Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm didn’t close until Dec. 21, 2012, but it sounds like somebody already had “Little Miss Sunshine” screenwriter Michael Arndt hard at work on an Episode VII script by that point.
From Entertainment Weekly:
“Early on I tried to write versions of the story where [Rey] is at home, her home is destroyed, and then she goes on the road and meets Luke. And then she goes and kicks the bad guy’s ass,” Arndt said. “It just never worked and I struggled with this. This was back in 2012.”
The trouble was a simple case of upstaging. “It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over,” Arndt said. “Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character anymore because, ‘Oh fuck, Luke Skywalker’s here. I want to see what he’s going to do.’”
The good news for [Episode VII writer-director J.J.] Abrams was, he got to make a Star Wars movie. The bad news was, his toybox wouldn’t include a real-life Luke Skywalker action figure. Some of the early MacGuffins of the movie – the thing that drives a movie’s plot – were a search for Darth Vader’s remains, or a quest to the underwater wreckage of the second Death Star to recover a key piece of history about sacred Jedi sites in the galaxy. Ultimately, the writers decided to make Luke himself the MacGuffin …
From last May’s Vanity Fair:
… in preparation for selling the company, which to some extent had been coasting on royalties from Star Wars toys and other merchandise, Lucas had decided to make more movies. He sketched out ideas for episodes VII, VIII, and IX, to be set initially several decades after Return of the Jedi, and approached Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill about re-upping. He shared his story outlines with Disney during their courtship phase. But after the deal was done, “Disney and Kathy decided they should consider other options,” as Abrams (not then involved) diplomatically put it. He said Lucas’s treatments had centered on very young characters—teenagers, Lucasfilm told me—which might have struck Disney executives as veering too close for comfort to The Phantom Menace and its 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker and 14-year-old Queen Amidala.
Eventually Arndt exited the Episode VII writers room and Abrams continued scripting the movie with Lawrence Kasdan, the “Empire Strikes Back” screenwriter whose role on VII was “consultant” before Abrams was hired.
But a lot apparently changed during the Abrams-Kasdan era as well, including the movie’s title.
According to Lucasfilm exec Pablo Hidalgo, the working title for VII was, for quite some time, “Shadow of the Empire,” which is almost the title of the 1996 Star Wars novel “Shadows of the Empire” and the 1996 Star Wars videogame “Shadows of the Empire.”
On Tuesday Peter Sciretta posted on Slashfilm a compilation of 20 scenes he says were cut from “The Force Awakens." These were cuts, says Sciretta, that helped reduce its length by some 20 minutes.
A few highlights:
* The movie was to begin as long rumored, with Luke’s lightsaber – the one lost on Bespin along with Luke’s hand – tumbling through space toward a planet. “This shot was cut late in the process,” according to Sciretta.
* Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of “The Force Awakens” appears to confirm Leia was to appear much earlier in the movie, instructing an envoy to urge the less corrupt elements of the Galactic Senate to act quickly against Snoke’s increasingly powerful First Order.
* At some point Maz Kanata was even more Yoda-y, using The Force to bring a ceiling down on some troublesome Stormtroopers.
* The novelization suggests that Jakku junk dealer Unkar Plutt follows Rey to Maz’s castle, angry about her theft of The Millennium Falcon. Chewbacca attempts to effect Rey’s rescue through intimidation, but is only mocked by Plutt for having only one functional arm. Chewie reciprocates by ripping Plutt’s arm from his torso and tossing the dismembered limb onto a gaming table. (This may be the “arm moment” to which Daisy Ridley refers in the video above.) “They reshot some of Maz’s castle scenes,” writes Sciretta.
* Remember that shot from the trailer in which somebody hands Leia a lightsaber? That somebody is Maz, who in an earlier cut made her way to the Resistance’s base on D’Qar.
* According to Sciretta, Rey’s vision originally contained a shot of Vader dismembering Luke on Bespin. (In the finished film we see something perhaps even cooler: Rey stumbling through a Bespin corridor (!) as Luke can be heard screaming “No!”)
* A scene was apparently shot in which Kylo Ren boards the Falcon and enters its cockpit, presumably a place he well recognizes from his childhood as Ben Solo.
* In a deleted action sequence near Starkiller Base, Rey and Finn were to steal a snowspeeder in an effort to elude pursuing Stormtroopers.
* Dialogue from trailers and promos that did not make its way into the movie:
Maz: “Who are you?”
Rey: “I’m no one.”
Maz: “Just let it in.”
Finn: “I’ve got nothing to fight for.”
Find all of Slashfilm’s story on the matter here.