The making of the last Star Wars film was tumultuous. The ninth episode of The Skywalker Saga would become The Rise of Skywalker. Before J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio came aboard and wrote The Rise of Skywalker, Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly wrote a few drafts called Star Wars: Episode IX The Duel of the Fates. When Lucasfilm rejected Trevorrow and Connolly’s general direction, Jack Thorne was brought into that complicated situation and did the best job he could considering the mess they were in. Michelle Rejwan is said to have got Abrams to return without a schedule change and the script went back to a new starting point.
I mistakenly attributed the Jack Thorne version of Star Wars: Episode IX to Colin Trevorrow but that doesn’t mean the information was incorrect, it was at one point intended to be the movie Trevorrow was going to make before the situation fell apart. You can read about the idea for Rey and her backstory in the Jack Thorne version of the film here.
On his YouTube show, Robert Meyer Burnett broke down the 1st draft Trevorrow and Connolly wrote in a lot of detail. Yesterday, I published my notes on the final draft by Trevorrow and Connolly and it lays it all out in order albeit summarized. I interviewed Pinewood sources about what was going on at the studio for the film before Trevorrow left the production.
What follows is what sources at Pinewood that I trust conveyed to me. A lot of this was in Burnett’s show, but there’s a few details you may enjoy as my sources saw concept art and understood the look of the intended film in ways the script does not convey. The information here was in my hands for a while, which is why I knew the Burnett information was solid once I had a chance to hear his take.
Pinewood Sources on The Duel of the Fates
- In the crawl, we learn the First Order had cut off all communication between planets to quell a rising rebellion inspired by Luke Skywalker. The Resistance’s mission is to re-open communication and call the galaxy to War.
- In the opening sequence, the Resistance steals a ship full of old Imperial weapons and vehicles. During this heist, Finn sees a fallen Stormtrooper without his helmet. He recognizes him, re-igniting his internal conflict when it comes to killing his fellow brothers and sisters in arms.
- Luke’s Force Ghost appears several times throughout, both training Rey and haunting Kylo. He then literally fights alongside Rey in the finale.
- The Emperor was only seen as a hologram at the beginning. Kylo goes to Vader’s abandoned castle, where he finds a holocron with a contingency plan left for Vader in the event Palpatine was struck down by Skywalker in Return of the Jedi.
- Palpatine’s message message tells Vader to send Luke to be trained by an ancient creature who is strong with the dark side. Here he will learn to extract the living Force from crude matter. Mastering this skill will allow Kylo to absorb the living Force from the heart of Mortis and achieve absolute power.
- To find Mortis and stop Kylo, Rey, Poe and Chewie go to a new planet that looked like a night market on mountains in water (like Thailand).
- There was a similar scene to Babu Frik’s where they go to a tiny Force-sensitive alien who can read Rey’s vision of Mortis and draw a map to it.
- Meanwhile Finn, Rose and the OT droids go to enemy-occupied Coruscant to activate an ancient beacon in the old Jedi Temple to call the galaxy to war. They succeed at first, but the message is cut off and they are captured. Finn is sent to a POW work camp, Rose is interrogated by Hux.
- Hux was a villain, not a Resistance spy. There’s a funny scene where he’s alone and we see him trying to move a coin with the Force, envious of others who have this gift. When he tries to extract info from Rose’s mind, she just laughs at him. In the end, he kills himself seppuku-style with a lightsaber he keeps in a collector’s case (he had several vintage lightsabers he’d acquired over the years, part of his “Force envy”, as Rose calls it).
- The Knights of Ren had names and Force abilities. Rey fights them on the night market planet, on a moving structure of spaceship landing pads (hard to explain but cool design). In this sequence, it is revealed that Rey’s parents—who were nobodies—were killed by Kylo and the Knights of Ren. (This moment was first seen in Rey’s vision when she touched the lightsaber in The Force Awakens.) When Rey learns this, she kills one of the knights with Force lightning, her anger drawing her further toward the Dark Side.
- Rey and Poe had an attraction that intensifies during their adventure together. It is complicated by Rey’s vision that she will die on Mortis, and her undeniable connection to Kylo. There is an emotional scene where Rey Jedi mind tricks Poe to leave her and go help the Resistance. She goes to Mortis alone.
