George Lucas Changed Luke’s Original Name In Star Wars Because Of Charles Manson

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If you’re at all familiar with Star Wars history, you’ll no doubt know that George Lucas’ original concepts for the first movie in the saga – what we now call Episode IV: A New Hope – differed greatly from what actually ended up on screen in 1977. Chief among the changes was that the protagonist was not Luke Skywalker but Luke Starkiller. This name actually lasted someway into production, too. When Luke first meets Leia, Mark Hamill initially said “I’m Luke Starkiller, I’m here to rescue you!” However, the scene was reshot once Lucas opted to rename the character.

Why did Lucas decide to make this big alteration so late in the game? Well, though the Starkiller name is famous, the reason behind why it was dumped is much less known. You might have heard that it was rejected because it sounded too violent, and this is partially true. The full reason though is because Lucas believed that it had unfortunate connotations of notorious murderer Charles Manson. Manson was convicted in 1969, so his crimes – particularly the murder of actress Sharon Tate – were still very much in the public memory and naming the lead of his sci-fi movie Starkiller could’ve inadvertently reminded folks of a real-life “star killer.”

After several months into production, then, Skywalker was conceived as Luke’s new surname. This proved to be an easy change to implement as the Luke/Leia scene mentioned above is the only time the name’s mentioned aloud in the movie. Hamill, however, had grown attached to Starkiller and didn’t take to the new moniker at first, joking that it sounded like “Flyswatter.” Of course, Lucas was right to stick to his guns, as Luke Skywalker has to be one of the most famous names in movie history.

In any case, the term Starkiller is one that has its own special place in Star Wars lore. First of all, Starkiller was used as the name of the protagonist in The Force Unleashed video games and then J.J. Abrams named the First Order’s planet-sized Death Star Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens. In some other universe out there, however, fans have just witnessed the conclusion to the Starkiller saga in Star Wars: The Rise of Starkiller. 

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