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Obi-Swan's Revenge Of The Ranch! SITH DVD Reviewed!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

The following may well be the last time my writing partner, Obi-Swan, ever writes about STAR WARS for AICN. That's a strange thought. The saga is over, and now the DVD is being released. I'm glad he took one last trip up to Skywalker Ranch, though, and the result is another truly heartfelt look at what the series means to him, and what you can expect when you pick up SITH in stores today.

“At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.”


The first trip up to Skywalker Ranch was in September of 2001, just four days prior to 9/11. It was a simpler, more innocent time. I was there to take part in the press days of THE PHANTOM MENACE on DVD, the first STAR WARS title to make it to the format. It was clear Lucasfilm was excited to unveil the new product, so excited in fact, that George Lucas himself even put in a surprise appearance during the Q&A session of the presentation. His presence was a shocker, to say the least. During his brief time with us, I was able to ask him about the first STAR WARS film since 1983 and the first time he had been back in the director’s chair in over two decades.

OBI-SWAN: Historically speaking, how do you think THE PHANTOM MENACE will be seen, say, 100 years from now? How will it be thought of?

GEORGE LUCAS: Well, I have no idea. I mean, obviously I won't be around so it won't make any difference, but at the same time I would guess that it’d be thought of as the first chapter in a six-part movie. So, it'll be thought of really as STAR WARS, not as PHANTOM MENACE.

It’s interesting how Lucas dodged the question completely at first, downplaying EPISODE I’s importance as a separate film. Like it or not, the movie is pretty significant. It’s the return of George Lucas and the return of STAR WARS. If MENACE has any real failing, in my opinion, aside from some strange tone choices, it’s that Lucas was more fixated on the big picture rather than making a movie that audiences could fall in love with completely separate from STAR WARS. He regards it as just one sliver of a bigger story. I find it difficult to understand why he’s so quick to rob MENACE of its uniqueness.

THE PHANTOM MENACE was a big step in reinventing the filmmaking process. Lucas was bold enough to take chances and really shake things up so he and his creative team could accomplish the impossible. This was before the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, and even Peter Jackson credits Lucas as being the man who made much of the incredible visual effects we see today common practice. If you watch the documentary “The Beginning,” it’s amazing how the creative team worked together to make the final product a reality. Of course, that process has been pushed even further with CLONES and especially now with SITH. But Lucas seemed reticent concerning MENACE, like he wanted to focus more on the ongoing evolution of the filmmaking process.

OBI-SWAN: I was thinking more about its place in cinema history because it seems to have a very pioneering spirit about it. It kind of reminds me of the days of silent movie making, when people were trying to figure out how to make a movie for the first time?

GEORGE LUCAS: Well, I don't know. I mean, when we made [A NEW HOPE], it was with a sort of pioneering spirit in its own way, too, but now it's sort of old hat. You know, people forget very quickly the technological advances that are made on each movie. I guess there are technological advances made all the time. It's a progression of the medium, especially in terms of being able to incorporate digital characters and sets and that sort of thing. It had been done before but not on this scale. And you know the next film will be more extreme and I assume that when I make the third one it'll be even more extreme.

He couldn’t have been more right. Topping himself was obviously on his mind even back then. But still after my first couple screenings of SITH, I had no clue how totally mind-blowing the effects truly are. It took a screening on a 2K projector and the massive screen at the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard for me to actually appreciate the work. My jaw hit the floor and stayed there the entire two hours and twenty minutes. Later someone asked me what it was like, and all I could say was, “When the lights went down and the movie started, it was as if the borders of the screen disappeared and I hallucinated STAR WARS.” The leap Lucas has made over the span of these three films is extraordinary. He’s entirely transformed the medium once again.

