George Lucas made a key last-minute change to Attack of the Clones that changed the entire climax of the film.
It has been over 20 years since George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones hit theaters. The film, while not being received well by critics and fans alike, did feature multiple important aspects of the franchise as a whole, including the father of Boba Fett, clone troopers, Count Dooku, and of course, Master Yoda in lightsaber combat.
Many fans can probably recall the first time they saw the Jedi Grandmaster flipping around the Geonosis hangar, but it was recently revealed by the prequels' stunt coordinator that this groundbreaking scene looked quite different from its original form.
Attack of the Clones’ Original Lightsaber Duel
In an interview with Star Wars Theory, prequel trilogy stunt coordinator Nick Gillard revealed the original plans for the major lightsaber duel at the end of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
In the final cut of the film, Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker and Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi face off against Christopher Lee's Count Dooku. After both Jedi are injured by Dooku, Yoda appears and has his own duel with the newly-appointed Sith.
Gillard revealed that this wasn’t always the case and that Yoda was never going to originally appear in the fight. The stunt coordinator stated that this change was made by George Lucas “on the day” of shooting that scene and that originally, Dooku was supposed to have “a much bigger fight with Obi and Anakin:”
"Again, that happened on the day. So, we get there to shoot it as it was, with a much bigger fight with Obi and Anakin, and George said he wanted Yoda in it. On that day he said, 'However it starts, the blast doors are going to open and there’s Yoda.'"
Instead of getting injured by Dooku as quickly as he did in the final cut, Gillard also revealed that Anakin was supposed to have a long fight with Dooku that would have taken up all of the screentime that originally went to Yoda in that scene:
"When Obi and Anakin fight Dooku and Yoda comes in, in that fight originally, Yoda wasn’t in it. Yoda’s place was taken up with a much bigger fight with Anakin."
If George Lucas hadn't made the last-minute decision to change this scene and include Yoda, it would have most notably delayed Yoda's first on-screen lightsaber duel to Revenge of the Sith, a movie that came out three years after Attack of the Clones.
Gillard also talked more in-depth about the original fight between Anakin and Dooku. When asked about a promotional image of Dooku holding two lightsabers, Gillard revealed that it was from the original fight between Dooku and Anakin, which was "very complicated" and even contained a "section where they both had two lightsabers:"
"That would have been - is that 2? Isn’t it Episode 2? That fight started, as I said, Yoda wasn’t in it. It may have originally been just Hayden (Christensen), I don’t know. But anyway, there was this section where they both had two lightsabers. And we did a very complicated fight, in kendo actually, where they both had two lightsabers. That didn’t last long, it must have changed quite quickly."
The prequels' stunt coordinator said that he remembers "only spending a week" rehearsing the fight with Christopher Lee's stuntman, Kyle Rowling, and Hayden Christensen. He also talked about where Dooku actually got his second lightsaber from:
"I can remember spending a week doing it with Kyle (Rowling), me and Kyle did it, and me and Hayden did it. It must have gone away, but that thing changed twice. It was that, he was on his own against Dooku so it might be after Obi gets binged, I don’t know. I don’t know where they get the other lightsaber from, but they both had two, for sure. Dooku might have pulled out (another one), I don’t know."
Gillard ultimately stated that one of the major reasons they couldn't rehearse the fight was because "there wasn't enough room." He also is regretful that it wasn't able to make it into the final cut because he believes "it was lovely with two:"
"They both had two because I can remember where we rehearsed it there wasn’t enough room. But anyway, yeah, so that was a thing that went away early, which was a bit annoying because it was lovely with two. Because you’re 'bang, bang, bang,' so much like boxing. Yeah, that vanished."
How the Original Fight Would Have Changed the Prequels
Yoda was introduced to fans in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back. He also appeared in Return of the Jedi and then appeared in all three prequel films. In the final two installments of the original trilogy, the character's connection to the Force was legendary, but fans weren't able to see him in any sort of action.
In Attack of the Clones, Yoda hobbles into the room that Dooku, Anakin, and Obi-Wan are in. He drops his cane, trades some Force attacks with Dooku, and then pulls out his lightsaber and starts showcasing his incredible acrobatic lightsaber skills by using lightsaber Form IV, Ataru.
This was a monumental moment in Star Wars because the most mysterious and legendary Jedi master of all time was now fighting on-screen. If George Lucas hadn't made the executive decision to include Yoda in this fight, the first and only time fans would see him in combat is against Darth Sidious in Revenge of the Sith.
Lucas' change obviously affected Yoda in the prequels, but how did it affect Anakin? Lucas has continuously stated throughout the years that his Star Wars story - all six films of the prequel and original trilogies - has always been about Anakin.
The prequel trilogy mainly tells the story of the death of Anakin Skywalker and the birth of Darth Vader. Because of this, there are certain moments throughout each of the three films that push him farther and farther down the road to the dark side. Sith tend to have a fairly persuasive manner about them, particularly when in contact with someone that has conflicted feelings.
At the point of this fight in Attack of the Clones, Anakin is dealing with the loss of his mother. If Anakin would have been in a longer fight with Dooku, that would have given the former Jedi to toy with Anakin's emotions. He would have sensed Anakin's frustrations and polarizing emotions. If the two characters would have fought for longer than they did in the final cut, what impact could Dooku have had on Anakin's eventual turn?
All Stars Wars prequel films are streaming now on Disney+.