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An unofficial guide to the unused story ideas for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
While the writing duo did get story credit for what became The Rise of Skywalker under director J.J. Abrams, we'll never truly know what Trevorrow and Connolly had in mind for the end of the Skywalker Saga unless Lucasfilm publishes their unused screenplay, which isn't very likely.
That said, the official art book for The Rise of Skywalker (now on sale from Abrams Books) is a rich treasure trove of potential plot ideas that either evolved into what we see in the movie or were axed entirely as Abrams' script (co-written with Chris Terrio) took shape — even as filming got underway at Pinewood Studios in the U.K.
"With my day job being creative art manager, I’m lucky enough to see all the concept art as it’s being created for the most part," the book's author, Phil Szostak, told SYFY WIRE. "I do have access to a database that literally has every piece of concept art that was done ... I’m looking at thousands, if not tens of thousands of pieces of art, which is a pure joy ... Just digging into those folders and the sub-folders and the dormant files and all that stuff, I do, on occasion, find interesting, weird, one-off stuff."
"I've never rewritten a film as much as this one," Terrio says in the book. "We're course-correcting as we go — we're trying things, and some things don't work and some things aren't ambitious enough. Some things are overly ambitious. Some things are too dense. Some things are too simple. Some things are too nostalgic. Some things are too out-of-left-field. We're finding our balance."
We've already explored some of these unused concepts, like the Miyazaki-esque Oracle, the original insectoid design for Babu Frik, and the duck-inspired design of D-O. The movie's novelization and visual dictionary yielded even more goodies about stuff like the Battle of Crait, the Knights of Ren, Jannah's relationship to Lando, and Leia's Force-related abilities.
But the juicy insights don't end there, folks. With that in mind, SYFY WIRE has pulled together an unofficial guide to the really cool and strange story beats highlighted in The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but that never made it into the finished film.
A snowy city far, far away
Even from the start, The Rise of Skywalker began with Kylo Ren on his quest to find Exegol. From there, however, the differences are more pronounced as an early draft of the script transitioned to "a snowy First Order-occupied city," according to the book, where the remaining Resistance members congregate in an out-of-the-way speakeasy.
Poe introduces an "enigma machine" that promises a more covert mode of communication before a bunch of stormtroopers raid the place, leading to "a hasty retreat through the city's canals." Per the book, Terrio wanted this sequence to recall Edge of Darkness, a 1943 film about a resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Norway during World War II.
The look of the city (we imagine the snow-capped location officially became Kijimi later on) was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, a masterfully influential movie that helped serve as the basis for A New Hope in 1977.
In a later development, the script called for a dive into the catacombs beneath the city where a "haunted alien" with many eyes informs the Resistance about a massive fleet of Star Destroyers "assembling in a desolate area of the galaxy."
A Star Destroyer factory operated by space Nazis
Going off the warning of the "haunted alien" beneath the streets of the snowy city, J.J. Abrams came up with the idea of a Star Destroyer factory. Here, the ships would be retrofitted with "miniaturized Death Star weapon technology." Not only that, but the factory would also be operated by resourceful Empire loyalists living in exile.
"They'd decided not to reinvent the Star Destroyer. They've just got their Imperial Star Destroyer," co-production designer Kevin Jenkins explains in the book. "The loyalists are almost like the Nazis in Argentina, so-to-speak, but they have the resources of the Third Reich with them."
The concept of a fleet capable of destroying planets with one blast would remain for Palpatine's "Final Order," but The Rise of Skywalker only ever shows us the final result of the ships' production.
Kylo Ren's trip to Coruscant
A November 2017 draft of the script had Kylo Ren visiting the "deepest level" of the Jedi temple on a "desolate" and "ash-covered" Coruscant instead of Exegol.
Per the art book, Ren was going to be led there by the disintegrated remnants of Darth Vader's burned mask. Upon his arrival, we'd learn that the once-bustling capital of the galaxy is "now overrun by giant wolves."
