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Leigh Brackett's first draft of Empire

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This hasn't been posted yet? Crazy talk.

Kitbashed
Essays, videos and thoughts on the inspiration behind Star Wars.

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I read about this with one of my other Star Wars online groups.  I've got it downloaded and need to read it.  It looks fascinating.

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(some discussion in the 30 years of ESB thread starting here: http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Celebrating-30-years-of-Empire/post/412918/#TopicPost412918

But agree definitely thread worthy, was waiting for more people to finish reading it.

These were my initial thoughts from that thread:

Yeah it's a great look at where things began and how much tweaking George had to do to get it where it ended up. Shows how much of a great condenser and organizer he was.

Can't remember if there's been much written about the initial reception to this version of the script. It is odd, some of the language is off (spacer instead of spaceship, and death world instead of death star) Not sure how much Brackett was knowledgable of the original film. Rinzler's book will hopefully get into this, if not zombie's Secret History of Star Wars will. Surprised this leak isn't getting more attention, but things like this put you back in place.

Of the ideas in it, the clone issue could have been more interesting then the army it became, a society which on a cellular level modifies itself leaves for more possibilities. I'm thinking that maybe he was going to make Lando and the other clones be imposteurs to the senators and other govt officials this draft would have introduced in the third film, as you meet Han's uncle.

The Wookie army from the early SW drafts returns on cloud city but would again get removed and put off to RotJ.

Anyone familiar with script writing? Who does everyone think the hand writing might be, is it Brackett or possibly Lucas? Kasdan?

Like this Luke/Vader fight better then the whole i'm your father thing. (that decision made everyone a relative, and shrunk everything too much for me) This version gets into what it is to fall to the darkside. Vader toying with the learner.

Also interesting to see what they were thinking would happen at the Cloud City dinner between Vader and Han/Leia. Minch and Obi fighting! Lots of ideas which it's great to see how they got reworked to become what we're all familiar with.

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Sluggo said:

I read about this with one of my other Star Wars online groups.

You're cheating on us?

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 (Edited)

All I can say is Lawrence Kasdan is the man. He salvaged a lot from this script, but removed what made it feel slow. I have nothing against Leigh Brackett, but this script wasn't very good. Of course it was a lot of George's Story. I guess ol' Gary Kurtz told GL the story sucked.

 

"The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won’t last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition], and you’ll be able to project it on a 20’ by 40’ screen with perfect quality. I think it’s the director’s prerogative, not the studio’s to go back and reinvent a movie." - George Lucas

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The important thing to remember about Brackett's script is the "Based On A Story By George Lucas" thing.

If you read some of Lucas' early ANH and PT scripts they have much of the same fog of the imagination that this draught has (by that I mean she seems to have been wrestling with the story elements she has been given in the brief and trying to give them structure without deviating too far which is exactly what you'd expect from a first draught drawn from vague directions).

It's seems more based on Lucas' story notes than on looking at the first part of the story and carrying on the momentum (I could be way off here but that how it seems from this chair).

While most of the ideas were not used that could be just as much down to Lucas thinking.."Shucks that doesn't work...what if I change this and that and this and then give that to the writer of the next draught". Something that Brackett might have done if Leigh hadn't been so ill and sadly died or maybe not.

There is still an evolution from this version to the next and I'm not sure if that is down to taking anything from the Brackett script or carrying over the same ideas George gave her to work from but either way it's an interesting read and it was a useful exercise because it may have exorcised some of the more whimsical ideas that by their absence make ESB a much better film than anything that came after it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Bingowings said:

There is still an evolution from this version to the next and I'm not sure if that is down to taking anything from the Brackett script or carrying over the same ideas George gave her to work from but either way it's an interesting read and it was a useful exercise because it may have exorcised some of the more whimsical ideas that by their absence make ESB a much better film than anything that came after it.

Well said.

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Nice, I've been wanting to read this for a long time...

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quote about the Brackett script from Kurtz in Starlog 1978.12

pg.22

The script, penned by Brackett, was carefully constructed to avoid all cliches and stereotypes.  Unfortunately, shortly after finishing her initial draft, the talented writer passed away.  Already nearing pre-production time, Kurtz and Lucas picked up the script and ran with it.

"We now have two drafts that we're quite pleased with," says Kurtz.  "We took Leigh Brackett's draft and looked at it.  It was fine.  George took it and made some minor modifications, fleshing it out a bit because, obviously, she didn't have the chance.  She was going to do two drafts and a polish but passed away just as she was about to start the second draft.  The difference between her first draft and the second one completed by George is fairly minimal.  George had to re-adjust the emphasis slightly.  We may or may not hire another writer to do a minor dialogue polish.  We'll be making that decision soon."

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Interesting. That very much contradicts the claim that very little of her contribution remained in the final script.

