“The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the new book written by Lucasfilm creative art manager Phil Szostak, was released March 31 and is jam packed with concept art and plot points that reveal many of the axed storylines from the final installment of the Skywalker trilogy, directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Abrams and Chris Terrio. Abrams’ co-writer says in the book, “I've never written a film as much as this one. It's like the tide. There's a new script every morning,” which tells “Star Wars” fans everything they need to know about how many ideas were drafted and then scrapped. Polygon rounded up many of the canceled storylines as described by Szostak in the coffee-table tome.
The book confirms that early versions of the story gave Finn John Boyega and Poe Oscar Isaac far more to do than just follow Rey Daisy Ridley around in her mission to defeat the First Order. At one point in the story the two characters were to take part in a “World War II-inspired caper” to find a code-breaking machine that would unlock plans to defeat the First Order. Per Polygon, “The top-secret technology would have been put at risk early on in the film when stormtroopers raided a pub on a snowy planet. The city where it all took place would eventually become Kijimi, the location in the final film where our heroes meet up with Zorii Bliss.”
Another idea that was floated around was the reveal that Finn had “a long-lost sibling that was stranded on a garbage planet.” The sibling was going to have knowledge of a “vital piece of information” that could help the Resistance beat the First Order. These scenes were drafted before Terrio and Abrams settled on the protagonists going to the desert planet Pasaana.
Poe’s scrapped storyline sounds the most intriguing, especially because “The Rise of Skywalker” theatrical cut doesn’t give the former smuggler much to do. The book describes early plans for Poe that were “much darker and grittier” in tone than the comic relief he played in the final movie. “One discarded plan placed put him on a swampy planet teeming with pirates, taking his crew up-river in a nod to ‘Apocalypse Now,'” Polygon reports. “Another version saw him captured by his old gang, a vicious group of drug dealers who had raised him since he was a boy.”
“The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is now available for purchase. Head over to Polygon’s website to read more insights into the novel’s biggest takeaways.
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...