First drafts of famous films

First drafts of famous films

Last time we looked at first draft of famous novels including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you haven’t read that article, you can do do so by clicking here. Today we’re looking at the first draft of famous films!

1) Star Wars Episode Four: A New Hope


The Star Wars universe is unmeasurably vast. It currently has ten cinematic films (and counting), countless re-releases (you can read more about those by clicking here) hundreds of novels, thousands of pieces of merchandise, an additional expanded universe and most decently a Disney re-boot. In this entry I’ll only be discussing the first film, Episode Four: A New Hope (although the first drafts of episodes five and six are well worth looking into). Without Episode Four and the strange path George Lucas trod to create it, Star Wars today simply wouldn’t exist.

Lucas’ first attempt at Star Wars was a two page synopses written in 1973. The synopses was titled Journal of the Whills and was almost unrecognisable from Star Wars as we know it. We’re not sure what was in this synopses, only that the protagonist was called CJ Thrope and that most of the plot was scrapped.

A year later Lucas completed a manuscript titled The Star Wars: First Draft which contained some familiar elements of the Star Wars universe. The Sith were created, the Empire had control of a super weapon called a Death Star and there was a general called Annikin Starkiller, although he bore little resemblance to the character we know as Anakin Skywalker. CJ Thorpe became an adolescent boy and a side character who lived among a family of dwarfs (perhaps these were the first incarnation of the Jawas?) and although the character of Han Solo existed he was a large, green-skinned monster with gills, similar to Jabba the Hutt.

Lucas completed a second draft of Star Wars in January 1975. This draft had the rather lengthy title of Adventures of the Starkiller as taken from the journal of the Whills, Saga 1: The Star Wars. CJ Thrope was now called Luke Starkiller, son of Annikin Starkiller who was a wise old Jedi. The Force made it’s first appearance and this draft was also the first to introduce the concept of a Jedi turning to the dark side and becoming a Sith. The main beats of Episode Four, two droids in the desert, the destruction of a planet and the Death Star trench run were also present.

Lucas, perhaps realising he was on to something, hired a conceptual artist to create paintings and sketches of his work.

Darth Vader and Storm troopers raid the Tantive IV. Notice Vader’s mask is set in a snarl and his cape seems to be made of fur. The Storm trooper’s lightsabers and shields were cut due to budget concerns.
C3PO and R2D2 on Tatooine. Notice that R2’s colour scheme is different and C3PO is more elegant than this cinematic counterpart.
A heroic shot of the protagonists. From left to right: Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2. Notice that Luke’s lightsaber is white, Leia’s design is drastically different and  Chewbacca is a species of alien called Lasat rather than a Wookie. Han Solo is mysterious absent.

It’s interesting to note that lots of elements of Star Wars were recycled for future use. For example, R2D2 and Chewbacca’s first drafts looks more like the characters Chopper and Zeb from the TV show: Star Wars Rebels which was first broadcast in 2014. The words Jedi and Bendu originated from the synopsis in 1973 as did the character name Mace Windi (later changed to Mace Windu).

2) The Lion king

Disney’s The Lion king was first released in 1994 and is one of Disney’s best animated film in both their Renaissance period and perhaps of all time. The film has become a modern classic and is currently being performed on London’s West End (alongside Aladdin) and is going to be re-released later this year. You can see the trailer for the 2019 release below.

Although the Lion King was released in 1994 it’s first draft dates back eight years earlier. The original idea was created by Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney (nephew of Walt Disney) and Peter Schneider on a plane trip. The original plot would have focused on a war between the lions led by Simba and the baboons lead by Scar. Rafiki, a sage like Monkey in the finished product, was a cheetah caught in the middle of the war and Timon and Pumbaa would have been Simba’s childhood friends. Scar’s plan was to manipulate Simba into being a poor ruler so the pride of lions would be weakened when Scar and his baboons attacked. The plot of the film would have followed Simba redeeming himself, defeating Scar and uniting both tribes.

