As it developed over the course of a couple of years, Star Wars: The Force Awakens went through many changes. We’re going to be hearing stories about what almost happened, who was supposed to show up and what could have been for years. The movie has only been out for a week and we’re already learning about what things that were on the table, and one biggie in that column is that Anakin Skywalker almost popped in for a visit.
There are a few minor SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens from here on out.
The Force Awakens mostly ignores the prequels, focusing on the characters and events from the original trilogy. Given the timeline this makes sense; those events were more recent and directly related to the story at hand. However, according to a new book, The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Anakin almost appeared as a Force ghost. Ian McCraig, a concept artist, said:
‘When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.’ That inspired me to propose, for the first time, that Anakin’s ghost could come back […] If we see Anakin Skywalker, because he does flow back and forth between Darth Vader and Anakin, let’s see him as a character with a dark and light side. The reason Luke is this whole new entity is because he was the first to acknowledge his own dark side — that it was not separate from him.
It’s unclear exactly how Anakin would have shown up. For most of the movie, the only character who has much to do with the Force is the villainous Kylo Ren. Given his Darth Vader obsession, and how he looks to his grandfather for inspiration and guidance, that seems like a definite possibility. That would also have been an interesting change as we’ve only ever encountered benevolent Force ghosts up to this point.
But Kylo Ren is more a Darth Vader acolyte, and though concept art shows a messed up Anakin, with a face partially mechanized in some capacity, it’s still very much Anakin, not Vader. He could have shown up in the scene where Rey has her flashback or vision or whatever you want to call it. It is Anakin’s old lightsaber that she touches and that kicks it off. Various versions of Obi-Wan show up, and perhaps the elder Skywalker was going to as well. Maybe they thought that would be too big a clue to her ancestry, or at least too big a tease.
Perhaps the most likely scenario is that Anakin was set to appear in a scene that didn’t make the final cut. Luke has seen his father appear as a Force ghost before, and if there were originally more scenes featuring the missing Jedi, it’s possible he could have sought advice from beyond the grave. In the wake of Ben Solo going rogue and slaughtering his fellow students, Luke has some heavy things weighing on him, and that tends to be when these advisors show up. Also, hanging out by yourself in an isolated Jedi temple, who else to you have to chat with besides your dead dad? They didn’t get much time together, so they have some catching up to do. Maybe we were going to get a scene where Luke and Anakin have that catch they never got to have before.