Fans of classic science fiction will be delighted to see Leigh Brackett’s name turning up in mainstream media outlets of late. In the decades following her death, it’s uncommon to hear anything but good about her contributions to Star Wars. The quality and success of The Empire Strikes Back is generally taken as the ultimate vindication of someone that took a lot of flack over the course of her career for her unwavering conviction that space opera was a most excellent style of science fiction.
But all of that’s in the process of being erased now. The news stories invoking her are in fact actively diminishing Leigh Brackett’s role in the development of the movie script. These stories all seem to be working from the same sheet of talking points as they all go out of their way to emphasize the fact that Leigh Brackett’s script was discarded.
It’s hard to imagine journalists running with this freshly minted narrative not being aware of how jarring the change is here. It’s even harder to understand how they could go forward with this without taking a few minutes to verify that what they’ve been handed is even remotely correct. But it keeps happening at one site after another. It’s now at the point where these people cite each other in order to back up their assertions!
It didn’t have to be this way. Within minutes of googling up a PDF of the script, you can see that Leigh Brackett’s work is very much recognizable as being a draft of what would become The Empire Strikes Back.
Luke getting mugged in the opening scenes of the film? It’s in there:
(Incidentally, the scene where Luke wakes up in a cave and kills the thing with his light saber is in there too, though the meditation and telekinesis bit isn’t there, yet.)
This scene where Han pilots the Falcon through the asteroid field is in there, almost identical to what ended up in the final cut:
The crucial scene where Darth Vader gets a phone call from The Emperor…? It’s in Leigh Brackett’s script:
Finally, that scene where C3PO walks into the wrong room and gets blown up? It’s there. The timing of the scene is a little different, but a critical piece of dialog is more or less unchanged:
(The “dinner with Darth Vader” reveal is in there, too.)
As to things that got changed and things that got cut from Leigh Brackett’s script, these are at least as interesting as the things that were maintained throughout the entire collaborative process. But to claim that her script was “discarded” as so many journalists are doing right now, that is flat wrong.
They ought to be ashamed of themselves. But as we’ve seen with other news stories that have followed this same pattern in the past year, this is their job.