I was watching the original series and got to "I am your father". I thought: is this something the author planned all along or thought of while writing The Empire Strikes Back?

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    My first thought when I read the subject was "Well, family planning is important!"
    – Jane S
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:55
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    Possibly related, but I'm pretty sure they also didn't intend Luke and Leia to be siblings in the first movie, since they were originally intended to be romantically engaged... Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:50
  • @RLH "Vader" is the Dutch word for "father", much like how the word "Moff" (used for high-ranking Imperial officers) is derogatory slang for Germans. Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 14:09
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    BTW, if anyone is interested in reading a really well-researched history of Lucas' changing ideas about the Star Wars universe, I highly recommend the book The Secret History of Star Wars. I think it makes a pretty definitive case that Lucas never planned for Vader to be Luke's father until the scriptwriting phase of Empire Strikes Back. Also has lots of interesting tidbits, including the fact that Lucas went to high school with a guy named "Vader" and this may well have been the inspiration for the name.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 20:36
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    Also, I see that p. 172 of The Making of Star Wars quotes Lucas saying of the name "That's just another one of those things that came out of thin air. It sort of appeared in my head one day. I had lots of Darth this and Darth that, and Dark Lord of the Sith. The early name was actually Dark Water. Then I added lots of last names, Vaders and Wilsons and Smiths, and I just came up with the combination of Darth and Vader."
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 22:50

5 Answers 5



Prowse (the actor who played Vader) was originally told to reveal that it was Obi-Wan who killed Luke's father.

However, the original writer of the script that would become Empire Strikes Back, Leigh Brackett, died before finishing the final draft.

After Leigh's death, Lucas took over writing the script. It was received poorly, likely spurring on the revisions.

Of course, the twist was done by filming and even the actor playing Vader was basically kept unaware of the twist.


Original dialogue: "Obi-Wan killed your father."

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    Well, that would also be true, you know, from a certain point of view...
    – tilley31
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:01
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    I don't think the Prowse thing is a very strong argument. From what I've read, the reason they had Prowse say that was because they wanted to avoid the secret getting out (due to either Prowse or the crew letting it slip), and they knew Prowse's line was going to be dubbed over by James Earl Jones later. The point about multiple script drafts is better, but could do with some elaboration (this article has a lot of detail on the prior script, in which Luke actually met the spirit of his father).
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 6:26
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    It's not a matter of taking Prowse's word for anything, you can see from this article that they were very secretive in general and didn't reveal it to other actors until the last possible moment. What's more, if we looked into the detailed chronology I'm confident we could verify that the script with Vader being Luke's father had already been written at the time they filmed the scene, which would invalidate the idea that this is evidence of Lucas still not having decided on it by that point.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:36
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    If you agree that Lucas had already definitively settled on the idea of Vader as Luke's father at the time Prowse was told to say that line, how is Prowse's line relevant to answering the original question? The question was about whether Vader being Luke's father was something "the author planned all along", not about whether it was something the actors of crew knew about it. The issue of the different real script drafts is relevant to answering the question, but the fact that there was a decoy script designed to hide it from the crew once it had already been decided doesn't seem relevant.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 23:43
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    I still don't understand how the fact that it "was kept secret until dubbing time" is relevant to the question of whether it was something "the author planned all along". If we only knew about Lucas' draft and the "widely acclaimed" later draft, but didn't know that prior to Lucas' draft there was another in which Vader wasn't the father, the fact that Lucas' draft wasn't as well-liked wouldn't contradict the hypothesis that he had planned Vader as the father all along; only Brackett's prior draft seems relevant to contradicting it. I also don't understand what you mean by "blind leap" here.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 0:08

The idea of Vader being Luke's father came about in the second draft of The Empire Strikes Back.

