Luke Skywalker was Annikin Starkiller.
Han Solo was a “huge green-skinned guy with no nose and large gills.”
And Princess Leia had a bit part. – Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays
Considering how much George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy is intertwined in modern pop culture, it’s hard to imagine that the film versions of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are vastly different from Lucas’s initial story treatments. Since 1977, we’ve become so used to seeing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford as Han Solo that any other concept seems, well, alien.
Yet, as anyone familiar with writing or film making knows, movies often undergo vast changes from a screenwriter’s initial story idea to the final edited version that audiences see in theaters. For instance, at one point in Star Wars’ development, Lucas toyed with the idea that the film’s central hero was a girl rather than a young moisture farmer named Luke. He also thought about casting little people to play all the Rebel characters (including Luke and Leia).
Laurent Bouzerau’s 1997 book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is a 336-page volume that presents the complete screenplays by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan for Episodes IV-VI of the sprawling space saga.
Here, at last, is the definitive Star Wars script collection—all three full-length screenplays, presented with the secrets that led to their creation! – Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays
Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is not the first book published by Ballantine Books that contains Star Wars script material. Ballantine has released illustrated editions of the individual screenplays. The scripts to A New Hope and Return of the Jedi have also appeared in Ballantine/Del Rey Books’ The Art of Star Wars and The Art of Return of the Jedi coffee table paperback volumes.
However, Bouzerau’s Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays was the first literary work to explore the evolution of each film from its earliest iteration to the final draft of the script.
Bouzerau, a film historian and filmmaker who specializes in “making of” documentaries, was granted access to Lucasfilm’s vast Star Wars archives for the annotations in this book. The most important materials cited include George Lucas’s collection of outlines,character lists, story synopses, handwritten notes, and the various screenplay drafts for the three movies.
Through hours of exclusive interviews with George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, and others involved in crafting the original trilogy, Laurent Bouzereau has uncovered the complex process through which life was breathed into the legendary Star Wars saga. Then, by exhaustively annotating the actual scripts, he reveals the fascinating tale behind each step in the evolution of these blockbuster films. – Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays
The author also spent many hours interviewing many of the key players involved in the creation of the Classic Trilogy, including:
- Writer/director/producer George Lucas
- Film editor Paul Hirsch
- Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi)
- The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner
- Art director/visual effects creator Joe Johnston
- Film editor Richard Chew
Because this book was published in 1997, Bouzerau also interviewed Rick McCallum, who produced that year’s Special Edition re-release of the Star Wars trilogy and the 1999-2005 Prequel Trilogy, which was then in its early pre-production stage.
Movie fans who enjoy the audio commentary tracks and other behind-the-scenes materials on Blu-rays and DVDs might enjoy Bouzerau’s book. In many ways, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is the literary counterpart to a director’s commentary. Indeed, many of the thoughts and memories that Bouzerau collected from Lucas and others for the book have reappeared in audio form in many of the 2004-2011 Star Wars DVD and Blu-ray editions.
Because Lucas altered all six of the movies he produced and/or directed for the DVD and Blu-ray releases, some of the material in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is out of date. Though it includes the additional material created for The Star Wars Trilogy: The Special Edition in sidebars along with the original 1977-1983 scripts, The Annotated Screenplays does not have Lucas’s reimagined version of Emperor Palpatine’s holo-conference with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, which was redone for the 2004 DVD release..Similarly, Bouzerau’s book doesn’t include the addition of Naboo to the galactic celebration at the end of the 2004 DVD version of Return of the Jedi.
Nevertheless, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is still a valuable resource for film buffs and Star Wars aficionados. The book shows, among other things, how concepts Lucas put aside while making the original trilogy were later used in Episodes I-III. For instance, Annikin Starkiller, the central hero of 1973’s The Star Wars, not only combined character traits that Lucas later gave to Luke and Han, but also served as the template for the Prequels’ Anakin Skywalker.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the art of screenwriting or the history of Star Wars and how it was created. It does need an updated second edition to cover the changes made to the trilogy on home media. Even so, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is a tie-in book worth getting.
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (September 8, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345409817
- ISBN-13: 978-0345409812
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches