LONG LIVE LUKE SKYWALKER
George Lucas is the reason I want to make movies. His creative brilliance set my four-year-old imagination rocketing beyond the boundaries of our galaxy. The original Star Wars Trilogy is a masterpiece from start to finish, ewoks and all. The Prequels, on the other hand…
How did the guy behind the two greatest movies in the history of cinema (The Empire Strikes Back & Raiders of the Lost Ark) manage to miss the mark so egregiously? This question didn’t just weigh heavily on my mind, it kept me up at night. It gave me stomach pains. It made me completely incapable of having a rational conversation with any fellow Prequel-loving nerd. And so, I did what any Star Wars junkie would do...
I started outlining my own Star Wars Prequels.
I guess you could say I was doing it for therapeutic reasons, but come nightfall, I would sit down with a notebook and a stack of fig newtons, and bare my Star Wars soul on paper. After a week, I recruited my pal, Ian Hannin, and, together, we collaborated on a three-film arc that told a different tale - one that was peppered with surprises and built on relationships that evolved over time. It was a wildly fun and exciting undertaking that only got about a third of the way fleshed out, when…
Ian took to Photoshop and fused the classic fonts with our new and improved Prequel titles, which included "Mark of the Rebellion," "The Closing Hand," and "Fall to the Dark Side." The sight of them gave me goose bumps – and a new idea was formed: since we couldn't actually remake the Star Wars Prequels, what if we told the next chapter?
"HA! You mean, like… actually make Star Wars Episode 7?! Don’t be ridiculous."
No, seriously. What if we made the next chapter in the Star Wars saga without infringing on any copyrights? Sounds crazy, but consider this: Sean Connery took to the screen in an unofficial James Bond sequel, titled Never Say Never Again. The film couldn’t use the Bond theme music and the creators wrestled in court over the rights, but the movie got made – with Irvin Kershner at the helm, the director behind The Empire Strikes Back.
Likewise, for a Star Wars sequel to work, we would need the main character to be the same actor audiences have always loved. We needed thee actor, Mark Hamill. So I set off to get the one thing people take serious in this town: money.
I approached a film producer that I was working with on another project – a guy who had serious ties to financing. When I pitched the idea, he went all in and said that if I could get thee Luke Skywalker on board, he would pony up $5 million. So I sat down in my garage, wrote the opening scene to the film, googled Mark’s address and put my pitch in the mail.
Three weeks went by and I didn’t hear squat. Oh well, it was worth a shot. And then my phone rang. And it rang again. Dog-gone pesky credit card companies, calling me on a Saturday… hmff. I let the calls go to voicemail. A few hours later, while rinsing yogurt out of my kid’s hair, I checked my messages. “Hey, John, this is Mark Hamill.” OMG!!!!!!
After I got my nerd sauces under control, I called him back and engaged in a two hour phone call that ranks at the top of my list as one of the most exhilarating creative conversations I’ve had to date. We talked about everything, from the original films to other pet projects, and of course, the idea of a new Skywalker adventure.
I told him how we would abandon lightsabers for steal swords – and how in the final act, the blade would be pulled from the fire, glowing red with heat. I proposed that we cast a teenage replica of Carrie Fisher, so the audience felt like they were literally watching her on screen. I explained how we would never say Luke's name – that he would always be either “the old man” or “Uncle” and how R2-D2 would be transformed from his adorable tin can shape into a towering blue robot that made thunderous-sounding clicks and whistles. And Mark was full of ideas as well, from his character’s personality, to his abilities, and even his costume. It was a Skywalker fan’s dream come true!!
Alas, at the end of the day, Mark decided it would crush George and that he’d think it was a betrayal. While that was never my intent, I can understand it appearing that way. So, despite all of Mark's desires to play Skywalker again, it just wasn’t something he could do to the guy who started it all. Turns out, honor wins the day.
Yup, Hamill is a real Jedi after all.
Shortly thereafter, news broke about Disney acquiring the rights to the franchise and Mark would get the chance to reprise his legendary role once more. Like any fan, I’m ecstatic for him to reclaim his lightsaber and see him back in action for Episode 8. The stubborn filmmaker in me will continue to try and create an opportunity to someday work with Mark in a new, kickass role, but in the meantime, check out the script below to see how I would’ve returned Skywalker to the big screen, in what I think would’ve been an independent filmmaking juggernaut, titled “The Last Hope.”