How Star Wars Might’ve Had A Different Darth Vader

How Star Wars Might’ve Had A Different Darth Vader

This is the Darth Vader we all know. But the character might not have been the same if famous Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune had taken the role.

The Japanese influence in Star Wars is no accident. George Lucas’ hero is acclaimed filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, and he was inspired by the Japanese director’s films, such as The Hidden Fortress.

According to a famous bit of Star Wars trivia, Lucas even wanted actor Toshiro Mifune, who starred in many Kurosawa films, to act in Star Wars. The trivia, which has been repeated for years now, says that Lucas tried to get Mifune to play Obi-Wan Kenobi — something that Lucas confirmed. The choice makes sense. But what if Lucas wanted Mifune to play another character?

On a Japanese quiz show Sekai Fushigi Hakken! (世界ふしぎ発見!), Toshiro Mifune’s daughter, Mika Mifune, recounted how her famous father was first asked to play Obi-Wan Kenobi — an offer he turned down.

[Image via [Criterion Collection [Toho]]

Then, Mika continued, Mifune was offered the role of Darth Vader. The villain’s helmet was apparently designed with Mifune in mind, and if Mifune had taken the role, his face supposedly would have been visible. The inference is that Lucas really wanted the famed Japanese actor in his movie. However, Mifune thought the sci-fi flick was going to be a kid’s movie, hence him passing on the project.

Mifune as Obi-Wan Kenobi is a little easier to wrap one’s head around. At that time, he was an international superstar and a hero of Lucas’. Vader has become inseparable from the suit and the voice of James Earl Jones, making it harder to see the character any other way.

Mifune daughter wasn’t born until 1982, so her account isn’t exactly first person — and it’s something I don’t ever recall hearing. If this bit of trivia is true and if Mifune had played Darth Vader, the character could have certainly developed differently during Lucas’ writing process. For example, the Sith Lord might’ve had a badass beard.

For more on the development of Darth Vader, check out The Secret History of Star Wars.

ダースベーダーが三船敏郎だったら・・・ [起業への道を探るブログ]

This article was originally published on 14 January 2013. Top image: Disney Wiki [LucasFilm [Disney]


  • Mifune daughter wasn’t born until 1982, so her account isn’t exactly first person

    However Mifune himself died in 1997, making her 14/15 at that point and more than a credible source of information.

    • I’m sure that he had a Diary/Journal/Scrap Paper/Wall to jot his notes down over the years that his daughter most likely has now.

  • If Lucas did in fact want Mifune to play Vader and the mask would have been open with a visible face, that would have made it a lot harder to pass him off as Luke’s father in Empire. Another piece of the puzzle the indicates Lucas didn’t have this shit planned out as he always claims.

    All things considered though, I’m glad we got the Vader and Star Wars we have, not what Lucas may or may not have originally conceived.

    • I think his version of Anakin Skywalker, what Vader was before he cyberdised, was different originally to how he (Anakin) ended up in the prequel films. He is described as a fighter pilot in IV, and though we get some glimpses in the prequels and the Clone Wars animation, he never seemed to be a pilot on the level of Luke in an X-Wing.

      Those throw away lines could have been a source of incredible space battles which would have made the space Battle of Endor blush with embarrassment. Instead, we get rubbish Jedi Star Fighters flying through boring robot ships, and R2 being more effective in space than Anakin ever was. 🙁

  • I used to be quite a fan of star wars, but have dropped off since the newest additions… I think Mifune as any character would have been awesome. I think the prequels would have been a lot better with a Mifune / Sanjuro / Yojimbo type of archetype character to draw from.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!