There are only two characters in the Star Wars saga that saw a debut in action figure form long before a movie would hit the big screen. The first was the fan favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett. The second was Mace Windu, who was a mail in offer in 1998 as a special sneak preview for The Phantom Menace. Like Boba before him, Mace Windu would become a fan favorite character, largely due to actor Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of the esteemed Jedi Master.
Unknown to most casual fans of the saga, the name Mace Windu was always part of the
Star Wars universe. Mace Windu, Chewie, and Anakin Skywalker existed in George Lucas’ earliest version of the Star Wars saga, or as it was called at the time “The Journal of the Whills.” At that point they were known as Mace Windy , Chuie ( also known as C.J. Thorpe) and Annakin Starkiller. Only the names Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Owen Lars, and Chancellor Velorum would carry over to the final films intact. Mace was even meant to be a main character, as is noted in the rough story out line, reprinted in the book The Making of Star Wars,
“This is the story of Mace Windy, a revered Jedi-Bendu of Ophuci; as related to us by C.J. Thorpe, Padawan learner to the famed Jedi.”
His last name became Windu, derived from the word “window”, as he was supposed to be the narrator of the story and the audience was supposed to see the Star Wars universe from his perspective. The story went through countless changes and revisions, and some characters vanished all together. However, as any writer knows that sometimes unused ideas can resurface later in most unexpected ways. Mace Windu would be one of these ideas who would later be dusted off for the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Through sheer coincidence he ended up being one of the few characters in the Star Wars saga played by an actor of color. Nothing about Mace was written in the scripts as being black, but nothing said he couldn’t be either. Unlike young Obi-Wan Kenobi who was played by an older white British actor in the original films, or Anakin and Padmé who were the biological parents of Luke and Leia, Windu was an open book in terms of casting choices. It was all a matter of actor Samuel L. Jackson getting the role, much like Billy Dee Williams as Lando in the Original Trilogy. Jackson was also one of the few actors who approached George Lucas for a roll, as he recounted in an interview “A Jedi Trio” with the Star Wars Insider,
“When reporters asked me, ‘Are there any directors you want to work with that you haven’t worked with before,’ I would say, ‘George Lucas is about to do the Star Wars thing, I’d really love to work with him.’ And I said that often enough that somebody heard it and told him. I got invited to the Ranch to see if I was serious about that. Yeah, sure! You can make me a stormtrooper if you want, I don’t care—as long as I know I’m in the movie, I don’t care if anybody else knows or not.”
What would make this actor known for tough guy rolls play a part in a kid’s sci-fi fantasy film? Jackson had been a long time fan of the films since the original films, and was a huge comic book fan. In fact when Marvel Comics started their Ultimate line of comic books and wanted to use the likeness of different actors for the characters, they approached Jackson about Nicky Fury. He was fine with it, as long as he would be cast in the part for a film. Jackson even expressed interest in coming back for the Star Wars sequel trilogy saying to reporters from E!News at the Spike TV Video Game Awards,
“I’m not surprised but totally geeked by the idea of there being more Star Wars. It’s like, okay, Obi-Wan was dead when Episode IV started, so maybe everyone thinks I’m dead and we’ll find out what happened to Mace Windu. I can come back as one-armed or a one-handed Jedi that’s still around that didn’t actually die. I could do that or be a ghost hologram. I don’t care. I just want to stay associated with the franchise. Not that I won’t because I’ve been in three of them.”
As to why he loved he films so much, he told them,
“I just always loved it. I always loved the idea of it, that there’s this whole civilization out here somewhere else that’s just as much fun and different and diverse and wild as we are.”
You don’t get any more diverse then having a black man play one of the highest ranking members of the Jedi council which consists of a three foot tall green guy, a bearded Conehead, and a whole assortment of various aliens. In fact up until the time of the Clone Wars when Kenobi joined the council, Mace Windu is the only human on the Jedi Council in the first two prequel films, and one of seven human Jedi seen on screen through the course of the six films and two cartoon shows. He is also the only Jedi to wield a purple bladed lightsaber on film. This was due to a request made by Jackson as it was his favorite color and he wanted something to stand out during a huge fight scene amidst the sea of Blue and Green lightsabers.
