Boba Fett was originally designed to be Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’s big bad! Here's why it didn't happen…
To be a Star Wars fan is to fetishize its most mysterious villain, Boba Fett, a character that’s on screen in the Original Trilogy for a little less than 20 minutes – long enough to capture Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back and pay the ultimate price for it in its sequel. (Fett did eventually escape the sarlaac pit in the old continuity.) Fett speaks a total of four lines and appears in only eleven scenes. But did you know that Fett could have occupied a much bigger role in the trilogy?
Such an idea would have probably taken away some of the mystique surrounding the character as a result, something that did eventually happen when he was reintroduced as a child in Attack of the Clones. (What a mistake!) However, it was revealed in 2016 that, back in 1983, Fett wasn’t far from a main role in Return of the Jedi. Consequently, the helmeted visage of the mythos’ silent, stoic schlepper of carbonite captives may never be looked upon the same way again!
In an interview published by Inverse, Craig Miller, a former Lucasfilm advisor and fan relations officer who was one of the original public relations people on Star Wars, dropped a bit of an edifying bombshell about the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunter. It seems that plans going into The Empire Strikes Back and subsequently Return of the Jedi (née Revenge of the Jedi) involved Fett being elevated as the main villain of the trilogy-closing latter film. While Miller’s job back in the day actually involved spreading false rumors in fan magazines, mixing them with legitimate reports, he now confirms the veracity of the idea that big plans were initially in the works for Boba Fett.
According to Miller: “Originally Boba Fett was set up in Empire as a character, and the third movie’s plot was going to be more about Boba Fett, rescuing Han Solo and all of that. Boba was gonna be the main villain… That was set up, why he was taking Han Solo away, why there was a thing with him in the Christmas special.”
While 1983’s Jedi obviously saw the conclusion of the classic films, it seems that plans with Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) as the big bad were made under the context of George Lucas’ previously unrealized grandiose ambitions to churn out as many as three separate (immediately subsequent) Star Wars trilogies. However, the plans revealed by Miller now explain that Fett’s carbonite kidnapping of Han Solo at the end of Empire was actually designed to preview the primary plot of the Original Trilogy’s third act: a film that was to solely focus on the caper to spring a statue-ized Han from Fett’s clutches.
In hindsight, this makes sense, especially considering the almost quasi-viral way in which Boba Fett was introduced in an animated segment of the notorious 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Indeed, nearly two years before he appeared onscreen in Empire (he would later be retconned into 1997’s A New Hope Special Edition), Fett was the central villain of the animated short in which he introduced himself to a stranded Luke Skywalker as a friend with Rebel sympathies. He was ultimately exposed as an Imperial freelancer when R2-D2 intercepted a transmission with Darth Vader. Based on what we now know, that proverbial seed planted in the Holiday Special (and I’m not talking about Bea Arthur) was to be a sneak preview of sorts, introducing Fett as the next major antagonistic force in the Star Wars mythos.
So, what happened? I mean, Kenner even made Boba Fett the coveted mail-away action figure in 1979 to further build his hype! Well, while we’re currently in the midst of a third trilogy, it was Lucas’ own fatigue and franchise ennui that ultimately nixed his plans to tackle multiple Star Wars trilogies in a row. Thus, the Original Trilogy closer that we got in Return of the Jedi ended up becoming a mad scramble to tie-up several of the loose ends that were originally planned to unravel in a more methodical, slow-burn manner. It all would have potentially led into a version of the Sequel Trilogy that would have climaxed with Luke Skywalker’s final showdown with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, upon which the Rebellion would achieve its final victory.
The abbreviated Star Wars mythos led to the built-up and heralded Fett getting a disappointing demotion in the category of storyline importance. This, of course, led to Fett’s ignominiously comedic demise on Jabba the Hutt’s desert skiff in which Han Solo (accidentally) damaged Fett’s rocket pack, sending him to the bottom of the sarlacc pit to be digested for over a thousand years.
Of course, Fett’s legend still managed to grow in spite of his botched big bad prospects. His image is almost as synonymous with Star Wars as Darth Vader himself. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to reflect on what could have been, but never was.
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