January 15, 2020

What Colin Trevorrow's Leaked Star Wars Movie Reveals About The Industry

A lot of hard work goes into things that never see the light of day. 

Well... unless they get leaked

The AV Club reported that Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly's Star Wars Episode IX script was leaked on Reddit. Everyone immediately started reading it considering what could have been, and reopening discussions of what went wrong and why. 

Before we get into the leaks, let's step back a bit and remind ourselves what happened with Star Wars Episode IX and Trevorrow in the first place. Specifically how all the backroom dealings, friendly backstabbings, and machinations are the reality of doing business in Hollywood. 

The Safety Not Guaranteed director was signed on to write and direct the FINAL chapter in the trilogy, now known as the 'Sequel Trilogy'. Lucas's three films made between 1999 and 2005 are considered the 'Prequel Trilogy', and the ones made between 1977 and 1983 are called 'the good ones.'

Collider had a story that broke down some of the 'why' behind Treverrow's removal. Among the basic points were that while Kathleen Kennedy(Lucasfilm), Bob Iger(Disney CEO), and Alan Horn (Disney President) liked his initial pitch, the script wasn't quite what they were looking for.

There were disagreements that led to Kennedy bringing on another writer; and his draft was something neither Trevorrow nor Kennedy liked... which led to everyone's favorite industry impasse... creative differences!

With the leaks, we now know what some of them may have been!

But first, our backstory is not yet complete!

Trevorrow and Kennedy "parted ways" just around the same time Lord and Miller left Solo, which indicates that there was something of a general course change going on within Lucasfilm. There was some consideration given to Rian Johnson taking over Star Wars IX (Trevorrow's title for it was Duel of the Fates), but we can deduce that the polarizing reaction to Johnson's Episode VIII The Last Jedi ended that discussion.

Plus, negative reaction to Trevorrow's Book of Henry, which was a critical and box office bomb, didn't help his standing. No doubt, Disney was scared about what could happen to their cherished brand. 

As we all know, JJ Abrams came back to helm the final chapter, eventually titled The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams' quote at the time was: 

“I had a bunch of ideas from the beginning, back on VII, of where the story would go,” said Mr. Abrams. “I just never in my wildest dreams thought I would have a chance to execute them.”

*cringe emoji*

The Duel of the Fates

Trevorrow and Connolly's script seems to feature a few key differences with the eventual movie.

First off, Rose Tico has a larger role, and the Emperor has a much smaller one. He is not still alive, returning as the "big bad" behind it all. Instead, he's left something like a voicemail/last will and testament. 

"Hi, you've reached Emperor Palpatine. If you're getting this message, I died, and I leave everything to Darth Vader. If Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker killed me, there is another bad guy who trained me you can find him at... hold on lemme get the address. There is an important maguffin in all this trust me."

That's not the exact line of dialogue, but since we don't have anyone's word for it, it might be close. 

Anyway, Kylo Ren finds this message, seeks out the bigger bad guy and trains with him. At the same time, a 'Force Ghost' Luke haunts Kylo and trains Rey, leading them to a final confrontation.

This version of the final confrontation does not involve Kylo surviving or returning to the good side.

There are other minor tweaks regarding the other key characters and what they do. 

The really big piece of information, though is that Rey's lineage remains un-regal. She is not a Palpatine or a Skywalker. She is, in fact, a space nobody, and Kylo Ren killed her parents. Leia even supposedly utters this line: 

"You're not like my father or my brother. You're new. Whatever happens, remember the force choose you, Rey. Your story isn't written by anyone else."

This is a key reveal, and it hurts even more that we lost Carrie Fisher. She undoubtedly would have made the whole movie better, but she also deserved a more fitting end than what she got. Princess Leia is too big of a presence just to fade away. 

Why does this happen? 

This isn't the first, last, or even most recent time this sort of thing takes place. The question is, why does it happen?

There are a few reasons. One is making a good movie isn't scientific. Duh. Every creator knows that. If it was scientific, we'd all be able to do it all the time, right?

Telling good stories in the cinematic medium is challenging, and sometimes it almost feels like it works out by accident or divine intervention: so many moving parts, so much chaos. 

Every production has things that go wrong, but not many at this scale.

With a big piece of IP, a huge conglomerate behind it, and countless people's jobs on the line... the stakes get very high. There are a lot of competing interests and requirements, and what one person's gut says is quite different than another's.

There are also factors beyond anyone's control. Carrie Fisher passed away and that altered the course of these movies. How Disney responded with the final chapter in the trilogy, which was designed to feature her prominently, was complicated to say the least. Is the narrative different if that tragedy doesn't strike? 

Of course.

There are other factors. 

The mandatory release date of this movie should have changed on the very day they decided to toss Trevorrow's script. 

