It didn’t take Ewan McGregor lengthy to understand there was a disturbance within the power. The actor observed one thing was askew as quickly as he stepped onto the Obi-Wan Kenobi soundstage. “I got here around the set, and it was simply this ring of individuals standing round.”
Not fairly positive what all of the commotion was about, a confused McGregor took his place within the body — a glance of puzzlement on his face not seen for the reason that nefarious Depend Dooku dropped a Sith Lord fact bomb on the Jedi Grasp again on Geonosis. “I had the cameras behind me wanting down this avenue, and behind the cameras had been 100 individuals standing there,” recollects McGregor. “They’re often in locations doing work, not simply standing. I could not fairly work out what was taking place.”
It wasn’t Obi-Wan they had been there to see. “After which Vader comes across the nook, into the road, and I used to be like, ‘Ah, f—. After all!'”
Actually, are you able to blame them? Seventeen years (in Earth time) since they final crossed lightsabers within the fiery depths of Mustafar, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader are set to face off on display screen as soon as once more, within the new Disney+ collection debuting Might 25. And with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen reprising their roles because the dynamic — and doomed — duo, anticipation is as excessive because the Darkish Lord’s famed midi-chlorian rely.
It’s a reunion that after appeared unimaginable, and to completely grasp the enormity of the second, one has to return to the very starting.
Christensen nonetheless remembers the primary time he met McGregor. The Canadian actor had simply been plucked from relative obscurity by Star Wars creator George Lucas to play a teenage Anakin Skywalker in Assault of the Clones when he arrived on a soundstage in Sydney. The nervous newcomer, who had been showing in highschool performs lower than a yr prior, walked into the hair-and-makeup room to see the person who could be portraying his friend-turned-foe.
“I keep in mind as quickly as you noticed me,” he smiles to McGregor over a Zoom chat. “You mentioned, ‘Hayden!’ We would by no means met earlier than, however you mentioned my title like we had been lifelong pals and gave me an enormous hug and welcomed me into the household. The heat of your greeting left such a long-lasting impression and meant quite a bit.”
Maybe the nice and cozy welcome was as a result of McGregor might draw upon the apprehension he felt when becoming a member of the franchise just a few years prior for The Phantom Menace. Established as a scorching up-and-comer due to acclaimed roles in movies together with Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, McGregor admits that “Star Wars did not actually really feel proper to me” when he started the casting course of. “Initially I used to be fairly skeptical about doing it. I simply thought, ”Nicely, I am this impartial, urban-y, grungy actor over right here. I am not this type of man.'”
That big-budget nervousness finally turned to pleasure, nevertheless, and by Assault of the Clones, it was McGregor’s flip to assist ease Christensen’s transition into the massive droid-factory-like equipment of the Star Wars universe, at the same time as their two characters clashed onscreen over the apprentice’s restlessness, lack of humility, and eventual flip to the darkish aspect.
“I keep in mind all that prep interval,” McGregor says to his costar, “and your ardour as an actor, and the way deeply you had been throwing your self into it and breaking down scenes.” That prolonged into the pair’s epic lightsaber rehearsals. “It was simply going and taking part in along with your good friend every single day,” recollects Christensen. “Actually, doing all of the prep for the lightsaber fights was a number of the most enjoyable for me.” Alas, not all the pieces was enjoyable.
It isn’t hyperbole to proclaim The Phantom Menace as Hollywood’s most anticipated movie in historical past upon its launch on Might 19, 1999. Amazingly, franchise curiosity had solely grown within the 16 years since Return of the Jedi, as older followers salivated for recent content material and a brand new technology of Jedi-wannabes was indoctrinated into the order due to the 1997 Particular Version releases of the unique trilogy. After which the film debuted.
Critics and followers alike pounced on all the pieces from the comedian reduction of Jar Jar Binks to clunky dialogue like “No must report that to him till we’ve one thing to report.” Response to the follow-up prequels was not a lot kinder. And with the web absolutely booted up — one thing Wicket W. Warrick and his Ewok bros by no means needed to take care of whereas out Yub Nubbing on the forest moon of Endor — all people had an opinion, and never all of them had been optimistic.
For the younger stars, there was nowhere to cover. “I discovered it fairly arduous,” McGregor, now 50, admits of the response to the prequels. “For it to return out and get knocked so arduous was personally fairly troublesome to take care of. And likewise, it was fairly early in my profession. I did not actually know tips on how to take care of that. I would been concerned with issues that simply did not make a lot of a ripple, however that is completely different from making one thing that makes a adverse ripple.”
