejected it for that reason. The Force Awakens revives the idea with some minor adjustments to invent the new flame troopers used by the First Order.


Jabba’s Palace Became Rey’s Village

The trader village where Rey hocks her junk parts actually started out as an idea for Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Return of the Jedi. The distinctive archway that marks the entry to the village is later destroyed in her escape aboard the Millennium Falcon. Concept art originally intended it for the entry to Jabba’s Palace.


“I Have a Very Bad Feeling About This!”

So Han says in The Force Awakens, and it wouldn’t be the first time! Every Star Wars movie contains at least what utterance of the line, and some even more than that. Even the Disney theme park "Star Tours" ride features it, in both its original and revamped incarnations, and The Force Awakens continues that tradition.


Kylo Ren Wears Vader’s Helmet

Ren’s dark helmet mirrors that of everyone’s favorite Sith for a reason—it’s a loose adaptation of the original samurai-style Vader helmet from 1977. Vader’s helmet was originally not a necessity—he just wore an intimidating space suit when flying from ship to ship. Eventually, George Lucas made it a vital part of his character. Ren fits in the same mold with a more basic samurai design, as do the other Knights of Ren. It should come as no surprise then that he has intense admiration for Vader.


Supreme Commander Snoke Is Sitting in the Emperor’s Chair

In another piece of recycled design, Supreme Commander Snoke, as played via motion capture by Andy Serkis, is sitting in the Emperor’s throne. Originally Return of the Jedi featured the Emperor’s throne room situated in a lava castle; the Emperor was to sit in the middle of the room, surrounded by molten rock. Snoke sits in a room of similar design on an identical throne -- minus the lava, of course.

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