In the months leading up to SITH’s theatrical release, I was considered a STAR WARS apologist on AICN’s Jedi Council for some reason. I love all things STAR WARS, and yes, I’ve enjoyed the Prequels, but I think I’ve always tried to be reasonable and fair when assessing these new films. In one of the last Councils, I said the following and turned a few heads:

OBI-SWAN: Lucas has a lot to wrap up with this movie. With EPISODES I and II he really hasn’t answered a damn thing. I love STAR WARS. I think George Lucas is a special kind of guy. I’m genuinely glad he’s making movies again. I’m glad he’s made this prequel trilogy, but there’s another side of me that wishes maybe he hadn’t. My reason is because he’s kind of re-opened wounds that didn’t need to be opened. As a result, it’s festering. For instance, before this trilogy I really didn’t have any questions. Sure I wondered what Anakin Skywalker must have been like in his prime and what his relationship with Obi-Wan was like, but it wasn’t eating at me. It wasn’t keeping me up at night. It’s like he’s opened up a new can of worms and he’s throwing stuff in there that really weren’t unresolved issues. Maybe I’m wrong and he’s gonna paint himself out of his corner. But don’t get me wrong. I love these movies... I just don’t think we needed them.

Upon reflection and after multiple viewings, I still kind of feel Lucas has flown in the face of disaster by opening old wounds, but I’ve come to admire him for that and grown to adore these peculiar episodes so much that I wouldn’t wish them away for anything. These films are arresting artistic statements by one of the greatest visual artists to ever work in film. These aren’t lesser works; they’re audacious, misunderstood, and oddly compelling comments by a filmmaker on his own body of work. It’s a self examination, it’s a complete reinvention, and it’s a bitter-sweet celebration of everything that made us fall in love with STAR WARS in the first place.

I got the word that I could once again journey up to Skywalker Ranch a few weeks ago. I was waiting for a call, actually. I had heard many good things about the DVD for SITH and could hardly wait to get a peek at it.

Once at The Ranch, my first stop on the tour was a quick demo of a few scenes from the DVD. As always, our host was Jim Ward, the senior vice-president of Lucasfilm, the president of LucasArts, and the executive producer of the SITH DVD. In short, Jim does a few things around Lucasfilm. He introduced us to some familiar faces in the room: Lynn Hale, director of communications; Tom Warren, director of marketing; and Rick Dean from THX, who decked out the room with the sweetest little home theater system you could possibly want. Rick’s been a big part of all the demonstrations I’ve attended, and let me tell you, this guy knows sound. He also has a head of hair that would make even Lucas envious.

JIM WARD: We put a lot of time and effort into the most important thing of the DVD... and that’s the film itself... the picture and the sound.

Like with the previous STARS WARS DVDs, the feature film is on disc one. The film is 140 mins (two minutes shorter than CLONES), rated PG-13 (a STAR WARS first), presented in letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1) and 16x9 enhanced format, THX-certified with English (DD 5.1 EX), French and Spanish (DD 2.0 Surround) soundtracks, dual-layered, single-sided, and comes in a convenient 2-disc keep case package that conforms nicely with the rest of series. There’s another fascinating audio commentary you can access during play of the film that features writer/director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, and visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett). If you want to fine tune your system there’s a THX Optimizer. A DVD-ROM weblink provides entrée to exclusive Star Wars DVD web content. Of course there’s an “Easter egg,” but it isn’t a blooper reel this time, unfortunately. It’s a short video of Yoda rapping. This is amusing upon initial viewing, but doesn’t have the timeless shelf life that the past blooper reels are famous for. The menus are film-themed and are designed after three of the film’s main planetary locations: Utapau, Coruscant, and Mustafar (no dice on Kashyyyk).

Jim Ward then led us into the screening room at the tech building. This is a theater that Lucas has actually used from time to time while working on the last three STAR WARS films. If you watch some of the documentaries on the previous DVDs, you’ll see it. It’s obvious George can shell out a few bucks for a decent screening room. Jim took to the podium and warmly greeted us again.

JIM WARD: Now we’re going to jump into the value added materials on the DVD itself. Just a few reminders, in case you didn’t know... the biggest movie of the year will now be available on DVD on November 1st. That’s a big deal. Priority number one was making sure the picture and sound are as perfect as they possibly can be. You can judge for yourself now that you’ve seen it. And we also wanted to make sure we had the best value added materials that we could possibly have, and not just stuff to cram on there, but stuff that people actually want to watch. And rather than list everything for you, we thought we would just play a piece that would probably better demonstrate what’s on the disc itself.

