Return Of The Jedi Storyboards Make The Emperor Even Creepier

By David Wharton | Updated

If you’ve enjoyed scoping out how things might have looked in the Star Wars franchise before they actually got onto the big screen, now we’ve got yet another peek behind the curtain of Lucas’ legendary trilogy. This one is a storyboard art selection from the Return of the Jedi production.

Storyboard artist David Russell created these designs, which give one character a slightly different and much more menacing look.

Emperor Palpatine here appears a bit more monstrous and filled out, almost like a more muscular version of the character. While the ashy-white frailness of the Palpatine was meant to have him maybe appear weaker than reality, this version has you quaking right off the bat. Check it out

He definitely has a less elderly vibe and isn’t a dude you would take lightly at all. Ultimately, the choice they made for the character worked, and his power was even that much more surprising when he revealed it.

Other storyboard images are from this near-final scene, the standoff between The Emperor, Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker. While we get a much more menacing version of the Emperor, the other images play out similar to what we saw in the movie.

Return Of The Jedi
Return Of The Jedi

We get Luke and Vader battling it out on the Death Star bridge before Luke gets the better of Vader’s hand.

Return Of The Jedi

It’s here that The Emperor lays into Luke with a little Force lightning. This version of Luke doesn’t look all that much like Mark Hamill. In fact, in terms of facial features, it appears a bit closer to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo.

By all accounts, Harrison Ford wasn’t in contention for this role, and these artistic renderings are made to start planning out shots of the movie. So that part is just a coincidence.

In all, it’s cool to look back at David Russell’s work here. After getting his big break with Return of the Jedi in 1983, Russell worked on dozens of films, including Tim Burton’s Batman and the recent Lucas passion project Red Tails.

That project was personally important to Russell, as he is the son of one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American aviators in the U.S. armed forces.

When it comes to seeing how Star Wars was visioned well before it hit the big screen, it hammers home just how much planning goes into these productions. Some aspects of the design (and the creative process) hit the cutting room floor. But some pieces make it all the way to the final cut. And when that happens, it’s very cool to see.