Beyond a different colored lightsaber, Jackson was able to bring something to the role that wasn’t there. Obi-Wan was the more classical and refined warrior, Qui-Gon was the renegade, Yoda the sage, but Windu had a sense of cool about him. In their write up of the 30 greatest characters of the Star Wars saga, Empire Magazine said of Windu,
“It is part of prequel lore that, before playing Mace Windu, Samuel L. Jackson had the initials BMF engraved into the hilt of his lightsaber…. a reference to his iconic Pulp Fiction character Jules Winnfield, these three little letters perfectly sum up Jackson’s contribution to Windu’s appeal….On the page, Mace is part diplomat, part voice of doom, part samurai. But onscreen, given Jackson’s swagger and poise, pimped purple lightsaber… and ability to make even the most expositional dialogue sound weighty, he is Jedi Master as Mack Daddy, the perfect use of persona to embellish character…. Ironically, Windu is arguably at his most BMF when Jackson isn’t involved at all, as in Genndy Tartakovsky’s brilliant Clone Wars ‘toon – when Windu Force-crushes General Grievous’ chest, giving him that trademark asthmatic wheeze, “great vengeance and furious anger” are only a hair’s breadth away…”
So who is this Jedi with the purple saber? For starters Mace Windu is one of twelve Jedi on the Jedi council and one of the most powerful members of the order, second only to Yoda. Despite this, we see that among the Jedi there is no true hierarchy as they all sit in a circle, with three of them epressing the full views of the council. As Paul F. McDonald notes in The Star Wars Heresies,
“It is also no coincidence that the Council is arranged around a series of circles covering the floor. Ideally, the image brings to mind the holistic mandalas, as well as the recurring theme of symbiosis. It also evokes the Round Table of Arthurian lore, with each knight given the freedom to express his views and opinions on equal ground…Equal or no, the trio of masters weighing in on the key decisions in The Phantom Menace would be Yoda, Mace Windu, and Ki-Adi-Mundi*. Or at least when it comes to the two pieces of critical information that Qui-Gon Jinn brings to them.”
Mace Windu and Yoda couldn’t be any more different from the other if they tried almost like the stereotype of the “good cop/ bad cop” wherein differences between their methods balance each other out and they work together better because of it. Yoda is the wise old teacher who can sometimes say or do funny things, who is often underestimated due to his tiny stature Windu however is tall, imposing, and can be a bit intimidating at times, in many ways the kind of person Luke was expecting when he found Yoda on Dagobah.
Windu’s voice has a booming tone of authority. When Anakin pitches a fit in Revenge of the Sith, all Windu has to do is glare at him and tell Anakin to take a seat to get him to quiet down. Even Yoda and Obi-Wan can’t get that kind of response from Anakin. When Windu glares at someone, they know they are in trouble.
There is just something about him that no one wants to mess with and well they should not. He is a highly skilled swordsman, one of the deadliest and even Obi-Wan reveres him for his skill. In fact in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Kenobi wished Windu went with him to finish off General Grievous as he only mastered a classic form of lightsaber combat, while Windu was a master of a far deadlier form that he devised. Windu told him,
“That is so like you, Master Kenobi…I am called a great swordsman because I invented a lethal style; but who is greater… the creator of a killing form- or the master of a classic form?…Be who you are, and Grievous will never defeat you.”
This “killing form” that Master Windu created is a variation of a highly advanced form of lightsaber combat that he calls Vapaad. According to Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force,
“Only high level masters of multiple forms can achieve and control this discipline, which can lead to fantastic power and skill….Form VII requires greater energy because the focus is wielded more broadly, and draws upon a deeper well of emotion; while the outward bearing of a From VII practioner is one of calm, the inner pressure verges one explosion…because so few have achieved the necessary mastery to advance to Form VII, this discipline can only be regarded as under development by a select few, and forbidden to all others. Mace Windu and his former Padawan…are among the only…practioners of form VII, and even they acknowledge that it is a dangerous regimen that may cut close to the Sith intensity of focus on physical combat.”
In an episode of the Clone Wars micro-series we see just how strong Windu is in combat as he is able to fend off a battalion of battle droids. A young boy who witnessed it returned home and drew out the whole battle to extreme fashions that were later used for anti-imperial propaganda. During the battle of Coruscant in the final episode of the microseries he is able to crush the thorax of General Grievous as the cybernetic villain escapes from a distance. While it does little to end the battle or rescue Grievous hostage it is enough to weaken the villain. However such skill can come at a great price.
During the rescue of Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padmé from Geonosis in Attack of the Clones, Windu pulls off such an impressive display that before ordering the complete execution of Windu, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padmé and the remaining Jedi who accompanied Windu, Count Dooku applauding him, and telling him and the other survivors,
“Master Windu! …You have fought gallantly. Worthy of recognition in the Archives of the Jedi. Now it is finished…Surrender and your lives will be spared.”