The lights went down and a commercial for the DVD played onscreen. The commercial highlighted the behind the scenes documentaries that provide insight into many aspects of production of this staggering filmmaking process. The second disc is indeed loaded with, in the words of Jim Ward, “the best value added materials... stuff that people actually want to watch.” I popped it in last night and watched all of the documentaries straight through. They’re all pretty good:

“Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III” documentary is a 79 minute look into the artists and crew and what their contributions that went into creating just one minute of the final film. It’s hosted by Rick McCallum, and although it’s a bit dry, it’s a worthwhile glimpse into the process. I’m particularly pleased at how they’ve attempted to create interesting documentaries for all the DVDs. In the case of THE PHANTOM MENACE, the documentary “The Beginning” is actually more entertaining than the main feature. Although the documentaries on the supplemental discs of CLONES and SITH are very good, they haven’t been able to recapture the perfection of MENACE’s “The Beginning.”

“It's All for Real: The Stunts of Episode III,” an 11 minute featurette, shows that they actually still do a little bit of the stunts for real on these movies and examines the grueling training that went into creating some of the most intense Jedi battles we’ve ever seen. “The Chosen One” is a 15 minute featurette that explores Anakin Skywalker’s journey to becoming Darth Vader. Of particular note, there’s a short clip of the digital Yoda replacement from a scene in a future release of THE PHANTOM MENACE. Yes, that’s right, the puppet is no more. This early glimpse we’re given is the moment where Yoda delivers his “Fear is the path to the dark side” speech. I’m curious how this re-worked Yoda will fit into the overall texture of the film.

JIM WARD: One of the things that we’ve been known for on the past DVDs, and this is consistent with this DVD, is actually taking deleted scenes and then completing them and putting them on the disc. I want to give you the opportunity to see a couple of the deleted scenes...

They booted up the deleted scenes menu, which is themed after the room on Utapau where General Grievous makes contact with Darth Sidious. There are 6 deleted scenes in all, with optional introductions by George Lucas and Rick McCallum. In order, they are Grievous Slaughters a Jedi: Escape from the General - Animatic, A Stirring in the Senate - Bail's Office, Seeds of Rebellion - Padmé's Apartment, Confronting the Chancellor - Palpatine's Office, A Plot to Destroy the Jedi?, and eagerly awaited Exiled to Dagobah.

The first scene they showed us was Grievous Slaughters a Jedi: Escape from the General. It’s maybe my favorite of the deleted scenes, but unfortunately it’s not complete; and about half of it is in lower resolution and partially connected together with animatics. Even though I really like the scene, I think this way of presenting it is a big letdown and I asked Jim Ward about why in the world they would do it like this.

OBI-SWAN: What went into the decision making process that resulted in electing to not complete the deleted scene Grievous Slaughters a Jedi? Why did you just leave it as an animatic?

JIM WARD: Each one was a different process. Some of it was time, some of it was materials that were there, some if was money issues, and some of it was the creative direction from Rick and George about what would work best. All of those factors kind of played into that.

OBI-SWAN: Is it the only deleted scene on the disc that’s not complete?

JIM WARD: Um, no... there are a couple more that are a little discompleted, so to speak. It’s kind of a level of finish issue. Some are completed, some are at various stages. It just depends on the scene itself.

It’s just my humble opinion, but I think it’s pretty weak that they decided to just throw these scenes on the disc without seeing them through to completion. I mean, come on, man. It seems to me like they just wanted to rush through it and get it over with. It’s a minor complain, but it does detract from my overall enjoyment of the DVD.