Concurrently coping with sudden fame and criticism, the now-40-year-old Christensen additionally could not assist however expertise a measure of emotional whiplash over the prequels. “When the movies got here out and the critics had been very important, in fact that was a troublesome factor — since you care a lot about this factor that you have invested a lot of your self into. So, for positive, that is difficult.”
After the 2005 launch of Revenge of the Sith, there was little (new) hope that we might ever see McGregor and Christensen hearth up their lightsabers once more. Motivated by the “sense of peace and escape” he felt throughout visits to Skywalker Ranch, Christensen took a break not simply from Star Wars, however from Hollywood basically — shopping for a farm within the Canadian countryside. “I actually took a liking to that entire atmosphere and life-style and acquired a bunch of animals and was taking care of sheep and pigs and chickens for a short while,” he says. “I’m going via intervals of being very centered on my work as an actor, after which simply desirous to do different issues that are not essentially for public consumption.”
When the franchise had an opportunity to carry Christensen again for Darth Vader’s return in one more prequel movie (2016’s Rogue One), they as a substitute had former skilled boxer Spencer Wilding and stunt actor Daniel Naprous don the black armor. Lucas movie president Kathleen Kennedy says Christensen was not thought of for the Rogue function on the time as a result of “that was simply such a selected motion sequence.”
“I wasn’t part of any of these conversations about Rogue One,” says Christensen. “However I beloved what they did with it. The character predates me, and it is at all times been a collective effort in quite a lot of methods. I assumed it was good.”
In the meantime, McGregor continued his movie profession full throttle after hiding Luke on Tatooine (nonetheless looks like an odd selection), however each time the actor was requested a couple of potential return to the galaxy far, distant — that means just about each interview — he typically sounded lower than inclined to place the robes again on. “I haven’t got a burning must do it once more or, certainly, any form of fascination for the films that everybody else appears to have,” he instructed Magic Radio in 2016. “I do not actually have that. Perhaps as a result of I have been in them. I’ve seen backstage, you recognize what I imply? It would not have the identical sort of wonderment to me.”
They are saying time heals all wounds. Whether or not that extends to the injuries you inflict in your former Padawan by chopping off three of his limbs and leaving him to burn to loss of life on a mound of volcanic ash stays open to debate. Because the years moved on from the prequels, although, McGregor observed a way of steadiness coming to the Power. And the steadiness was coming from younglings… not less than those Darth Vader did not slaughter within the Jedi temple.
“Now I meet the individuals who we made these movies for, who had been the children of the time,” says McGregor. “And our Star Wars movies are their Star Wars movies. In the way in which that Carrie Fisher and Alec Guinness and Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford’s movies had been ours, we’re theirs. And that is stunning that they had been essential to the children who we made them for. It is simply so good to lastly get that wave of positivity about them.”
That positivity sparked one thing in McGregor. For all the problem the prequels introduced in “strolling round with the large alien individuals that are not actually there and spending quite a lot of time on a blue set simply talking into the air,” there have been additionally features about making the films the actor describes as “mind-blowing.”
He fondly recollects working with Lucas (who initially employed McGregor’s uncle, Denis Lawson, to play pilot Wedge Antilles within the authentic trilogy), the time spent with fellow actors Natalie Portman and Liam Neeson, and particularly all of the lightsaber coaching with Christensen and stunt coordinator Nick Gillard. (“When you watch these fights, they’re f—ing wonderful! We’re actually cooking.”)
In interviews, McGregor began expressing an openness towards returning. Typically an excessive amount of openness, he anxious. “It began wanting like I used to be touting for work at Disney’s door, as a result of I’d say, ‘If Lucasfilm wished to do it, I would be so joyful to do it.’ And it stored showing in all places: ‘McGregor joyful to do Obi-Wan!'”
Finally, a gathering was organized to see how severe the actor really was about probably showing in an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie as a part of a collection of stand-alone films outdoors of the nine-installment Skywalker saga. “They simply mentioned, ‘Look, we have learn that you just mentioned you would be joyful to do it. We simply need to know should you imply it or should you’re being well mannered, as a result of we’re pondering that it may very well be an choice. However we need to know should you’re in or not.’ I mentioned, ‘It is completely true!'”
With McGregor able to ignite his trusty saber, Lucas movie actively started growth on an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie to be directed by Stephen Daldry. The Jedi’s return to the silver display screen was now not a matter of if, however reasonably when.
After which Solo occurred. Launched in Might 2018, the considerably awkwardly titled Solo: A Star Wars Story garnered a worldwide field workplace haul of $393 million — a far cry from the $1.33 billion introduced in by 2017’s The Final Jedi, and over 60 p.c lower than the primary stand-alone Star Wars movie, Rogue One, which tallied greater than $1 billion.
