The Calrissian clone connection
If George Lucas had stuck to his original plan, we would have seen a lot more of Lando Calrissian — and his fellow clones.
In 1977, fresh off the unprecedented success of Star Wars, George Lucas went back to work and started coming up with new characters for The Empire Strikes Back — including a certain gambler, scoundrel and, uh, clone named Lando.
Actually, the roguish con man didn't have a name at all when Lucas first brought him up in a November 1977 story conference with Leigh Brackett.
Lucas, hoping to take the screenwriting load off his shoulders for the Star Wars sequel, had brought in Brackett because of her long career writing sci-fi novels, as well as the screenplays for Howard Hawks films he loved like The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and El Dorado.
At their first story conference, Lucas essentially talked at Brackett about the ideas he had floating around his head; the discussion was transcribed and the highlights were eventually reproduced in JW Rinzler's The Making of the Empire Strikes Back.
"I wanted to bring in someone from Han's past," Lucas explained to Brackett. "Even though the Star Wars saga is essentially about Luke's destiny and his past, I wanted to round out Han Solo's character a little bit. The 'gambler' used to hang with Han, but is a different kind of person, more of a rogue and a con artist type than a fast-shooting, fast-talking type like Han."
Initially conceived as someone who might run a general store on Chewbacca's home planet ("a guy who trades with the Indians sort of thing"), Lucas saw his new character as "a slick, riverboat gambler type of dude".
"Han Solo is a rather crude, rough-and-tumble kind of guy; this guy will be a very slicked down, elegant, James Bond-type," he continued.
Lucas also suggested that Lando's swagger would be inspired by Rudolph Valentino, the notorious Latin lover.
So far, so in line with the Lando Calrissian we came to know and love. But then Lucas threw a curveball.
"Maybe he could look human but not really be human. He's possibly a clone. The princess doesn't trust him because of that; Leia might refer to him in a derogatory way.
"If we set him up as a clone, maybe in one of the other Episodes, we can have him run across a clan of them who are all exactly like him. We won't go into the whole mythology of where they come from or whether clones were good or bad. We'll assume that they were slightly weird in their own way and were partly responsible for the war.
"We'll assume that on these planets of clones, there are many countries, say about 700 countries, and he's from one of the ruling clone clans."
Aside from outing Leia as something of a space racist, Lucas' ideas for Lando are fascinating because they show us just how little anyone behind the scenes really knew about the legendary "Clone Wars" at this stage of the saga's development.
(As a kid, before the prequels settled the matter for good, I always assumed the Clone Wars were fought over the ethics of cloning, and the harvesting of organs from cloned humans. This obviously ended up being way off, but in eight-year-old me's defence, it really does sound like anything could have been on the table at that stage.)
Lucas also had an interesting explanation for Lando's luck with the ladies.
"Make him almost too perfect looking," Lucas said. "We assume that in the cloning process, they manipulated genes and improved on the original."
That's right — Lando was intended to be so handsome, it could only have been the result of genetic manipulation.
Brackett incorporated Lucas' ideas for Lando into her script, which you can read in full here.
In Brackett's script, Han and Leia seek refuge with Han's old buddy Lando Kadar on his planet, which is called Hoth ("I think the name means 'cloud'," Han says), but is more like the planet that eventually comes to be known as Bespin.
Han tells Leia that he believes Lando and his family are refugees from the Clone Wars.
Just like he does in the finished film, Chewbacca finds Threepio's disassembled pieces and brings them back to the group. In Brackett's script, that's when Leia's distrust of clones surfaces.
Is he a clone?
Is he a what?
You said his family were refugees from the Clone Wars. Is he a clone?
I don't know, he never told me, I never thought about it. What is all this anyway?
I think your friend is lying. I think Threepio was smashed up deliberately.
The crucial scene, though, is this one, in which Lando reveals the truth to Leia (who is going by the alias Ethania Eredith). It's loaded with backstory and pathos.
You're wondering, Miss Eredith. You're too polite to ask, but still you wonder. So I'll tell you. Yes. I'm a clone. Of the Ashardi family. My great-grandfather wanted many sons and he produced them from the cells of his own body. His sister, a remarkable woman, produced many daughters by the same means. Thus we keep the blood pure. But since the wars, there are not many of us left, and we try not to attract attention.
(A sadness comes into his voice, a remembering)
It didn't seem strange to us to see our own faces endlessly repeated in the streets of our cities. It gave us a sense of oneness, of belonging. Now, when every face is different... I feel truly alone.
If Leia's initial misgivings about Lando because of his genetic status are meant as social commentary, it doesn't really go anywhere. Lando hands the group over to Vader immediately after delivering this speech, totally justifying Leia's mistrust.
Brackett passed away shortly after completing her draft; Lucas, who was not a fan of Brackett's script (he simply wrote 'No' next to large swathes of text), immediately set about writing a second draft. This was followed by Lawrence Kasdan's third and fourth drafts.
By the time the film got to the screen, any mention of Lando being a clone had long since been excised, although it's not really clear why.
It's possible that Lucas just didn't want to begin defining and exploring the Clone Wars at this stage of the saga; it's also possible that he thought the smooth riverboat gambler he had envisioned (and that Billy Dee Williams was perfectly cast as) was simply more compelling without a convoluted backstory involving 'genetic purity'.
Since Lando's backstory from the Expanded Universe of comics and novels was wiped out of continuity when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney, it's technically possible that Lando's origins as a clone will be revisited when Donald Glover plays the character in the Young Han Solo movie, but this seems unlikely to say the least.
Lando's not a system, he's a man. But somewhere out there, in an alternate reality very much like our own, there's a film featuring a planet full of Lando Calrissians — all played by Billy Dee Williams and/or Donald Glover — and we'll never get to see it.
Truly, this is the darkest timeline.