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Saga Star Wars Episode #'s: When Did Lucas Make Up His Mind?

Discussion in 'The Movies' started by Dark Lord Tarkas, Jun 17, 2012.

  1. Dark Lord Tarkas Jedi Grand Master

    This is from the thread @darthboba locked (I got permission to repost with a more specific thread title):

    "I found out a lot on Wookieepedia about how much GL's idea for Star Wars has changed since 1976/1977, including how in early interviews he said Star Wars was the first film chronologically and he wanted to do 12 of them.

    But I put on my A New Hope DVD with audio commentary last night, and during the crawl, Lucas is talking about how he wanted to put Episode IV: A New Hope in there originally but the studio told him not to because it would confuse people.

    So is he just outright lying in the commentary? Or is Wookieepedia making up stuff?"

    I'm really interested in exactly when "Star Wars" became "Episode IV: A New Hope" and what George Lucas had to say about how many movies there would be and where "Star Wars" fell into the bigger picture before that change was made official.

    Please share your wisdom!

    If someone has a rant about how many times GL has changed his mind/story, that counts!
  2. Tosche_Station Jedi Master

    Hi, Dark Lord Tarkas:


    Lucas may not be 'lying', necessarily, but his claim above is highly improbable, given the circumstantial evidence from that time period:

    1. despite what Lucas (and or Kurtz) claims, prior to 1978/1979, there was NO script*/draft/story synopsis or outline titled "Episode IV: A New Hope". The actual shooting script, the 'Revised Fourth' draft, dated March 15, 1976, has the following title:

    The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the "Journal of the Whills". Saga I: The Star Wars (notice the definite article, there...)

    It should be noted too, that none of the prior drafts had any Episode IV number, but when they DID have an episode number, it was as "Episode ONE" (for instance, the Second draft).

    *the 'public' script, is another matter. It was first published in November 1979, as part of the book, "The Art Of Star Wars". The public script is titled "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" but is back-dated to JANUARY 15, 1976. This version of the script, is an edit - it's not entirely the 'printed film', but it's not the actual shooting script, either. The edit was done by former LFL employee Carol Titleman (circa '79, Carol Wikarska), probably in '77 or '78.


    2. FOX was paying Lucas to write 'The Star Wars', so they had the right of approval on certain things, and did have access to his written material (this wasn't the case with the later SW films, of course). The one change that 'the studio' - FOX - requested, was that Lucas and co. drop the definite article from the title. So it was no longer called 'The Star Wars' but just, 'Star Wars'. There's nothing from FOX - memos, studio exec diaries - concerning a petition to have Lucas remove any episode numbering or sub-title from the picture.


    "Episode IV" most likely came about when he was writing/developing the second film - late '77/early '78 - and had decided to divide the back-story into three episodes, when heretofore, the back-story hadn't been segmented in such a manner. Three episodes of back-story of course, make the first film, number four. Which then made "Chapter II" - what they were calling TESB during the early part of development, really Episode Five.
    Dark Lord Tarkas likes this.
  3. Dark Lord Tarkas Jedi Grand Master

    Great, you obviously know your stuff, this is the kind of answer I was looking for. Thanks so much!

    I thought that it was considered the first installment when it came out, I believe the novelization also says "Saga I" in the subtitle.

    I will post the exact GL quote from the commentary later, but he's either lying or really good at creating false memories and convincing himself they're real.

    So when did the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle first appear? A VHS release? From when?
  4. Tosche_Station Jedi Master

    First appearance (in public) on page : November 1979, with "The Art Of Star Wars", which contained an edited version of the script.

    First appearance on screen : April 1981, with the third* re-release of the film.

    *following the re-releases from July 1978 (the first) and August 1979 (the second)
  5. Dark Lord Tarkas Jedi Grand Master

    Wow, I had no idea they were re-releasing SW like that since the very beginning. Thanks for all your information!
  6. Tosche_Station Jedi Master

    You're welcome.
  7. Dark Lord Tarkas Jedi Grand Master

    I'm still putting up that quote sometime soon.

    So, I'm still curious about the chronology of the numbering.

