Decades before he committed to making the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas had a lot of rough plans for how Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side would play out – and they were very different to the final version. Shortly before the release of Return of the Jedi, Lucas made some comments and hints about what occurred before the original trilogy, but many of those suggestions don’t line up with the three prequel movies viewers ended up watching. Though he would go on to revise his ideas for the prequels, his comments on the prequel trilogy give a unique insight into how Lucas developed his story and characters.
In 1981, Lucas made several statements about Darth Vader and his fall to the dark side, collected in The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III: 1999-2005 by Paul Duncan. Lucas’ ideas for Anakin’s fall were essential in reinventing Darth Vader for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Without having an idea of what turned Luke’s father into Darth Vader before A New Hope, the beauty of his story would be lost. Like uncut gems in need of polishing, Lucas’ early ideas for the prequels would eventually take shape into the three films viewers know and love.
5 Anakin Gradually Killed Off The Jedi
One of the largest changes from Lucas’ original prequel plan and what was seen in the prequels was how Order 66 played out. According to The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III: 1999-2005, Lucas didn’t have Anakin go and kill the Jedi at the Temple all at once. Instead, Anakin went out on missions with other Jedi as per usual, then proceeded to kill them off one by one when they turned their backs on him. At this point, Anakin really believed the Jedi were wrong, and he was willing to sacrifice anyone who got in his and Palpatine’s way.
Having Anakin slowly kill off the Jedi of his own volition would have put a much darker spin on the prequel trilogy. Toward the beginning of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Anakin seemed to be the victim of Palpatine’s manipulation. Only later—when Padmé’s survival is threatened—does he consciously make the decision to fully betray the Jedi and cut down those who oppose Palpatine. Had Lucas gone with his original plans for the prequels, Anakin would have been a cold-blooded serial killer from the beginning as he carefully whittled the Jedi ranks down until there weren’t enough left to resist.
4 Padmé Was The One Who First Discovered Anakin’s Betrayal
Instead of Obi-Wan Kenobi being the first one to see the strain of Anakin’s responsibilities, Lucas originally planned for Padmé to be the first one to put the pieces of Anakin’s betrayal together. This idea lined up with Lucas’ original draft for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which featured an unexpected Star Wars love triangle involving Anakin, Padmé, and Obi-Wan. According to Lucas, Anakin’s worsening attitude at home would lead Padmé to suspect that something was happening to him. As is fitting for the character, she would be the first one to take action and try to fix the mess Anakin caused.
It’s interesting to note that Lucas doesn’t seem to have originally conceived the Jedi rules of attachment. In this early version, Padmé appears to be openly married to Anakin, with the two even living together. The Jedi view of attachment only developed with the passage of time – raising the possibility the whole reason for Anakin’s fall was originally different.
In a complete role reversal, Padmé was originally going to be the one to tell Obi-Wan about the darkness growing in her husband. Padmé believed that if anyone could help Anakin, it was his mentor. After learning of her concerns, Obi-Wan resolved to hunt down Anakin, similarly to how it plays out in the prequels. Per The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III: 1999-2005, Obi-Wan would throw Anakin into a volcano, only to learn shortly after that the Emperor’s troops managed to fish Anakin out.
3 Padmé Didn’t Die In Childbirth
Another huge change in Lucas’ original prequel vision was for Padmé to survive childbirth. Instead of losing the will to live, Padmé would have the twins and would be there for them for a while. In The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III: 1999-2005, Lucas initially planned for Luke and Leia to be at least six months old before Obi-Wan suggested that they be split up and hidden from the Empire. Even in 1981, Lucas was firm on the idea of Obi-Wan taking Luke to Tatooine to be with Owen and Beru, while Leia would be sent to Alderaan with Padmé.
After dueling Anakin, Obi-Wan confirmed Padmé’s suspicions about his dark deeds in service of the Emperor. Because Padmé survived, she chose to go with Leia and remain on Alderaan under the protection of Obi-Wan’s friend, Bail Organa (who Lucas refers to as the King of Alderaan). According to Lucas, Padmé dies of unexplained reasons shortly after arriving on Alderaan, leaving Bail and his wife to foster Leia as their new princess. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan chooses not to raise Luke himself because he is a wanted man by the Empire for being a Jedi and toasting Anakin alive.
2 Leia Knew About Padmé
Lucas’ original plans for the prequel trilogy explain why Leia remembers Padmé in Return of the Jedi. Unlike Luke, Leia got to spend extra time with their mother before she passed. And while Owen and Beru barely tell anything to Luke about his heritage, Lucas makes a special note in The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III: 1999-2005 that Leia knew her real mother passed away. When Luke tells his sister that he has no memory of his mother, it’s because Luke was taken away from her when he was six months old.
Lucas’ comments on his original plan for the prequel trilogy are vague on how much time Padmé spent on Alderaan before she died, but it’s safe to assume she spent enough time with Leia to make an impression on her. Unlike the prequels, Lucas made a point to mention that Bail Organa was Obi-Wan’s friend, which suggests Padmé didn’t know Bail that well. After Padmé died, Bail either took pity on Leia or felt obligated to help Obi-Wan in fostering her. In any case, Lucas’ original plan for Leia fixes the plot hole of her remembering Padmé in Return of the Jedi.
1 Obi-Wan Blamed Himself For Anakin’s Turn To The Dark Side
The Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ TV show went further than the original trilogy in showing Obi-Wan’s remorse for Anakin turning to the dark side, but Lucas’ original notes on the prequel trilogy had him taking the blame on himself for his pupil’s actions. According to Lucas, Obi-Wan felt he didn’t give Anakin enough training, later wishing he had sent him to Yoda rather than try to train Skywalker himself. In Lucas’ mind, Obi-Wan was prideful in thinking he could bridle and guide Anakin’s power, which was what ultimately led Anakin to embrace the dark side.
In Lucas’ original prequel trilogy, Obi-Wan was the one who came up with the plan to hide Luke and Leia from the Empire. He knew they were strong with the Force, and believed they would help undo the evil their father had created in the galaxy. Lucas saw Obi-Wan as prideful during the prequel trilogy, and it completely changes Obi-Wan’s reasoning for protecting Luke. Instead of stepping in as Luke’s father figure, Obi-Wan watches over Luke so that he can, one day, take down the Empire in A New Hope. In other words, Obi-Wan’s role in Star Wars is to try and fix the mess he believes he caused.