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Star Wars is one of the most important cultural phenomena of the
Western world. The tale of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and the fall and
redemption of Anakin Skywalker has become modern myth, an epic tragedy
of the corruption of a young man in love into darkness, the rise of
evil, and the power of good triumphing in the end. But it didn’t start
out that way. In this thorough account of one of cinema’s most lasting
works, Michael Kaminski presents the true history of how Star Wars was
written, from its beginnings as a science fiction fairy tale to its
development over three decades into the epic we now know, chronicling
the methods, techniques, thought processes, and struggles of its
creator. For this unauthorized account, he has pored through over four
hundred sources, from interviews to original scripts, to track how the
most powerful modern epic in the world was created, expanded, and
finalized into the tale an entire generation has grown up with.

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Reviews for The Secret History of Star Wars:

3

Jul 18, 2015

I'll make this brief, as I've already spent hours of my life I'll never get back in reading this 600+ page book.

It's a testament to the interest I found in the sources Kaminski explores that I finished it at all, as this is represents the worst writing I've ever encountered in a published book, bar none. I don't understand how someone could torture the English language so brutally. Where was the editor? The copy editor? The proofreader? The prose was an affront of I'll make this brief, as I've already spent hours of my life I'll never get back in reading this 600+ page book.

It's a testament to the interest I found in the sources Kaminski explores that I finished it at all, as this is represents the worst writing I've ever encountered in a published book, bar none. I don't understand how someone could torture the English language so brutally. Where was the editor? The copy editor? The proofreader? The prose was an affront of perpetual-fingernails-against-a-blackboard proportions. I'm fairly sure that reading this aloud would count as cruel and unusual punishment for the listener.

On another note, I remain underwhelmed by the author's main thesis. Kaminski seems convinced that George Lucas willfully misrepresented his writing process in creating the Star Wars films. My response: so what? The written evidence remains to set the record straight, as Kaminski proves. It seems obvious and understandable to me that at different and in different settings, an interviewed Lucas might represent his convoluted tangle of inspiration, perspiration, poor judgment, and good luck in a more streamlined and self-aggrandizing way. There's far less conspiracy here than simple human nature. So that's the news flash? George Lucas is human? Sigh.

This earns an improbable three stars because the research Kaminski has unearthed and painstakingly documented is valuable indeed, and I appreciate the clearer view of how the first six Star Wars films evolved. Furthermore, a point that Kaminski makes in the eleventh hour about the context of the first trilogy changing after the prequels (as opposed to the content) strikes me as a very important one. To quote the post-prequel Lucas:

"If you see them in order it completely twists things about. A lot of the tricks of IV, V and VI no longer exist. The real struggle of the twins to save their father becomes apparent, whereas it didn't exist at all the first time [audiences saw Episodes IV, V and VI]. Now Darth Vader is a tragic character who's lost everything. He's basically a bitter old man in a suit.

"'I am your father' was a real shock. Now it's a real reward. Finally, the son knows what we already know.

"It's a really different suspense structure. Part of the fun for me was completely flipping upside down the dramatic track of the original movies. If you watch them the way it was released, IV, V, VI, I, II, III - you get one kind of movie. If you watch I through VI you get a completely different movie. One or two generations have seen it one way, and the next generations will see it in a completely different way.

"It's an extremely modern, almost interactive moviemaking. You take blocks and move them around, and you come out with different emotional states."

Or, as Kaminski says, after the prequels "the plot was the same, but the story had been altered by the changing of its context." This is a key point, and it deserves further discussion.

I didn't enjoy reading this book, but I'm glad I read it. ...more
4

Jan 21, 2014

The book reminds one of the high school student who needs to write a 10-page paper but only has three pages of material - so he looks for ways to stretch out his material. Kaminski's method was to present the same facts and arguments over and over again. I'm not sure why he needed the book to be so long but it could have been just as effective in half the number of pages.

But Star Wars fans, especially those of the original trilogy, should nevertheless enjoy this work. My favorite part of the The book reminds one of the high school student who needs to write a 10-page paper but only has three pages of material - so he looks for ways to stretch out his material. Kaminski's method was to present the same facts and arguments over and over again. I'm not sure why he needed the book to be so long but it could have been just as effective in half the number of pages.

But Star Wars fans, especially those of the original trilogy, should nevertheless enjoy this work. My favorite part of the book was the 1978-1983 time period, which explored the development of The Empire Strikes Back and the decision to wrap up the trilogy with Return of the Jedi rather than continue on to episodes seven, eight, and nine during the 1980's.

Some of the quotes the author uncovered during his research are absolute gems. George Lucas was absolutely frustrated by the time and expense Irvin Kershner spent on ESB. "It looks pretty because Kersh took a lot of time to do it. It's a great luxury that we really couldn't afford. And ultimately it doesn't make that much difference. . . It was just a lot better than I wanted to make it."

In my opinion, ESB is pretty much a masterpiece. But all Lucas really wanted out of it was a cheap moneymaker that would fund his other projects. Thankfully, we still have the film despite Lucas.

Another favorite quote from the development of ESB came when Lawrence Kasdan criticized Lucas for his habit of glossing over the emotional content of a scene because he was in a hurry to get to the next one. Lucas responded, "Well, if we have enough action, nobody will notice."

That quote, of course, perfectly explains the prequel trilogy.

I could go on and on, but I won't. A good deal of the book is spent proving that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader were separate beings up until about 1978 when Lucas was revising the first draft of the screenplay which was written by Leigh Brackett. Of course, anyone who is a longtime fan of the series realizes this, although George Lucas is hard at work trying to convince us that he had the entire thing laid out as the story of Darth Vader from the very beginning.

