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The Birth of Father Skywalker

Obviously, one of the focal points of The Secret History of Star Wars is the tracing of the development of Luke's father throughout the scripts, but there is however one area of note in which we might further explore the origin and evolution of the character. That area is not how the character ended up transforming into the character of the final script and subsequently into Darth Vader but how it was that Father Skywalker actually appeared in draft one in 1974. There is actually a very observable paper trail that shows us the creative process that led to the formation of Annikin Starkiller and his father Kane in the 1974 rough draft, the characters that would grow to become Luke and Anakin respectively in the series we know and love.

The earliest Star Wars tale is not called The Star Wars, but Journal of the Whills. It tells of a young man, C.J. Thorpe, who trains to be a Jedi and becomes apprentice to the wise Mace Windy. In many ways we might look at these two characters as the most primitive versions of Luke and Obi Wan. For the second Star Wars tale, the treatment, Lucas began his story anew, this time sourcing Hidden Fortress in order to devise a plot. The Hidden Fortress allowed him to keep the wise warrior from Journal of the Whills--Mace Windy--now having him named General Luke Skywalker. The young apprentice however disappears from the story, as Kurosawa's source film had no place for the character, but Lucas included a sort of homage to this element through a sequence he added in which the General encounters a group of young boys and trains them to overthrow the Empire. He went beyond the Kurosawa material to include this mentor-student aspect which so fascinated him, and he wanted this to be the story focus for his first full-length screenplay, to return to some of the elements he had first attempted with Journal of the Whills. As such, for the first screenplay he retained most of the plot from that second treatment but gave the General an apprentice once again, and in fact he decided to tell it from the youngsters perspective as he had in Journal of the Whills. Hence we have the 1974 rough draft, with its Annikin Starkiller and his mentor General Luke Skywalker.

                    Journal of the Whills:            C.J. Thorpe        Mace Windy

                    "The Star Wars" treatment:         ---              General Luke Skywalker

                    Rough draft screenplay:    Annikin Starkiller    General Luke Skywalker

The first hint of Lucas' change in plan to include the youngster in the story again after having been absent from the treatment is a note from late 1973 which lists the main characters of the re-developed story: The princess and General, as before in the treatment, but now there is a third person--a "boy", whom Lucas names as Starkiller. His note from before starting the rough draft:

"Notes on new beginning...for three main characters--the general, the princess, the boy (Starkiller)--make development chart." (Rinzler, Making of Star Wars, p. 16)

So, where does the father come in? The father actually was not part of the plan. As Lucas explains: "My original idea was to make the movie about an old man and a kid, who have a teacher-student relationship. And I knew I wanted the old man to be a real old man, but also a warrior...[but] I found the kid character more interesting than the old man." (Rinzler, p. 94) As the above note shows, Lucas first conceived of three main characters, but none of them are a father.

So how did Kane Starkiller, young protagonist Annikin Starkiller's father, get into the screenplay? The earliest of notes for the script list only the princess, the general and Annikin. But if we look to some notes elsewhere we find the origin of the character--Lucas made lists of names and assigned the characters roles as a way of orienting himself. For the rough draft he lists:

"Han Solo/ friend; General Vader/Imperial Commander; Leia Aquilae/ princess; Kane Highsinger/ Jedi friend" (Rinzler, p. 18)

I draw attention to the last name. The father was originally Kane Highsinger and was not Annikin's father but merely a Jedi friend, probably a comrad of General Luke Skywalker who would accompany them on parts of the adventure. Lucas, of course, made some big changes from this very first basis. Kane would be changed to not be some "Jedi friend" but Annikin's father, and General Skywalker would instead become the "Jedi friend"--for the first half of the script they would swap their original roles, and then Kane would be killed off and General Skywalker inherits his position as Annikin's mentor. Thus, Kane Highsinger became Kane Starkiller and found his way into the first screenplay as the protagonists father.

Why did Lucas make him the boy's father and not just a "jedi friend" as he original developed? Perhaps because the mentor General Skywalker is already a surrogate father who is unrelated to the protagonist--it might seem strange for a young apprentice to be running around with all of these older warriors without wondering what happened to his parents and how he ended up in such a position; in Journal of the Whills it is explained that the apprentice went to a space academy for the specific purpose of learning the Jedi ways and being assigned a master, but when Lucas eliminated this element it may be surmised that being part of a family legacy was the best route to take--and it better paralleled the samurai, who were born into their class and were trained by their fathers and rarely were adopted into it, as the Jedi in the rough draft show more inspiration from the samurai than any other source.

When you think about it, it's rather amazing that Anakin Skywalker, the fallen hero who became Darth Vader and fathered Luke and is now considered the main character of the series, sprouted from this primitive beginning--the inclusion of the father character himself was a sort of spontaneous accident of sorts. From the Kane Starkiller born here Lucas would transform him into the wise Jedi leader in draft two (whose son is now named Luke), the heroic Jedi warrior of draft three that died when Luke was a boy, and finally the tragic Jedi of draft four that was murdered by Darth Vader and never met his son, who would then merge with Vader himself in the sequel and give birth to the prequels and the Star Wars saga.

12/04/07

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