What Kylo would have gained from this adventure remains a mystery, unless this was the original hiding place of Emperor Palpatine. The book doesn't offer up any easy answers on that front.
Rey's workshop & Hux's betrayal
During her training under Leia near the Resistance's forest base, Rey was going to have a "small workshop" where she repairs her broken lightsaber after it was damaged in The Last Jedi. In addition, General Hux was going to turn himself over to the Resistance, rather than just anonymously feed them information.
Before the idea of the Sith wayfinder came about, the plan was for the story's MacGuffin to be a "kill switch for all First Order tech." It was built over several generations by "an Empire-hating alien race." Babu Frik was, in an earlier draft, a member of this species, which was forced to clean the engines of Star Destroyers.
Finn's "family," a pirate planet & Ackbar's legacy
Finn was always destined to find a Jannah-esque defector like himself, but it wasn't always on an Endorian moon. The art book makes mention of "a garbage planet" that was filled with "First Order rejects, possibly possibly prisoners, who were 'not up to being stormtroopers.'" One of these "siblings" was going to teach Finn a weakness about First Order tech.
Similarly, it was always the plan for Poe to confront his law-breaking past. Before Kijimi entered the picture, Dameron and the rest of our heroes visited a "swampy 'pirate world'" of river deltas meant to evoke Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. After "a speeder-boat chase," Poe is taken to a "pirate fortress" to face down with a mafia-type leader, presumably one who knew him from the old days.
In the "snowy city" mentioned above, the main characters were to cross paths with a kitchen-directing alien (one who eventually became Babu Frik) and the "next generation of Mon Calamari," the latter addressing the death of Admiral Ackbar in the The Last Jedi.
The admiral's son, Aftab, is briefly seen in the movie, but doesn't play a particularly large role.
One of the weirdest unused ideas that would've been totally cool to see was what the book describes as the Ahch-To caretakers from The Last Jedi "acting as assassins." Another stray idea had Kylo Ren being saved by an "alien shaman," a notion originally conceived for The Force Awakens.
The snake & the galactic cat lady
The subterranean and worm-like snake that Rey Force-heals beneath the Pasaana desert was originally native to the woods near the Resistance base.
On the swampy pirate planet, our heroes were to meet up with a blind shipbuilder who used to visit Rey on Jakku to buy parts. Abrams is said to have described the character as a "cat lady," who is always followed by a pack of little droids. The shipbuilder, who had a mechanical part for the First Order sabotage device, was eventually blended with the tiny kitchen alien, resulting in Babu Frik.
Poe gets kidnapped ... again
While visiting with the blind shipbuilder, Poe was going to be kidnapped by a group of bounty hunters, who were later changed to spice runners. These runners turn out to be Poe's "former clan," whom he tries to convince to join the Resistance.
In an effort to rescue Poe, Rey, Finn, and their droid companions take the shipbuilder's "twin cockpit Spitfire," which eventually became Ochi's abandoned ship. When they leave, Kylo Ren shows up and kills the cat lady before engaging in a Force-linked battle with Rey.
Rey fights the Knights of Ren
While exploring the ruins of the second Death Star, Rey was going to do battle with the Knights of Ren. That never happened in the finished movie that we got. Instead, Rey fought with Kylo Ren amid the Death Star's ruins on the Endorian moon, while Ren finished off his Knights during the climax on Exegol.
Leia's political backstory
While it's unclear whether this was ever part of the script, the backstory on Leia's political career after the fall of the Empire is very intriguing. The idea (conceived by TFA's original writer, Michael Arndt) is as follows: General Organa worked very hard to re-establish the Republic after the first war, but was eventually discredited and cast out when it was discovered that her father was Darth Vader.
During the segment on the swamp planet, BB-8 was going to be separated from the rest of the group and "ends up trapped in cage crammed with broken droids." He ends up making friends with a dying droid that sacrifices itself so that BB-8 can escape. While this sub-lot was axed, it did inform BB-8's ultimate interaction with D-O.