Posted on Monday, December 28th, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
How did Star Wars: the Force Awakens evolve during the development process? What were some of the early ideas they were playing with that didn’t end up in the final film? The new book The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens gives us a peek inside the development of Episode 7, from the earliest concepts to post production.
Did you know that Starkiller Base was originally called The Doom Star? That Poe Dameron’s character began as a Jedi or Bounty Hunter? Or how about that they toyed with the idea that Anakin Skywalker would appear in the film as a Force Ghost? Learn about how The Force Awakens changed from the earliest story ideas to the movie you’ve now experienced.
Before we begin, I should note that the process of imagining concepts for the film began before a director was even signed on to the project. At first artists would work with the film’s initial screenwriter Michael Arndt to “create guided imagery,” compelling visual concepts that invoke symbolism. Some of what is below might just be some ideas that were thrown at the wall during those early days, while other stuff you can see a glimpse of what evolved into the final film.
We should learn more about the development process of the movie when the Making of book is released in spring 2016 (lets hope it serves the Rinzler books proud). But for now the Art of The Force Awakens book gives us our more extensive look behind the development and evolution of this project. When available online, I’ve included some of the concept art and preview pages from the Art Of book (which is a must buy in my opinion).
Now lets dive in.
Rey Was a Hothead Loner Named Kira
Rey’s original name was Kira and while its not specifically stated, her early concept designs looked like they were modeled after Kristen Stewart. Screenwriter Michael Arndt described Kira as a “loner, hothead, gear-head, badass,” and the early story focused on Kira’s journey of self-discovery, from fearful Force-sensitive to master.
A Double-Bladed Two-Colored Lightsaber
One of the more interesting visual concepts presented in the idea phase was a piece by co-production designer Rick Carter that showed a double-sided lightsaber, with one side having a blue blade and the other side with a red blade. They were playing with the motif of fire and ice, and while it looked cool, the concept didn’t fit with the story that was developed.
Rey Wanted Desperately to Leave Jakku
Rey is extremely reluctant to leave Jakku in the movie, but in the earlier versions of the story Kira was eager to leave the junk planet. Concept art shows Kira longingly watching spaceships departing from the planet.
In the early versions of the story, Rey worked in a used car lot of sorts for an elderly father figure, an old Republic pilot. The Millennium Falcon was among the ships on the lot. Watching ships come and go every day, she would daydream about leaving the junk planet and exploring the galaxy.
This idea almost made the final film visually. In the trailer you see a shot of Rey cleaning materials she salvaged from the Star Destroyer. In the original cut of the film, she looks at a mother and her daughter, both dressed in fancy clothes, stepping onto a ship at the port. Rey had a look of happiness, not envy. This is definitely an aspect of Rey that has evolved, but you feel shades of it in the final film — with Rey collecting artifacts of Rebel pilots. Her backstory for the film involved her spending her free time learning how to fly on flight simulators.
Finn Was Originally a Han Solo Type
The character that became Finn was originally named Sam. Screenwriter Michael Arndt described Sam as “pure charisma” and the early concept art showed him as a young white man. You might describe his look as a smuggler type, a cross between a younger Han Solo and Anakin Skywalker from the prequels.
They quickly came to the idea of Sam being a former Stormtrooper who witnesses either a firing squad or an airlock ejection of a captured Rebel crew member. Its that event which was the turning point where he decides to run and helps Poe escape. But before Poe was a resistance pilot, he was something else…
Poe Dameron Was Almost a Jedi or Bounty Hunter
Poe Dameron began his life as “John Doe,” which is a tentative name and fitting considering the character’s original fate. Oscar Isaac has revealed that Dameron was originally supposed to die in the crash landing on Jakku, but J.J. Abrams eventually decided to write the character into the second half of the movie.
The concept art depicted him as a black man in his 30s or 40s — imagine a younger Samuel L. Jackson as a Rebel officer. At one point he was almost a Jedi, and then a bounty hunter, before they settled on him being “a Republic military man.” They even toyed with the idea of giving him a Wookiee sidekick when he was a bounty hunter.