Disney could have collected its breath and said, "take the time you need" to JJ Abrams, or whoever took over. But Abrams was also dealing with Bad Robot seeking an overall. So while he was a steady hand, maybe his mind was not in it, even if his heart was. 

The problem at the center of this is art and commerce. 

A lot of big business decisions were made without thinking about how they would affect the final creative. Star Wars is going to make money, right? Maybe irrespective of quality or release date. How are the choices then made?

Does Hollywood need to change?

Remember when Warners was making DC movies, and every single one had a drop in quality because they were rushing them out to build a Justice League movie to catch up with Marvel? 

It is insane that Disney basically did the same thing with Star Wars... And Star Wars has NO competition. 

Until studios realize (or care) that better movies make even more money, they'll continue to release lesser products that still make plenty. The death of an actor and starting from scratch should probably push release dates. 

If there's one thing everyone can get from this situation, it's the idea to breathe. 

If Disney had pressed pause after Book of Henry and read the Star Wars script they got, maybe they would have felt more relaxed and not succumbed to the pressure. The same goes for Carrie Fisher's death. We can always just stop, breathe, and find a way to change course. 

If you still think you need to start over, shift expectations and dates accordingly. 

These are a lot of "Ifs," and the only guarantee is that working in Hollywood means working somewhere things constantly go wrong. You have to be able to roll with the punches, think on the fly, and deliver in the clutch. 

Any time any project faces a new curveball, you can let it cross the plate and take a called strike if you have to. Maybe the next pitch will be the one you crank for a homer. Taking the time to re-assess always helps. 

Otherwise, you end up with a divided plan of attack and while you might win a few battles...

The war will always be lost.      

Your Comment

6 Comments

If you want the industry to change then first the audience must change. This is an absurd article, the prequels were god awful, they irrevocably maimed the franchise, and Lucas had all the time and control in the world. Rian Johnson had a free hand, half the planet hated it. Easy to criticize when it's not your signature approving the execution of a script for a 1/4 billion dollar budget franchise film.

January 15, 2020 at 4:54PM, Edited January 15, 4:54PM

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eric wadsworth
Director, Storyboard artist, VFX artist.
189

A lot of hard work goes into things that never see the light of day. It's very good.

January 16, 2020 at 4:46AM

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+1 this is an absurd article. NFS should stay out the film critique biz (as should most everybody else). This assumes we agree that something was wrong with Rise and JJ somehow was not focused (his interviews on the film and his overall approach to filmmaking speak otherwise. What is interesting to learn and read about is how films are made, how craft is developed, how gear works, how to learn techniques. I'm no more interested in what NFS writers thinks about Star Wars than I am the person who delivers the mail. I thought this article was going to reveal something interesting about development process but instead it takes personal easy potshots at people "So while he was a steady hand, maybe his mind was not in it, even if his heart was. "

If you've got two spectacularly directed SW movies under your belt, maybe you can say that. But if you don't, it just comes across as petty and mean spirited.

January 16, 2020 at 9:22PM, Edited January 16, 9:25PM

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Stephen A van Vuuren
Filmmaker
503

The article is not absurd at all, its inviting you to reflect on the fact that even the big experienced Hollywood executives, producers and directors can get it badly wrong. There are BIG lessons to learn from this botched sequel trilogy (whether you enjoyed them or not) and they could have been ....should have been much, much better for such big 'tent pole' level franchise films. Screenwriting and directing were never George Lucas' strengths, but at least he had a single vision, something Igor, Abrams, Kennedy and Johnson underestimated. Be interesting to see how SW moves forward from this.

January 17, 2020 at 6:02PM

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Derek Boyes
Writer/Director
113

Nonsense, there's no guarantee that the script would have survived production intact or that the picture would have been any better than his last one. Regarding your conditions, there's plenty of bad films produced in that manner, the Matrix, Pirates, and some Bond sequels come to mind. Release dates and market concerns are no joke at that budget scale.

January 18, 2020 at 2:42AM

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eric wadsworth
Director, Storyboard artist, VFX artist.
189

Nicely written article, especially in the latter "think-piece" paragraphs. A couple of perfect examples how Great actually gets done is in many of the early Pixar movies. Now granted they didn't actually get to extend the deadlines (they just worked twice as many hours) but that didn't matter! In their first three movies they decided to hit a full Reset when they looked at where they were going and realized it just wan't working.
In each case, the risk of re-starting with a radically updated or new script was literally going to make or break the company. They were brutally honest about their own work and when it wasn't 5 Star, they put everything on hold and practically started over.
Of course, they were also independent of Disney at the time...

January 18, 2020 at 12:43PM

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Douglas Bowker
Animation, Video, Motion-Graphics
357