At the Writer's Guild screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, first screenplay writer Michael Arndt and shooting script co-writers JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took to the stage afterwards for a Q&A about the story.
While they talked about character (and even object/vehicle) introductions, they also talked about some story ideas that didn't make it into the film. Some of those were little things, like R2-D2 and C-3PO making their entrances separately.
"I had originally written R2 and C-3PO showing up together, and Larry very intelligently said, ‘You want to keep them separate from each other. And of course I’m like, ‘No, no, no, Larry. You don’t get it at all!’" Arndt said. Of course he acquiesced, leading to the much larger moments for both characters.
Likewise, there were different end goals for the characters at different stages of the story. Arndt originally had both the First Order and the heroes searching for actual objects of great Force power: Darth Vader's cremated remains, or clues to major Jedi sites of importance. The latter evolved into the final story, looking for Luke at one of those Jedi sites, a place he had retreated to.
The biggest change, though, was in Luke Skywalker's story. His came several different ways, before he eventually became the object of everyone's desire. The character originally came into the script much earlier on - as early as the first act of the story.
"Early on I tried to write versions of the story where [Rey] is at home, her home is destroyed, and then she goes on the road and meets Luke. And then she goes and kicks the bad guy’s ass. It just never worked and I struggled with this. This was back in 2012," Arndt said. And why didn't it work? Because adding Luke into the equation automatically changes the game too drastically.
"It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character anymore because, ‘Oh f***, Luke Skywalker’s here. I want to see what he’s going to do,'" Arndt told the audience.
The panel also inadvertently revealed another interesting point, that the first screenwriter, Arndt, had active story meetings with Abrams and Kasdan. In a Hollywood that often has two or three screenwriters (or groups of screenwriters) on any given film, that level of extra collaboration is rare and fascinating.