Book Review: ‘Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays’

(C) 1997 Del Rey Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) Poster art: Tom Jung

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Luke Skywalker was Annikin Starkiller.

Han Solo was a “huge green-skinned guy with no nose and large gills.”

And Princess Leia had a bit part. – Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays

Considering how intertwined George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy is in modern pop culture, it’s hard to imagine that the film versions of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are radically different from Lucas’s initial story treatments. Since 1977, we’ve become so used to seeing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford as Han Solo that any other concept seems, well, alien.

Yet, as anyone familiar with writing or filmmaking knows, movies often undergo vast changes from a screenwriter’s initial story idea to the final edited version that audiences see in theaters. For instance, at one point in Star Wars’ development, Lucas toyed with the idea that the film’s central hero was a girl rather than a young moisture farmer named Luke. He also thought about casting little people to play all the Rebel characters (including Luke and Leia).  

Laurent Bouzerau’s 1997 book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is a 320-page volume that presents the complete screenplays by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan for Episodes IV-VI of the sprawling space saga. 

Here, at last, is the definitive Star Wars script collection—all three full-length screenplays, presented with the secrets that led to their creation!Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays

Published on September 8, 1997, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is not the first book published by Ballantine Books that contained Star Wars script material. Ballantine has released illustrated editions of the individual screenplays. The scripts to A New Hope and Return of the Jedi have also appeared in Ballantine/Del Rey Books’ The Art of Star Wars and The Art of Return of the Jedi coffee table format volumes.

However, Bouzerau’s Annotated Screenplays was the first literary work to explore the evolution of each film from its earliest iteration to the final draft of the script. 

Bouzerau, a film historian and filmmaker who specializes in “making of” documentaries, was granted access to Lucasfilm’s vast Star Wars archives for the annotations in this book. The most important materials cited include George Lucas’s collection of outlines,character lists, story synopses, handwritten notes, and the various screenplay drafts for the three movies.  

Through hours of exclusive interviews with George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, and others involved in crafting the original trilogy, Laurent Bouzereau has uncovered the complex process through which life was breathed into the legendary Star Wars saga. Then, by exhaustively annotating the actual scripts, he reveals the fascinating tale behind each step in the evolution of these blockbuster films.

The author also spent many hours interviewing many of the key players involved in the creation of the Classic Trilogy, including:

  • Writer/director/producer George Lucas
  • Film editor Paul Hirsch
  • Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan
  • The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner
  • Art director/visual effects creator Joe Johnston
  • Film editor Richard Chew

Because this book was published in 1997, Bouzerau also interviewed Rick McCallum, who produced that year’s Special Edition re-release of the Star Wars trilogy and the 1999-2005 Prequel Trilogy, which was then in its early pre-production stage.

My Take

Luke Skywalker was Annikin Starkiller.

Han Solo was a “huge green-skinned guy with no nose and large gills.”

And Princess Leia had a bit part.

Here, at last, is the definitive Star Wars script collection—all three full-length screenplays, presented with the secrets that led to their creation! 

Through hours of exclusive interviews with George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, and others involved in crafting the original trilogy, Laurent Bouzereau has uncovered the complex process through which life was breathed into the legendary Star Wars saga. Then, by exhaustively annotating the actual scripts, he reveals the fascinating tale behind each step in the evolution of these blockbuster films. – Publisher’s blurb, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays

I bought this book in February of 2000 during a rare out-of-town trip I took to Denver, Colorado at a bookstore that was a few blocks away from the motel where I was staying. I’ve read it many times since then, so its cover is a bit dog-eared and well-worn. It’s probably one of my favorite Star Wars references, even though it was published 23 years ago and no longer in print. 

Sadly, some of the material in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is out of date because Lucas altered the first six movies he produced and/or directed for the DVD and Blu-ray releases. 

For instance, although Star Wars: The Annotated includes directions and dialogue for  the additional material created for Star Wars: The Special Edition in sidebars along with the original 1977-1983 scripts, the 1997 book obviously does not have Lucas’s reimagined version of Emperor Palpatine’s holo-conference with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, which was redone for the 2004 DVD release.

Similarly, Bouzerau’s book doesn’t include the addition of Naboo to the galactic celebration at the end of the 2004 DVD version of  Return of the Jedi. 

Nevertheless, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays is still a valuable resource for film buffs and Star Wars aficionados. The book shows, among other things, how concepts Lucas put aside while making the original trilogy were later used in Episodes I-III. For instance  Annikin Starkiller, the central hero of 1973’s The Star Wars, not only combined character traits that Lucas later gave to Luke and Han, but also served as the template for the Prequels’ Anakin Skywalker.

Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays might not be the perfect book that delves into the original Star Wars trilogy as it exists today. However, it still gives Star Wars fans a close-up look at the blueprints for the original 1977-1983 theatrical releases and an in-depth examination of how each screenplay evolved along its path from treatment to final draft.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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