Rian Johnson admits that an Anakin Skywalker ghost was on the table, but Yoda was the better choice.
The ghost of Luke Skywalker’s father might have appeared Hamlet-style in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, if, and only if, Rian Johnson had made a different decision. In a recent Twitter-thread, Rian Johnson admitted that he “briefly” considered having the spirit of Anakin Skywalker appear and give Luke some grief about getting ready to burn all those sacred Jedi texts.
In the 2017 film, the ghost of Yoda (not “baby Yoda” — we’re talking about the OG puppet here) appeared to Luke and teased him about burning books which Luke may or may not have finished reading. Yoda also reminded Luke that just because his student — Rey — had run away, that there was no reason to lose faith in the Force or the Jedi. “Failure is the best teacher,” Yoda gently reminded Luke. But, what would have that scene had been like if the advice had come from Luke’s dad?
After a fan asked Johnson on Twitter if he’d thought about using Anakin instead, Johnson said yes. But, clarified: “Briefly for the tree burning scene, but Luke’s relationship was with Vader, not really Anakin, which seemed like it would complicate things more than that moment allowed. Yoda felt like the more impactful teacher for that moment.”
It’s easy to agree with Johnson on this point: Seeing the ghost of Yoda in The Last Jedi was tight. Seeing Hayden Christensen as Anakin might not have been as fun. And yet, at the risk of being that guy: Why not both? Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, any quibbles fans had with The Last Jedi (should) seem laughable by comparison. In The Rise of Skywalker Anakin literally phoned-in a cameo when he told Rey to “bring back the balance.” Maybe it would have been nice to see his face in The Last Jedi, before that.
Since 2015, concept art has been kicking around of an alternate scene in The Force Awakens where Kylo Ren communed with the spirit of an Anakin/Darth Vader hybrid ghost. Obviously, this never happened, and we later learned that Kylo never actually talked to his grandfather, but instead, it was Palpatine just doing a really good Vader impression. So, other than Kylo getting to reconcile with the ghost/memory of his murdered father, Han Solo, the sequel Star Wars trilogy didn’t give us as many family reunions as we expected or hoped for.
Johnson probably made the right choice of just sticking to Yoda’s ghost in The Last Jedi. But, for dads who maybe loved Anakin in the early aughts, it’s still fun to wonder how we might have felt if Luke had chatted with a young-looking ghost of his father. Imagining our grown-children speaking to a young-ghost of ourselves is powerful stuff. Perhaps something similar could happen in another galaxy, at another time.