The Original Empire Strikes Back Script Shows Darth Vader Wasn't Supposed to Be Luke's Father
George Lucas once described his own father as a "domineering, ultra right-wing businessman"—a man who is largely believed to have inspired the relationship between Luke and Anakin Skywalker. In 1980, The Empire Strikes Back revealed that Darth Vader was actually Luke's father, a twist that has become one of the most famous father-son stories of the century. That reveal marked a pivotal moment in the Star Wars franchise—one that turned this into a decades-long narrative about fathers and sons that has resonated in virtually every major plot point of the eight films in the Skywalker Saga.
But that major twist almost didn't even happen. A transcript of what is allegedly the original script for The Empire Strikes Back has appeared online and includes a number of key differences. Luke never loses a hand. Han never gets captured. And Luke never learns that Darth Vader is really his father.
In one scene, Luke trainson Degoba with Yoda (in this original script, some of the names and places are slightly different) when a Force Ghost of Anakin Skywalker appears to speak to his son:
Anakin: You've grown well, Luke, I'm proud of you. Did your uncle ever speak to you about your sister?
Luke: My sister? I have a sister? But why didn't Uncle Owen..?
Anakin: It was my request. When I saw the Empire closing in, I sent you both away for your own safety, far apart from each other.
Luke: Where is she? What's her name?
Anakin: If I were to tell you, Darth Vader could get that information from your mind and use her as a hostage. Not yet, Luke. When it's time... Luke. Will you take, from me, the oath of a Jedi knight?"
Nowhere does he reveal that Anakin eventually became Darth Vader. It's possible that Lucas was saving this twist for the final movie and would again explain it that Darth Vader essentially did kill Anakin when he went to the dark side.
However, this description of Anakin telling him that Darth Vader killed him fits with what Obi-Wan Kenobi described early in A New Hope, that Darth Vader killed Luke's father.
Additionally, in this early script, Luke's sister is named Nellith—meaning Leia wasn't originally a Skywalker, either. This again fits with the scene in A New Hope when Leia kisses Luke. Would Lucas have really gone there if he'd planned on Leia and Luke being siblings from the beginning?
Thematically, this would have made the Star Wars saga an entirely different story. This would have been less a series about family and more about a group of random underdogs who try to squash tyranny.
And honestly, given how hung up Star Wars tends to get by making everyone a member of the Skywalker clan, maybe this franchise would have been a little better off. Of course, then we'd lose one of the best twists in movie history.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.