The 15 great web documentaries that held us over until release of the film in theaters are also on disc 2, each approximately 5 minutes. The titles of the web docs are Two Worlds, One Movie, One World, Two Movies, We Still Do a Little Bit, Creating General Grievous, This Weapon is Your Life, Video Village, Epic Designs for an Expanding Universe, C-3P0: His Moment to Shine, Pick-Ups & Re-Shoots, Becoming Obi-Wan, The Wookies Are Back, B-107: The Life of an HD Tape, The Creatures of Episode III, Endlessly Compelling: The Music of Episode III and Becoming Sidious.

In addition to the wealth of material listed above, there are also 2 theatrical trailers, 15 TV spots, the music video A Hero Falls (also on the DVD that comes with the SITH soundtrack), Star Wars: Battlefront II Xbox game demo (2 playable levels), trailers for the videogames Star Wars: Battlefront II and Star Wars: Empire at War, outdoor print campaign gallery, poster art gallery, a DVD-ROM weblink to exclusive content, and animated film-themed menu screens. There’s also a production photo gallery that’s pretty humorous and shows that the secret EPISODE III scene that was shot during principal photography of EPISODE II was apparently scraped in the end. The final scene outside the Lars homestead was completely re-shot on green screen stages. While Jim was still fielding questions, another reporter asked if there would be any additions or changes to the film itself, like with the previous DVD releases of EPISODE I and II. To that, Jim responded rather quickly and concisely.

JIM WARD: No. Nope.

Not so fast. I just watched the DVD from start to finish and noticed one small but significant change from the theatrical version of the film. It’s the transition from Obi Wan and C3P-0 in the cockpit of the ship leaving Mustafar to a burned Anakin clawing his way back up the slope of smoldering embers. In the theatrical version, this transition was a wipe. Now it’s just a hard cut. It’s just like the transition change in A NEW HOPE from Luke and Obi Wan entering docking bay 94 to them coming down the stairs and entering the bay. In the original version it was a dissolve. Now, on the DVDs, it’s just a hard cut. Who knows why these changes were made? Maybe Lucas just looked at it one day and said, “Change that.” It’s difficult to say.

Next up on stage was Rick McCallum, the man who Lucas relied upon to enable him to take on the daunting task of making this prequel trilogy a reality. I love Rick. He is a director’s wet dream. He’s got strength and scary focus but he’s also delightful and nurturing. He completely understands that a producer’s role is not to interfere creatively with the director, but to provide everything the director needs to tell the story, then step back and allow him to tell it.

The first question for Rick was about the lack of Qui-Gon in SITH.

RICK McCALLUM: You’re good. Originally there was a quick scene with Yoda. George thought it would be nice if Liam came in. And then we did a little voice-over without Liam, just to check it out and see, but it never really seemed to have the impact that he original planned on, so we never shot it.

The next question was about what George Lucas is doing with RED TAILS and the next INDIANA JONES movie.

RICK McCALLUM: He’s gone completely nuts. He’s mad now.


RICK McCALLUM: We’re actually meeting today with 15 of the original pilots. That’s where I’m going to right after this. They’re going to be here for the next few days and we’re going to listen to everything they had to go through. We don’t have a writer yet, but we’re really trying to figure out what’s going to come out of these next few days. We won’t be shooting that until roughly the end of next year. He’s doing the INDIANA JONES script and should be finished by Sunday. He’s got another idea for an animated musical. Plus literally dozens of documentaries.

The next question was about STAR WARS 3-D.

RICK McCALLUM: It’s a two-part problem right now. One, there’s only about maybe 350 digital screens worldwide. But I’m really excited that finally after all this bullshit we’ve been waiting for and listening to about the industry trying to get itself together. And it looks like the first real swing of digital cinemas that are going to take place at the beginning of next year. And I’m praying that they won’t lose focus and the industry will finally come together for the first time and really start to respect their audiences. Theater owners are going to understand that 3-D, whether it’s true or not, is the catalyst to make them understand that we really need to do something about our falling audiences. And I don’t think that’s an issue about DVD. There is a sociological change going on where young kids get their movies from DVD and large screen televisions. But, never the less, I’m very excited and once we get to the point where there’s 2,500 or 3,000 screens then we will start the process of working with some of the companies on the 3-D process.

