The Phantom Menace. Attack of the Clones. Revenge of the Sith. A New Hope. The Empire Strikes Back. Return of the Jedi. And now … The Ancient Fear?
That’s the working title for Star Wars Episode VII — at least, according to Harry Knowles, the well-sourced veteran movie blogger and proprietor of Ain’t It Cool News. And it’s no fly-by-night rumor. Knowles says he’s been sitting on the title for more than a month, and that it came from the same source that said part of the movie was being shot in Abu Dhabi (a fact now confirmed by Disney.) Knowles has been trying to confirm the title from director J.J. Abrams, with whom he has a good relationship.
“When I put the title to J.J., he never even responded,” writes Knowles. “That alone was suspicious.” Then he got confirmation from a second source, who brought up the title independently, and mentioned that The Ancient Fear referred to the still-unknown character played by Max Von Sydow.
It’s entirely possible that this is a working title, of course. You can’t throw a stone in a crowd of Star Wars nerds without hitting someone who will tell you that the working title for Return of the Jedi was Blue Harvest: Horror Beyond Imagination.
But that’s not quite accurate, as it turns out. Blue Harvest was used as a cover for a Star Wars movie, rather than a working title. Producer Howard Kazanjian says he came up with it as a canny way to get regular rates from film set vendors, who by that point would have jacked up their rates for anything with “Star Wars” in the name.
In fact, the working title for Episode VI bounced around between Return and Revenge of the Jedi, depending on the draft. Most Star Wars movies had their Saturday-morning serial-like names set in stone fairly early on. The only name to change significantly in the drafting process was that of the original 1977 movie, which had all sorts of qualifiers and additions in various drafts — from Journal of the Whills to Adventures of the Starkiller. It didn’t acquire the name A New Hope until 1981.
If The Ancient Fear is the working title for Episode VII, we would lay money that’s the name you’ll see on posters outside cineplexes on opening day (December 18, 2015).
We’ve reached out to Lucasfilm for confirmation or denial, and will update this story in the unlikely event we hear back.
Can you come up with a better title? Let us know your ideas in the comments.
Chris Taylor is the author of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, the first complete history of the Star Wars franchise and its fandom. The book releases September 30 and is available for pre-order here.