Of course, every fan of Star Wars has his own ideas of what George Lucas should have done here or there, and I'm no different. At the end of the day, the whole thing is his brainchild, created with his money, so he has the right to do to the story as he wishes. The movies which we treasured as children came at an enormous non-financial cost (his marriage) and maybe we don't recognize that as much as we should.

There is enough good information and thought-provoking ideas in this book that I can forgive the author for his not-quite-professional writing. ...more
3

Mar 07, 2017

Note: A longer version of this review appears on Steemit.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that "you must not believe all that authors tell you about how they wrote their books" ("It All Began with a Picture" in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories ). Had Kaminski applied the same principle to directors and the films they create, he could have covered his "secret history" of the first six Star Wars films in about 1/3 of the pages.

To give props where they are due, Kaminski clearly did his homework. His Note: A longer version of this review appears on Steemit.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that "you must not believe all that authors tell you about how they wrote their books" ("It All Began with a Picture" in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories ). Had Kaminski applied the same principle to directors and the films they create, he could have covered his "secret history" of the first six Star Wars films in about 1/3 of the pages.

To give props where they are due, Kaminski clearly did his homework. His citations are copious, and he clearly spent a lot of time working through the various sources to which he had access in an attempt to create a narrative surrounding the development of the Star Wars franchise. From commonly known sources, such as J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars and Dale Pollock's Skywalking , to much more esoteric fare such as long-forgotten interviews and even commentaries from the laserdisc, Kaminski has sifted through a lot of material to make his case.

Which is a big part of the problem. Kaminski's overall goal with this book is to show that George Lucas did not have the complete Star Wars saga written out before he created the original film, as the director sometimes claimed, both publicly and privately. To achieve this goal, Kaminski takes the approach of gathering everything he can find, tacking it up on a wall like an erstwhile detective trying to find a serial killer even though he's been kicked off the force, and then gesturing madly to anyone who happens to stumble upon his obsession while yelling, "See!? SEE!?!"

Yes. I see. But so what?

As Kaminski shows, Star Wars has been retconned over and over, so why should it be surprising that Lucas retconned the story of its creation as well? Furthermore, why does that matter? The story of the Star Wars saga's creation is interesting, but the story of its creator's beliefs about that creation is less interesting. Kaminski tries to do double duty by showing the "real" history of how Star Wars is created, and then proving that it differs from some (but not all) of Lucas's statements about that story. In attempting to serve two masters, Kaminski's work becomes less convincing, not the less so because in some parts of the book he seems to forget one or the other purpose altogether. Had he simply stuck to a sort of biography of Star Wars rather than trying to convince readers that George Lucas is a liar he would have produced a much better (and shorter) book. Heck, he could have even relegated the liar argument to an appendix – Bendu knows there's enough of them – and still come out better for it.

In addition to the argumentative problems of the book, it is rife with technical errors:

- Missing punctuation

- two types of notes (footnotes and endnotes) with no noticeable distinction between their use

- Date formatting – e.g., the use of "of" when citing a month and year, frequent (but inconsistent) use of ordinals on days, occasionally abbreviated years ('74 instead of 1974)

- Grocer's apostrophes

- Dangling modifiers – e.g., p. 78: "Like the film’s connection to Joseph Campbell, it was one trumpeted by the intelligentsia after the film became popular in an attempt to explain the success through more scholarly influence." – the "it" refers to the claim that the concept of “the Force” was derived from the ideas of Carlos Castaneda (outlined on the previous page)

- Awkward phrasings – e.g., p. 91 "Luke has self-trained himself"


- Misspellings:

-- He uses "mis-en-scene" instead of "mise-en-scène" every-freakin'-time!

-- On p. 380 he uses "Aura Sing" and "Aurra Sing" in the same sentence!

-- He refers to the "Clone War" (no "s") animated series

- A poorly generated index that clearly used a simple search of the text – for example, the index entry for E.E. Smith does not include references on pp. 59, 84, etc. because they use different forms of his name.

In addition, there are plenty of instances where Kaminski simply exhibits poor writing habits. For example, there are about 50 "most important moments" in the various Star Wars movies. Likewise, nearly every science fiction author he cites as an influence on Lucas is "one of the most important" in all of science fiction history. Kaminski apparently misunderstands what a superlative actually is, and it quickly becomes difficult to understand what he believes are truly seminal moments, influences, etc. on the Star Wars films, and what are merely notable. He seems unable to realize that things can be influential without overstating their importance.

My biggest gripe with Kaminski's work, however, is that even as he makes his argument about Lucas's inconsistent portrayal of the development of the Star Wars films, he fails to see how Lucas himself offers an explanation for that very inconsistency. As a film student, Lucas started out making abstract films, focusing on images rather than dialogue (which he has long been criticized as a weak point of his) or even story. As in C. S. Lewis's "It All Began with a Picture," so it was with Lucas – and for Lucas, it never stopped being about the picture. As the picture shifted from one film to three films to six, and at times potentially more, so did his description of it. Yes, the things Lucas said about how many scripts he had written or how many pages he had drafted were false in a number of cases. But none of that was ever the point for him. It was always about the process, the stitching together of images and the final products – if he didn't have it all written down ahead of time, who cares?

Anyway, as I said above, Kaminski should be given credit for the extent of his research. The book is repetitive and too long by half (or more), but it is nonetheless something that any serious Star Wars scholar should tackle at some point. If nothing else, the bibliography at the end is a good place to check for sources you might not have known about before. ...more
5

Jul 02, 2017

Well, it was a long haul to get through this book, but I'm glad I did! Absolutely essential reading for any fan of the original Star Wars who has continued to pay attention to the series and shake in horror or befuddlement about the shocking mischief (or grievous sins) that Lucas committed on our favorite national treasure between 1997 and 2005. And totally unneeded reading for anyone else...

