It’s wild to think how scrappy production was on Star Wars, given how it fundamentally changed pop culture. So much of A New Hope has become totally ubiquitous, and yet a lot of it was created on the fly. One particular change, where someone survives an earlier draft of the script, would’ve altered the trajectory of a galaxy far, far away entirely.
Earlier versions of A New Hope – then simply called Star Wars – followed the outline we know and love. You’ve got Luke, Leia, Han, the Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader – the Star Wars characters and basic beats were all there. Even the duel between Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, except in an early draft, Lucas had the Jedi master survive his encounter with the Sith lord.
Per pages shared by the Peter Mayhew Foundation, from a copy of script dated January 1976, Ben Kenobi manages to outwit Darth Vader during their lightsabre duel. Here, instead of Ben sacrificing himself, he traps Vader temporarily while making a break for it towards the Falcon.
He still just about makes it, as Luke has to lift him onto the ship, but he ‘s alive nonetheless. To say this would impact the franchise is an understatement. Our entire Star Wars movies in order guide would look completely different.
So much spirals from Obi-Wan’s death. The climax of the film with Obi-Wan’s spirit telling Luke to “use the force”, Luke hating Vader on a more personal level, the introduction of Yoda, since Obi-Wan’s force ghost is who pushes the young Skywalker to seek further knowledge. It’s a cornerstone of the storytelling of a long, long time ago.
Of course, nobody understood back then, but Vader murdering Obi-Wan gave pathos to the notion of them being master and padawan at one point, allowing the prequels to take shape. I struggle to imagine what Star Wars films or Star Wars series would look like now if this was the version of the story Lucas stuck with.
Funnily enough, there’s a belief that the change was made because Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan as part of the Star Wars cast, didn’t want to do more than one installment. He high-key hated the whole thing, call it “fairy-tale rubbish”. However, you can find a version of the script online that has Obi-Wan dying, making it clear this was Lucas’s call before any disagreements with Guinness.
Whatever way it went down, I’m just glad we got the scene as is. Keep the force strong within you with our guides to the Skeleton Crew release date and The Acolyte release date, as well as our guide to all the new Star Wars movies coming out. Or, dive into a different kind of sci-fi, with all we know about Avatar 3.