Wow, Kylo Ren’s Original Identity Changed A Lot Before Force Awakens

The character of Kylo Ren underwent some truly radical changes leading up to his eventual appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with numerous designs considered for the villain before the film’s release. As they belong in one of the most beloved franchises in all of cinematic history, Star Wars‘ characters are iconic. This is why the continuing story of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy needed to not only bring back the franchise’s original heroes, but also introduce new and interesting characters to work alongside – and against – the returning characters.


Alongside Rey, Finn, and Poe, the sequel trilogy also introduced Kylo Ren – also known as Ben Solo, son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. Introduced to act as the sequel trilogy’s main antagonist, Kylo Ren soon proved to be the trilogy’s most important character, eventually turning from the dark side of the Force to help Rey finally put an end to Emperor Palpatine. Kylo Ren was by far one of the sequel trilogy’s best-written original characters, as well as the character with the strongest link to previous heroes, making him particularly intriguing.

However, Kylo Ren was a character that seemingly proved particularly difficult to create, as he underwent a number of drastic transformations before The Force Awakens was made. The idea for Kylo Ren initially stemmed from George Lucas’ own plans for a sequel trilogy, evolving from Lucas’ original ideas into a number of other iterations that bear little resemblance to the character as he’s now known. One version of Kylo Ren was more like Anakin Skywalker, with his design a near-copy of Vader’s, and another was partly cybernetic. The number of changes to Kylo Ren’s characters that were necessary before the release of The Force Awakens may be staggering, but they all ultimately contributed to what made the character work so well.

Darth Talon

One of the earliest plans for a sequel trilogy involved a villain that was a Lethan Twi’lek Sith Lord named Darth Talon. In George Lucas’ early plans, Darth Talon was to be the apprentice of an older Darth Maul, and Talon was intended to corrupt the son of Han and Leia, originally named Skyler. Talon would have tempted Skyler to the dark side of the Force, acting as the main antagonist of Lucas’ planned sequel trilogy. George Lucas’ sequel trilogy would have used Darth Talon as the main villain in place of Kylo Ren, with Lucas describing her as “the new Darth Vader,” adding that “most of the action was with her.” Eventually, Lucas’ ideas for Talon corrupting Skyler while also acting as the main antagonist were boiled down to a single character, which was nicknamed “The Jedi Killer.”

The Jedi Killer

Throughout the early stages of The Force Awakens‘ production, Kylo Ren’s character was simply referred to as “the Jedi Killer.” Early concept art shows the Jedi Killer wearing a mask similar to the lower half of Darth Vader’s, but open to reveal the character’s eyes and pallid skin. This concept art makes the Jedi Killer look a little like a cross between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. Though Kylo Ren never became a Jedi killer, this stage of the character’s development established that his look would be based upon that of Darth Vader, and that he would draw particular inspiration from his grandfather. Interestingly, the early Jedi Killer design was later reused to inspire the look of the Fifth Brother in Star Wars: Rebels.

The Grave Robber

Another key part of Kylo Ren’s development saw the character given another nickname. For a time, Kylo Ren was referred to as “the Grave Robber.” One of the key elements of the Grave Robber design was the use of more robotic elements, with the concept art reminiscent of General Grievous. It was at the Grave Robber stage of Kylo Ren’s concept development that the idea of Ren possessing Vader’s remains was incorporated into the character. The original Grave Robber plan for Kylo Ren involved the character consuming matter from stars to stay alive, while also keeping the ashes of his victims. The idea for Ren to possess ashes as part of his shrine to Darth Vader was used for the finished design for Kylo Ren, although the only remaining link to the Grave Robber moniker is the character possessing Darth Vader’s ruined helmet.

Alternate Kylo Ren Designs

As well as the Jedi Killer and the Grave Robber, there were numerous other designs for Kylo Ren that didn’t receive their own catchy monikers. One of the most notable of the rejected pieces of concept art featured the Jedi Killer with a red and black mask with a circular pattern in the center. This design was later used to inspire the look of the cybernetically enhanced members of the Guavian Death Gang.

There was also another rejected Kylo Ren design involving the Jedi Killer having a personal droid used for torture and interrogation – the idea made it into The Force Awakens during the scenes in which Kylo Ren interrogates the First Order’s prisoners. Many alternate concepts were heavily inspired by Darth Vader, and made Kylo Ren look even more like the Sith Lord than the finished design. The reasoning behind this was to create the idea that Vader’s look was not entirely unique, and that elements of it would be attributed to his specific title (which, presumably, that version of Ren would have inherited along with his aesthetic).

How So Many Changes Shaped Kylo Ren’s Character

The character of Kylo Ren undergoing so many changes eventually shaped the villain in numerous important ways. Kylo Ren being inspired by Darth Vader was a key part of the character in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and that was something that appears to have been one of the most consistent elements of Ren’s many conceptual evolutions. However, the more droid-like components of Kylo Ren’s various concepts were all scrapped, leading to a much more complex human villain who ultimately tried to redeem himself. The fantastical elements of the Jedi Killer and the Grave Robber also appear to have been scrapped for similar reasons, favoring the character’s redemption arc rather than unquestionable villainy.

As the character of Kylo Ren proved to be one of the Star Wars sequel trilogy’s better original characters, it would appear that the painstaking evolution of his various concepts was a worthwhile process. Despite the fact that it turned out Kylo Ren wasn’t Star Wars‘ main villain in the sequel trilogy, he was originally conceived to be the sequels’ big bad. However, the fact that the evilest elements of the character were ultimately stripped away made for a much more layered and interesting character for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, instead presenting a Kylo Ren who was deeply conflicted and strong with the dark side of the Force.

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