The Original Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Ending Might Hint At a Big Rise of Skywalker Twist

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Star Wars fans consider George Lucas’s space opera to be our generation’s modern mythology. In fiction, the lore spans thousands of years with entire galaxies of history and stories. And even in the early days of the original trilogy, Lucas had ideas that he never got to explore in his first films.

Today, a Lucasfilm creative art manager, Phil Szostak, uploaded some early concepts behind Return of the Jedi, offering fans on Twitter a very intriguing new look at original ideas behind the film’s so-called “Force Ghosts.” And, if Lucas’s concept work has had any effect on the filmmakers working on the franchise today (it totally has), then these script pages may contain some exciting details about how the Force Ghosts in the upcoming Rise of Skywalker may function in the film’s epic battles.

Szostak points out that the February 1981 draft of the Jedi–which was written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas–had the spirits of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi actually aiding in the final fight between Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine. Unlike in the actual movie, where the ghosts merely appear in the film’s ending to essentially wave goodbye to our heroes, this draft has the two deceased Jedi protecting Luke from Palpatine’s lightning shocks.

This concept was, of course, altered before the film was released in 1983. For instance, the Emperor refers to Luke’s “friends in the netherworld.” We don’t know much about the afterlife in Star Wars. But we’ve definitely never heard of “the netherworld” before, in any canon stories of the franchise’s history.

Also included in these script pages is a different ending of the film. At the final celebration on Endor–or “Ewak” as it’s called here–the old geezers of the Jedi actually come back to life in corporeal form, not blue-ish apparitions like in the ending of the film we’ve come to know and love today. Obi-Wan tells Luke, “My need to stay in the netherworld has been resolved. Your father turned to the good side and I was able to disrupt his journey.” So, apparently, Lucas and Co. originally planned for Jedi to be able to come back from death entirely. Huh.

This all may be key in understanding how the force ghosts of Rise of Skywalker may function within the conclusion of the long-running Skywalker saga. It’s been confirmed that Mark Hamill will appear in this new film. There have also been rumors swirling for years now that Hayden Christensen–who played Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel trilogy–will return, in some form, to portray the moody Jedi-turned-Sith-turned-Jedi boy. Ewan McGregor, of course, is getting closer and closer to being able to pull of Alec Guinness’s old man look from when he was a force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi. And, rumors have been floating around for a while that our dear puppet friend Yoda will be showing up in Skywalker again as well.

So, we know there’s big potential for force ghosts in this film. It’s almost a given that we’ll see a few, especially since J.J. Abrams seems quite concerned with tying off loose ends and paying tribute to the original films of the franchise. A lot of Star Wars fans were upset with Luke’s death in The Last Jedi. Could this be how Abrams plans to redeem the character in the final film, giving his force ghost a bit of agency in the big battle against Palpatine? Luke, after all, was able to send out his force hologram at the end of Last Jedi to fake out Kylo Ren and save The Resistance. It’s not hard to imagine that the deeply-powerful Jedi has some tricks up his sleeve, after death. Because, as Obi-Wan says at the end of New Hope, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Dom Nero is a staff video editor at Esquire.com, where he also writes about film, comedy, and video games.