Whether or not the shockingly gentle turnout was because of the tepid critiques, a sudden saturation of Star Wars theatrical choices, or followers not desirous to see somebody aside from Harrison Ford taking part in the scruffy nerf herder, the futures of all franchise movies outdoors of the trilogy-concluding The Rise of Skywalker had been instantly despatched into limbo. However whereas these films could have been placed on Hoth-level ice, Kennedy says curiosity for the Kenobi challenge in some kind remained. But when not a film, then what?
That is when Disney’s then CEO Bob Iger determined to tackle Netflix. “When Bob Iger very particularly mentioned, ‘We’re going to begin to shift our precedence to creating collection for Disney+, and we’re launching the streaming service,’ that actually was what shifted our technique,” says Kennedy. “We began to have a look at the chance within the streaming house the place we might do long-form storytelling, and we realized there was a possibility to experiment in that house with out the extent of scrutiny that occurs once you launch a function.”
That meant creating The Mandalorian. It meant bringing Boba Fett again from the useless. It meant spinning off from animated choices like The Clone Wars and staging one other prequel, this time for Rogue One intelligence officer Cassian Andor. And it meant Ewan McGregor stepping on stage to raucous applause at August 2019’s D23 conference to formally announce his triumphant return. Pleasure was additional fueled when it was revealed a month later that Deborah Chow, who had labored on The Mandalorian, would direct the Obi-Wan collection, turning into the primary lady to helm a whole live-action Star Wars challenge from begin to end.
Nevertheless, because the crew got here collectively to work towards a summer season 2020 manufacturing begin date, Kennedy turned involved with the path of the scripts. “We’re wanting, in the end, to make a hopeful, uplifting story,” says the studio head. “And it is tough once you’re beginning with a personality within the state that Obi-Wan could be in coming off of Revenge of the Sith. That is a reasonably bleak time frame. You’ll be able to’t simply wave the magic wand with any author and arrive at a narrative that essentially displays what you need to really feel.”
Believing an overhaul was so as, Kennedy briefly shut down manufacturing in January 2020, pushed again the filming begin date from August 2020 to January 2021, and employed a brand new author, Joby Harold, to take over from Hossein Amini (who’d been employed when Kenobi was headed to the large display screen). “This was a personality that is at all times been a minor obsession of mine,” says Harold. “And after I heard it was a personality they had been exploring, I very aggressively instructed all of them the issues I assumed they need to do.”
The brand new story crafted by Harold and Chow takes place 10 years after Obi-Wan went into hiding on Tatooine — at just about the precise halfway level between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. “Obi-Wan is misplaced,” says McGregor. “He is a damaged man after what occurred with the Jedi order on the finish of Episode III, but additionally what occurred with Anakin; that he misplaced him to the darkish aspect. He feels an unlimited quantity of accountability for that, and guilt.”
The six-episode collection focuses on that journey from ache to not less than a modicum of peace. “After we final noticed Obi-Wan within the prequels, he is very emotional,” says Harold. “There is a ardour to him. And once we get to see him once more in A New Hope, he’s the Zen grasp. That was the story that I wished to know — what had occurred to Obi-Wan between the man that Ewan had dropped at life and the man that Sir Alec Guinness dropped at life.”
As for a way a lot of the unique plot made it into Obi-Wan Kenobi 2.0, Chow notes that “we inherited a few of it, however we did actually make some vital modifications and add just a few completely different components.” In the meantime, an inner debate was raging over whether or not to dare carry but one other larger-than-life character out of retirement.
To Vader or to not Vader? That was the query. Because the artistic workforce started remapping Obi-Wan’s story, aggressive negotiations — this time with out a lightsaber — commenced as as to if that story also needs to embody the fallen Jedi.
“The controversy round whether or not we must always do this or not carried on for fairly a while,” Kennedy reveals.” Everyone inside our artistic workforce has sturdy opinions, and all of our followers have sturdy opinions. So once you understand that you just’re beneath that stage of scrutiny, definitely a narrative level like that’s going to be scrutinized at a really excessive stage. We talked about it consistently.”
On this case, the darkish aspect received. And with McGregor again, there was just one option to fill out the large black swimsuit this time round. Chow went to Vader’s mediation chamber (okay, Christensen’s farm, however shut sufficient) to make her pitch in particular person. “Deborah got here up and we spent the day chatting,” Christensen says. “She instructed me a little bit bit in regards to the challenge and her imaginative and prescient for it, and I simply thought that it sounded great. I used to be very excited to return again.”
