David Fincher was in talks to direct.
During the six-month period between Disney's purchase of all things Star Wars and the studio's hiring of Star Trek reboot director J.J. Abrams, producers undoubtedly met with several directors. Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy has been tight lipped about which directors she met with but we do know David Fincher was one of them. In 2014, the Seven director told Total Film he saw the first two chapters of the original trilogy as a story about the folly of man as observed by two slaves, C3PO and R2D2. He wanted to make something closer to The Empire Strikes Back for Episode VII than what Disney likely wanted. He did meet with Kennedy again in 2017 about potentially directing Episode IX but according to an interview with Empire, he was reluctant to make the kind of time commitment Star Wars requires.
Matthew Vaughn almost directed.
Matthew Vaughn came so close to directing Episode VII, the X-Men: First Class director even dropped out of the next installment of Fox's Marvel mutant franchise to do it. He reportedly wanted Chloe Grace Moritz in the lead and a darker tone overall, two things that ultimately derailed negotiations. He wrote and directed Kingsman: The Secret Service instead, while director Bryan Singer returned to the X-Men franchise and directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, from Vaughn's script.
Luke Skywalker was all over the early drafts.
Michael Arndt originally put the galaxy's most famous Jedi into several key scenes in what became The Force Awakens, with plenty of dialog. Mark Hamill lost 50 lbs. and grew a killer Obi-Wan Kenobi style beard, arriving on set thinking he'd still be at least in the third act, even after J.J. Abrams and The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi cowriter Lawrence Kasdan had retooled the script. Arndt has spoken publicly about how hard it was to juggle all of the original trilogy characters and the new ones, particularly with Luke in the mix, something Abrams has backed up.
Mark Hamill said plenty at the table read.
Remember how exciting it was when we saw those photos from the Episode VII table read? The whole gang was there. But wait! Now we know that Luke Skywalker doesn't say a damn thing in The Force Awakens. So what was Mark Hamill doing in that meeting? A New York Times profile of the actor published in 2017 revealed that J.J. Abrams was gracious enough to ask him to read the narrative parts. Hamill joked to the New York Times that the writer/director was trying to break him, like a horse.
The Severed hand.
One of the most prominent rumors circulating prior to the movie's arrival was the idea that The Force Awakens would open with Luke's amputated hand floating in space, still clutching his father's blue lightsaber, preserved by the freezing cold. But according to Mark Hamill, that rumor was based in fact. In a 2016 interview with The Sun, the actor said the movie was originally going to open that way, with the hand drifting to Jakku and burning up in the atmosphere, leaving only the lightsaber itself to drop to the surface of the planet, where an unnamed alien would discover it.