Windu refuses, informing the Count that neither he, the Senator, nor the other Jedi are hostages to be bartered with. Dooku, apologies, as he informs him that they would all have to be destroyed, just before Yoda arrives with the cavalry of Clone Troopers. Not only does this arena show Dooku’s character as he respects his rival’s skills, it shows that Windu is indeed a warrior to be reckoned with, as was evidenced by the swift decapitation of the bounty hunter Jango Fett in combat against Windu.
Mace Windu came from a homeworld were the inhabitants had a natural affinity for the Dark Side of the Force. As Master Windu admits in Jedi Vs. Sith,
“I have never encouraged any other Jedi to adopt Vaapad….I developed Vaapad to answer my own weakness, and channel my inner darkness into a weapon of light. To use Vaapad, a Jedi must give himself over to the thrill of battle, enjoying the fight and the satisfaction of winning. A Jedi must also accept and embrace the fury of his opponent. This transforms a Jedi into half a superconducting loop, the other half being the power of darkness, which passes in and out of the Jedi without touching him. Vaapad is more than a fighting style. It is a state of mind…it is also not meant for any Jedi without my approval.”
As he admitted to himself in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith,
“Vaapad is as aggressive and powerful as its namesake, but its power comes at great risk: immersion in Vaapad opens the gates that restrain one’s inner darkness. To use Vaapad, a Jedi must allow himself to enjoy the fight; he must give himself over to the thrill of battle. The rush of winning. Vaapad is a path that leads through the penumbra of the dark side…This was Vaapad’s ultimate test.”
It is no wonder then that Anakin describes Obi-Wan as being as wise as Yoda and as powerful as Mace Windu. Windu’s skill is like a fire, dangerous to be sure, and capable of destruction if possible, but in the right circumstances it can be harnessed for good purposes, like cooking, heating a home, or providing light. Master Windu also possesses another rare ability, as he relates in the Clone Wars novel Shatterpoint from the Star Wars Legends universe,
“I can see Shatterpoints….the sense is not sight, but see is the closest word Basic ( what we call English) has for it: it is perception, a feel of how what I look upon fits into The Force, and how the Force binds it to itself and to everything else…The Force shows me strengths and weaknesses , hidden flaws and unexpected uses. It show me vectors of stress that squeeze or stretch, torque or shear; it show me how patterns of these vectors intersect to form the matrix of reality…Put simply: When I look at you through The Force, I see where you break.”
Between his skill with a blade and his insight, Mace Windu is a formidable and powerful, if not dangerous, Jedi. He is the kind of person you want on your side as an ally, not against you as a foe. As such, to receive approval or praise from Windu is considered one of the highest badges of honor to receive, something Anakin often seeks. Windu gives praise to those who deserve it by doing a job well done, not because of who someone claims to be.
This is seen in the episodes “Death Trap” and “R2 Come Home” from the second season of Star Wars: The Cone Wars. In the arc, the young Boba Fett poses as a clone cadet in order to exact his revenge on Mace Windu for killing his father, Jango Fett. Anakin and Windu are trapped in the wreckage of their ship with bounty hunters closing in, and R2 is sent on a mission to call for help. Along with not only sending the message, R2 manages to thwart the hunters at every turn. This leads Windu, who had been doubting the little droid to say at the end,
“Come here, droid. I can see why your master trusts you, little one. Good job.”
Anakin then tells the droid that it is more than he ever gets from Windu, showing that he also values Windu’s opinion of him. He later extends similar praise to Ahsoka, Anakin’s Padawan, in the episode “The Wrong Jedi” from the fifth and final official season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. After Ahsoka had proven her innocence after being framed, Anakin and Obi-Wan,as well as Masters Plo Koon, Ki-Adi-Mundi and Saesse Tiin extend their deepest apologies. Windu then affirms her as a Jedi saying,
“This was actually your great trial. Now we see that. We understand that the Force works in mysterious ways, and because of this trial, you have become a greater Jedi than you would have otherwise.”
However, Windu had a critical flaw, namely an over confidence in the Jedi’s ability to use the Force and in the Order itself. When Qui-Gon brought the matter of Darth Maul’s attack to the attention of the Jedi, Windu expressed doubt with the rest of them that it was a Sith, with Master Mundi pointing out that they had been extinct for over a thousand years. As far as Mace was concerned the Jedi would know if they returned. As far as they knew this lightsaber wielding assassin was out to kill Padmé. As he told Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan,
“This attack was with purpose, that is clear, and I agree the Queen is the target….We will use all our resources here to unravel this mystery and discover the identity of your attacker… May the Force be with you.”
Further, when Padmé expressed belief that Count Dooku was behind the attempt on her life in Attack of the Clones, Windu brushed her claims aside saying,
“You know, M’Lady, Count Dooku was once a Jedi. He wouldn’t assassinate anyone, it is not in his character.”