Jim Ward then introduced the two men responsible for crafting the amazing performance of Yoda, Rob Coleman, the animation director for the entire prequel trilogy, and the legendary puppeteer Frank Oz. A couple years ago they were at the DVD press day for ATTACK OF THE CLONES and I asked them then about Yoda making the digital transition and what that meant to the art of puppetry.

OBI-SWAN: Considering the success and popularity of computer-generated characters in films like ATTACK OF THE CLONES and MONSTERS, INC., what do you think the future holds for the art of physical puppetry?


“OBI” SWAN: Both of you.

Frank got a real serious look on his face that became more serious as he thought about it and answered.

FRANK OZ: I don’t think there’s any kind of a competition. I know it’s weird but I haven’t done my characters, except for Yoda of course, that I always do, for a couple of years now... oddly enough. I did the directing and my four children, you know. I decided I’ve really got to pay attention... to my kids before they grow up and I’ve had opportunities at directing. But my feeling is that just like the old saw about will digital take over humans? That’s crap, you know? Each has its own place. And the same thing with puppetry and the stuff in MONSTERS, INC. Each has its own place. Each can do something that the other cannot. And there’s value in each one.

ROB COLEMAN: I agree with that, absolutely. I mean, I think they can absolutely co-exist. I have a four and a half year old son who watches animation, watches puppetry, watches Sesame Street, watches MONSTERS, INC., and he just loves it all. And I’m sure that all the kids, if you actually polled a bunch of kids, some of the puppetry has a different kind of raw energy to it that the animation doesn’t go for, it isn’t in it’s sort of library or in it’s genre and I think you’ll find that both will continue to move on.

So now, a couple years later, it was nice to have these two men sitting down with us so I could ask them another uncomfortable question about their strange relationship with the little green Jedi Master. My question came right on the heels of Rob announcing that the puppet Yoda from EPISODE I was definitely being replaced by digital Yoda.

OBI-SWAN: Let’s say you guy do replace the Yoda from EPISODE I... that’s great on one hand, but on the other, you’re throwing out fifty percent of Frank’s performance. It’s lost, gone. And I was interested in hearing both of you comment on that.

ROB COLEMAN: I would actually disagree. We don’t lose fifty percent of his performance. We have his voice and we have what he did in that movie and that’s our touchstone. And we use it absolutely exactly. All you’re going to see, if it ever comes to light, is our computer animated character doing exactly what he did on the day. It was not my desire to re-do what he did; it was really to focus the animators in on looking at exactly what he did do and just bring that over into the CG world. And it was a fantastic exercise for us to get a little bit into his head, but very specifically into how Yoda moves and how he interacts with the actors.

FRANK OZ: Yeah, I haven’t seen it at all, but I have my lawyers waiting. (the crowd cracks up) No, but y’know, when I did EMPIRE it was..? Twenty years ago? Twenty-five? And really, I think it would be odd to do him again like that. The world was not digital then. And now it is. And now the expectations from the audience are different. And to a degree, if you don’t, it will stand out too much compared to else in George’s movie... which is extraordinary. I think he’s got to fit that life. Before he fit that life because the world was not as digital. Now he wouldn’t fit that life. That’s my opinion.

RICK McCALLUM: We had conversations about it on EPISODE I, but the technology and the time we just didn’t have.

ROB COLEMAN: Yeah, we were not ready to do Yoda on EPISODE I. Absolutely. We were just freaked out about doing the other characters. And I was very happy to get characters like Watto because he was a character who had a great cameo performance, but he had finite screen time. And there’s no reference back to him to any other previous movie, so we were kind of safe to try something new. But it would have been an enormous leap to create a Yoda coming right out of the gate.

Someone followed up by asking about the possibility of Yoda being replaced in the original films. Rob was quick to dispel any notion of it.

ROB COLEMAN: No chance. Never, never, never.