From the annotated screenplays:

The notion of Vader being Luke's father first appeared in the second draft. Vader became attracted to the dark side while he was training to become a Jedi. He became a Jedi and killed most of the Jedi Knights. Ben fought Vader and pushed him down a nuclear reactor shaft. One of his arms was severed, and Ben believed he had killed Vader; in fact Vader survived and became a mutant.

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    A mutant, huh? That's new.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 4:32
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    I was so disappointed with Ep. III when "He [...] killed most of the Jedi" became "clone troopers killed most of the Jedi and he slaughtered children". I was looking forward to that originally promised battle since before the prequels were ever officially going to happen, and still feel that it is the most disappointing aspect of the prequels, with lots of disappointment to choose from.
    – Jason
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 4:38
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    @DCShannon Technically, it's old.
    – JAB
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:17
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    Teenage Mutant Ninja Jedi Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 14:56
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    @user1717828 You better get a lawyer started on securing you the rights to that property, quick. That's a billion-dollar franchise if I've ever heard of one. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:56

While the commitment to reveal the villainous Darth Vader as Luke's father was officially made in the second draft of The Empire Strikes Back, elements of a Darth-Vader-like character being Luke's father were present in the very first drafts of the first film's screenplay, back when it was going to be called The Star Wars. From the Wookieepedia entry for Kane Starkiller (father of Annikin Starkiller, the character who would later be renamed Luke Skywalker):

By the second draft, he becomes known simply as "The Starkiller" and he is the father of Luke Starkiller; he survives to the end of that version and is not a cyborg. In the following story synopsis, he is deleted and replaced by a crazy old man encountered on the road. The notion that Luke's father was a cyborg was incorporated into the story of Darth Vader. Coincidentally, Kane's cyborg body had a chest plate on his torso that resembled a similar chest plate on Vader's life-support armor.

He's more machine now than man.

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    FWIW - the "Coincidentally, Kane's cyborg body had a chest plate on his torso that resembled a similar chest plate on Vader's life-support armor." is only a coincidence because this was a comic made a few years ago based on the early text drafts, so, much of the imagery was lifted from the films for consistency.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 15:06
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    To elaborate, the actual script describes "a plastic chest stuffed with flashing electric parts": starwarz.com/starkiller/the-star-wars-rough-draft Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 15:11

Recently, for The Last Jedi, Mark Hamill discussed the re-working of the scene between the David Prowse line. Most notable about this is that when Hamill is told, only George Lucas and Irvin Kershner (the ESB director) knew it. Hamill had to keep that tidbit under wraps for some 18 months. That apparently irked Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, who found out during the screening.

There was a wonderful substitute revelation in that scene. The way we filmed it, Vader said

You don't know the truth. Obi-Wan killed your father

And the idea of Alec Guiness being the real villain, I thought "Wow, what a spectacular twist!" It's just as you see in the film. "Search your feelings, you know, it's true." Wallop the hand goes off...

The director, Irvin Kershner, took me aside -- came to my dressing room actually -- and said

I know it, George Lucas knows it, and when I tell you, you'll know it, but if it leaks, we'll know it was you

So I was like, "What? What?" and he handed me the piece of paper that said "I am your father". I was shocked. I said "Is that true?" and he said "Search your feelings and we're gonna play it like that"

There's some commentary on how loose lipped Carrie Fisher was. Then he says

So, at the screening, when that happened, Harrison turned to me and said "Hey, kid, you didn't f***ing tell me that"


In the third episode of Vice TV docuseries Icons Unearthed: Star Wars, Marcia Lucas reveals that the idea of Vader being Luke's father originated during a dinner with Willard and Gloria Huyck, co-writers on American Graffiti and social friends of the Lucases who also did a dialogue polish on Star Wars: A New Hope:

They were up in our kitchen and George said "I got the sequel. Now I'm working on the sequel." and Willard laughed and said "Well, you can always make Darth Vader Luke's father." I kid you not. I kid you not!

That just struck a note with George. I don't know that Willard even remembers saying that, but I remember it.

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