- Have you ever felt that the Jedi would have been better off using crystals to focus the Force?
- Did you ever wonder when Darth Vader really became Luke (and Leia's) father?
- Didn't Harrison Ford's acting in Episode VI seem a bit lackluster - almost as if didn't want to be there?
- Doesn't it seem odd that Episode II would feature clones of Boba Fett's dad just as a sop to Boba Fett fans?
- Did you feel like Anakin's conversion to the Dark Side in Episode III was a bit confusing - almost as if Lucas hadn't thought it out fully until the night before he released the movie?
- Wouldn't you love to know what Episodes VII, VIII, and IX - not to mention X, XI, and XII - would have covered?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you definitely need to read Michael Kaminski The Secret History of Star Wars
! You probably haven't ever heard of this book unless you're an absolute Star Wars addict, and it's not licensed by LucasFilm, but in my opinion it is the best look at the history of the making of the Star Wars story.
First, a quick note: Given the title, I wasn't sure what to expect from Kaminski at first. I certainly didn't want to read an attack on my favorite movie ("secret history" books always have a conspiracy theory ring to them). However, in The Secret History of Star Wars
, Kaminski makes clear his love for Star Wars, but also analyzes the material objectively. This balance is all too rare, especially in a world in which Lucas has tried to rewrite the history of the history (Darth Vader was Luke's dad all along? Yeah, right, and I've got a used Star Destroyer to sell you!).
So, what is the book about. It is actually an amazing exploration of the making of the Star Wars saga. Kaminski doesn't provide readers with a bunch of pretty pictures and fluff, which is what all to many of the "making of Star Wars" books consist of. There's not much on the actual "making" of the movies per se, such as the film production and marketing. Rather, he analyzes a massive amount of original scripts, newspaper articles, and commentary to detail the journey Star Wars took from Lucas' imagination to the final draft of the script. You will learn about the very first ideas for the first Star Wars script, as well as twists and turns for the other five movies.
Make no mistake, this is a fascinating story, perhaps as exciting as the Star Wars movies themselves. Some key plot twists occurred surprisingly late in the process, while others, such as the names Nemoidia and Valorum, were surprisingly persistent. I was absolutely shocked at some of the twists and turns Lucas took in crafting his vision. Luke indeed did have another daddy before Darth, but... well, I won't spoil the surprise. In fact, in the very earliest draft iterations, there was no Luke. And there was not just one hero, but a bunch of little Starkillers (yes, that was the original name for the protagonist) along with a daddy Starkiller.
I read The Secret History of Star Wars
earlier this year on a long flight to Hong Kong, and even though it runs over 400 pages I devoured it in one sitting. Even if you've read all the other Star Wars books out there, you'll certainly learn something new here. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if you read any book about the making of Star Wars, make it this one. Definitely check it out if you love Star Wars, or just have any interest in the creative process of imagining new worlds.
Endnote: If like me you can't get enough of this stuff, Kaminski has a website where he sometimes posts articles and updates the book at http://secrethistoryofstarwars.com/index.html
P.S. - Oh, here are some quick answers to the questions I listed above:
- Crystals were apparently all the rage among the Jedi Bendu in the earlier draft.
- I'll give you a clue - Vader did not become Luke's dad over a bottle of champagne and Figrin D'an's jazz with Padme at the Mos Eisley cantina. Kaminski shows pretty convincingly that Lucas did not intend Vader to be Luke's father until well into the making of Episode V.
- Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo to be killed off in Episode VI, after he was rescued from Jabba the Hutt. Lucas thought it would be too downbeat. Imagine the Expanded Universe books without Han!
- Boba Fett's connection to the clone wars/stormtroopers went back pretty far and was in some of the original backstory. In fact, even though Boba only had a few lines in the original trilogy, he wasn't merely an afterthought.
- Lucas did in fact decide on Anakin's motives for joining the Dark Side only moths before the release of Episode III. Apparently, at a screening of the rough film some of his colleagues thought Anakin's original motivations were weak and unclear. Much of the new "Padme is pregnant and I need to save her life" dialogue was filmed after principal photography.
- There's a lot of speculation about the stillborn sequels and it's not clear how much of it was fleshed out. All I can say is Lucas confirmed one movie would have focused on Wookies, another on Droids. There was even some talk of Star Wars being like James Bond, a franchise with many different directors at the helm and a new movie every 3 years or so. Alas - I'd love to live in that alternate universe!