Context has always been the most important thing to me when it comes to speculation in Star Wars. Some people base their speculation on parallels, others from a formulaic approach to how they think SW works, but for me, context has always been my first thought when trying to figure out where the story is taking me in Star Wars. With that in mind, for Leia’s role to work in The Rise of Skywalker in the context of the story, that means the unused footage of her from TFA has to have a place in this story and not on a shallow level, but on a deep-seated plot level. You see, I don’t think we’re dealing with just alternate takes, I think what was deleted from Leia’s role in TFA affected Rey, Finn, Kylo, and changed the context of the 3rd act of TFA as a whole. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, you can thank Maryann Brandon, the editor of The Force Awakens.
Originally in TFA, Leia knew who Rey was. That’s not speculation, that’s not a rumor. That is a confirmed fact by Maryann Brandon.
(Giant thanks to Egoshoppe for hunting this down!)
“The whole idea there I think is that they have a special connection that they don’t even know about. There was an earlier idea at one point that Leia knows who [Rey] is. And we sort of took that out because it didn’t make any sense.” – Maryann Brandon
This conversation comes from a Q&A at the University of California. Now, take a step back, let’s examine Leia and Rey meeting each other in TFA:
Now, with this context in mind, why would a hug between Rey and Leia, two people that as far the film has established, don’t know each other, and to the audience’s knowledge, have never even seen each other, look so emotional? Better, yet, why are they hugging at all? And finally, as we can see from the footage shown so far at the time of this article, the footage of Leia is taken from her interactions with Rey after she and Finn had escaped Star Killer Base, so how could any of this be placed into the context of TROS?
I think all these questions tie back into what Maryann Brandon said about Leia knowing Rey. Why? Because out of the entire Q&A, the only things cut from the official video are that question and Maryann’s response. If you recall, the Shadow Council covered the transcripts of Brandon’s comments last year, but the section where she talks about Leia and Rey was not in the official video. You see, the clip I just showed is from the unedited live stream.
I believe that this was specifically cut because Maryann was not supposed to let it slip that originally Leia knew who Rey was. Which, as far as we know in canon, Leia didn’t know Rey till that moment..but originally I don’t think that was the case and the video with Maryann Brandon proves that it wasn’t. In fact, I have a theory that Rey’s parentage had been revealed in the movie by Maz Kanata telling Leia on D’qar, but this was ultimately cut during the countless changes that were going on in crafting the final theatrical version of TFA.
Originally Maz had gone with Finn and Han to the Resistance base and had an entire exchange with Leia, something that we got a tease of in the official 2nd teaser for TFA, but was never seen in the film or in marketing again. Hear’s what JJ, king of the lens flares and restarting franchises, said on the matter:
“That was a scene actually filmed, but we took out. At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realized that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to have her sitting around…Lupita did film scenes on set for that sequence, but it felt like going right just to go left, and it was unnecessary. So we ended up leaving those things out.” – JJ Abrams
Now, I love you JJ, I do. You butter my toast, but I think it’s clear that there’s something that you’re hiding behind those pretty words.
Originally seen in the 2nd teaser, Maz hands off Luke’s lightsaber to Leia, and looking back on concept art from TLJ, we also see that Maz was still supposed to be with the Resistance.
Beyond Crait looking even more like Hoth 2.0, snow uniforms and all, we see Maz was indeed with the Resistance on Crait and judging by the fact that concept art is done usually after the treatment of a movie is made but before the actual script, this was likely created before the final call came in to get rid of Maz with the resistance in the final cut of TFA, which had to have been late considering that Poe Dameron is also seen in the concept art; remember that Poe was meant to be killed off in TFA. So that means the call was made fairly late. As we all know, JJ has spoken about making changes to TFA’s ending to better suit the direction Rian Johson was going with TLJ, a direction as of recently JJ has said was not the direction he would have gone.