Further, he tended to place full confidence in whatever the Council ruled, without questioning as the likes of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Anakin were prone to do. When Obi-Wan expressed doubts over putting them together, knowing full well his young friends feelings for her, and having been there himself with Duchess Satine when he was a Padawan, knew that such feelings cannot just be “switched off.” Windu however told him, to have faith that Anakin would choose the right path, telling him,
“He has exceptional skills. The Council is confident in its decision, Obi-Wan. If the prophecy is true, he will be the one to bring balance to the Force.”
However, once something was revealed to him, he could be incredibly focused on the task at hand, sometimes to the point where he would exclude other relevant bits of information from the equation. When it was confirmed that Count Dooku was a Sith Lord, he felt that capturing Dooku and General Grievous was key to winning the war. However as Dooku told him in the comic book story arc, Obsession,
“Ah, Master Windu. Still so confident that one man can change the galaxy? I am just one cog in a massive war machine. Even if you kill me, the fighting and death will continue. Of course, you won’t kill me. Not today.”
At the same time these same character traits of Mace helped fuel his suspicion of chancellor Palpatine. Along with dictating their course in the war, Palpatine had been heavily lobbying to have Anakin made a Jedi Master and be given a seat on the council, an act that did not please him. In the movie The Clone Wars, Windu also expressed disgust at having to use Jedi resources at Palpatine’s request to rescue the son of the notorious criminal over lord, Jabba the Hutt. Mace’s grievances with Palpatine are understandable. The Jedi were, for the most part, a religious organization, while Palpatine was a political figure. To put it into perspective, it would be like if the President of the United States or the Secretary General of the UN were to try and tell the College of Cardinals who to elect as the next Pope.
Such machinations were enough to give any one pause, but all the more with Anakin. While Obi-Wan was clearly his friend and Yoda clearly respected he boy, mace Windu seemed to need some convincing . One would think that three years of fighting side beside in the Clone Wars would be enough for the older master to trust Anakin and allow him to come with to apprehend Palpatine. While it certainly looked like he didn’t trust him in forbidding him to assist him in arresting Palpatine when his secret was revealed, Mace had other reasons to not allow him to come with him.
As he told Anakin,
“Then our worst fears have been realized. We must move quickly if the Jedi Order is to survive…For your own good, stay out of this affair. I sense a great deal of confusion in you, young Skywalker…There is much fear that clouds your judgment… If what you’ve told me is true, you will have gained my trust. But for now, remain here. Wait in the council chambers until we return.”
Since they believed that Anakin was the Chosen One they could not risk the Emperor corrupting him and turning him to the dark side. In Windu’s mind Anakin was much safer in the Jedi temple then in the office of the Supreme Chancellor. Anakin had been spending too much time around this alleged Sith Lord, and if the allegation was true, he knew that the poisonous lies of the Sith may already be in place. He knew from personal experience the allure of the path of the Dark Side. It was a quick, easy path to absolute power, one that could corrupt absolutely. If someone like Anakin were to give in, he knew that the results would be deadly.
His refusal to allow Anakin to come with him to arrest Palpatine was less of a disapproval of Anakin, and more of a game of keep-away with Anakin’s soul. He cannot allow this powerful young man to fall to the Dark Side, as he knows such a thing would spell doom for the galaxy. Palpatine had already amassed too much political power, and controlling the Chosen One would be a death blow to the forces of light.
In many ways Windu’s actions against Palpatine and his desire to keep Anakin out of it, greatly personify Samuel L. Jackson’s speech in the Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction, in which in a misquote of the Bible that was taken from an old martial arts movie, he says,
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
Mace Windu went to the office of the chancellor with Jedi Masters Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar, and Saesee Tiin to arrest Palpatine, and in normal circumstances, four Jedi would have been enough. That was when Palpatine sprang on them and quickly slew the other three Jedi and dueled Windu to a draw, seemingly defeating him. That was when Windu’s worst fears were realized. Anakin emerged on the scene, and urged Windu to let him live.
Mace Windu did not agree. He had seen the full power of Darth Sideous and told Anakin,
“I’m going to put an end to this, once and for all! The oppression of the Sith can never return… He has control of the senate and all the courts. He is too dangerous to be left alive! “
Just as he was about to deliver the killing stroke, Anakin sliced of both of Mace Windu’s hands. Then in a hellish fury, the Emperor threw Windu out the window with all the fury of the Dark Side, effectively killing him.
There are plenty of debates amongst fans concerning that final fight between Windu and the Emperor. Did Windu really have the upper hand? Had Anakin not intervened, could Windu have killed the Emperor, or did Palpatine throw the fight? And most importantly, did Mace Windu live?
