Journal of the Whills (partially lost original outline for Star Wars; 1973)
In January 1973, filmmaker George Lucas wrote his first outline of what would eventually become Star Wars. Titled Journal of the Whills, it was a two-page handwritten document greatly harnessing inspiration from the Edgar Rice Burroughs book A Fighting Man of Mars. While the first page can be read in its entirety, only fragments of the second have been made publicly available.
Before spearheading the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, George Lucas had already enjoyed success directing the 1973 comedy drama American Graffiti. He had also directed the 1971 sci-fi film THX 1138 as his first feature production, but the work was not a commercial success. Despite this, Lucas envisioned the creation of his own space fantasy film series, inspired by the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials that he earnestly viewed as a child. He also incorporated the theories documented by Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, with the intent to produce a sci-fi work geared towards a teenage audience.
Brainstorming began in January 1973, Lucas coming up with random names for characters and locations such as Imperial General Owen Lars, the "leader of the Hubble people" Han Solo, and the jungle planet Yavin which was inhabited by Wookies. Before pitching the concept to potentially interested distributors, Lucas opted to write a short summary which he would later present to his agent, Jeff Berg.
Journal of the Whills
Lucas' first draft was titled Journal of the Whills. Analysis reveals chapter one of the 1949 sci-fi novel A Fighting Man of Mars, authored by Edgar Rice Burroughs, formed the framework of this early outline. A Fighting Man of Mars begins by informing the reader that the narrative of Hadron of Hastor, Fighting Man of Mars is actually an account by Hastor himself as he recounted it to Ulysses Paxton. For Journal of the Whills, Mace Windy's story is detailed by his padawaan, C.J. Thorpe.
In page one, titled Journal of the Whills, Part I, Mace Windy is described as the top-ranking Jedi-Bendu Master of Ophuchi, while also serving as a Warlord for the Alliance of Independent Systems' Chairman. Meanwhile, C.J. Thorpe, full name Chuiee Two Thorpe of Kissel, is the son of chief pilot of the galactic cruiser Tarnack, Han Dardell Thorpe. His family greatly values honor, inspiring Thorpe to follow in his father's footsteps despite having access to careers that could drag his family above the breadline. At age 16, he becomes the pilot of the trawler Balmung, but soon develops ambitions to become a Jedi-Templer. Thorpe is selected as Windy's padawaan after deciding to enlist into the Intersystems Academy. He meets Windy for the first time at the "great feast of the Pleabs".
While Windy is most certainly respected within the Alliance of Independent Systems (AIS), his growing power and influence worries numerous AIS members, among them some of his fellow Warlords. They believe he is now becoming too powerful, perhaps more so than the Imperial leader of rival government the Galactic Empire, with further concern over his "strange teachings". Windy is later betrayed by these conspirators during a court trial, and is expelled from both the AIS' royal forces and the Jedi-Bendu. Now in exile, Windy sets off on his new adventures, with Thorpe opting to stay as his padawaan so he could complete his training. Of what is known from Part II, Windy and Thorpe have travelled on various missions together for four years, maintaining a degree of contact with the AIS Chairman. After protecting a shipment of fusion portables intended for the planet Yavin, they encounter an unidentified courier, who informs them they must travel to the barren Yoshiro as ordered by the Chairman.
Considering the draft used A Fighting Man of Mars as a backbone, it is unsurprising that the original outline does not majorly reflect the final narrative used for Star Wars. However, some ideas presented in the draft were later incorporated into the Star Wars franchise, including for the Prequel Trilogy. Issue 92 of Star Wars Insider claims the concept behind Mace Windy was split into two Prequel Jedi characters. Mace Windu would be included in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace as a highly influential and respected Jedi Master in the Jedi Order. Also introduced was Qui-Gon Jinn, whose rebellious personality and belief in letting the Force guide his actions greatly conflicts with the Jedi Council's conservative approach. The Original Trilogy's narrative centres around overthrowing the Galactic Empire, with the Alliance of Independent Systems potentially being an early concept for both the Rebel Alliance and the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Minor inspirations, including but not limited to the name Han being incorporated into Han Solo, the planet Yavin, and how all Jedi begin training as padawans (instead of padawaans), can also be noted.
After producing a rough outline prior to May of 1973, Lucas presented the draft to Jeff Berg. However, his agent found the work too incomprehensible to support its further development. Berg later recalled that George's discussion about the proposal was more comprehensive than the actual draft. While annoyed by this setback, Lucas began writing another, more basic early draft, consisting of a ten-page outline titled The Star Wars Story Synopsis. This draft harnessed extracts from the 1973 Donald Richie book The Films of Akira Kurosawa, particularly its sections on The Hidden Fortress, Sanjuro, and Yojimbo. Completed in May 1973, Lucas pitched the work to United Artists, Universal, and finally Twentieth Century Fox. Fox accepted the proposed film, with Lucas completing The Star Wars: Rough Draft in May 1974. Numerous drafts later, which primarily detailed the adventures of one Luke Starkiller, filming for Star Wars began in 1975. Following a late edit, the production was released in May 1977, and the Star Wars franchise would take off from there.
