George Lucas Wanted A Different Darth Vader And It Would Have Ruined Star Wars

By Rudie Obias | Published

george lucas disney

It’s no secret that Japanese culture and cinema had a big influence on George Lucas and his Star Wars saga and that the structure of the original Star Wars was based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film, The Hidden Fortress.

In fact, George Lucas was so much in love with Japanese cinema that he asked legendary Japanese actor Toshirō Mifune to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars. While Mifune turned down the iconic Jedi role, Lucas also wanted him to play Darth Vader.

Toshiro Mifune’s daughter, Mika, appeared on a Japanese quiz show Sekai Fushigi Hakken! and revealed that her father was asked to play both the heroic Jedi and the Dark Lord of the Sith in Star Wars.

Toshiro Mifune
Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai

Toshiro Mifune ultimately turned down the Vader role because he thought Star Wars was going to be a children’s movie. Mika also said that Darth Vader’s helmet was designed with Toshirō Mifune in mind.

If Toshiro Mifune did end up playing the villain role, Lucas would have supposedly made his face visible throughout the film. Could you imagine Darth Vader without the full helmet? This alone would have changed the nature, look, and feel of the entire movie. Part of the reason that Darth Vader ended up working so well is the inherent mystery of just what the hell is happening behind that mask. Not to say Toshiro Mifune wouldn’t have worked, it just would have been different.

It’s hard to picture Darth Vader in anything less than his full, iconic costume voiced by James Earl Jones. It also raises lots of questions about how the Star Wars saga would have been different if Toshiro Mifune had taken one of the roles.

Toshiro Mifune
darth vader

Would a blonde-haired and blue-eyed Luke Skywalker end up being the son of a Japanese Darth Vader? Or would Mark Hamill have missed out on the role that made him an indelible part of pop culture history? Having Toshiro Mifune in that role would have changed things rather significantly.

This Toshiro Mifune casting, of course, an incredible movie sliding doors moment that would have changed the layout, structure, feel, and tone of Star Wars in a completely different way.

Ultimately the story of Hollywood, not just Star Wars, is told as much through the things that didn’t happen as the things that did. There are countless stories of actors turning down major roles only to open it up for another iconic performance from someone else.

That being said, this Toshiro Mifune casting would have gone down as one of the biggest ever, especially considering the Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi arcs.

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