“It was a completely unknown scenario. I had some gut instincts about where the story would have gone. But without getting in the weeds on Episode VIII, that was a story that Rian [Johnson] wrote and was telling based on [Episode] VII before we met. So he was taking the thing in another direction. So we also had to respond to Episode VIII. So our movie was not just following what we had started, it was following what we had started and then had been advanced by someone else. So there was that, and, finally, it was resolving nine movies. While there are some threads of larger ideas and some big-picture things that had been conceived decades ago and a lot of ideas that Lawrence Kasdan and I had when we were doing Episode VII, the lack of absolute inevitability, the lack of a complete structure for this thing, given the way it was being run was an enormous challenge.” – JJ Abrams
I believe one of the changes that JJ made in TFA was cutting the truth that Maz had told Rey her father was Luke Skywalker, and thus by cutting that, had to edit around the fact that Rey, and everyone like Finn, Han, Leia, and Kylo had spent the last act of the movie with the knowledge that she is a Skywalker.
Now, wait, WAIT! I’m not tripping, let’s look at the rest of TFA from Maz and Rey’s conversation onward with Reysky in mind, and suddenly, things make a lot more sense from a narrative perspective.
Suddenly that questioning stare that Han gives Rey as they arrive on Takodana, actually makes sense.
Why Maz asked Han “Who’s the girl?”, even though Rey had been acting normal, but Finn was bugging out like he was in danger of going to the sunken place, suddenly also makes sense, as well as what he told her when the scene cut away.
Why does Rey’s Forceback only show Luke’s past, but not Anakin’s? In fact, the lightsaber only shows her the past of Luke and her own, as well as a glimpse into her future battle with Kylo Ren, yet we see nothing of Anakin.
Maz presents the lightsaber as a family heirloom and an ancestral weapon, saying that the lightsaber was Luke’s and his father’s before him, and now it calls to her, some random girl who found it in a treasure chest? To my knowledge, lightsabers aren’t like Drake. They won’t make your hotline bling randomly.
After Maz tells her whoever (which mind you, she doesn’t say, parents or family) she’s been waiting for is never coming back and then when she says there is someone who still could, without prompting, Rey just says “Luke.”
Rey wasn’t running away from the lightsaber originally, she was running away from the truth, the truth about her family that she wanted to deny, something that Lor San Tekka foreshadowed early in the movie. The theme of running from the truth of who one really is, which Rey, Finn, and Kylo all do in their own way.
This would explain what Maz and Leia talked about in the deleted scene and why Leia knows who Rey is when they first meet and why their “meeting” is so emotional. If anything, that is one of the clearest scenes that becomes jarring without the context of the reveal.
But I’d have to say the biggest thing that makes sense in TFA is why Leia sent Rey, some random girl, alone to find her brother who had vanished. It explains why there are no words in their exchange in the film, but the novel has Leia expressing fear that Rey will turn out like Kylo, why when Luke and Rey first see each other, they are close to tears and the final script of TFA says that Luke knows who she is and why she’s there. There was no big reveal at the end of the movie, instead, the original ending of TFA was supposed to be Rey finding her family, her blood and her found family.
Now, maybe this doesn’t convince, and if it doesn’t fair enough. Though, let’s take a step back and think about the context of Leia’s role in TROS and think about what could ger TFA footage be that was cut. The home release of TFA had deleted scenes with Leia in it. None of which I feel could be used in TROS due to the fact that everyone has seen them and don’t work in any context to what the story of TROS could be. All of the deleted scenes shown of Leia in TFA are about the New Republic and seeking their aid/warning them of the First Order, and as we all know, the NR and the other planets around them got blown up and are now chilling with Jyn Erso in stardust heaven. We know that the Leia and New Republic scenes were cut because Michael Arndt had suggested to JJ that Leia’s first time seen onscreen should be the scene when she and Han reunite, as it would have more of an emotional payoff. We know from JJ himself that this footage hasn’t ever been seen since he calls it “Unseen footage”. So, here’s another question, why wasn’t it ever shown? What happened in these scenes that JJ and Lucasfilm thought that it shouldn’t be seen or even talked about? We don’t eve have any BTS of this unused footage from TFA beyond this BTS of Carrie and Lupita.
There’s really no information about the Maz and Leia scene that never made it into the film, though the leaked call sheet from pre TFA reshoots did give us some insight of what some of the cut footage could have been about. We see Han and Leia arguing which did make it into the final cut. Threepio worrying about his husband, I mean best friend…they’re friends. Only friends. The next bit is interesting because it says that Han tells Leia that Rey is worth saving. What does he say to her to make her think that? It reminds me of Maz asking Han about Rey and then we are greeted to a cutaway.
