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Fri May 3, 2013, 05:16 PM

They mocked her "science fantasy." Then she wrote Empire Strikes Back.


May the Fourth! Tomorrow's the day we celebrate all things Star Wars which makes it the perfect day to recognize one of the great unsung contributors to the galaxy far, far away: Leigh Brackett wrote the first script draft of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back, and her contributions helped make the saga epic.


But before Brackett had a major hand in creating the best Star Wars movie, she was a science fiction novelist in the 1940s, writing a slew of space adventure novels with titles like The Starmen and Alpha Centauri or Die!. People called her the Queen of Space Opera and it was not always a compliment.

At that time, space opera (like Star Wars) was looked down upon as less worthy of appreciation than other types of pulp fiction, including other types of science fiction. Brackett also wrote a lot of pulp crime fiction, and had co-written the screenplay for The Big Sleep with William Faulkner. But she chose to spend a lot of her time writing these despised novels. As her friend Michael Moorcock explains in an essay:

Like so many of her heroes, Leigh preferred the outlaw life. She always said her first love was science fantasy. She said it defiantly, when it paid less than other pulp fiction. When it paid less, indeed, than other kinds of science fiction. If she had chosen, in her fiction, to hang out with the scum of the L.A. streets instead of the dregs of the spacelanes, she could have made a lot more money... Her keen sense of freedom made her, like many other fine writers of her generation, choose the more precarious life of writing science fantasy.... There was a time when the kind of science fantasy Brackett made her own was looked down upon as a kind of bastard progeny of science fiction (which was about scientific speculation) and fantasy (which was about magic).

http://io9.com/they-mocked-her-science-fantasy-then-she-wrote-empir-489586578

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Reply They mocked her "science fantasy." Then she wrote Empire Strikes Back. (Original post)
ismnotwasm May 2013 OP
niyad May 2013 #1
johnnypneumatic May 2013 #2
ismnotwasm May 2013 #3
johnnypneumatic May 2013 #4

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Fri May 3, 2013, 05:19 PM

1. k and r

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Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Fri May 3, 2013, 06:15 PM

2. that's not quite true

She was a great writer and did write or co-write other great movie scripts: The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, Hatari, The Long Goodbye, etc.
But Lucas hired her to write a script for "Empire" from his notes. She wrote it, but then died from cancer in 1978. Apparently Lucas didn't like what she wrote and rewrote his own version, then gave it to Laurence Kasdan who rewrote it again, and nothing she wrote survived to be in the finished movie, though she did get co-writer credit with Kasdan.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Brackett

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Response to johnnypneumatic (Reply #2)

Fri May 3, 2013, 06:24 PM

3. Yeah that's in the article--sort of

I think the headline is for posterity, it *is* misleading;

It's fashionable to disparage Brackett's contributions to Empire Lucas himself says that her script wasn't what he wanted at all, and she died of cancer before she could do any rewrites. Lucas is quoted in The Annotated Screenplays as saying, "During the story conferences I had with Leigh, my thought weren't fully formed and I felt that her script went in a completely different direction." (You can read the entire script draft here, and a list of differences from the final film here.)

But it's not true that none of Brackett's storyline winds up in the final movie the basic story beats are the same. And there is at least one aspect of Brackett's draft that's way better than what Lucas eventually ended up with: the character of Luke's twin sister, named Nellis in Brackett's screenplay. From The Annotated Screenplays:

This concept of Luke's sister was discussed during story conference: The idea was that Luke's father had twin children and took one of them to an uncle and the second one to the other side of the universe so that if one was killed, another would survive. It was suggested that Luke's twin sister would be going through training at the same time that he was and become a Jedi master as well. Eventually, in another episode the story could deal with both Luke and his sister as Jedi Knights.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #3)

Fri May 3, 2013, 06:31 PM

4. yes the article gives a link to download her script

I'll have to read it and see. It might even be better than the final version.

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