The only thing we knew about Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker before Star Wars: The Force Awakens was that he would certainly be in the movie, at some point. For those who only watched the trailers and TV spots, you may have thought otherwise, since he was never featured in any of the footage, or even the posters and photos released in the months and weeks leading up to the December 18 release. Following Star Wars: The Force Awakens' record-breaking opening weekend at the box office, where it took in an estimated $238 million, Entertainment Weekly caught up with director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Michael Arndt, who shed some new light on this iconic character. If you haven't seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, there will be SPOILERS that follow, so read on at your own risk.
While nothing was revealed about Luke Skywalker's story line before Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted, there were several rumors, most of which proved untrue. Some rumors claimed he put himself into exile after doing something incredibly powerful with The Force, but, as it turns out, he went off the grid for much different reasons. In the years that followed Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, Luke was training a new group of Jedi recruits, one of which was Ben Solo, Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia's (Carrie Fisher) son who turned to the Dark Side and became Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). We don't end up seeing Luke until the final moments of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but as screenwriter Michael Arndt explains, earlier drafts of the script featured Luke much sooner.
"Early on I tried to write versions of the story where [Rey] is at home, her home is destroyed, and then she goes on the road and meets Luke. And then she goes and kicks the bad guy's ass. It just never worked and I struggled with this. This was back in 2012. It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn't care about your main character anymore because, 'Oh f-k, Luke Skywalker's here. I want to see what he's going to do.'"
Entertainment Weekly also reveals that early versions of the script included "a search for Darth Vader's remains," and "a quest to the underwater wreckage of the second Death Star to recover a key piece of history about sacred Jedi sites in the galaxy." As it turns out, elements of these discarded stories still remain in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, since Kylo Ren is seen talking to Darth Vader's burnt helmet, and one of the sacred Jedi sites is where Luke put himself into exile. Still, these stories were largely tossed aside from Michael Arndt's script after J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan started working on the screenplay.
Last month, Mark Hamill himself confirmed his return as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode VIII, which starts production sometime next month, under the direction of Rian Johnson. Back in September, the director did shoot several scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII at Skellig Michael Island in Ireland, which is the site of Luke Skywalker's Jedi temple from the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's possible that Star Wars: Episode VIII could pick up right where Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off, but that hasn't been confirmed at this time. Do you think it was the right choice to hold off on revealing Luke Skywalker until the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Or would you have liked to see him earlier in the story?