The lie that makes Star Wars sublime

Why do many Star Wars fans insist that George Lucas did not know that Vader / Anakin were the same person?

Lucas is 100% clear in interviews that he knew the Star Wars backstory at the time of shooting the first Star Wars movie. And the Vader / Anakin reveal is clearly foreshadowed through A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

Nonetheless, the level of denial among some fans borders on conspiracy theory. David Prowse announced Vader’s true identity during a press conference, which is why he was later banned from any access to the script, but the tru-denialists claim he *accidentally* guessed!

So why all the denial?

I think there are a few issues at play:

  1. Lucas wanted to keep the big reveal in Star Wars secret. Cast and crew were only told as and when necessary. Outside writers like Leigh Bracket, who was commissioned for an Empire script that was never used, were not told. This is all standard for a major plot point in a Hollywood blockbuster.
  2. Lucas certainly imagined many versions of Star Wars through its evolution. Sometimes Vader would be Luke’s father, sometimes not. But at the point of shooting the first movie, it was set into the plot.
  3. Anakin / Vader denial tends to go hand in hand with rejection of the idea that Star Wars uses Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth. Also a documented fact. So maybe it’s just a generalised preference for the idea that stories like Star Wars are “just made up”.

Certainly, at the time of shooting New Hope, Lucas knew that Vader / Anakin were one and the same. It IS unclear if Alec Guiness was told the full backstory, or only that Obi Wan was lying. Either way he certainly provided a nuanced performance to signify that Kenobi was not being honest with young Luke.

Explore the greatest setup & payoff in cinematic history with this week’s Writing Wednesday on the Science Fiction channel

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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