Ladies and gentleman, we are proud to welcome Mike Bobbitt to the A.L. front lines! Mike is a comedian from Detroit who recently moved to L.A. to cross swords, and make his bones as a gen-you-wine Hollywood writer. Mike is a good egg, and he’s going to be on here rattling off his trials and tribulations and spouting off about whatever is on his mind. Have at it Mike!
Phone Call For Mr. Skywalker
Hey Arsenic Lullaholics*, I’m Douglas’ comedian buddy Mike. I’m a guy who, to paraphrase the great Danny Glover, got too old for that road comedy shit and moved to Los Angeles to be a writer.
Everyone knows: Writing isn’t writing. It’s rewriting. I get too married to my first drafts. After 12 years of comedy I’ve developed pretty good instincts towards what’s going to work on stage and what won’t. I don’t have those instincts when it comes to writing scripts…yet.
I submitted a bunch of scripts to a handful of screenwriting contests and none of them even made it to the semi-finals. I was crushed and started second guessing this leap of faith. Months later I reread those scripts. They’re not good. They’re first drafts.
One of the best resources for writers in Los Angeles is the Writer’s Guild of America Library. There you’ll find scripts to pretty much everything ever made. I spend a lot of time there.
Recently I found the first draft of Empire Strikes Back. Being a pretty hardcover Star Wars nerd, I’ve seen older versions of the A New Hope script, but I’ve never seen this one before. I was hoping that reading this first draft would help break me of my attachment to my own first drafts.
Early drafts of Star Wars are throw poop at the wall crazy! I thought for sure the first draft of Empire Strike Back would be better since Kasdan and Brackett had Star Wars to draw from. Wrong!
It starts off pretty much the same only the Wampa pops up from the snow below Luke…which kind of makes more sense when you think about it. If Luke is scouting, how did he not notice a giant snow creature? When we get to the rebel base, that’s when things get weird. You know how Han and Leia have that playful banter in the halls? Remember how she’d rather kiss a Wookiee than admit to wanting to kiss Han Solo? Well, this version is a lot less playful and a lot more rapey. Han corners her and tries to force himself on her and she has to remind him that her soldiers are within an earshot and will help her if she screams. He tells her he knows what she wants and she says that the only thing she wants is Ovan Marekal. Who?!? Ovan is Han’s mercenary step-dad. Leia wants him to help the Rebel Alliance, but Han’s dad is currently helping the Empire because he goes where the money is.
Remember all those Rebel higher ups that it was so important to get Princess Leia too at the end of the last movie? You know, General Dodonna, the guy who came up with the plan to blow up the Deathstar? He’s still around in this script too. I looked up to see if maybe the actor died and that was why he wasn’t in the movie. Nope, he stuck around until 1990. Uh-oh, I think I’m starting to feel like parts of the first draft were better than the move we all saw. Let’s get back to the garbage.
Ben shows up and tells Luke to go see a guy named Minch, who can train him to be a Jedi. It’s pretty much all the Dagobah stuff, only Yoda is named Minch in this version. Ben pops up during the training and Luke asks Minch how he does that. Minch basically makes a phone call using the Force. “Minch calling Obi-Wan, come in Obi-Wan.” Ben shows up and is all like, “Oh hey guys, how’s the training going? Luke, glad you called, there’s someone here who wants to talk to you. It’s your dad!” Then a character simply Skywalker pops on the line and says, “Hey son, super proud of you, good luck fighting Darth Vader and all that.” It was like a Jedi Party Line! Oh yeah, and I almost forgot. Ben also says something along the lines of, “Hey Luke, did your Uncle Owen ever mention you having a sister? No? Okay, pretend I didn’t even bring it up.” Oh yeah, and Ben, Minch and Skywalker all make Luke recite the Jedi Oath which is a lot like the Boy Scout Oath.
The Emperor wears a “cloth of gold”, but I can’t critique his fashion sense because I’m currently wearing a shirt advertising Sriracha Hot Sauce. But on the subject of the bad guys, Vader is actually trying to get Luke to be his new master. You read that right. Vader serve Luke instead of the Emperor. When they fight, he also says something along the lines of, “Hey kid, I’m like 20 years older than you, you don’t have a chance against me. I’ll kick your ass, just like I kicked your dad’s ass.”
There’s a running joke too where Leia is using an alias on Bespin, which is simply called the Orbital City. Her name goes from Ethonia, Ardith, Erith and Eredith. No one can keep track of it. Hilarious? Lando is renamed Lando Kadar and is described as “Rudolph Valentino handsome and ageless”. Billy Dee Williams is certainly handsome and ageless. The motivation he has for betraying his old friend is that he recognized Leia as soon as they landed and was mad that Han was trying to con him.
So a lot of the ideas are there from the start. They’re all on a snow planet. Luke goes to train to be a Jedi. Everyone else hangs out with Lando and has dinner with Vader. Vader wants to team up with Luke, but Luke isn’t into it. Lucas handwrote notes on the version I read. One of them was next to a line Vader had about Luke. He says something to the effect of, “Maybe I should thank you for shooting my ship since I ended up far away from the Deathstar when it blew up.” Lucas wrote, “Cut this line. Han shot Vader.” Han didn’t shoot Vader. He shot the TIE fighter next to him…first…and in the back. Let’s keep that between us. I’m not sure if Lucas is still allowed to tinker, but we’d hate for him to go back and figure out a way to “fix” that to his “original” vision. Although, damn it, I’m on board for a box of Star Wars vibrators!
I haven’t gotten around to taking the first drafts of a Bob’s Burger’s and a Maron spec script off my website (www.offthemike.com). Next time around I’ll explain spec scripts and tell you why mine aren’t good yet.
* Someone should come up with a catchy name for us Arsenic Lullaby fans. Gwar called their fans “Bohabs”, maybe we’re Voodoo Johabs?
I think Arsenic Lullalaholics is a winner.