Lion King

Disney had very little faith in The Lion King and had their B team working on the project while their A Team worked on Pocahontas. (I’m particularly salty on Pocahontas as my video here from The Starting as Strangers YouTube channel will explain.) The production  for The Lion King was difficult for a variety of reasons. Aside from a lack of resources provided by Disney, the team behind the Lion King team were scattered around the globe. One section of the team was in Africa studying animal movements and sounds, another team worked on the animation of characters from America’s East Coast while the background and side effects were created in a studio on the West Coast. The voice of Scar, Jeremy Irons, recorded his lines in London over the phone. When the studio in tLos Angeles was destroyed by an earthquake the animation team had to finish their work at home.

When both films reached theatres Pocahontas only managed to earn €346 million where as Lion King earned almost three times that much which a total profit of €968 million.  There are two main reasons for this. The first is that although Pocahontas was a Disney Princess (and in the eyes of Disney making her more prestigious than Lion King and more profitable) her film’s target audience were little girls where as the Lion King attracted children of both genders. The second reason Lion King was more successful was that when Pocahontas was released it was panned by critics for the many inaccuracies it had to it’s source material.

3) Doctor Who: The day of the Doctor


When Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005 it was met with critical acclaim and as the series progressed fans began to wonder about a Doctor Who feature film. While the 50th anniversary: Day of the Doctor is an extended episode, it serves the purpose of a film. On 23 November 2013 the Day of the Doctor was broadcast across the globe and was met with positive reactions. Moffat later admitted that he had been brainstorming the episode in 2011 and written three drafts of the script by 2012.

The first draft featured the three Doctors since the 2005 re-boot, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith, the Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor and Eleventh Doctor respectively. Each actor had portrayed their Doctor differently and fans had watched the character evolve with each new actor. The Ninth Doctor was harden and scarred by the events of the Time War, the Tenth Doctor while not completely recovered was more joyful and optimistic, while as the Eleventh Doctor was more childlike and goofy. Moffat decided that the Ninth Doctor would be the one who ended the Time War by destroying Gallifrey while the Eleventh and Tenth Doctors would work together to stop him.

Although this plot sounds promising it faced two problems. The first was that the Ninth Doctor seemed unfamiliar with his face in the episode Rose, which would have created a plot whole of how he could of ended the time war if he had only recently regenerated. Although this could have been explained away with a retcon the second problem was fatal to the script. Christopher Eccleston had left Doctor Who on bad terms. It’s unclear what exactly happened between Eccleston and the BBC in 2005, it has been theorised that the BBC disliked his decision to portray the Ninth Doctor with a Northern accent while others say the BBC broke their contract with Eccleston and released a quote that was falsely under his name. Regardless Eccleston left the show after one series and refused to return for the Day of the Doctor.

Moffat also faced problems regarding Matt Smith and David Tennant. Smith had confided in Moffat that he wanted to leave the series and both he and David weren’t contracted to Doctor Who when the script was being written, meaning Moffat was potentially without any Doctors. Moffat wrote another draft of the script where in Clara, the current companion of the Eleventh Doctor was the protagonist. The plot of this script isn’t known but it is speculated that she would have had some interactions with the Twelfth Doctor whom she later went on the travel with. The two problems with this script was that Moffat believed, and rightly so, that you can’t have Doctor Who without at least one Doctor and Clara wasn’t strong enough as a character to carry the episode.

Thankfully for Moffat and Doctor Who fans everywhere the contracts with Matt Smith and David Tennant were resolved and both were able to return to the TARDIS set in time for The Day of the Doctor. Billie Piper was also able to return as Rose Tyler, the Fourth Doctor made an appearance and a new Doctor, The War Doctor, was established as the one ending the Time War before he regenerated into the Ninth Doctor. Even the Twelfth Doctor had a cameo and the Thirteenth Doctor’s TARDIS was spotted helping the past regenerations save Gallifrey.


