Leia Wasn't Originally Luke's Sister In Star Wars — And Darth Vader Wasn't His Dad

The famous twist at the end of Irvin Kershner's 1980 sci-fi epic "The Empire Strikes Back" — that the evil Darth Vader (James Earl Jones/David Prowse) was actually the father of the heroic Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) — was shocking enough to send seismic ripples through the future of pop culture. Young prospective filmmakers reared in 1980 were so shocked by the famed "Empire" revelation that the "hero was secretly related to the villain this whole time" twist would eventually become a common screenwriting trope.

As many Starwoids will be able to tell you, the "I am your father" twist famously contradicts dialogue from George Lucas' "Star Wars" from three years earlier. In that film, the trustworthy Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) revealed that he was friends with Luke's father, who was, by Obi-Wan's own description, definitely not Darth Vader. Indeed, Darth Vader was said to have murdered Luke's father. So when Darth Vader declared himself to be Luke's father at the end of "Empire," it didn't make sense. The 1983 follow-up, "Return of the Jedi" would have a lot of explaining to do. 

Of course, "Return of the Jedi" merely muddied the waters further by declaring that Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) was also Luke's long-lost sister, a twist that would shed new, incestuous light on the passionate kiss the characters shared in "Empire." Oops. 

Clearly, the "Star Wars" saga was not planned from the jump, and the filmmakers were making it up as they went along. "Empire" went through many drafts before the "I am your father" twist was settled upon. Indeed, resourceful "Star Wars" fans can likely find — if they poke around online — the original draft for "The Empire Strikes Back" as it was written by the late Leigh Brackett in 1978. 

Leigh Brackett's 'Star Wars II' gave Luke a different long-lost sister

The story goes that Leigh Brackett was hired by George Lucas to brainstorm a "Star Wars" sequel when the first proved to be a big hit. Brackett was a prolific and Hugo-nominated sci-fi author who had previously penned stories like "The Shadow Over Mars" and "The Long Tomorrow." She was also an experienced screenwriter, having penned notable "dude" classics like "The Big Sleep," "Rio Bravo," and "The Long Goodbye." Brackett knew how a "Star Wars" sequel ought to look ... and her version looked very little like the version we eventually got. 

In Brackett's script, the relationship between Luke, Leia, and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) was meant to be more of a conventional love triangle. Leia, being such a resolute character, would likely want very little to do with either Luke or Han. In the final "Empire" draft, Leia admitted she was in love with Han, a fact he seemingly already knew. 

Brackett's script also featured the familiar scenes of Luke flying off to a swamp planet to train with a hermetic Jedi sage, the character audiences would eventually call Yoda (Frank Oz). In Brackett's version, however, Yoda was initially called Bunden "Buffy" Debannen. That name was eventually changed to Minch Yoda before being shortened to just Yoda.

In the final draft, Luke leaves his Jedi training with Yoda to go rescue his friends from Darth Vader. Yoda regrets this, as Luke is not yet ready to be a Jedi Knight. Yoda holds out hope, however, saying "There is another." Brackett's script also had that line, but it was more explicit as to who the "another" was. It seems Luke still had a long-lost sister named Nellith. Luke was to learn about this mysterious Nellith from the ghost of his (non-Darth-Vader) father.

Lando, Han, and other details

Brackett's "Star Wars II" also didn't end with Han Solo being frozen in carbonite and taken away by a bounty hunter. Instead, Han would reveal to Luke and Leia that he was merely the bratty stepson of a character named Ovan Marekal, a notable officer deep in the Empire's bureaucracy. He was to leave Luke and Leia in a lurch so that he could go to the Empire's corporate office and plea for his stepfather's mercy. 

Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) would still be the leader of his own cloud-bound city, but he too would have secrets. It would be revealed that he was actually the cloned descendent of a long-ended aristocratic family. The Clone Wars were mentioned briefly in the first "Star Wars," so Brackett continued that thread by actually writing a clone character. His original name was Lando Kadar. 

Darth Vader, meanwhile, would remain as he was in the first "Star Wars." That is: he would merely be a strange, evil warlock in the employ of the Galactic Empire. It's unclear if Brackett's script also "promoted" Darth Vader to be the right-hand man of the Emperor, or if he was just another cog in the great Imperial machine. Darth Vader lived in a castle on the planet Ton Muund and only wanted to apprehend Luke because of his Force-formed potential.

Brackett sadly died of cancer in 1978, and it was up to Lucas, Irvin Kershner, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to rework the script as they felt it needed. They banged out the version audiences eventually saw. Would Brackett's version have been better? It's entirely likely. It might take some imagination to erase the finished "Empire" from our minds, but perhaps we can picture an alternate timeline where Luke and Darth Vader aren't related.