You may have never heard the name Iain McCaig, but if you watched the Star Wars prequels, you are familiar with his work. The concept artist is responsible for the look of everyone from Darth Maul and Anakin Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padme Amidala in their journeys in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. As such, McCaig has a wealth of anecdotes about the movie-making process, some of which he shared with the students at the Academy of Art University in October of 2016.
But between tales of Shaak Ti originally dying in front of Obi-Wan and Anakin as General Grievous snuffed out her life and stories about coming on board with Lucasfilm, McCaig dropped this bombshell about Padme’s original role in Revenge of the Sith. The moment comes around the 28-minute mark:
“[Anakin] leaves. Moments later, in come the Separatists and right behind his back, [Padme] is starting the Rebellion to overthrow him. Because Padme can see the he is becoming a monster. At the end, on Mustafar, when she goes to see [Anakin], she has a knife in her hands. She gets off the ship with the knife, she runs up and throws her arms around him, and he lets her. She’s got the knife to the back of [Anakin’s] neck and she’s going to kill him. [Again], he lets her. But she can’t do it. She loves him too much to stop him, even when he becomes the monster.”
After this, Obi-Wan appears and the fight on Mustafar plays out as it does in the final version of the film. Knowing this information, I am practically vibrating with both rage that it was cut in favor of a neutered, weeping Padme who died “of a broken heart” and hope that this version of the Senator from Naboo can be salvaged. This can work. All we need is is a handful of scenes wedged into the off-panel event of Revenge of the Sith and suddenly, the brutally pragmatic woman who believed in democracy above all else can be resurrected. Quite literally.
I’ve spoken before about how the prequels are much better if you pretend Padme and Obi-Wan were involved in a secret relationship behind Anakin’s back. Now, imagine if you will, baking this new information into that. Suddenly we have two characters who are — let’s be honest — not only working with the Separatists but Bail Organa to create the structure that will become the Rebellion. Even stripping out the love affair, this logistically makes sense. By the end of the animated series The Clone Wars, Padme was pushing for peach with the Separatists instead of forcing them back into the Republic fold. She was also aware that Anakin had begun to cross some lines from which he wasn’t coming back. Padme being the ringleader of the nascent Rebellion would lend more emotional weight to her children — especially Leia, who was a spy almost from puberty — toppling the Empire, fulfilling their mother’s last wish even if they didn’t know it.
But perhaps they could know it. I still believe that dying of a “broken heart” is nonsense. And if Emperor Palpatine didn’t steal Padme’s life force to keep Darth Vader alive, it would make complete narrative sense for her to fake her death* with Obi-Wan’s help. Clearly her former husband and his master want her dead. They want her children dead or captured and raised to be Sith. If Padme is to do what’s necessary, she would need to disappear. Knowing her children were being safely raised by people she trusted, Padme could focus on pulling the strings from behind the scenes, with only Obi-Wan, Bail, Yoda, and perhaps Mon Mothma knowing she was alive.
*Before the naysayers join in, just because Vader found the mortician that performed Padme’s “funeral” in the comics, doesn’t mean he was telling the truth.
Of course, it’s highly unlikely Lucasfilm will resurrect Padme. Which means fans will just have to sit here in impotent anger that one of most powerful women in the Galactic Senate was relegated to a weeping mess in order to further the stories of the men in her life.