Though it didn't cause me to regain any liking or respect for the post-70's Lucas, it was good to be able Well, it was a long haul to get through this book, but I'm glad I did! Absolutely essential reading for any fan of the original Star Wars who has continued to pay attention to the series and shake in horror or befuddlement about the shocking mischief (or grievous sins) that Lucas committed on our favorite national treasure between 1997 and 2005. And totally unneeded reading for anyone else...

Though it didn't cause me to regain any liking or respect for the post-70's Lucas, it was good to be able to see and understand exactly how much had changed and when and why... Covering from the early beginnings around 1973 as "The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the "Journal of the Whills"" to "Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars" to "Star Wars" to "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" etc etc. all the way up to the insertion of Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi in 2004 (21 years after its release!) and then to Sith...

Extremely detailed (and a bit repetitive for someone who isn't fixated on this whole thing) with details on the scripts from well before the first shot of Star Wars was ever filmed, commentary from people directly involved, including Lucas (note that the commentary inside is not for this book, but generally interviews that appeared elsewhere), and analysis of the possible rationales for changes, big and small. I found it rather engrossing and fascinating.

And, now that the series is in the hands of someone who has returned it to its original feeling and story, this book even more cemented my consideration of the "Prequels" to be an offshoot alternative history, rather than part of the main story.

Note: grievous sins:
1. Star Wars Special Edition (1997)
2. Empire Special Edition (1997)
3. Jedi special edition (1997)
4. Phantom Menace (1999)
5. Attack of the clones (2002)
6. More changes to the (no longer) original trilogy (2004)
7. Revenge of the Sith (2005)
and the biggest of all...
8. After three movies of the Story of Luke, the galling revisionist history he went through to change the context of those movies from the story of Luke to the story of Anakin (something that has, thankfully, been undone in the J J Abrams era). Don't get me wrong, like most people I was a much bigger fan of Vader than of Luke, but still... It was his darn story.

Bonus, early travesty: Adding Episode IV and that "A New Hope" gibberish to the beginning of Star Wars, 4 years after it was first released

Appendix:
Suggested new renumbering (and we still have 6 movies! and a more intact storyline):
Prequel: Rogue One
Episode I: Star Wars
Episode II: Empire Strikes back
Episode II: Return of the Jedi
Episode IV: The Force Awakens
Episode V: The Last Jedi ...more
2

Jan 06, 2016

Words cannot describe how frustrating this book is. While the amount of content is astounding, just trying to get through this is enough to make one give up on reading. It feels as if the author was to be paid for every page he wrote so he endlessly repeats himself over and over again. I constantly felt like I was experiencing déjà vu because of the non-stop "2 steps forward, 1 step back" writing style. I enjoyed the content and learned a lot but I'm glad that it's over with so I don't have to Words cannot describe how frustrating this book is. While the amount of content is astounding, just trying to get through this is enough to make one give up on reading. It feels as if the author was to be paid for every page he wrote so he endlessly repeats himself over and over again. I constantly felt like I was experiencing déjà vu because of the non-stop "2 steps forward, 1 step back" writing style. I enjoyed the content and learned a lot but I'm glad that it's over with so I don't have to read this any longer. ...more
4

Dec 29, 2016

I wish this had been more about the company and less about the script. But otherwise it was a good read.
3

Dec 17, 2018

Took me quite a while to get through this one! If you are looking for an exhaustive history of the way the first six Star Wars films came together, you've come to the right place. This gets all the way into the details of the various script drafts and what changed from one to the next. There was a lot of repeated content and this could have benefited from some additional editing. The author at times seems oddly determined to prove that many statements George Lucas made over the years don't match Took me quite a while to get through this one! If you are looking for an exhaustive history of the way the first six Star Wars films came together, you've come to the right place. This gets all the way into the details of the various script drafts and what changed from one to the next. There was a lot of repeated content and this could have benefited from some additional editing. The author at times seems oddly determined to prove that many statements George Lucas made over the years don't match up to the reality of how things went down. Many times I felt like shouting out loud, "who cares, just move on with the details!" Overall a lot of interesting information here though, for the hardcore Star Wars fans. ...more
4

Aug 29, 2015

Just finished this book and I thought it was a very insightful one; must reading for people like me that have grown up with Star Wars and are unabashed fans. Hell, I even liked parts of "Attack of the Clones"!

The central thesis of the book is that the convenient marketing line that was fed to fans in the time after the release of "Return of the Jedi" and especially during the release of the prequels - that George Lucas had all 6 (or 9, or 12 in some versions) parts of the Star Wars saga figured Just finished this book and I thought it was a very insightful one; must reading for people like me that have grown up with Star Wars and are unabashed fans. Hell, I even liked parts of "Attack of the Clones"!

The central thesis of the book is that the convenient marketing line that was fed to fans in the time after the release of "Return of the Jedi" and especially during the release of the prequels - that George Lucas had all 6 (or 9, or 12 in some versions) parts of the Star Wars saga figured out - was just not true. He really was making it up as he went along. The book works as a "secret history" and the author offers some pretty compelling evidence that not only was "Star Wars" always meant to be a standalone film, but also that Darth Vader wasn't Anakin well into the development of "Empire". In fact, it was pure luck that he wasn't killed off with the first Death Star... but we knew that.

More surprisingly, although more recently Lucas himself, and his entire empire has spun the sextet as "The Tragedy of Darth Vader", that wasn't really the case until Attack of the Clones was being scripted! Yep, the original trilogy was supposed to be "The Adventures of Luke Skywalker" (this we knew) and the prequels were supposed to be "The Adventures of Young Obi-wan Kenobi" (this I didn't!)