I tried to look into the TFA novelization to see if possibly I could get any hints as to what could have been cut from Rey and Leia from their last meeting in TFA.
Wow, why does Rey remind the Skywalkers so much of other Skywalkers? And why would Leia worry about Rey sharing the same fate as her son-
Okay, let’s do this one more time, yeah? For real this time. This is it.
JJ has said he made adjustments to TFA, as well as cutting things, to better suit Johnson’s vision for VIII.
I’m assuming the special thing is the Skywalker lightsaber. Very interesting that Maz thinks it should go to Finn and Leia is the one that gives it to him. There may be a greater reason for that and the TFA editor also hints at that. Though that may be a theory for another time.
Maryann Brandon had revealed that Leia had once known who Rey was in another cut of TFA, yet that had been stricken from the official video and it was only available on the live stream from where the Q&A had been filmed.
We know that whatever that vision was, was not where JJ would have taken it as the man himself has admitted to.
JJ has said that there is still more to the story regarding Rey’s origins.
And finally, as far as we know, the unused footage that we have seen so far seems to be from when Rey and Leia hug till their goodbye, though I wouldn’t rule out the scene with Maz and Leia also being used in the context of TROS. Possibly even the cut scene with Leia and Finn depending if JJ will continue to build on that dynamic as well.
I personally feel that Han had suspected who Rey was, that knowing look he gave her way when they were landing on takodana. When Maz asked Han “Who was the girl’, he told her who she thought she was. How he thought she was Luke’s daughter that had been taken. Then originally Maz had told Rey this and that caused her not to just run away from the lightsaber, but the legacy of her family, yet as Lor San Tekka had said at the start of TFA, “You cannot deny the truth that is your family”. That is why Han told Leia that Rey is worth saving in the call sheet. It’d also make more sense in retrospect that their family instead of Han just randomly inviting some 19-year girl onto his crew but not her male companion. That would make Rey’s reaction to Han’s death, a man she had known for only a bit and had spent less time with than Finn, not an overdramatized act, but her grieving over a lost family member. Maz giving Leia the lightsaber could have been about Luke and Rey and how this girl could be their hope in finding Luke and bringing him home, which also makes the choice to send Rey, a stranger with zero military experience, all alone to find the greatest asset that the Resistance and the galaxy could get.
Finally, it makes the TFA script from Luke’s perspective, as well as Rey and Luke’s close to tears reaction to each other, make a lot more sense if both Rey and Luke originally knew of this connection.
This, however, is only a theory I have. I could be right, I could be wrong, and given how much pushback Rey Skywalker seems to get from people smashing on their keyboards that only Benjamen Chewbacca Organa Kylo Ren Solo can be the Skywalker of the next generation is this trilogy, who knows how well this theory will be received. Though look at it from this perspective, George Lucas did intend for his sequel trilogy to feature the grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker, Luke would have had a child..and JJ did go to George for advice in crafting The Rise of Skywalker, and as we know, every title thus far has referred to Rey, the lead protagonist of the ST. It would make sense in context. The protagonist of the original trilogy was Luke Skywalker, the prequels had his father as the protagonist and then there are the sequels..that have this mysterious woman with an unconfirmed parentage as the protagonist…Well unconfirmed if you think Kylo was lying about her parents in TLJ.
Ya know…that kind of looks like the body language of a liar…
Ah, well. Kylo is probably the truth. It’s not like he’s ever lied before…Except for that time he lied about trusting Snoke, or that time that he lied about not hesitating to kill his father, or when he lied about what happened at Luke’s temple, or when he lied about Rey killing Snoke. But, I’m sure he’s telling the truth about her parents.
I guess we shall see come December how Leia’s unused scenes from TFA shall work into the story of TROS. Regardless of speculation, I know I’m personally beyond happy that I’ll be able to see our princess and general one last time in a new Star Wars movie. Carrie has been with us since the beginning and she deserves to be here at the end. Thank you for taking the time to read this and may the force be with you all. Always.