Not as excited as all these starstruck crew members. “It was so essential to have Hayden be part of this challenge as a result of he’s such an enormous a part of that character,” says Harold. “It was a precedence to all of us that we did it with as a lot care as potential, in order to honor one of many biggest villains and antagonists within the historical past of leisure.” (As as to if 91-year-old James Earl Jones will as soon as once more be voicing the character, nobody will say.)
“When he first got here on set for us, it undoubtedly had a really particular feeling. The primary time I noticed him in costume, he was towering over me. He was actually nearly twice my dimension!” Chow says of Christensen. “It is actually intense to have such an iconic character, after which to be directing him and doing new scenes with him…. I do keep in mind poor Ewan on that day being like, ‘What am I, chopped liver?'”
“The entire expertise was very surreal,” Christensen provides of placing the swimsuit again on. However whereas everybody on set was marveling in his path, the person behind the masks was moved by what he noticed via his tinted helmet lenses: “The primary time that I noticed Ewan as Obi-Wan once more, that was a really particular second for me, and one which I am going to keep in mind for a really, very very long time.” The battle had formally been joined.
Whereas the Obi-Wan and Darth Vader reunion is the large headline, the story that can unfold on Disney+ screens is way more than only a decade-later face-off between former grasp and apprentice. And it’ll do extra than simply fill the gaps of their private historical past. It would additionally fill the gaps within the final conflict between good and evil.
“The Empire is within the ascendancy,” explains Harold. “All of the horrors that include the Empire are being made manifest all through the galaxy, so all the pieces that was within the prequels has crumbled. The Jedi order are being all however worn out, and people Jedi which have survived are on the run they usually’re in hiding.”
They usually’re not simply hiding from Vader. The Darkish Lord has tasked the Grand Inquisitor and his group of Inquisitors to seek out and remove any and all stray Jedi who managed to flee the good purge of Order 66. First launched on display screen within the animated collection Star Wars Rebels, Inquisitors are fearsome, Power-sensitive beings on a singular mission for the Empire: “They’re making an attempt to eradicate the Jedi order altogether,” explains McGregor.
Not solely will we see the relentless Inquisitors for the primary time in a live-action Star Wars challenge, however Obi-Wan can even introduce a brand new Inquisitor named Reva (performed by The Queen’s Gambit‘s Moses Ingram), who Harold guarantees will “contribute to the legacy of Star Wars villains in a very attention-grabbing approach.”
Harold and Chow use the phrases ruthless and impressive to describetheir new Jedi-hunter, however the lady taking part in her prefers one other description. “Reva is a boss,” Ingram says emphatically, chatting with EW only a few days after ending a collection of bodily demanding reshoots. “I imply, actually like a full-on athlete. She is on a mission and can conquer that in any respect prices when given the chance. She is fairly badass.” (And with a badass outfit: “Placing on a cape was a dream I did not know I had. I felt like I used to be 10 once more! It was tremendous dope.”)
The director is simply as pumped for viewers to be launched to the brand new antagonist. “It is actually thrilling for me to carry a feminine villain, and to have a dark-side lady in a really vital function.” Hopefully Reva’s significance will lengthen past the display screen. Provides Ingram: “We had quite a lot of conversations about hair and what the proper hair is perhaps. Deborah was actually nice about shifting from the preliminary imaginative and prescient to what we arrived at for Reva’s hair. I wished children to have their very own hair at Halloween. And that is enormous When you have a look at all of the Black children with kinky hair. Once they need to be Elsa, they acquired to placed on a blond wig. [Now] there are such a lot of children that’ll have the ability to put on their hair at Halloween. That is going to be actually thrilling.”
When requested about different introduced newcomers like O’Shea Jackson Jr., Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Buddy, and Maya Erskine, the artistic workforce primarily resorts to Jedi thoughts tips (These aren’t the actors you are searching for). Nor do they succumb to Imperial interrogationtactics when questioned as as to if Obi-Wan Kenobi will proceed the latest Disney+ apply of crossing over characters from one present to a different. In spite of everything, Anakin’s former Jedi pupil Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian is on the market someplace on this timeframe, as is a youthful Boba Fett.
Whereas the powers that be is not going to utterly rule out any of that, they’re additionally fast to make a distinction between their world and the one seen on the opposite live-action collection thus far. “All of that falls inside the Mandalorian timeline,” Kennedy says of potential crossover characters, whereas Chow provides that “the strongest connective tissue for us is to the prequels, as a result of that is the place our characters are coming from and that is the place their tales began. So, actually, the prequels are essentially the most related to our collection.”