There's many many nuggets of great information, both about the content of the movies, as well as about George Lucas himself - the man is inseparable from any discussion of his work. In truth, I was surprised to see just how much of his own life is in the movies, and how much of his influences are also my own removed as we are by decades and continents! There was a distinct "Tragedy of George Lucas" emerging as the book went along. Particularly his struggle with his own limitations, and the effort it took him in forcing the story out is something I can well empathize with as a wannabe writer. This has a very different picture of Lucas as compared, for example, to the one in "The People vs George Lucas" - a documentary that I saw recently.

I deducted one star from the book because it is just a tad overlong, and repetitive in places. I would be remiss however not to mention that the audiobook that was bundled cheaply with the Kindle edition is well worth the extra $3 - the author and narrator does fantastic impressions when he reads out a quote from someone. His impressions of George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and Mark Hamill are spot on!

A great read all in all! ...more
4

Oct 05, 2017

This starts off pretty slow, starting with Lucas's film school years and talks about some of his influences.

Eventually we get to the meat though and for any fan of Star Wars, it's a pretty great, if exhaustive read. The author started the book on the simple premise that if you forget everything that came after and watch Star Wars: A New Hope, the idea that Darth Vader is secretly Luke's father and that Obi-Wan knows the truth, it just feels all wrong. If you carry that further you start to This starts off pretty slow, starting with Lucas's film school years and talks about some of his influences.

Eventually we get to the meat though and for any fan of Star Wars, it's a pretty great, if exhaustive read. The author started the book on the simple premise that if you forget everything that came after and watch Star Wars: A New Hope, the idea that Darth Vader is secretly Luke's father and that Obi-Wan knows the truth, it just feels all wrong. If you carry that further you start to notice a lot of things that subtly change as each new film comes out and you have to make larger and larger leaps of faith that the story on the screen is one that makes complete sense. The reason being, is simply that Lucas revised and changed the story every time he wrote a new movie. This is despite his hinting that he always had the story in his head from start to finish. So this author has gone through every old interview he can find, every early draft he could read and so on and put together a loose timeline of what changed, when and most intriguingly what could have been!

Here are some examples to whet your appetite:

1) Anakin and Darth Vader were originally totally different people, with Anakin simply being Obi-Wan's best Jedi bud and Darth Vader being his apprentice who turned evil and killed Anakin. It's all there in the dialog, and it was originally exactly as it was written.

2) The character of Darth Vader was totally different. For example, "Darth" was his actual first name. It's true, it wasn't considered a Sith title until Phantom Menace! Let that sink in a little!
Today we know Vader as the Emperor's right hand man. Vice Emperor right? But watch A New Hope, Leia talks trash to him, his underlings question his actions, that guy all but spits in his face before getting force choked, and even then Vader yields to Tarkin. Does this seem like appropriate behavior directed at the second most powerful man in the galaxy? Absolutely not! The reason is because he wasn't back then. He was more like the head of Secret Service. He had a great deal of power, but he was basically the head of the hired thugs and generally disliked by the actual military members.

3) The Clone Wars. If you're like me you heard the term Clone Wars and dwelt on what that meant for most of your childhood. Clones of what? High officials? Espionage, never knowing if you're talking to an actual person or their clone? Then you saw Attack of the Clones and you said "really? That's it? An army of bounty hunter clones?" But the original idea was sooooo much cooler and more in line to what I was thinking. Put it this way, Lando was originally written to be a clone (leftover from the war) and that's why Leia immediately distrusts him, because she feels uneasy around him and it's later revealed he's a clone and there are implications as to what that makes him, his trustworthiness. But there were male and female clones and the whole thing would've been messy and awesome!

4) Luke's Return of the Jedi "Jedi Outfit". This is one of those things I never really thought about until this book, but what the heck was that outfit? Why did he not dress like anyone else in the movies? The answer is very cool. Back then the Jedi Order was considered to be this peace keeping shock-troop force, kind of like Navy Seals or SWAT or something. And he's wearing what Lucas envisioned the order to have dressed like. But what about Obi-Wan in A New Hope, with the robes and all? He was wearing pretty normal Tattooine garb. Don't believe me? Check out Uncle Owen, he's wearing almost the exact same thing as Obi-Wan is about as anti-Jedi as you can get. Plus, why would Obi-Wan be wearing patented Jedi garb? He's in hiding after all! It wasn't until the prequels that the Jedi became a kind of peaceful monk-like order.

So yeah, if any of that hits your fancy, you should definitely check out the book, but again, it's a pretty heavy slog. I wouldn't recommend it for casual Star Wars fans. Only people who've spent a great deal of time thinking about the movies and always feeling like something didn't quite add up. ...more
4

Sep 24, 2019

This book did the hard work of going through all of the supplemental material that has been out for Star Wars in 2008 ( before the Disney merger). And it’s primary concern is the counteract George Lucas statement about him creating all of Star Wars before he made the first one.

Is like the at the time of 2008 just started to have analytical YouTubers who do video essays, the Ultimate form of that. Originally when I heard of this book I just thought it was someone who worked for Lucas making a This book did the hard work of going through all of the supplemental material that has been out for Star Wars in 2008 ( before the Disney merger). And it’s primary concern is the counteract George Lucas statement about him creating all of Star Wars before he made the first one.

Is like the at the time of 2008 just started to have analytical YouTubers who do video essays, the Ultimate form of that. Originally when I heard of this book I just thought it was someone who worked for Lucas making a hit job but it turns out is just someone who is very passionate about wanting to know about Star Wars, who read everything that he can get his hands on and made an assessment. In a lot of ways is something I have always wanted to do but I didn’t want to spend the hundreds of hours it would have taken to do that. I own the Original trilogy original making of books but didn’t feel like reading every little change that happen in the different drafts of the script. This guy did that and told you does significance of the changes between the drafts and omitted details that didn’t matter. In a lot of ways he wrote this as if to an audience who would have read or watched a lot of do you behind the scene materials for these films, so for the most part he is only addressing things that matter to the writing process or things in Lucas life that matter to that .