    Did GL always say it would be 12 episodes before the April 1981 SW re-release, or did he say he didn't know and/or change his story as he went along even before then? Once SW was deemed "Episode IV" did he still entertain the idea of doing 12 movies, or was that exactly when it was cut down to 9 movies, and later just six?
  8. Darth_Nub Jedi Grand Master

    That's a really, really complicated issue...
    Here's a very rough timeline of how GL viewed the Star Wars 'Saga':

    1973-1975 - one film, vaguely considered that sequels could be made.
    1975-1976 - three stories - Star Wars + two sequels - plus maybe one prequel based on the backstory. Unlikely that any more films would be made past Star Wars, so the sequels & prequel could possibly have been done as books.
    Around the same time, GL asked Alan Dean Foster to write a new SW story that could be done as a low-budget film. This was published as Splinter Of The Mind's Eye. This was not, however, the same sequel he originally envisioned for the second part of his trilogy.
    1977 - Star Wars is released, it's a hit, there will be sequels. Original idea is that the series could continue indefinitely, like the James Bond franchise.
    1978 - with the announcement of a new film, Bantha Tracks informs its readers that George Lucas has 12 stories in 'The Adventures Of Luke Skywalker' series. Mentions from GL & Gary Kurtz around the time indicate that several of these films could be one-offs not related to the main story of Rebels vs Empire - one could be about the young Ben Kenobi, another could deal with the formation of the Jedi & the Republic. George Lucas also describes his interest in a film about Wookiees, another about droids.
    Star Wars would still be Episode/Chapter 1, ESB Episode 2, and so on, although they might not have been intended to be numbered at all.
    1978-1979 - ESB is underway, GL now speaks of a 9-episode Saga, a 'trilogy of trilogies', one of which would be set before the current trilogy. That's where the new episode numbering comes from. Almost definitely the case that when he created the concept of Father Vader, Lucas realised the backstory about 'the young Ben Kenobi' had evolved into a story worthy of an entire trilogy, not just one film.
    (Several quotes from GL state that the other three episodes in the 12 part series were 'tangential to the story', so he dismissed them)
    1980-1995 - GL still refers to a 9-episode Saga, but exactly what Episodes VII-IX would be about, who the main characters would be, and even when it would be set, gets vaguer and vaguer.
    1995 to present - the Saga becomes a single six-episode story arc. From about 1999, GL begins to deny he ever had any intention of making a third trilogy at all.
    Molly likes this.
  9. Dark Lord Tarkas Jedi Grand Master

    That is really interesting, thanks for your knowledge. I have a few more questions we can discuss in this thread.

    Are any of these referenced issues of Bantha Tracks available online in scans or any other way? I'd really like to read exactly what that article said about the 12 films.

    Also, if GL changed his story over a 15-year period about Episodes VII - IX from a somewhat vague vision to a really vague vision, there have to be some interesting quotes from him out there about what the films would have shown. Are any available online? I'd also like to use this thread to discuss that topic.
  10. Cathy Jedi Master

    Are your dates here based on as specific source or are you just approximating? Because I know Lucas was still entertaining the sequel trilogy as late as '97.
  11. Dark Lord Tarkas Jedi Grand Master

    I'd like to know the answer to that as well.
  12. Darth_Nub Jedi Grand Master

    These particular dates are very rough, based on my own opinion of how GL was viewing the Saga (the earlier dates are a bit more accurate, based on statements in the press & official publications). It's my theory that following the difficult production of ESB, Lucas began to focus on winding up his space saga as soon as possible, as opposed to expanding it. ROTJ was hardly an unresolved ending - it posed a few questions about the backstory, but for all intents & purposes, the story was over, they all lived happily ever after.
    GL had committed to the PT, to an extent, by attaching Episodes IV & V to his existing films - however, the fate of the Sequel Trilogy of Eps VII-IX was far from certain.

    Although he would occasionally refer to it over the years, his comments changed somewhat - initially it was implied that it would be a separate entity with a new set of characters, with a few likely cameos by the likes of Luke Skywalker, and the two droids being the "only characters who go through all nine films". Later quotes, however, suggest that the ST would be about the characters of the OT in later years.

    I believe that when GL sat down to write the PT, he still had the idea that it would be 'separate, but connected' to the OT, i.e. it could stand on its own, as 'The Adventures Of Obi-Wan Kenobi'. However, this approach soon changed, as the story began to focus far more heavily on Anakin, who, while obviously a major character of the PT, might not have always been intended to be the main protagonist - in the first draft of TPM, Obi-Wan is alone on the mission to Naboo, effectively covering the roles of both Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan in the final film (Qui-Gon Jinn does not appear until Coruscant in the early draft).

    With this change in focus, GL began to see the PT & OT being more strongly linked to each other, with the story arc of Anakin Skywalker's rise, fall & redemption encompassing all six films - 'The Tragedy Of Darth Vader', as he refers to it. This wasn't always the case - Anakin's redemption wasn't as strongly emphasised in the rough draft of ROTJ (although turning from the Dark Side was still important to the plot).

