ByEleanor Tremeer, writer at
MP staff. I talk about Star Wars a lot. Sometimes I'm paid for it. More ramblings on Twitter @ExtraTremeerial
Eleanor Tremeer

Ever since Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens was released, fans have been itching to know the nature of the connection between Luke Skywalker and Rey. Many people have theorised that the saga's new protagonist is in fact Luke's daughter. But as this early Star Wars concept reveals, the link between the two characters is far more obvious than that...

George Lucas' Original Concept Was Very Different

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope went through a lot of changes before it finally made its way to the big screen. The first draft featured Luke Skywalker as a grizzled Rebel Alliance general, called Starkiller, and this later got made into a comic book.

General Luke Starkiller. [Credit: Dark Horse]
General Luke Starkiller. [Credit: Dark Horse]

George Lucas went through several vigorous redrafting processes before settling on the perfect recipe for an all-time classic. The second draft re-conceptualized Luke Starkiller as an 18 year old boy, part of the large Lars family who lived on Tatooine. Unlike his cousins (Biggs, Windy, and Leia), Luke spent his days training with laser swords (not yet called lightsabers) and learning the ways of "the Force of Others". Several pages of this draft dealt with Luke's laborious explanations of this ancient religion — and interestingly, the Force was only taught to the morally superior, and hidden from those with "less strength".

The script for Star Wars was revised five times in total, but something interesting happened between the second and third draft: In response to the growing feminist movement, George Lucas changed Luke into a young female protagonist.

Star Wars Nearly Had A Female Heroine Long Before The Force Awakens

Lucas' redrafting process is detailed in the book How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, which draws from interviews with Lucas, his creative partners, and the drafts themselves. Afraid of another feminist backlash — like the one he faced for American Grafitti — Lucas decided to turn Luke Starkiller into a woman. This, he thought, would turn Star Wars into a feminist icon, and would cement the parallels between his space opera and the fairy tales he was inspired by.

Much of the plot of this draft was the same, with the female Starkiller living on Tatooine and dreaming of a greater life among the stars, until she meets a rugged space cowboy — an early version of Han Solo, whom she fell in love with. This draft was depicted in multiple concept art paintings by Ralph McQuarrie, and the female Starkiller even got her own action figure. Ben Kenobi is notably absent, as he was introduced in the third draft — which saw Luke turned back into a boy.

Original Star Wars concept art. [Credit: Ralph McQuarrie]
Original Star Wars concept art. [Credit: Ralph McQuarrie]

With the huge success of Star Wars, having the main character be a woman would have been nothing short of revolutionary. Unfortunately, Lucas lost faith in the idea, and by the time he presented his third draft to the Fox executive producers in 1975, female Luke was lost forever.

Or at least, until 2015.

The Female Protagonist Back In Full Force

The Force Awakens sparked much discussion among fans about the connection between Luke and Rey. But while most theories focus on the idea that the two characters could be related, in many ways Rey fulfills the promise of the female Starkiller in George Lucas' second draft — and that was exactly why current Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy came up with the character, even before JJ Abrams jumped on board.

As explained by an interview with the Writers' Guild of America, it was the thematic connection between Rey and Luke that persuaded JJ Abrams to direct The Force Awakens.

When Kathleen Kennedy approached him, JJ Abrams had just come off the Star Trek reboot and was reluctant to work on another sequel. It was her pitch about a young female Jedi and the myth of Luke Skywalker that changed his mind. "I thought, Oh my God, it’s an incredible thing. Luke Skywalker is potentially a myth. To someone who’s 19 years old, what does that mean?"

Rey and BB-8 in 'The Force Awakens'. [Credit: Lucasfilm]
Rey and BB-8 in 'The Force Awakens'. [Credit: Lucasfilm]

Kathleen Kennedy hasn't spoken about what her aims were in co-creating The Force Awakens' story, but it's clear that she wanted a woman to lead the story. Just as George Lucas was influenced by the feminist movement back in the 1970s, Kennedy had social politics in mind when she created Rey. Even before she took up the reigns of Lucasfilm, Kennedy told USA Today about her problems with Hollywood.

"The demographics within our business don't reflect society, and they certainly don't reflect the audience. There should be many, many more faces of color, many more women, many more gay people — you could go down the list."

In many ways, Rey really is the Luke Skywalker of our generation. She's someone that people will look up to, she's the character we live through when we watch the movies. Kennedy might not have been aware that one of Lucas's early drafts featured a female lead, but in many ways Rey is achieving what the female Starkiller never got to do: she's our new hope.

Tell us in the comments: How do you think Star Wars would have been changed by having a female lead back in the 1970s?

(Source: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe via Salon,,, Writers Guild of America, USA Today)


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