The biggest criticism of the book would be he really needed an editor. This book is kind of ridiculously long for what it’s supposed to be for, and he repeats his points over and over I heard that it was originally a blog if that’s the case then it kind of shows, where you might need to repeat points because people might not have read all of your entries. But as a book it could have been edited to be a lot better.

I will refrain from explaining everything that’s in the book but some of the things I didn’t realize for someone who has watched all of the behind the scenes and owns most of the books about Star Wars, there were things in there that help me think o yea a lot of luck, like George Lucas applied to USC cuss his friend told him there is equipment there, he didn’t even know they had a film department. ( it’s possible that a lot of the things that I realized in this book were in the materials I own and seen and I just don’t remember them)

But I would highly recommend if u have any interest in how George Lucas made Star Wars. Mainly from story writing perspective but also what his goals where at the time.
...more
3

Jul 31, 2019

It apparently took me a decade to get from the first page to the last, mostly because I forgot it after I had waded my way up to the mid-seventies. I just never "had the time" for the book.

The main point of the whole Secret History is that George Lucas has been rewriting his own story about Star Wars since day one, regardless of recorded history. For example, at some point he started claiming that "the media made it all up, there's never been more than six movies" when asked about the sequel It apparently took me a decade to get from the first page to the last, mostly because I forgot it after I had waded my way up to the mid-seventies. I just never "had the time" for the book.

The main point of the whole Secret History is that George Lucas has been rewriting his own story about Star Wars since day one, regardless of recorded history. For example, at some point he started claiming that "the media made it all up, there's never been more than six movies" when asked about the sequel trilogy. Of course this book was written before the Flanelled One sold Star Wars to Disney and how he started complaining how Disney's ST differs from his designs :)

Generally speaking I found especially the OT era chapters eye-opening to how different everything could have been, had it been as heavily Lucas-ran as the PT was. How much of an annoying micromanager he was and maybe still is. And how Lucas just made it up as he went, just like Indiana Jones - he just could not admit it out loud.
Maybe he was just caught up in his own legend as the galaxy builder. It's understandable in a way, but also somewhat disturbing that he can still claim whatever he likes, ignoring recorded facts. That behaviour reminds me of some orange asshat screaming FAEK NEWZ! constantly.

What really made me ignore the book for solid nine years was the writing. I re-picked the book up this June (2019) and forced myself to read it through. I know it's the anglo-american way to repeat every point a couple of times in a chapter (typically "this is what we'll talk about; this is what we're talking about; this is what we just talked about" - and still the amount of repetition was eye-watering. From chapter to chapter the same damn quotes, even. The same conversation points.

In a way it was like this whole book was a half-edited tFN.net discussion thread, by one poster only.


I do agree with many of the points the author has. Nor do I understand why Lucas insists on trying to rewrite his own history and lying about it. But I do not quite get how the author has gotten so heavily offended by it, it seems.
Somehow the old saying "no one hates Star Wars as a Star Wars fan" came to mind every once in a while. ...more
4

Mar 13, 2018

This book upended the way I'd thought about the Star Wars movies and stories for the past 20 years. First of all, given George Lucas' original intention of having an endless James Bond-like serialized series of movies removes any arguments I had about what Disney has been doing with what has frankly been a mostly neglected franchise (film-wise) since the first movie came out in 1977. Second, the book explains why Lucas changed his mind - a combination of his divorce draining him of money and the This book upended the way I'd thought about the Star Wars movies and stories for the past 20 years. First of all, given George Lucas' original intention of having an endless James Bond-like serialized series of movies removes any arguments I had about what Disney has been doing with what has frankly been a mostly neglected franchise (film-wise) since the first movie came out in 1977. Second, the book explains why Lucas changed his mind - a combination of his divorce draining him of money and the movies draining him of life. Third, and the biggest reason Kaminski wrote this book, it dismantles the legend of episodes 4-6 (as we now know them) having been the middle of a story that Lucas always had in his head. The truth is both better and worse; especially as we see other ways the story could have gone if he hadn't been drained by the experience.

Finally, I listened to an audiobook read by Josh Robert Thompson and that is one VERY talented voice actor. He has voices for every quote in the book. I'm not going to say his voices would stand up to scrutiny side-by-side with the people he's impersonating, but some of his voices are so good that I thought at first he was playing back interviews with the folks - particularly Lucas and Hamill.

The book whipsaws between fascinating and boring as Kaminski is as detailed as if this were his PhD thesis paper. So after a while the evidence can get tiresome to hear (especially when it's repeated in different chapters), but it does make the book stand up to scrutiny in a way that it needs to when dealing with the Star Wars fandom. The only other criticism is that I wish the book had been updated with an epilogue post-Disney buyout. I know it doesn't fit with his thesis, but I think it would have been a nice cherry on top after all the talk of movies 7-9 and what could have been.

I'm a passing Star Wars fan (loved 4-6, suffered through 1-3, and haven't seen 7,8, or any of the side movies). If you like Star Wars anywhere from that much to being a true fan, I recommend the book to you and the audiobook is GREAT to listen to. ...more
3

Oct 05, 2017

I thought this was a pretty interesting book -- though I'm not sure I would recommend it to anyone less engaged with Star Wars than a casual fan.

