Were Luke and Leia Meant to be Siblings When They Kissed in Empire Strikes Back?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Princess Leia was not intended to be Luke’s sister until Return of the Jedi.

A while back, I did a piece on Comics Should Be Good about the moments during the Star Wars comics where Luke and Leia kiss, moments that look kind of odd in hindsight when we discover in Return of the Jedi that Luke and Leia are twins. However, there are some similar points in the Star Wars films that are a bit awkward along those same lines, primarily the kiss that Leia plants on Luke in Empire Strikes Back which is, well, far too much of a kiss for either Luke and Leia to feel good about upon thinking back on it.


This, though, leads to the question that has been on many Star Wars fans minds ever since – did George Lucas intend for Luke and Leia to be siblings during The Empire Strikes Back?

I think that the answer is no, although interestingly enough, George Lucas has never expressly addressed the topic, which makes it difficult to get a definitive answer. Part of this comes along with the whole “Lucas had everything planned on from the beginning!” myth that Lucas himself has had a hand in perpetuating. For instance, we’ve already addressed in an old Movie Legends Revealed about whether Lucas intended for Darth Vader to be Luke’s father originally, but Lucas himself has been rather mum on his intent with Vader, even though it seems pretty clear by now that he did not intend the two to be father and son. His silence allows the “Lucas planned everything years ago!” myth to gain ground.

Anyhow, as I featured in the aforementioned legend about whether Darth Vader was Luke’s father, screenwriter Brackett’s original draft of the script for The Empire Strikes Back included a scene where Luke is visited by the spirit of his father, Anakin Skywalker. Here is their initial exchange:


You’ve grown well, Luke. I’m proud of you.

(Luke, not knowing what to say, says nothing)

Did your uncle ever speak to you about your sister?


My sister? I have a sister? But why didn’t Uncle Owen….


It was my request. When I saw the Empire closing in, I sent you both away for your own safety, far apart from each other.


Where is she? What’s her name?


If I were to tell you, Darth Vader could get that information from your mind and use her as a hostage. Not yet, Luke. When it’s time…

(he looks gravely at his son)

Luke. Will you take, from me, the oath of a Jedi knight?

Slowly, proudly, Luke draws his light saber and activates it, bringing it to the salute. Skywalker does the same.

Brackett’s screenplay was based on a story treatment by Lucas, so clearly, Luke DOES have a twin sister in this movie. However, it is clear that it is NOT Leia, as Brackett initially names the sister, Nellith, but then she crosses the name out.

Even after Lucas revised Brackett’s screenplay to introduce the Darth Vader as Luke’s father bit, he also kept in a sequence where Luke and Leia discuss their feelings for each other, with Luke telling her she is better off with Han. An even LATER revision included an almost SECOND kiss between the two!

So no, I do not believe that Lucas intended Leia to be Luke’s sister during The Empire Strikes Back. Around the time of Empire, Lucas spoke of the trilogy of films that would follow the end of the original trilogy:

Q: At one point there were going to be twelve Star Wars films.
I cut that number down to nine because the other three were tangential to the saga. Star Wars was the fourth story in the saga and was to have been called “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”. But I decided people wouldn’t understand the numbering system so we dropped it. For Empire though we’re putting back the number and will call it Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back. After the third film in this trilogy we’ll go back and make the first trilogy, which deals with the young Ben Kenobi and the young Darth Vader.

Q: What is the third trilogy about?
It deals with the character who survives Star Wars III and his adventures.

This is important because it lends credence to Gary Kurtz, producer of Empire Strikes Back, who said to TheForce.Net:

She’s not his sister. That dropped in to wrap up everything neatly. His sister was someone else way over on the other side of the galaxy and she wasn’t going to show up until the next episode.

So at the time of Empire, Lucas was intending to do future films with Luke, just like Kurtz says he was planning on doing. But then Lucas stopped at Return of the Jedi. Kurtz says that Luke was going to meet his twin in the new trilogy. If that is true and Lucas decided NOT to have a new trilogy, then it makes sense for him to have Leia revealed as the twin in Return of the Jedi, as it allows him to wrap up his intended plot for Luke/Leia.

Yes, in Empire, Luke speaks to Leia through his mind, which later is part of their connection as siblings, but I think that is more of a retroactive things where Lucas said, “Hey, we had Luka talk to Leia through her mind – why not have THEM be twins?” As it also neatly wraps up the love triangle that Lucas was clearly intending on wrapping up no matter what.

Plus, this would naturally explain away why Lucas had siblings kiss in Empire. As they WOULDN’T have been siblings when it first happened.

Since the only definitive answer exists in George Lucas’ brain, I suppose we’ll never know for sure, but I think there’s enough evidence that I’m comfortable going with the legend as…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.


One Response to “Were Luke and Leia Meant to be Siblings When They Kissed in Empire Strikes Back?”

  1. ParanoidObsessive on December 2nd, 2015 at 10:43 am

    “Part of this comes along with the whole “Lucas had everything planned on from the beginning!” myth that Lucas himself has had a hand in perpetuating.”

    This is part of why I always find it hard to believe anything Lucas says about his original intentions for characters or story, because he has a blatant history of retconning himself in interviews (on par with Stan Lee’s “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” attitude when it comes to history).

    Sometimes he’ll say the franchise was originally going to be 12 films, but they cut it back. Then he’ll say no, it was originally 9 and always going to be 9. Or it was always meant to be 6. Sometimes he claims he intended to go back and do the prequels after finishing the original trilogy, other times he’ll say he never planned to do it, and only started “in the middle” to duplicate the feel of the old time serial films that influenced Star Wars (like the Flash Gordon serials of his childhood).

    And then there are things like the claim that he deliberately used Joseph Campbell’s monomyth structure when making the Star Wars movies, which he never mentioned until years after the original trilogy was finished. So I’m left to wonder, was he really that strongly influenced by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” beforehand, and integrated it into his script writing, or did he just latch onto the idea after years of people constantly telling him he was a genius and someone mentioned to him how his films dovetailed with the concepts of that book? I could easily see him retroactively claiming it was totally deliberate afterward, when it was never intended at all originally.

    It’s hard to tell where the truth really lies. I suspect that what happens with him is that he becomes so enamored of his new ideas and interpretations he essentially convinces himself he “always” planned it that way, but it’s kind of obvious that he apparently changes his mind a LOT.

    But because most of this is completely subjective, and we don’t really have any elaborate journal entries or letters he wrote in the past to extrapolate from (like we do with, say, Tolkien), it becomes harder to separate out fact from fiction.

    Or as Lucas might call it, “reimagining”.

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