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Hidden Fortress: The Star Wars connection …

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    NoelCT

    I know this has been a long topic of debate since STAR WARS was first released, but I wonder if any of you have read Lucas’s original story outline.

    Though it goes off in it’s own direction, the setup is striking:

    It is the thirty-third century, a period of civil wars in the galaxy. A rebel princess, with her family, her retainers, and the clan treasure, is being pursued. If they can cross territory controlled by the Empire and reach a friendly planet, they will be saved. The Sovereign knows this, and posts a reward for the capture of the princess.

    She is being guarded by one of her generals, (Luke Skywalker) and it is he who leads her on the long and dangerous journey that follows. They take along with them two hundred pounds of the greatly treasured “aura spice”, and also two Imperial bureaucrats, whom the general has captured.

    The two terrified, bickering bureaucrats crash land on Aquilae while trying to flee the battle of the space fortress. They accidentally discover a small container of the priceless “aura spice” and are rummaging around the rocks pushing and pulling each other trying to find more when they are discovered by Luke Skywalker and taken to his camp.

    The princess and the general are disguised as farmers, and the bureaucrats join their party with the intention of stealing their “land speeder” and “aura spice”. It doesn’t take them too long to realize the general isn’t a farmer and that they are captives about to embark on a dangerous mission. The two bureaucrats are essentially comic relief inserted among the general seriousness of the adventure.

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    Vili Maunula

    Thanks for the link, Noel!

    At least I have read it a couple of times, and indeed this original treatment is pretty much a copy-paste from Kurosawa. I’m not sure if this was the first treatment though, as I think that Lucas had been working on the idea for a while before he stumbled on The Hidden Fortress. Basically, he was looking for a storyline on which to pin a concept and a few scenes that he had. Kurosawa’s film ended up being a major influence.

    There is a book by the name The Secret History of Star Wars, which used to be available for free in the link provided but now seems to have got a publisher. Fortunately, the first 100 pages that are still downloadable, covering much of the early creative process. Pages 49-50 are especially interesting when it comes to the origins of Star Wars and the influence The Hidden Fortress had on the creative process. Unfortunately, I cannot quote directly since the PDF I have restricts copy-pasting the text, and I feel that if you are interested enough you can download the PDF and see the part in context rather than me spending time typing a bit of it here.

    In any case, according to the book Lucas was at one point even considering purchasing the rights to The Hidden Fortress. Another interesting point is that since he had no direct access to the film itself (no home videos or DVDs with which to scrutinize the work), he relied on Richie’s summary of the plot line. In the end, Lucas didn’t buy the rights and the final product is not a direct rip off.

    Ultimately, I think that (copyright issues aside) it is quite nonsensical to debate whether Star Wars is a remake or a reimagining of The Hidden Fortress, or if it was simply influenced by it. This is not to say that the question itself is not interesting, it’s just that I feel that in the end Star Wars either flies or fails based on its own merits. After all, the 2007 remake of Sanjuro was a near shot-by-shot affair, yet it failed quite miserably.

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    NoelCT

    Oh, I most definitely see STAR WARS as it’s own thing, with HIDDEN FORTRESS (and also a few bits I spotted from SEVEN SAMURAI and THRONE OF BLOOD) being only a few of the various sources that influenced Lucas’s development of the story.

    Thanks for the link to the file Vili, I’ll definitely check it out.

    As for the outline, that is, to the best of my knowledge, the first fully fleshed out piece of writing Lucas did for STAR WARS, though I’m sure ideas had been brewing in his head since much earlier. I can see why he eventually decided not to by the rights to HIDDEN FORTRESS because he’d already taken the story off in a very different direction by the time his first full script appeared, and subsequent drafts would move further and further away from Kurosawa’s influence as Lucas became increasingly interested in his study of Joseph Campbell.

    It’s interesting, though, that a sliver of that original HIDDEN FORTRESS inspired outline would resurface in THE PHANTOM MENACE, where a noble warrior sneaks an exiled royal disguised as a commoner through enemy territory.

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    Vili Maunula

    That’s a good observation about The Phantom Menace. That film will always have a special Japanese link to me, as I saw it in Japan when it premiered there.

    Noel, I don’t know if you have been around long enough to remember a discussion that we had on last year’s Hidden Fortress remake (titled The Last Princess), but one curious point that I found about the film (or its trailer, I have yet to get my hands on the actual movie) was that the main villain in the remake seems to be dressed quite much like Darth Vader? Here’s the comment.

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    NoelCT

    I’m still a bit new here and hadn’t caught that discussion yet, so thanks for the link. Wow. It doesn’t even look like they’re trying to hide the similarity there. I wonder if the director is trying to make a statement to the effect of “If Lucas wants to take a bit from us, we’ll take a bit right back.” Interesting.

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    Vili Maunula

    Heh, it could indeed be something like that, who knows. ­čÖé

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