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: Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was originally written as a film sequel to Star Wars.
One of the things that has been made clear in past legends about the early days of Star Wars (like whether Darth Vader was always supposed to be Luke’s father or whether Luke and Leia were always supposed to be siblings) is that George Lucas was often playing things by ear at the start of his epic film franchise. This makes sense, of course, as there was no way for Lucas to know that his first Star Wars film would become such a sensation, so how could he spend much time planning for future films when he wasn’t even positive that he would get a second film, let alone a franchise of films and related tie-in materials?
This uncertainty led to the intriguing origin of the first full length novel based on the world of Star Wars, Alan Dean Foster’s acclaimed Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
While the book is famous for being the first notable expansion of the Star Wars universe, it was also, remarkably enough, originally written as the basis for a possible sequel to the original Star Wars!
Alan Dean Foster was hired by George Lucas in 1976 to ghost-write the novelization of the first Star Wars film.
At the same time, he was commissioned by Lucas to write a second novel that could work as a low budget sequel to Star Wars if the first film did just well enough for Fox to allow Lucas to do a cheap follow-up film.
Foster came up with an intriguing story of Luke and Leia being forced to land on a swampy planet while on a Rebel mission. While there, they learn of a powerful crystal that could magnify and focus the use of the Force. Luke and Leia search for the crystal and Darth Vader shows up on the planet and he, Leia and Luke have a mighty battle (ironically enough, it ends with Vader’s arm being sliced off, as a sort of reverse of what happens when Luke and Vader finally do duel in The Empire Strikes Back). Han Solo and Chewbacca are absent from the story because Harrison Ford was only under contract for the first film.
Lucas gave Foster a great deal of leeway with the story. As Foster told Ethan Adler of Yahoo Movies:
The only restriction placed on me was that the follow-up novel had to be filmable on a low budget. That’s why I set it on a fog-shrouded planet. A lot of the action takes place in the fog or underground, which facilitates shooting with cheap backgrounds. The book originally opened with a fairly complex space battle that forces Luke and Leia down on this planet, and George had me cut that out because it would have been expensive to film.
Amusingly, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is also pretty explicit in showing Luke and Leia as being romantically interested in each other. So Lucas clearly didn’t have a problem with that idea at the time (since, of course, they were not yet brother and sister in his mind).
Naturally enough, the first Star Wars film was a blockbuster and there was no longer a need to use the book as a basis for a second film, as Lucas was able to do a big budget sequel. So the book instead just became a nice little diversion for fans while they waited for the official follow-up to be released.
Foster continues his involvement in the world of Star Wars to this day, as he did the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The legend is…
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