Posted on Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
JJ Abrams‘ first cut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was almost two hours and forty minutes in length. Lets be clear, that’s his first cut of the movie, not the assembly edit. The film was chopped down to 2 hours and 16 minutes for the final theatrical release, with a reported 20 minutes of scenes getting axed in the last month of editing alone. A dozen full scenes were left on the cutting room floor, not to mention snippets of scenes, moments of dialogue… etc. A lot of these scenes had near-complete visual effects, and some of the characters and moments removed can be seen in some of the merchandise and books. So what was left out of the final theatrical cut? Let’s try to find out.
Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen the movie.
Before I get into my exclusive information, let’s first reiterate what Abrams has said about the editing process. Talking to Entertainment Weekly about one cut shot, Abrams revealed more about the process of cutting some of the scenes and moments out of the final edit of the film:
So we ended up leaving those things out. Sometimes you discover that things you would have cut off a limb to shoot on the day are absolutely inconsequential, and in fact less impactful than if you were to remove it… As much as you try to kick the tires and write and shoot only what is necessary — no one wants to waste anyone’s time — when you’re in the editing room you realize, for instance, that introducing the character there actually diminishes their power. Or, giving that information actually distracts you from what you should be concentrating on. Or, having that moment happen concurrent with that moment actually gets in the way of both — things like that.
So what scenes and moments were cut from the final theatrical release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens? We don’t know everything. We only know what we’ve heard from our various sources, mixed with reports from other websites, and cross-checked with the narrative presented in the novelization and other tie-in books. What follows is a list of scenes and moments that didn’t make the final cut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Lightsaber in Space
This one might be the most notable as it was one of the first rumors reported about the film. And while the opening sequence didn’t end up in the final film, it was real.
Originally the film was supposed to open with a different scene immediately following the crawl. The camera was to pan down as a hand holding a lightsaber (or maybe just the lightsaber and not the hand — it’s unclear). The lightsaber is is the one that belonged to Anakin Skywalker, which Luke Skywalker lost in Bespin when Darth Vader chopped off his hand. The saber originally flew by through space, heading towards a planet. This shot was cut late in the process.
General Leia and the New Republic
In the film, General Leia’s appearance is saved for late in the film. Leia first shows up as Han, Chewie and Finn outside Maz’s castle following the First Order attack. But originally she appeared much earlier in the film. Her appearance set up the Galactic senate, with Leia having a conversation with Korr Sella (played by Maisie Richardson-Sellers), the dark-haired woman who is featured in the balcony scene when Starkiller base blows up Hosinian Prime. The Visual Dictionary features the above screenshot (right) of Korr, which appears to be a shot from this sequence in the movie. The book also explains that Leia, with a reputation twisted by corrupt politicians, relies on the young envoy to “make her case for the Senate to take direct action against the First Order.” While I don’t know the exact extent of what was filmed, the scene is described in the novelization as follows:
As usual, Leia did not waste time on small talk: “You need to go to the Senate right away. Tell them I insist that they take action against the First Order. The longer they bicker and delay, the stronger the Order becomes.” She leaned toward the other woman. “If they fail to take action soon, the Order will have grown so strong the Senate will be unable to do anything. It won’t matter what they think.” Sella indicated her understanding. “With all respect: Do you think the senators will listen?” “I don’t know.” Leia bit down on her lower lip. “So much time has passed. There was a time when they were at least willing to listen. And of course, the Senate’s makeup has changed. Some of those who were always willing to pay attention to me have retired. Some of those who have replaced them have their own agendas.” She smiled ruefully. “Not all senators think I’m crazy. Or maybe they do. I don’t care what they think about me as long as they take action.” The emissary nodded. “I’ll do all I can to ensure the Resistance gets the hearing we deserve. But why don’t you go yourself, General? An appeal of this nature is always more effective when delivered firsthand.” Leia’s smile thinned. “I might make it to the Senate, yes. I might even be able to deliver my speech. But I would never, never get out of the Hosnian system alive. I would have a terrible ‘accident,’ or become the victim of some ‘deranged’ radical. Or I would eat something that didn’t agree with me. Or encounter someone who didn’t agree with me.” She composed herself. “I have total confidence in you, Sella. I know you will deliver our message to the full extent of your considerable abilities.” The emissary smiled back, grateful for the confidence the general was expressing.”
I don’t know why the scene was cut, as it probably provided clarification about the relationships between the Resistance, the New Republic and the First Order, while also setting up Korr and the Senate for the explosive sequence later in the film. I’m guessing that saving Leia’s appearance for later gave the former Princess a better introduction and didn’t slow down the momentum of the first act.