Which explains the return of extra acquainted faces within the type of Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse as Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. “I used to be so excited to carry them again,” says the director. “A part of what made the collection really feel very particular is that we had been bringing again not solely Ewan and Hayden, however individuals like Joel and Bonnie from 20 years in the past and gettingt o reunite as the identical characters.”
But when Obi-Wan, Owen, and Beru are all a part of the brand new collection, what about that pesky womp-rat-shooting, Tosche Station-obsessed tyke they’re all serving to to boost? Will Luke Skywalker himself be making an look? Whereas nobody will say for positive, Harold coyly factors to Kenobi’s acknowledged mission of defending the boy, noting, “That is a part of what [Obi-Wan’s] been charged to do. And he’s waking up each morning and doing his job. That is what he is there for.” (Additionally, the not too long ago launched trailer both reveals Luke fairly plainly, or that may be a mischievous misdirect of Palpatinian proportions.)
Between The Mandalorian, The E book of Boba Fett, and now Obi-Wan Kenobi, it appears everybody within the Star Wars live-action Disney+ universe has been hanging out on Tatooine these days. And whereas Chow says “there’s clearly a major chunk on Tatooine due to the character of the place the beginning place is for the story,” she additionally guarantees that “we undoubtedly go to new worlds. A part of what makes Star Wars is getting to go to completely different locations
A kind of locations is a brand new planet Kenobi will go to named Daiyu, “which form of has a Hong Kong really feel to it,” says Harold. “It is acquired a graffiti-ridden nightlife, and is sort of edgy. It is simply acquired a unique lane and a unique feeling.”
Ah, however how lengthy will we get to see Obi-Wan Kenobi discover these completely different lanes and emotions? The present has been billed as one 6-episode season — however with loads of room to play with earlier than the occasions of A New Hope, might there be extra? “It was undoubtedly conceived as a restricted collection, and it’s one large story with a starting, center, and finish,” says Chow. “The method has at all times been that it’s one full story.”
However depart it to the studio head to maintain any and all choices on the desk. “It is definitely one thing we discuss,” Kennedy says of a potential extension, “primarily as a result of all people got here collectively and had such an unbelievable time. Ewan had an unbelievable time. Hayden had an unbelievable time. So definitely from that perspective, all people concerned would like to see this not finish. However we’ve to essentially spend our time asking the query: Why would we do it? If we had been to resolve to do something extra with the Obi-Wan character, we would have to essentially reply the query why?
Moses Ingram clearly thinks the world of Ewan McGregor. The actress gleefully remembers all of the finer factors of struggle coaching with the star, whom she describes as “a sleek little butterfly.” She recollects the encouragement he confirmed her as she fumbled via predictable rookie errors. And she will’t cease gushing about how he made “the sweetest video” for her Ewan-obsessed finest good friend. However none of that can cease the Inquisitor from displaying her true dark-side allegiance and ratting out her Jedi costar. The incident in query befell on the oval 75-foot-wide, 23-foot-high digital LED set often known as the Quantity. “I overlook what scene we had been taking pictures,” says Ingram, “however Ewan was doing one thing, and he dropped his lightsaber within the crevice between the Quantity and the place the stage ends. And he was so embarrassed. He was like, ‘Please do not ever inform anybody I dropped my lightsaber!'”
Contemplating the notoriously hardtime McGregor used to offer Christensen for shedding his lightsaber (a dynamic that carried over on display screen between Obi Wan and Anakin), this scandalous revelation elicits an enormous grin from Christensen. “That is information to me!” he laughs.
“You shouldn’t take heed to it,” McGregor shoots again. “It is all rumour and rumor. She’s simply making an attempt to one-up Obi-Wan.”
“All of these lectures, although, Ewan!”
“Yeah, I do not keep in mind that. I thinks he is making that up,” insists McGregor earlier than pausing. “Okay, I may need inadvertently let it slip. Perhaps.”
Christensen’s elation now is aware of no bounds. “It is surprising information. I do not consider it as a result of I understand how a lot regard Ewan has for his lightsaber, so it is arduous to completely consider.”
By this level, McGregor is aware of that no matter what has and can occur on display screen, that is one duel of the fates he can not win. “I do keep in mind I mentioned, ‘Please do not inform Hayden, as a result of I used to offer him such s— each time he dropped his lightsaber.’ All I can say is, it has been some time for Obi-Wan. He is not the person that we as soon as keep in mind. And if, certainly, it may need slipped out of his hand and rolled throughout the stage and right into a ditch, it is solely as a result of he isn’t fairly the place he was once. But it surely’s coming again.”