Contrary to popular belief, the 7th episode in the Star Wars saga wasn’t originally titled ‘The Force Awakens’. It went under a different name.
Pablo Hidago, a Creative Executive for Lucasfilm Story Group, answered a Twitter question involving the original title for Episode VII. Here’s what Hidago shared with a fan:
So, Shadow of the Empire was originally slated to be the title. It would’ve made sense with the film’s story, but the reason for the eventual name change had to do with Steve Perry’s similarly-titled Star Wars book released back in 1996, Shadows (plural) of the Empire. Here’s that book’s official sypnosis:
Shadows of the Empire illuminates the shadowy outlines of a criminal conspiracy that exists in the background of the events in the movies, ruled by a character new to us. Prince Xizor is a mastermind of evil who dares to oppose one of the best-known fictional villains of all time: Darth Vader. The story involves all the featured Star Wars movie characters, plus Emperor Palpatine and, of course, Lord Vader himself.
As you can see, that book had some glaring differences to what The Force Awakens wound up being about, so it’s understandable why they’d want to change the name to prevent confusion between the two.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters now.