4) Monster’s Inc

Monsters Inc

In the summer of 1994 John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, and Pete Docter sat down for lunch. They worked in the Pixar animation Company and had just finished their first film, Toy Story. The four were discussing what film Pixar should create next and started to doodle character designs on their napkins. These characters became the stars of Pixar’s next four films A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo and WALL-E.

Monsters, Inc is my favourite Pixar film and it also had the most drafts. The first draft of Monsters Inc, untitled at this point, involved a man in his 30’s realising that his childhood monsters he drew in his notebook are coming to life. Each monster was a fear he had as a child, a fear of clowns or a fear of loss, that the man had to deal with for the monsters to disappear.

This draft was quickly discarded for the idea of a buddy story involving a child and its monster. The monster was called Johnson and was a worker at a company where they scared children for profit. It took the team four years to establish what age, gender and ethnicity the child should be. One popular idea among the team was for the child to be called Mary, aged seven and be fearless while Johnson would be an anxious monster who is at risk of losing his job on the scare floor whilst being bullied by another monster called Ned, later re-named Randle. At this point the film was simply called Monsters.


Eventually Johnson was renamed Sully and his design as a furry monster was established after the animation team discovered how to create realistic fur. However, similar to the early Batman comics the team found that Sully was forced to talk to himself to help the audience understand the plot. Like Batman, Sully was given a sidekick, Mike Wazowski a tentacle monster, who later became a small green cyclops and a fan favourite character.

5. Spider-Man 4

Spiderman 1

Spider-Man 3 was released in 2007 and although I enjoyed the film, because I was a massive fan of the wall crawler and I was about nine years old, other fans did not. They complained that the film was stuffed with too many villains fighting for screen time (the film contained New Goblin, Venom and Sandman) but the Spider-Man 3 made enough money at the box office to warrant another sequel.

The writer of the Spider-Man trilogy, Sam Rani, wanted the characters Black Cat/Felicia Hardy and The Vulture/Adrian Toomes to battle Spider-Man in the next film with Spider-Man falling in love with Felicia who would break up his relationship with Mary Jane. Felicia would then be killed by The Vulture who Spider-Man would kill in revenge. If you’re a fan of the Spider-Man then you’ll notice that this is incredibly dark for the character. There would also be the additional twist of Black Cat being Vulture’s daughter which hasn’t, to my knowledge, happened in any other Spider-Man material. However the studio kept trying to cram in more villains. Dylan Baker who played Doctor Conners in the trilogy went on record by saying he wanted the Lizard, Doctor Conner’s alter ego to appear. Jeffrey Henderson later published storyboards for Spider-Man 4 that featured the villain Mysterio.

There was also logistical problems with filming. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst who played Spider-Man and Mary Jane respectively had only signed on for three films and demanded a raise for a fourth film. The studio decided that they could pay the actors salaries if Spider-Man Four could be filmed back to back with Spider-Man Five. This means that Spider-Man Four would have to end on a cliff hanger that would be resolved in Spider-Man Five.

Sam Rani failed to find a story that could work in this premise and heard, during the writing of the first draft, that the studio was looking at rebooting the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man film. In a meeting with the Sony board of directors Sam Rani said:

‘I don’t want to make a movie that is less than great, so I think we shouldn’t make this picture. Go ahead with your reboot, which you’ve been planning anyway.’

In response Amy Pascal, Sony’s co-chairman said:

 ‘Thank you. Thank you for not wasting the studio’s money, and I appreciate your candor.’

And so The Amazing Spider-Man film was created with Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man and Rhys Ifans as The Lizard. The Sony Spider-Verse could be an entry in it’s own but that story is best told another day…


Thank you for reading, do you like the first draft of any of these films or are you happy with the finished product? Let me know in the comments or on social media down below and I’ll see you next time. Take care.


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