To all of this, I have to wonder, if we’re not losing any of Frank’s performance then why the hesitation to replace the Yoda in EMPIRE and JEDI? And I also have to question, if the puppet fit the life of the original trilogy because the world was not as digital, then is that harmony of puppet and world still present after the movies have been tinkered with and new digital creations have been dropped in? I’m guessing George Lucas and Frank Oz don’t see the saga in exactly the same way since George is adamant about watching the films in numerical order and Frank seems to be more comfortable with the puppet Yoda appearing first. Contradicting view points among fans is one thing, but contradicting view points among the creators of STAR WARS is just plain crazy.

Besides, I don’t think replacing Yoda would be such a bad thing. Not long ago, a friend of mine sat down with his five year old and watched the movies in numerical order. When they got to EMPIRE and Yoda appeared, the kid got a puzzled look on his face and asked his father, “What’s wrong with Yoda?” I recently had the thought that maybe in SITH Sidious should have hit Yoda with a particularly strong bolt of Force lightning and messed him up so bad that he looks like the puppet. I think that would have been cool and explained why he looks so different in the later episodes.

Next up was someone very special and distinguished. The Emperor himself, the talented and always fascinating Ian McDiarmid. Ian took to the stage with confidence and charm. I think he’s the only person who can digress longer about behind-the-scenes STAR WARS stories than Anthony Daniels. Both these guys, from what I’ve observed, give off the impression that they’re not totally pleased with the intense popularity they’ve gained from being in these films. One of the more interesting questions he was asked was about his dealings with children who recognize him in public.

IAN McDIARMID: They’re a little tentative, which is a relief. They tend to approach me with negative questions, like “You’re not him, are you?” And then I simply say, “No.” And that’s being a little dishonest, but not wholly. And by the time they’ve phrased their next question I’ve disappeared around the corner. But there was one, when I came over here just as the film was opening... to see it in this very room. I was at the airport getting my bag, and this little boy came up to me and said, “Are you in STAR WARS?” And I said yes. Then he went back to his mother, who apologized for interrupting me. Then he came back again when I was at the carousel and said, “Are you a liar?” And that, if you analyze it, is a very interesting question. You know? Because the answer is yes and no. The character, absolutely. Me, I hope not. But on the other hand, nobody could be in STAR WARS and standing at the carousel next to you, could they? And also it’s sort of my job to make you believe things about him that aren’t true about me.

The next question was about Ian’s eagerness to play evil after two movies of keeping his alternate identity under wraps. They asked McDiarmid if he was “chomping at the bit.”

IAN McDIARMID: Yes, I was. And, again, I didn’t know how evil he was going to be until I got the script. I also didn’t know that he would have fighting skills, which I had to acquire rather quickly. I thought his power was all going to be in his head, but little did I know that he was the fastest lightsaberist in the universe.

After watching SITH a number of times, I must say McDiamid is mistaken. Sidious isn’t “the fastest lightsaberist in the universe.” I just think he had some seriously slow opponents in the film, especial in the scene where Mace’s Jedi posse comes to arrest the Chancellor. Master Agen Kolar wasn’t even facing the right direction. Some Jedi Master. What the heck was he even looking at? The wall? Well, maybe Lucas will fix it in a later edition and put a space monkey or something there to distract him.

The next question was about whether or not McDiarmid would like to revisit his character in the upcoming live-action TV series.

IAN McDIARMID: Nobody really knows the details of the television series. I don’t think it’s because they’re being particularly coy, I just think that a lot of things haven’t been decided yet. I know George’s intention is to follow one of the characters who has been less highlighted up until now, but who is very popular. So if it’s the period between the movies, the Emperor has to be referred to, but if you’ll remember, he was referred to often without actually appearing in the first film. Peter Cushing was his very effective representative. So I suspect there will be a number of very effective representatives.

Next up was a man who barely needs any introduction. He’s an extremely talented young actor, a true star, and Lord Vader of REVENGE OF THE SITH. Mr. Hayden Christensen. Was that an introduction? Maybe. He took the stage looking very dashing and the entire room couldn’t have been more pleased to have him. The first question was about what order Hayden will eventually show his children the STAR WARS saga... starting at EPISODE I or EPISODE IV.

