force awakens luke skywalker

Luke Skywalker remained out of sight, but never out of mind, through much of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Then he appeared as a bearded Mark Hamill in the final few seconds of the film. But we almost saw a glimpse of Luke earlier in the film, through the tumultuous vision that Rey receives when she picks up Luke’s long lost lightsaber. The twist: he wouldn’t have been played by Hamill but by actor Robert Boulter, in a re-enactment of the famous The Empire Strikes Back duel.

And now, we know what he would’ve looked like.

Back in 2015, rumors swirled that Boulter had been cast as a young Luke Skywalker in a flashback scene that ultimately never came to fruition. But while it’s easy to brush off Boulter’s casting as nothing more than a false alarm, a leaked Force Awakens photo that made its way to Reddit proves that there was something solid behind that story. Since we know large portions of the film were reshot and reworked, it makes sense that something this big could’ve been shot and abandoned.

The leaked photo from the production of The Force Awakens, later posted on Twitter by First Showing’s Adam Frazier, shows Boulter in full costume and make-up for the famous Empire Strikes Back duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. He’s even sporting the ’70s-style haircut.

“Rey’s ‘Force Vision’ in The Force Awakens originally included Luke & Vader’s duel from The Empire Strikes Back,” Frazier wrote on Twitter. “The scene was cut but thanks to Reddit, we’re finally getting our first look at what ESB Luke would have looked like in TFA, played by Robert Boulter. Wild stuff.”

The vision ended up being a morass of bewildering and prophetic images, most of them showing Rey’s past and future — so it perhaps would have been confusing to include Luke and Darth Vader’s duel, even if the sequence features Rey briefly wandering through the Cloud City passages where they fought. I wonder if director J.J. Abrams would’ve worked some of that CGI magic and transplanted Mark Hamill’s young face onto Boulter’s body, as Gareth Edwards did with Carrie Fisher in Rogue One. But maybe it proved too uncanny valley — or expensive — for Abrams, and he cut the scene. Besides, it’s even more powerful that we never see much of Luke until the very end, when Rey finally finds him and hands him his lightsaber.

You can see the final version of Rey’s vision below.

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