The Rise of Skywalker has been out for well over a year, but new details about the controversial film continue to emerge.
It's no mystery by now that Episode IX has its fans and haters, much like the rest of the Sequel Trilogy. What separates The Rise of Skywalker from its two predecessors is the rushed nature of the production, which is translated on screen by way of the sudden resurrection of the Emperor and the inconsistencies the story had with the other Star Wars films.
Joonas Suotamo, the man behind Chewbacca in the latest trilogy, recently revealed an intense confrontation between the Wookie and Kylo Ren that was filmed but omitted from the final product. Concept art shared online several months ago also depicted a lightsaber battle between Ren and Rey in the Lars homestead on Tatooine, an idea that was seemingly part of a different story entirely.
The full plot of the alternate story remains unknown, but a new piece to the puzzle has been unearthed in some recently revealed concept art, involving a character designed for a very high-profile actress.
JUDI DENCH... AS THE MILLENNIUM FALCON'S SHIPBUILDER?
Artist Phil Saunders, via his ArtStation page, shared a new piece of concept art for The Rise of Skywalker. The artist revealed that Judi Dench was high on the wishlist for the pictured role, which would have put the Dame in the shoes of the one responsible for originally building the Millennium Falcon.
"Another random shot from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In an earlier version of the script, Rey would have sought out the original designer of the Millenium Falcon to find a piece of hardware that could stop the First Order armada. Dame Judi Dench was on the wishlist for the role, and would have been great. Rey finds her on yet another desert planet of course, and her home would have been carved into the top of a spectacular mesa. I was just tasked with adapting a piece of reference provided by the art department into an interesting interior."
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JUDI DENCH'S CHARACTER IN EPISODE IX
Where would Judi Dench's character have fit into the Star Wars story? To put things bluntly, there's no easy answer.
After doing some digging into the Art of The Rise of Skywalker book, it appears that the version of Episode IX that would've featured the Dame's character followed a completely different storyline than the one present in the final product. The book reveals that this iteration of The Rise of Skywalker's story came in early 2018, well before principal photography began on the semi-finalized script.
Per the book, the shipbuilder character would have been a person from Rey's past on Jakku, and she would have provided shelter for the film's heroes. What the book omits is the detail shared by Saunders, which is that Rey is on the hunt for a piece of hardware to defeat the First Order's fleet. Given this information, along with the note that Dench's home would've been in a mesa on a desert world, it's a safe guess that the planet in question is what became Pasaana, and the Emperor's wayfinder replaced the hardware in this galactic adventure.
In the original version of the story, Poe was to be kidnaped by spice runners and Kylo Ren would eventually discover and execute the shipbuilder, leading to a duel between Rey and the Supreme Leader. Some art pieces depict the battle as one that takes place through the dyad, which would later be done on Kijimi, but the possibility remains that the duel on Tatooine may have transpired instead.
With all of this in mind, it's hard to say whether the Emperor was even involved in the story at this point. While there are indicators that JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio decided to resurrect the once-dead Sith Lord in late 2017, this version of The Rise of Skywalker doesn't seem to have any of the elements that involved him and instead focused more on the First Order vs Resistance narrative.
There are clear similarities between some concept elements and the theatrical product for The Rise of Skywalker, but it appears as though the story was set to take a very different direction at one point. What the full original drafts entailed may never be known, it's fascinating to see how significantly Episode IX's narrative evolved in the span of just a few months.