‘Star Wars’: This Terrifying Villain Inspired Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker is many things, but he’s not scary. However, a terrifying villain from a classic movie helped inspire the Star Wars hero. George Lucas wanted Luke to be similar to this character. Subsequently, Rian Johnson modeled Luke’s portrayal in The Last Jedi on this antagonist.

Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker in front of a dark background
Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

A dark classic movie that inspired a ‘Star Wars’ sequel

First, a little background. The 1970s were a time when Hollywood reveled in gratuitous violence, sex, and dark themes more than in previous decades. Star Wars stood in the face of all that and helped Hollywood return to a more upbeat and less experimental tone in the 1980s. However, the success of Star Wars didn’t stop Francis Ford Coppola from making the last of his dark 1970s masterpieces.

In 1979, Coppola released Apocalypse Now. One of the most famous films about the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now features amazing cinematography, expressive use of music, and some memorable dialogue. Perhaps the best art of the film is Marlon Brando’s performance as Colonel Kurtz. Kurtz is a violent man engaging in a brutal guerilla war without the permission of the United States government. He governs the people around him like a cult leader.

An Apocalypse Now trailer

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According to Insider, Kurtz was the inspiration for Luke’s portrayal in The Last Jedi. Like Kurtz, Luke is a veteran who went to live in relative seclusion. However, they inhabit morally different universes.

Gorge Lucas’ idea to make Luke Skywalker like Colonel Kurtz

Making Luke like Kurtz wasn’t Johnson’s idea, as Lucas wanted Luke to be like Kurtz in his treatment for the Star Wars sequels. “Years before The Last Jedi began development, the treatment left behind by George Lucas in 2012 also had Episode VIII be the one wherein Luke Skywalker would die,” reports the book Star Wars: Fascinating Facts. “Although Luke Skywalker only barely appears in The Force Awakens, the concept artists had a lot to imagine based on the fragments of the story they were hearing as it developed. Rey was on a mission to seek out Luke Skywalker, who had disappeared. As described by George Lucas, Rey is like Willard [from Apocalypse Now] going up river seeking out Colonel Kurtz, an allusion to Apocalypse Now. The story had Rey find Luke on a Jedi temple planet, but he is a recluse, withdrawn into a very dark space and needs to be drawn back from despair.”

How ‘Apocalypse Now’ fared compared to ‘The Last Jedi’

A trailer for The Last Jedi

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Many Star Wars films draw from preexisting movies and The Last Jedi is no exception. The Last Jedi wouldn’t be the same without Coppola’s masterpiece. This raises an interesting question: Which film was more successful — Apocalypse Now or The Last Jedi

According to Box Office Mojo, Apocalypse Now earned over $91 million. That’s an impressing gross for the late 1970s. However, Box Office Mojo reports The Last Jedi earned over $1.3 billion. The Last Jedi owes a lot to Apocalypse Now — but the public preferred the former.