Gazing at the storyboards behind the iconic original Star Wars trilogy feels a little bit like rattling around in George Lucas’s brain. His vision comes together in the first frenetic panels of each scene, only to be scratched out and recast until shooting and editing the final cut.
In these simple drawings, we see a much bloodier opening sequence for the inaugural film, where a pig-faced Darth Vader rips off a rebel’s arm, Luke “Starkiller” is not only renamed but reborn as a woman, and the creators depict an alternate ending in which Ben Kenobi survives his battle with his former pupil.
In “Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy,” Lucasfilm has dipped into its archives to present a complete look at the artwork that drove the filming of A New Hope and its sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, with never-before-published art, early conceptual renderings of characters, and deleted scenes that provide a window into the creative process of storytelling. Artists Joe Johnston, Alex Tavoularis, and Ivor Beddoes contributed along with rarely seen Episode VI boards by Roy Carnon, and Ralph McQuarrie’s never-before-seen boards for Episode V. Each artist in pre-production was tasked with helping to translate the script as it was being edited and rewritten under intense pressure and swift deadlines.
The book’s editors take note that the boards were never meant as design sketches, but rather served as a blueprint for Lucas and crew during shooting and post-production.
Indeed, artists envisioned C-3PO as a more agile, “Metropolis Art-Deco” droid with postures that would have been impossible for Anthony Daniels once inside his golden suit, drew Chewbacca with pointed ears and a Muppet’s googly eyes, and sometimes incorporated vaudeville gags and karate sequences, or notes with arrows to show movement.
But it’s nearly impossible to see the opening sequence of Episode IV unfold even in black and white without hearing the familiar strains of John Williams’s composition and feeling that childlike excitement as if, even knowing what’s ahead, you’ll be experiencing the spectacle for the first time all over again.
“Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy,” $40, Edited by J.W. Rinzler. Foreword by Joe Johnston. Introduction by Nilo Rodis-Jamero. Printed by Abrams Books. Published May 13, 2014. 352 pages with 1200 4-color illustrations.