    So, with GL now viewing his current story in terms of one six-episode Saga, rather than two separate trilogies, the need for a third trilogy completely disappeared, not that it was ever really there to begin with. 1995 is a somewhat arbitrary date to attach, 1997 is probably more accurate, as that's when the third draft of TPM was completed, and, I believe, the current view of the SW Saga became cemented in GL's mind.
    Later mumblings about the Sequel Trilogy sound like GL just paying lip-service to the fact that he'd once considered it - by 1999 he was actively trying to bury it:

    (Thanks to TSHOSW for the quotes)
    Dark Lord Tarkas likes this.
  13. Tosche_Station Jedi Master

    I'm sure the ST existed, but I'm not convinced that it was every really going to be a sort of "Expanded ROTJ" - meaning that the Luke vs. the Dark Side, and Rebels vs. the Empire conflict was going to go beyond Episode Six. According to RInzler's TMOSW, when he was 'brainstorming' with novelist Alan Dean Foster and Visual FX director John Dykstra in December of '75, he was discussing future sequels as being books instead of films, and that "book three" would conclude the Rebel vs. Empire story, and really just be the "Soap Opera of the Skywalker family".
  14. Sistros SWC Chancellor


    lol how droll

    "and the moment you've all been waiting for fans

    days of our Galaxy"
    Tosche_Station likes this.
  15. Darth_Nub Jedi Grand Master

    It's possible that even with the Empire defeated at the end of ROTJ, there were still Sith running around, so Luke (or the protagonist of the ST) might have still been fighting the Dark Side. The PT put the kibosh on there being any other Sith Lords, of course, not that it stopped the EU.
    With what little we know about the ST dealing with the rebuilding of the Republic, it's possible that some sort of Dark Side practitioner may have been involved in the storyline - perhaps posing as a charismatic statesman, or an opponent to the rebuilding of the corrupt Republic (could Count Dooku's character have been taken from vague thoughts about the ST?) Pure speculation, of course.

    One thing is for sure - the ST had to be set a good few years after the OT, as GL always intended to make the PT before it. As such, it's unlikely that we could just pick up the Rebels vs Empire storyline 15-20 years after ROTJ.
  16. Dark Lord Tarkas Jedi Grand Master

    @Darth_Nub That's really interesting to see how he slowly weaseled his way out of doing the ST altogether. I'm still very interested in what GL had to say about it when it was still something he said he was planning on doing.

    I took this from another thread:

    I'm interested in how these ideas for the ST were established with more certainty than others.

    I'd also still like to discuss what GL said in this era of the timeline:

    Were all these ideas for different films you mention from Bantha Tracks or are they from different sources? I'm really interested in where this info comes from and what GL said at that time. I'd like to know if there are any other vague ideas like that he just tossed out there.

    I also noticed going through the different TSHOSW threads on the temp boards that some people spoke of GL saying he was going to do five films set before the OT: a young Obi-Wan film, a Clone Wars trilogy of films ([face_hypnotized]), and another film to lead right into the OT (presumably Anakin's fall to the Dark Side?). I'd really like to know if he really said that, and if he ever said anything about what his Clone Wars film trilogy ideas were, if any, back then.
  17. Arawn Fenn Force Ghost

    All Vader's Children
  18. Sistros SWC Chancellor

    sunset Tatooine

    I'll stop now
    :p
  19. Arawn Fenn Force Ghost

    The Young and the Handless
  20. Darth_Nub Jedi Grand Master

    All Bantha Tracks said was:

    The mentions of the films about the early days of Ben Kenobi & the one about the formation of the Jedi come from Alan Arnold's Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back - which, initially refers to 12 episodes IIRC, but later in the same book, GL states that there's nine films. GL referred to a film about the young Ben Kenobi in other interviews from around the same time.
    The GL quote about Wookiee & droid films comes from a magazine article around the same time (damn these temp boards! All the details are on the old ones).

    That '5-episode prequel plan' is from Rinzler's Making of ESB - there's nothing more than an old handwritten note from GL which simply lists, "Prologue, Clone Wars Trilogy and Epilogue". That's all, no details.
    I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it - I'm pretty sure it dates from after GL came up with the Father Vader idea & settled on the 9-episode plan, and I think it's more to do with vaguely plotting out his prequel story than actually planning episodes that would be made into individual films. He was probably referring to 'acts' within the overall storyline.

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