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Well, Kurtz clearly said that before Lawrence Kasdan was even brought on, after Lucas had made changes himself.  Remember that Lucas isn't given a screenwriting credit for ESB - Brackett and Kasdan are.

Therefore, it seems likely that once Kasdan was brought on board, the screenplay was altered significantly from Brackett's original draft.

Speaking of which, I have Brackett's script, and still haven't given it a read.  Maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

a trolling bantha

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If anyone wants the Brackett script and can't find it, PM me and I'll get it to you.

a trolling bantha

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This whole issue is one of those things which doesn't make sense. Here's a segment of the 'Empire Strikes Back - Official Collectors Edition' magazine:

pg.40 'The Script'

Lucas recalls: "The story treatment was very, very detailed. It was the whole thng laid out in scene-by-scene order - what happened and practically everything that was said."

This first draft was produced by veteran scripter Leigh Brackett, who had written the screenplays for Rio Bravo and The Big Sleep. The Empire Strikes Back was her last assignment before her untimely death. This left Lucas in a difficult possition:

"After Leigh died, I did a draft in between before we were able to hire another writer. I was faced with going into production and you just can't come up with somebody just on the spur of the moment who would be right."

Later in the writing process Larry Kasdan wroked with Lucas on producing the final screenplay.

George Lucas admits to not liking writing at all. He says: "I'm not a natural writer. I have a routine. I get up and start writing at eight o'clock in the morning and I quit at five. I sit at my desk relentlessly and that's the only way I can do it because I hate it.

So writing doesn't come easy, yet there was this magical story treatment which surfaced out of somewhere ("practically everything that was said") which Brackett used to create the script.

Yet years later 'Making of ESB'

pg.43

Lucas very quickly hammered out a second draft, finishing on April 1, 1978. *omit* "I found it much easier than I'd expected, almost enjoyable,"

back to this ESB mag, Lucas continues:

"The whole thing is like a big doodle. It started over here and then it just goes off to here, then I go off over there, just wherever it leads me - which is the fun part."

 

Also amusingly: Cinefantastique Fall 1979

Producer George Lucas' original story was adapted into an intricate screenplay by science fantasy writer Leigh Brackett *omit*, but she died in 1978, after completing only a frist draft.  Fox announced that "a young, new talent," Larry Kasdan, "revised and completed the screenplay."  We can only hope that not too much "revising" was done to the script of a highly respected screenwriter such as Leigh Brackett.

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I've read the draft screenplay, and it was very interesting.  But however the revision process happened specifically, the finished version is obviously much better.  Aside from Vader being Luke's father, and the hyperdrive being busted for the whole film, pretty much everything in the structure of the story is recognisably there, albeit unpolished and with a lot of unnecessary exposition.

It's quite clear that any claims of the 'saga' being all planned out in advance are obviously ludicrous in the face of having read this, though.

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 (Edited)

I finally got around to reading this a couple of days ago. I actually thought it was quite good. I agree that the final film we got (in 1980, not since…) was superior, but this was still very good, especially for an early draft.

I dunno if it’s just me, but something about the way it’s written made it feel more like some other lower budget 80’s scifi/fantasy films (Krull in particular kept coming to mind… As in I imagine the “look” and production value of this version of ESB to be very similar to what we got with Krull). Like, the sequence where Vader throws a fistful of stars at Luke and they rain down on him in a shower of sparks during the “force vision” part of their duel… I just see that looking SOOOO early-80’s-fantasy-movie. All dreamy and "gauze-over-the-lense"y…

I was also surprised, given some of the comments I had heard about how little of Brackett’s original stuff made it into the final draft, at just how much of the final film IS in this script. Seriously, almost ALL of the basic ideas and plot elements are already here. They cut out some things and certainly refined a whole lot of ideas, but they made very very few real additions to the actual story. Hairy hen nailed it, they added “i am your father” and a broken hyperdrive, but otherwise the entire story from ESB is already here in this early draft.

I’ve got more I want to say, but I’ll get back to it soon.

Really glad I got a copy of this though!

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canofhumdingers said:

I dunno if it’s just me, but something about the way it’s written made it feel more like some other lower budget 80’s scifi/fantasy films (Krull in particular kept coming to mind… As in I imagine the “look” and production value of this version of ESB to be very similar to what we got with Krull). Like, the sequence where Vader throws a fistful of stars at Luke and they rain down on him in a shower of sparks during the “force vision” part of their duel… I just see that looking SOOOO early-80’s-fantasy-movie. All dreamy and "gauze-over-the-lense"y…

It’s worth noting that Peter Suschitzky was cinematographer on both Krull and ESB.

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And the only OT cinematographer still around, don’t think I’ve seen any of the recent films he’s worked on.

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He just recently shot After Earth for Shyamalan.

If they can bring back Kasdan to pen a Star War or two, they should totally get Peter behind the camera again.