- Kylo trains under the Sith creature (kind of looked like a Dark Side Yoda) on a mercury planet. Here, he enters a Force cave where he fights Darth Vader and loses, his deepest fear. When he fully masters the new Force ability, he kills the Sith creature with this power, drawing the life from him. Kylo seems irredeemable at this point.
- In the prison camp on Coruscant, Finn connects with the Stormtrooper guarding him. When Finn escapes the prison, this stormtrooper saves him, taking off his helmet like Finn once did. Others join, and this becomes Finn’s army.
- The final ground battle was led by Finn and the reformed Stormtroopers (helmets off) on the streets of Coruscant, now the occupied First Order Capital City. The Resistance joins in with the stolen Imperial vehicles (AT-ST’s etc) painted with their own revolutionary colors. There is simultaneous air battle above the city, led by Poe, who is their General now.
- Lando’s role was different, they find him operating a club for First Order officers to drink after hours, Casablanca-style. He declines Poe’s request for help at first but then arrives with a people’s squadron from around the galaxy, like in The Rise of Skywalker.
- In the street battle, R2-D2 is destroyed. C-3PO puts R2’s memory drive into BB-8, who has to race through the streets to get it to Rose, who needs the data to calibrate the Capitol Ship’s hyper drive to fly directly into a star, as Han Solo warned was possible. The explosion is seen around the galaxy, acting as the beacon calling the people to revolution.
- In the confrontation on Mortis, Rey is blinded and left to die on the steps of the Temple. Luke Skywalker’s Force Ghost appears to confront Kylo. As Luke intones the words spoken by Obi-Wan (the Force binds us the galaxy together etc). Rey is given strength by all her friends in battle on Coruscant (Poe, Finn, Rose) as they all connect through the Force. She rises and fights Kylo blindfolded, trusting her instincts.
- In his last moments, Kylo tells Rey her full name: Rey Solana. (In Spanish, Solana is the side of a mountain where the shadow does not fall.)
- Rey dies. She rises to the astral plane, where Yoda, Luke, Obi-Wan and Anakin are waiting. Together, they return her to life. She must train a new generation of Jedi, passing on what she’s learned.
- The galaxy believes Rey is gone. But Finn believes she will return. Finn and Rose take all the Force-sensitive youth to a remote homestead to wait for her. The Broom Boy is among the children here.
- R2’s memory drive is repaired. Leia, Chewie and Threepio watch as R2 cycles through all the holograms he ever recorded. Leia brings back the Senate and becomes the galaxy’s new leader.
- In the final scene, Rey returns to Finn’s remote homestead to train the next generation of Jedi.
- The was “Duel Of The Fates.”
Above is everything I learned about the first draft of The Duel of the Fates. Now, I didn’t read this version of the script first hand. I only read the final script which was fairly different in many ways. From the artists I have spoken to about that era of the film, it sounds like Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly came up with their ideas and then connected those ideas to pre-established Star Wars lore. I actually like that a lot but I can understand why J.J. Abrams would not want to tie his hands to established things places and ideas like Mortis.
The thing I like that Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly did in their story was Finn and Poe were wrapped up, not just Rey and Ben Solo. It seems like Jannah was introduced to be Lando’s daughter and with that Rose Tico just fell off The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams pulled that punch of Jannah being Lando’s daughter and we had Jannah in that movie without much reason. The way Trevorrow and Connolly handle a Stormtrooper revolt is a lot more interesting than Jannah’s group of ex-Stormtroopers who walk into frame and then ride on the horses at the end for a moment before never being seen again.
I like the idea of Rey inspiring the galaxy to rise up in The Duel of the Fates. However, the message in the tower moments are different but still kind of superficially reminds me of Rogue One with the tower to lower the codes so the plans can be retrieved.
I feel that if we inverted this succession and Trevorrow took over for Abrams, we would absolutely lament not seeing Palpatine return. We would want to see the Sith cult on a secret world and that kiss between Rey and Ben and so on. That’s what I love about the behind the scenes information regarding how the stories we love came to be.
I will have more information on the development of Star Wars: Episode IX as soon as sources clear me to run certain things. If you are interested in the making of Star Wars, the point of this site, check back soon for more.