47

Please dispel (or confirm, but I doubt) this thing I keep hearing about Star Wars. I heard that all 6 Star Wars movies had been written many years before their filming, even before the first movie came out. This is something that came to me over the years in bits and pieces. I remember some basic elements, namely:

  • That the movies started with episode IV because at the time (1977), filming an all city planet like Coruscant was technologically impossible.
  • That the original character that became JarJar Binks was actually an engineer/inventor of sorts, and smart.
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    I have nothing to back this up, but from the anecdotes I've heard over the years, he had the very broad strokes for 9 movies laid out, but 1 2 and 3 weren't actually written until well after 4, 5 and 6 were filmed – Jonny Blaze Jan 18 '11 at 23:11
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    @neilfein: Disproving a false rumour is not material for a good question? – MPelletier Jan 19 '11 at 0:14
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    @MPelletier - A question like this is an invitation to share other rumors, speculate, and in general engage in chit-chat. – neilfein Jan 19 '11 at 0:23
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    @neilfein if people post rumors as answers, those answers should be flagged, not the rumors. The question is interesting and on-topic, no need to vote for a close. – Samuel Herzog Jan 19 '11 at 4:40
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    There's also an answer to a letter, somewhere in Starlog Magazine, within a year after SW came out where Lucas actually stated, as early as 1977 or 1978, that after Vader betrayed Luke's Father, that Vadar and Obi-Wan had a major light saber battle on a volcano that ended with Vadar falling into the volcano and that's why Vader needed the breathing gear. I haven't seen a copy since then, but I know it's real because I was looking forward to the light saber battle between them since well before ESB came out and had known for decades about that duel before it was ever on screen. – Tango Jun 4 '11 at 3:44
35

According to The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas wrote out a guide that eventually became the original trilogy, but after submitting it to Fox, they said cut it down to the size of one movie, which became A New Hope.

Before The Empire Strikes Back, there was at least some sort of guide, or at least thoughts in Lucas' head, but the script went under a huge number of changes between the original Brackett script.

As for why Empire was numbered 5, the same book says that it was originally titled Star Wars II; the five was added later after Lucas decided he wanted to explore Vader's past. The reason it was the first numbered movie was because Lucas didn't have the idea for a prequel trilogy until Empire was written.

32

The original theatrical release in 1977 did not have a number. The "Episode IV: A New Hope" in the scroll text was not added until the 1981 re-release, a year after Empire came out.

Empire Strikes back did have "Episode V" in the scroll text of its original theatrical release.

According to a May 1978 article in Time Lucas had begun planning ten sequels. Quotes and comments over the years indicate that he had notes and ideas for other stories, but nothing that could be considered the Star Wars storyline. These are basic things such as "a battle in an asteroid field" which we saw in Empire Strikes Back, or a war with Wookies in a forest, which was adapted to the ewok battle in Return of the Jedi. It was only in later years that he began to claim that he had written the entire original trilogy up front and had to break it up into parts.

All this combines to point to an organic 'origin' for the Star Wars universe. It started with his ideas for the first movie, and then grew slowly over the years, piece by piece.

8

Found a site with a timeline. When I was growing up I remember the stories that Lucas has the ideas for the three trilogies, but that they weren't written as screenplays. The timeline on the site indicates that Lucas felt that the fourth episode was the most exciting and that was why he decided to start there.

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    Supershadow's site is quite possibly the least trustworthy site on the web when it comes to Star Wars. When so much of the content is flat out lies, it makes it hard to trust the things which are even partially accurate. – phantom42 Jan 2 '13 at 13:42
3

Lots of answers from real-world sources, but it seems somewhat clear to me from the movies themselves that they could not have been written together before the release of episode IV.

The basic premise I propose is this: For someone who watches Episodes I-III before IV-VI (like I did), there's not much surprise in the later series. Most of the climax from V is wrapped around the fact that Darth Vader is Luke's father. Anybody who's seen I-III knows this and the moment seems disappointing. (They even talk cleverly around it in Episode IV: Anakin Skywalker's son is alive). It's like showing the murder at the beginning, and then at the end, the detective points out dramatically "You! You did it."

You could argue, of course, that Lucas wrote three good stories (episodes I-III) and then wrote three more stories (episodes IV-VI) that would be much better if only nobody knew the first three. But I doubt it.

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    Lucas said he started in the middle because that was the exciting part and that way we got to see the fun stuff first. When he made IV, he had no idea if others would be made, so he went with the fun part. He also, originally, got started because he and Gary Kurtz saw there were no more fun "Flash Gordon" type movies anymore, so they made one. And that's what it started as: Fun. When Ep. V was released, it was very likely Ep. VI would also be made, but for those of us who were around, it was a big shock, made Lucas millions, and left us waiting 3 years to find out if it was true or not. – Tango Jun 6 '11 at 2:49
1

Not an expert, but in the reviews of Star Wars made by redlettermedia, George Lucas specifically says about still having to write drafts of the plot. So my guess is that prequels were written a few days before starting the production (considering the quality)

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    But you also can't count on what George Lucas says. Just like the whole "Han shot first" issue, he tends to revise with what sounds good. Originally he had outlines for a number of movies and Star Wars carried the subtitle of "The Adventures of Luke Skywalker," but as Lucas got more impressed with himself and grew more connected to Joseph Campbell, he shifted the focus. Gary Kurtz stated he left after Empire because Lucas abandon the original outlines that would have given them years of movies with a focus on fun and adventure rather than deep hidden meaning. Lucas disclaims all of this. – Tango Jun 4 '11 at 3:42
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Some set pieces were clearly lifted from "Tri-Planetary" by E.E. Smith.

Specifically: large planetoid base for evil villain. Make that TWO large planetoid bases.

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    Ooookay, how is that an origin for all SW movies? – Jeff Dec 20 '11 at 14:12

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