The ending to Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was almost very, very dark. In an early ideas session with Star Wars movie co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, who also penned The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas brought up the idea that Luke’s story could end with him becoming the new incarnation of Darth Vader.
The transcript of the pair’s ideas session reveals [via Gizmodo] that much of the story would have stayed the same, with Luke defeating the empire and helping his father to reclaim his humanity. However, when it came to the final conclusion, where Luke helped to take off Vader’s helmet to reveal the old and scarred Anakin Skywalker, that’s when audiences would have been hit by a major twist.
The story would have instead seen the beloved Star Wars character taking his father’s helmet and placing it on his head before declaring, “Now I am Vader.” Lucas explained that this would be the “ultimate twist”, and Kasdan immediately jumped on the idea, believing that it would be the most compelling conclusion to the trilogy.
And it wouldn’t have ended there. The character was also set to destroy the rebel fleet and take up the very recently vacant position of emperor of the galaxy. However, the idea was scrapped in favour of the more upbeat ending because, as Lucas admitted, the story was designed “for the kids.”
There were always hints that Luke was capable of turning into a villain like his father before him. In fact, his darker robes in the Return of the Jedi were meant to symbolise how close he was to fear, hate, and the dark side of the force. And, of course, there was the iconic scene in The Empire Strikes Back where the character sees a vision of himself in Vader’s suit.
Thankfully, Lucas correctly recognised that Star Wars worked best as an optimistic, fun science fiction movie. While it was always about the battle between light and dark, it was framed in simplistic terms so that children could enjoy it too. But let’s admit it, the twist ending certainly would have been interesting and probably a lot of fun to watch too.
If you love the work of George Lucas, check out our guide to Indiana Jones 5.