I gather that this was completed prior to Lucas selling Star Wars off to Disney and the new sequel series(es), so it doesn't exactly cover *every*thing. Still, walking through all the different drafts of the original and sequel trilogies (such as the were) was intriguing. I especially enjoyed seeing parts of the older drafts being picked back up and I thought this was a pretty interesting book -- though I'm not sure I would recommend it to anyone less engaged with Star Wars than a casual fan.

I gather that this was completed prior to Lucas selling Star Wars off to Disney and the new sequel series(es), so it doesn't exactly cover *every*thing. Still, walking through all the different drafts of the original and sequel trilogies (such as the were) was intriguing. I especially enjoyed seeing parts of the older drafts being picked back up and used later on (Mace Windy, for example).

I suppose the main angle of the book, aside for chronicling the film production, is exploring all the evidence that Lucas never had a complete vision of the movies prior to making them, and it pretty convincingly details the contradictions in production interviews and the various drafts of each movie.

A personal nit to pick: the book uses a lot of interview quotes. The audiobook didn't include the actual audio of those interviews, so the narrator does his best impressions of the people speaking ... which I don't know if there is a better way to accomplish those quotes in an audio format, but it completely distracted me (although his Liam Neeson was pretty good).

Another personal note: I listened to this audio book after rewatching the Plinkett / Red Letter Media deconstructions of the Prequel trilogy and they made an interesting coupling - I would recommend them both to any Star Wars fan. ...more
5

Jan 10, 2020

Finished the book quickly because I had it on audiobook. I found it a very easy listen and was hooked from the very beginning. The volume of research and quotes that the author found is simply astounding.

Other items I enjoyed about the book:

1- Demonstrates that the story behind the creation of Star Wars creation is as much a part of the story of Star Wars and the movies themselves.

2- Star Wars for Lucas was never a finished project. Even after the film was released, Lucas was making changes to Finished the book quickly because I had it on audiobook. I found it a very easy listen and was hooked from the very beginning. The volume of research and quotes that the author found is simply astounding.

Other items I enjoyed about the book:

1- Demonstrates that the story behind the creation of Star Wars creation is as much a part of the story of Star Wars and the movies themselves.

2- Star Wars for Lucas was never a finished project. Even after the film was released, Lucas was making changes to it in interesting ways. (Adding episode IV and getting rid of all copies that did not have the Episode IV scroll. Would do a similar thing with the pre-special edition versions).

3- Beyond making small changes to the movie itself, as the sequels and prequels took different turns, the story of Episode IV was changed. If watched as a stand alone movie, it has in many ways a different message.

There are of course many other things I enjoyed. The author painstakingly maps out the twists and turns of the Star Wars saga. Diving into changes that were made and how each impacted the saga that we know today. A must read for any fan. ...more
4

Nov 03, 2015

For fans of the Star Wars saga or students of storytelling and filmmaking, The Secret History of Star Wars is an interesting read that tells precisely what went into the creative process of writing and developing the Star Wars films. It’s a fairly exhaustive study covering the original trilogy as well as the three prequels. Of course, exhaustive can sometimes lead to exhausting, and if you are a casual fan or just curious about how these films came about, you may find that some redundancies and For fans of the Star Wars saga or students of storytelling and filmmaking, The Secret History of Star Wars is an interesting read that tells precisely what went into the creative process of writing and developing the Star Wars films. It’s a fairly exhaustive study covering the original trilogy as well as the three prequels. Of course, exhaustive can sometimes lead to exhausting, and if you are a casual fan or just curious about how these films came about, you may find that some redundancies and belabored points in the text could be edited a bit. But the true Star Wars fan will probably have none of that, preferring every last nuance explored, and if so they will not be disappointed. In either case, this work is clearly a labor of love for the author, and his explorations into the history of Star Wars and the evolution of the stories and characters through time is impressive indeed.

Personally, I found the first half of the book to be the most interesting, covering the early life and work of George Lucas that led up to Star Wars and its two sequels. Having grown up with the original trilogy, as a child I had always considered Lucas to be the epitome of creativity—a master storyteller who had somehow tapped into a deep mythological collective unconscious using his unbridled imaginative powers. So it surprised me to learn just how much the man actually struggled to find a suitable story for the first Star Wars film—let alone to write the screenplay and get the movie made. Although everything appears inevitable in hindsight, in fact it seems almost serendipitous that Star Wars ever happened at all. That it did—and that it became such a pop culture phenomenon to boot—is a testament to Lucas’s creative vision and his incredible work ethic. As the book explains, apparently he was nothing if not determined to get the first movie written and made, no matter how many drafts it took, no matter how many discarded plot and story ideas were left by the wayside . . . and no matter how many bizarre names he had to come up with for his characters and planets.

So, while few people would doubt the creative capacity of Lucas, I did find it interesting to learn the extent to which his initial Star Wars drafts took inspiration from other films and stories, such as Flash Gordon and Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. Apparently these and many other works—especially pulp sci-fi and fantasy—had an enormous influence on the plot and story universe of Star Wars. For example, who would have known that the Force itself—originally called “the Force of Others”—actually seems to be inspired by the ideas of another sci-fi author? Or that R2-D2 and C-3PO were based on two bickering peasants from The Hidden Fortress? Or that Princess Leia apparently comes straight out of a Japanese fairytale?

Of course, whatever his influences may have been, clearly Lucas was able to repackage all the elements in his own compelling way. The author does give some insight into Lucas’s creative process. For one thing, it seems that Lucas was very good at picking up on unique names and words and keeping track of them for future use. It was amusing to say the least to learn where the character names of R2-D2 and Vader may have come from as well as to discover the etymology for the word ‘Wookie’.

Also interesting was learning about the film community that Lucas was involved in during the 70’s. It turns out that Lucas was quite collaborative in those early days, receiving a lot of feedback on his screenplay drafts and early cuts of the first film, a process that seemed largely absent during the writing of the prequels. The plan and inspiration for Skywalker Ranch was also a noteworthy bit of history.