In the September 1997 book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, Lucas claimed that he wanted a fictional narrator to provide an account of the over-arching narrative, stating that a Whill, a wise, immortal entity, would see the whole action unfold from above and record it. Alas, Lucas decided to instead focus his story on the Force, which was inspired by ideas surrounding the Whills. While this second Journal of the Whills also went nowhere, many stories from it were later reworked into the Original and Prequel film scripts. Particularly, during the pre-production for The Phantom Menance, Lucas decided to re-read Journal of the Whills before working on the first script. Naturally, this re-read may well have inspired Windu, Qui-Gon Jinn, and other Prequel additions, with the earliest Star Wars draft easily accessible from Lucas' desk during the first Prequel draft. The term Journal of the Whills is now part of the Star Wars canon, defined by The Force Awakens novelisation as a book documenting the key events within the Galaxy. Plans for the Whills to become an integral part of the Sequel Trilogy were scrapped when Disney purchased Lucasfilms in October 2012.
While Journal of the Whills holds a vital link in Star Wars' conceptualisation, for decades very little information on it was publicly available. In the 1983 biographical book Skywalking: The Life And Films Of George Lucas, the earliest draft summary was provided, going as far as claiming Windy and "Usby C.J. Thape" were related. However, the book never referred to the draft's title and even sourced the outline as originating from the May 1973 draft. Fourteen years later, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays provided the first proper summary of Journal of the Whills, and alleged that the outline consisted of 40 pages. This excited numerous hardcore Star Wars fans, who were intrigued by what the first draft could contain, ultimately having no access to it beyond these summaries.
During production of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, J.W. Rinzler began writing a book series providing extensive detail on how each of the Original and Prequel films were established. Rinzler was not only closely connected with Lucasfilms, but he also met with Lucas himself, gaining access to considerable unpublished media like photos and production notes. During one of these visits for the book The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film, Rinzler got the opportunity to view the actual Journal of the Whills document. He was also given permission to photograph the first handwritten page, which was publicly displayed to the public for the first time courtesy of the book's publishing in 2007. In contrast to Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays' claims, the outline was merely one and a half pages long.
Rinzler summarised the contents from both pages, including noting that on the second page, Lucas abbreviated Thorpe's name to C.J. and C2. Alas, he ultimately opted not to provide a picture of the second page for unknown reasons. The second page likely remains archived within Lucasfilms or is in Lucas' own collection following the sale to Disney. It is unclear whether Rinzler, who passed away in 2021, possessed a photocopy of the unreleased page. As of the present day, the only available information on the second page or "Part II" comes from Rinzler's summary.
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- Far Out Magazine detailing American Graffiti. Retrieved 16th May '23
- The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film providing substantial detail of the original outline, and a photo of the first page. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Biography detailing Lucas' plans for Star Wars, culminating in a deal with Twentieth Century Fox. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Medium providing a detailed overview of Journal of the Whills. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Inverse detailing the production of THX 1138. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Film Obsessive detailing how The Hero with a Thousand Faces influenced Star Wars. Retrieved 16th May '23
- The Secret History of Star Wars detailing the brainstorming into the first draft, and how it was deemed incomprehensible according to Berg. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Star Wars Report summarising the history of Journal of the Whills, and how it became incorporated into Star Wars canon. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays claiming Journal of the Whills was 40-pages and containing Lucas' quote regarding his plans for a second version of the story. Retrieved 16th May '23
- CBR summarising the six drafts prior to the one used in the 1977 film, and noting how ideas from Journal of the Whills were incorporated into later works. Retrieved 16th May '23
- r/MawInstallation post detailing how the draft was heavily based on A Fighting Man of Mars. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Issue 92 of Star Wars Insider summarising Journal of the Whills as consisting of fewer than two full pages, and noting Mace Windy would provide the inspiration for Qui-Gon Jinn (quote found on Medium). Retrieved 16th May '23
- Star Warz providing The Star Wars Story Synopsis. Retrieved 16th May '23
- r/MawInstallation post detailing how Lucas' May 1973 draft was based heavily on The Films of Akira Kurosawa. Retrieved 16th May '23
- El Pais detailing the filming and editing of Star Wars, contributing greatly to its success. Retrieved 16th May '23
- The Cinema of George Lucas summarising how Lucas re-read the first draft and had it present during his initial outline of The Phantom Menace. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Skywalking: The Life of Films of George Lucas providing the first summary of Journal of the Whills. Retrieved 16th May '23
- The Verge noting Rinzler began his behind-the-scenes book series during Attack of the Clones' production. Retrieved 16th May '23
- Star Wars providing a tribute to Rinzler. Retrieved 16th May '23