This last one is just wishful thinking. Not only could he have not survived the fall, because of what he saw, and because of how close he came to the Dark Side in that fight, there is no way Mace Windu would have been the same man if he lived. He had even been willing to compromise everything he believed in and kill a man, even if it was a justified action. As Anakin himself observed in executing Count Dooku, it was not the Jedi way.
Windu himself even observed once that the Jedi were keepers of the peace, not soldiers, and this act was his last compromise in the war. One way or another, The Emperor managed to defeat both Mace Windu and Yoda, the two most powerful members of the Jedi Order.
But all was not entirely lost. Long before this, Mace Windu even admitted during Shatterpoint,
“If the Prophecies are true-if Anakin Skywalker is truly the chosen one, who will bring balance to The Force- then he is the most important being alive today…Anakin Skywalker may be the Shatterpoint of our war…If he is-if Anakin is born to win that war-it does not matter if every other Jedi in the galaxy dies. As long as Anakin lives, we have hope. However dark it may seem….He is our hope for a Jedi future. May The Force Be With Us All.”
Blackman, Hayden, Brian Ching,Michael David Thomas, and Brad Anderson. Star Wars: Obsession. 2004-05. Dark Horse
TV SHOW: Filoni, Dave (Dir.) “The Wrong Jedi” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, Nika Futterman, Meredith Salenger, Tom Jane, Stephen Stanton, Terrence Carson, Tim Curry, Brian George, James Arnold Taylor, Catherine Taber, Dee Bradley Baker, and Jeff Fischer. Charles Murray ( writer).Original Airdate: March 2, 2013. LucasAnimation/Warner Brothers.
Fowler, Brandi, and Bret Malec. “Samuel L. Jackson says “Hell, Yeah” To Returning As Mace Windu-Even As A One-Armed Ghost!” eonline.com. December 8, 2012. Last Accessed June 9,2015.
Interview: Jackson, Samuel L., Jake Lloyd, Liam Neeson and Kevin Fitzpatrick” A Jedi Trio” Star Wars Insider #46. October/November 1999. Hyperspace.
TV SHOW: Lee, Steward ( Dir). “Death Trap” Star Wars: The Clone War. Starring Matt Lanter, Daniel Logan, Dee Bradley Baker, Terrence Carson, Jaime King, Julian Holloway, and Tom Kane. Doug Petrie, Drew Z. Greenberg, and Brian Larsen (writers). Original Airdate: April 23, 2010. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros.
FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiaramid, Ray Park, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Oz. 1999. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiaramid, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Oz. 2002. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiaramid, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, and Frank Oz. 2005. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
McDonald, Paul F. The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Sumbols and Philosophies of Star Wars Episodes I,II, & III. Pg. 45. 2013. MacFarland &Company, Inc. Jefferson, NC.
TV SHOW: Tartakovsky, Genndy( Dir.) “Chapter 12” Star Wars: Clone Wars. Genndy Tartakovsky (Writer). Original Airdate: March 29, 2004. LucasAnimation/Cartoon Network.
TV SHOW: Tartakovsky, Genndy (Dir.) “Chapter 25” Star Wars: Clone Wars. Starring: Burton, Terrence Carson, Anthony Daniels, Grey DeLisle, John DiMaggio,Tom Kane, Mat Lucas, André Sogliuzzo, and James Arnold Taylor. Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman,Paul Rudish, and Genndy Tartakovsky (writers). Original Airdate: March 25, 2005. LucasAnimation/Cartoon Network.
Rinzler, JW. The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Making of the Film.pg. 8 2007. Random House Publishers.New York, NY
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Stover, Matthew. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Novelization. Pgs. 264,292. 2005. Del Ray Books. New York, NY.
FILM: Tarantino, Quentin (Dir.) Pulp Fiction starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary ( writers). 1994. Miramax Films.
TV Show: Volpe, Giancarol ( Dir.) “R2 Come Home” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring Matt Lanter, Terrence Carson,Jaime King, Daniel Logan, Robin Atkin Downes, Dee Bradley Baker, Ashley Eckstein,James Arnold Taylor, and Tom Kane. Eogan Mahony, Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen. (writers). Original Airdate: April 30, 2010 LucasAnimation/Warner Bros.
Windham, Ryder. Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. Pgs. 112-113. 2007. Random House Publishers. New York, NY.
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* Ki-Adi-Mundi is the bearded Conehead
1999 LucasFilm LTD/20th Century Fox. 2005 LucasFIlm LTD/20th Century Fox.