One of the main strengths of the book, however—and indeed its central focus—is the exploration of the evolution of the characters and storyline over the course of the saga. The author illustrates how the story—which now seems set in stone—was in fact very fluid with changes being made on the fly, from the film titles to plot points to character names and identities to themes and arcs. Particularly interesting was the idea of whether Princess Leia was in fact originally the ‘other’ that Yoda spoke of in Empire Strikes Back, or whether there was supposed to be yet another character—a true Jedi, somewhere on the other side of the galaxy—who was eventually discarded and ultimately never made it into the series.

Another interesting discussion was that of the character of Darth Vader and his evolution into someone very different than originally intended. It is interesting to think that Lucas made many retroactive changes via the sequels that happened to fit very well with what he had previously filmed, such as Ben Kenobi’s moment of hesitation before telling Luke how his father was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader. The author made a good point about how originally this small reaction in Alec Guinness’s acting had nothing to do with Vader’s relationship to Luke—because that relation had not been invented yet. But we the viewers supply this meaning ourselves with our knowledge of the later sequel plot points. These and other similar explorations provide entertaining insight into the way the story was constantly shifting and how it really could have gone in any number of different directions from the way the saga ultimately ended up.

The Secret History of Star Wars is a fairly long read, but there is a lot of history to cover after all, and although the occasional typo distracts now and again, the author’s style is very readable and he takes an objective approach to the material throughout. While I personally might have preferred a more tightly edited and condensed version, this book was still a fun read and is definitely recommended for fans of the series or for anyone else who is curious about the history of the Star Wars films and the creative process that brought them about.
...more
4

Dec 20, 2017

On the one hand, this is an awfully long and detailed book just to prove that George Lucas isn't always honest about Star Wars story points. On the other hand, it is a fascinating read. I would recommend this book to hardcore Star Wars fans and film/writing geeks. If you're into Star Wars, passionate about film, or a budding screenwriter, you will love this book. Casual Star Wars fans and people who aren't really into how movies are made will probably find this book more than a bit overwhelming. On the one hand, this is an awfully long and detailed book just to prove that George Lucas isn't always honest about Star Wars story points. On the other hand, it is a fascinating read. I would recommend this book to hardcore Star Wars fans and film/writing geeks. If you're into Star Wars, passionate about film, or a budding screenwriter, you will love this book. Casual Star Wars fans and people who aren't really into how movies are made will probably find this book more than a bit overwhelming. I think for the right audience this is a great book. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even though it really into the weeds about all the numerous Star Wars story treatments and drafts. For me, this stuff is fascinating, especially since I'm a big Star Wars fan, and a writer, myself. So if you're the type of person this book is written for, do yourself a favor and pick it up. If you're only just a little bit into Star Wars and aren't really into film, then I would pass on this one. ...more
4

May 25, 2019

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Secret History of Star Wars is comprehensive and insightful but too repetitive in some parts.

Certain interviews and quotes from Lucas and others are used too often. Passages will often begin with a sentence containing identical information from the passage before it. It sometimes feels like Kaminski wrote the book with an arbitrary word count in mind.

Despite this, Kaminski's work is admirable. The Secret History of Star Wars is a labour of love. Kaminski is Comprehensive and insightful as The Secret History of Star Wars is comprehensive and insightful but too repetitive in some parts.

Certain interviews and quotes from Lucas and others are used too often. Passages will often begin with a sentence containing identical information from the passage before it. It sometimes feels like Kaminski wrote the book with an arbitrary word count in mind.

Despite this, Kaminski's work is admirable. The Secret History of Star Wars is a labour of love. Kaminski is Comprehensive and insightful as he chronicles the story of Star Wars from its concept stage through to Revenge of The Sith. It touches on everything from Lucas' childhood, to the great personal cost the making of these films had on the man responsible for a franchise so powerful with the force that it entered modern myth.

Definitely worth your time. ...more
4

Jan 13, 2017

I loved this book despite the style that was way too repetitive (down to using the same quotations in several places). The book is long and the repetitions start to grate at some point, but it's been a great insight into the writing process of Star Wars. As someone who doesn't usually read interviews by authors of the movies I like, I gleaned a lot of new information on Lucas both as a writer and as a person. I also gained new understanding of why the films are the way they are. All in all, it's I loved this book despite the style that was way too repetitive (down to using the same quotations in several places). The book is long and the repetitions start to grate at some point, but it's been a great insight into the writing process of Star Wars. As someone who doesn't usually read interviews by authors of the movies I like, I gleaned a lot of new information on Lucas both as a writer and as a person. I also gained new understanding of why the films are the way they are. All in all, it's been an interesting experience, though I think that, in order to enjoy this book, one ought to be interested not just in Star Wars but in writing specifically, since a large part of the book is dedicated to analyzing (possibly even overanalyzing) the script drafts and the writing process itself. As a writer, I found it interesting and relatable. ...more
5

Apr 01, 2019

This book is very well researched and offers some 'alternative' perspectives on the official making of Star Wars Trilogy stories that George Lucas and Lucasfilm have perpetuated for decades.
Utilizing interviews, articles, books, quotes and common sense Kaminski has put together a very organized and accurate accounting of the legacy of Star Wars.
I have listened to the audio book countless times and it's always enjoyable. There is a lot of information and while some of the assumptions made by This book is very well researched and offers some 'alternative' perspectives on the official making of Star Wars Trilogy stories that George Lucas and Lucasfilm have perpetuated for decades.
Utilizing interviews, articles, books, quotes and common sense Kaminski has put together a very organized and accurate accounting of the legacy of Star Wars.
I have listened to the audio book countless times and it's always enjoyable. There is a lot of information and while some of the assumptions made by Kaminski can easily fall under opinion, there is plenty of factual information here to assert a lot of his claims.
I highly recommend this book to any and all Star Wars fans. It's captivating and enlightening. One of my favorite books of all time! ...more
3

