Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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Getting the Facts on Leigh Brackett’s Star Wars Script

Dark Horizons is yet another site that’s run with the bizarre talking points aimed at diminishing the accomplishments of one of science fiction’s most revered icons:

With seven films down and two more on the way, one big surprise about the “Star Wars” films have been the lack of any women as writers or directors beyond an uncredited screenplay polish on “The Phantom Menace” by Carrie Fisher, and a very early (and discarded) “The Empire Strikes Back” draft by Leigh Brackett.

Not everyone buying it:

Who is this Laurent Bouzereau? He’s the author of Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays which was published way back in 1997– practically pre-internet times, really. Not being able to get at a copy of this right at the moment is pretty aggravating under the circumstances. Fortunately, the gist of the relevant parts are online in this review:

The Empire Strikes Back offers some of the book’s more intriguing discoveries. For instance, has anyone ever wondered what exactly was Leigh Brackett’s (The Big Sleep) contribution? Well, according to Lucas, the aging (and very ill) screenwriting-legend submitted a first draft that “went in a completely different direction,” to what Lucas intended and was discarded. Insisting that his ideas weren’t fully formed at the time of his and Brackett’s lengthy story conferences, Lucas admits “he didn’t like it, but gave Leigh credit because he liked her a lot.” Bouzereau also uncovers that Lucas himself wrote at least two other drafts before giving the job to initiate Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Yet Lucas’ name doesn’t appear anywhere beyond story and executive producer; all this points to a fairly misleading screenplay credit. Interesting since most critics at the time of the film’s release cited Lucas’ apparent lack of script involvement as one of the reasons The Empire Strikes Back‘s dialogue and characters were more fully realized. As the director admits, “writing has never been something I have enjoyed.”

Now reading this, I have to wonder… did Laurent Bouzereau even read Leigh Brackett’s script? Or did he just take George Lucas’s word on this at face value? Because this is not the story that people reading the original are saying. In 2010 when Leigh Brackett’s script began circulating the internet, IO9 didn’t refer to it as something that got discarded. They called it the film’s “first draft.” And even if George Lucas disliked it when he first saw it back in the seventies, he must have had a change of heart later on. Because it sure looks like he’s taken aspects of Brackett’s contributions that failed to make the final cut of Empire and reworked them in his later movies!

But let’s grant for a moment that this is a contentious topic where both sides could stand to acknowledge a few inconvenient truths. It’s still clear that these “journalists” are uncritically passing along the talking points with no idea what they are writing about.

Because they conflate Carrie Fisher’s “polishing” of that turd of script for Phantom Menace with Leigh Brackett’s work developing all of the key emotional beats of Empire Strikes Back, all of which are clearly evident in her script even if some of them were significantly revised and (in some cases) moved around a little. They have no idea who she is and what she accomplished. And yet they act as if her contributions to Star Wars are even less significant than the uncredited work that Fisher did on an absolute disaster of a film. That’s absurd.

This whole thing is outrageous.


6 responses to “Getting the Facts on Leigh Brackett’s Star Wars Script

  1. Cirsova December 9, 2015 at 9:55 am

    “Hey… what’s that over there. Is it the script?”

    • jeffro December 9, 2015 at 10:12 am

      This whole thing is just like how archeology was practiced in Asimov’s Galactic Empire setting….

      • Cirsova December 9, 2015 at 10:57 am

        Damnit, you’ve said that twice now! Now I’m going to have to go and read that to find out what you’re talking about.

        The most obnoxious thing is the absence of the 2nd & 3rd drafts, which would be the real smoking gun one way or another. WHAT DID KASDAN SEE!?

  2. jimmylogan0916 December 9, 2015 at 11:04 am

    I’ve been reading these as they come up in the inbox and I understand your frustration. I was aware of the original draft before reading your posts and it is unfortunate that she is being discredited. Though I respect your opinions, when you say things like Phantom Menace was a “disaster of a film” then it causes me to question the rest of your article(s). I personally enjoyed Phantom Menace and the other two prequels as well! You’re tired of people trashing Brackett; I’m tired of people trashing the Star Wars films. I assume we’ll both continue being tired…

    • jeffro December 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

      We’re going to have to agree to disagree on Phantom. But point taken.

    • H.P. December 9, 2015 at 11:48 am

      What Brackett wrote or did not write, even her influence on the final script, are questions of fact. Jeffro’s (very widely shared) opinion on Phantom Menace doesn’t change that. You could say that the final script of The Empire Strikes Back sucks, you could say that Leigh Brackett’s initial script sucks, but it doesn’t change the factual question

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