This Character Was Originally Marked For Death in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

As you can hopefully tell by the headline, there are spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you're one of the few people who didn't go see the movie in theaters on opening weekend, A) go see it and come back or B) turn back now. You've been warned.

In an interview with GQ, Oscar Isaac — who plays Resistance pilot Poe Dameron — revealed that his character was originally going to die pretty early on in the movie. 

Isaac says he had been summoned to Paris for what he suspected might be a role in The Force Awakens. Sure enough, earlier that day, he had met with Abrams, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and Abrams had pitched him the character of Poe Dameron, a badass fighter pilot battling against the remnants of the Empire.
“He’s amazing!” said Abrams.
“Sounds good!” thought Isaac, whose first experience in a movie theater had been seeing The Empire Strikes Back.
“He opens the whole movie!” said Abrams.
“Sounds great!” thought Isaac.
“And then,” Abrams went on. “He dies.”
“Oh,” thought Isaac.

He let his disappointment show, and he and Abrams spent the rest of the meeting talking about how Poe could still make an impact in the Star Wars universe outside of The Force Awakens. But apparently Abrams saw Isaac's initial reaction, and decided to rework the script:

“I went back home [to New York], and I thought about it,” [Isaac] says. “Then I wrote [Abrams] and said, ‘Okay. I’ll do it!’ I figured it would be a cameo: I’ll come in, do my thing, and maybe it’s actually better not to have to sign myself up for three movies.” By that time, though, things had changed and Abrams soon wrote back: “Never mind. I’ve figured it out. You’re in the whole movie now.”
“I was like, ‘Holy shit! Alright, cool,’ ” Isaac says.

Poe follows in a long tradition of characters who were originally going to die, only to be saved at the hands of their creators. The most recent high-profile example I can think of is Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan planned on killing off the character near the end of the first season, but Aaron Paul ended up being so good in the role that Gilligan wanted to see what else he could do with that character. That ended up being a terrific decision that helped make that show arguably the greatest TV series of all time. Even though I would have loved to see more of Poe in The Force Awakens, I'm really glad he didn't get killed in the first few minutes of the movie because I'm a big fan of his character. Hopefully Rian Johnson can write him an even more spectacular part in Episode VIII.

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