Jun 22, 2017

Author's dedication and endeavor are admirable, to compile a hefty and coherent volume, without even a single interview or direct validation with Lucas. I was hooked (more or less along the way), until Appendix A (on Journal of Whills), where I finally became bored by the thesis-like analysis based on all the available archives excavated.
A pop culture phenomenon unprecedented in a business-centric world, I doubt if the fans would even care much about the history or back end development story, Author's dedication and endeavor are admirable, to compile a hefty and coherent volume, without even a single interview or direct validation with Lucas. I was hooked (more or less along the way), until Appendix A (on Journal of Whills), where I finally became bored by the thesis-like analysis based on all the available archives excavated.
A pop culture phenomenon unprecedented in a business-centric world, I doubt if the fans would even care much about the history or back end development story, but the end product presented to them.
To learn lessons on creative process of an art form e.g. film making, the book presents an eye-opening case study, but unnecessarily overwhelming.
To expand the Socioeconomic scale, make a real-life epic? It's only grown from a fantasy. ...more
5

Sep 27, 2018

I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a detailed history of the making of the Star Wars saga. The book focusses both on the creation of the story of the saga, and its filming. A lot of philological research has been clearly put in writing this book. Every claim made by the author is backed up by an abundance of references (from screenplays, to notes, to interviews, to memories of friends and colleagues of Luca's). As an average Star Wars fan, the book fulfilled my curiosity about how Star I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a detailed history of the making of the Star Wars saga. The book focusses both on the creation of the story of the saga, and its filming. A lot of philological research has been clearly put in writing this book. Every claim made by the author is backed up by an abundance of references (from screenplays, to notes, to interviews, to memories of friends and colleagues of Luca's). As an average Star Wars fan, the book fulfilled my curiosity about how Star Wars came about and why it is the way i is (note here the scientific endeavour of the how and why). The writing style is quite smooth and pleasant, but the length of the book is challenging (I actually read it over two summers with a hiatus between the two). To sum up, I really recommend this book to anybody who wants to know the "behind the scenes" of the saga. ...more
5

Dec 28, 2017

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was fantastic. If you grew up with Star Wars then you also probably grew up with all the rumors surrounding Star Wars. "Lucas has nine films planned." "He chose to make the 4th film first because reasons." This book does a fantastic job of sorting through all the interviews, draft scripts, old issues of 'Bantha Tracks' and other sources to trace the journey of what Star Wars started out as and what it eventually became. It walks you through the story of how Lucas had a story with many This book was fantastic. If you grew up with Star Wars then you also probably grew up with all the rumors surrounding Star Wars. "Lucas has nine films planned." "He chose to make the 4th film first because reasons." This book does a fantastic job of sorting through all the interviews, draft scripts, old issues of 'Bantha Tracks' and other sources to trace the journey of what Star Wars started out as and what it eventually became. It walks you through the story of how Lucas had a story with many ideas that eventually became a single film. Once that film was an enormous success and sequels were in the works, suddenly Lucas started giving interviews regarding how he had an entire epic saga mapped out. This book walks you through when that narrative started, and the lengths Lucas went to to assure the public that is was true. The author even goes through drafts of 'Empire Strikes Back' to determine when, within a few months, that Lucas decided Darth Vader would be Luke's father. Great read if you're a Star Wars fan and want to learn how the film became what it is today ...more
4

Dec 13, 2017

An interesting look at how George Lucas created the Star Wars series. The book goes through George Lucas's inspiration for the movies and how the stories changed as he wrote them. A lot of the information was new to me and put a lot of things into perspective for the movies. It breaks down the writing process for the original trilogy and the prequels. While it was interesting, it was also unnecessarily long. If you have know little about the background of Star Wars, this may be a great book to An interesting look at how George Lucas created the Star Wars series. The book goes through George Lucas's inspiration for the movies and how the stories changed as he wrote them. A lot of the information was new to me and put a lot of things into perspective for the movies. It breaks down the writing process for the original trilogy and the prequels. While it was interesting, it was also unnecessarily long. If you have know little about the background of Star Wars, this may be a great book to pick up. If you have already delved down that path, this may be a bit too repetitive. ...more
3

Mar 20, 2019

Whew! What a long book! Listening to the audiobook was entertaining: we hear "George Lucas" reading in his "real" voice, among other great impersonations by reader Josh Robert Thompson.

The book, though, drags in many places. The author's pedantic repetitions -- to make points about what did or did not appear in this or that draft of Star Wars -- quickly lose their impact.

We do learn a lot, but the tone is sometimes that of someone who fears so much he will be contradicted that he feels necessary Whew! What a long book! Listening to the audiobook was entertaining: we hear "George Lucas" reading in his "real" voice, among other great impersonations by reader Josh Robert Thompson.

The book, though, drags in many places. The author's pedantic repetitions -- to make points about what did or did not appear in this or that draft of Star Wars -- quickly lose their impact.

We do learn a lot, but the tone is sometimes that of someone who fears so much he will be contradicted that he feels necessary to fill in all the corners of his arguments. ...more
5

Nov 02, 2017

This was a really interesting breakdown of the creation and history of the first six star wars films.

Michael does a great job putting each film and decision in both the original context and the greater context of the series as a whole.

It is remarkable how different the original Star Wars film was in its initial release than it is now as part 4 of a longer story. It would be interesting to revisit this topic again in a few years after we have had a new Star Wars film every year for half a decade.

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