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: At EPISODE I, as the storyteller had intended it. But yeah, that will be the day.

This is one point that I completely disagree with Lucas about, even though I know my feelings don’t impact him in the slightest. I think he’s just plain wrong, though. If he had intended for these films to be viewed 1-6, then he should have made them in that order. Seems pretty logical, don’t you think? And I assume there was a reason why he told the stories in the order he made them and it probably has something to do with storytelling. That’s the way he told ‘em, that’s the way I’m watching ‘em. Don’t look at me like I’m the crazy one.

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: I, uh... I’ll have to preface it with the fact that it’s just a movie. I’m looking forward to seeing their reactions.

Carl Cunningham, an occasional member of AICN’s Jedi Council, offered up the next question. It had something to do with Hayden finding the anger to make his transformation into Vader.

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: As an actor I usually try to keep my motivation within the context of what my character is going through. So I don’t think of my dog that died when I was eight years old and how that made me feel. I tried to stay within the psychology of Anakin. So it was really just letting his frustrations spin and see how that would affect him.

A young lady named Ashey next asked how Hayden dealt with his character in EPISODE II when he knew what was right around the corner with EPISODE III and how he held back.

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: It was challenging. Honestly it was. You are cast as this character that is the connective tissue to someone that represents all that is evil. So your natural instinct is to try and take him there. And George was constantly asking me to pull back from that and to make him someone who is struggling and someone who allows his frustrations to present themselves in ways that aren’t necessarily especially perceived as evil but in other ways. And to keep it at that. And to not really show any character arc. It was more about who he was at that particular point. EPISODE III was all about changing that, which was why I was so interested in EPISODE III and finally being able to do that.

The next question was about how Hayden managed to convince George to let him wear the suit and mask. I’m guessing this guy hasn’t seen the short documentary on the fourth disc in the STAR WARS TRILOGY DVD box. If I had been Hayden I would have stood up and stormed out at this point, but Hayden, the true gentleman that he is, stayed and answered the man. But before we go on to Hayden’s response, I just want to say that he is one lucky dude to have had the privilege of wearing the suit on film or video or whatever the heck it is. Dave Prowse didn’t get to play Anakin when the mask came off, but Hayden got to be Vader. I’m sure somewhere in England right now Prowse is pissed.

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: Just very politely asked if it was possible. And George and Rick, being the kind of people that they are, allowed me the privilege. I just said, look, I’ve read the script and I know he’s going to put in an appearance at the end, and I think they’re already in the process of meeting with basketball players and really tall people to do that job. And I just said, I don’t know if you guys can make this happen, but I really what to put the suit on. And it was indescribable. It was the completion of a job. It meant that my five year journey was over. It was an extremely powerful feeling. It was a one of a kind experience.

The next question was about what Hayden learned from working with older actors like Ian McDiarmid and Christopher Lee.

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: I think I’ve learned the most working with Ian... and not just because he’s here. It was an eye opening experience being able to sit in that opera scene with him and listen to him tell that story and watch the subtlety. Everything he did was conveying with that subtlety. And he’s such a kind man and he’s willing to share his wisdom and help you when you ask for it. So yeah, I’ve learned a lot.

Next question: How do kids react when they see you, and are you ready to see a lot of little Darth Vaders this Halloween?

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: Now I have two characters that they can dress up as. I don’t know. I was expecting a different reaction, to be honest. Kids still are enamored with this hero and I would have thought that it changed how they saw Anakin and they would be a little shy first. But it really hasn’t changed anything. If anything they’re more drawn to him. I still have little kids coming up to me asking for lightsaber training. And I play along. I love it. But Halloween, I stay at home on Halloween. When my mom says a little kid is dressed up as Anakin I go give them their candy.

The next question is something I was actually wondering: Some actors in the previous films have had different reactions to how they’ve kind of carried it in their careers. Some of them have even distanced themselves from it. How do you think, as the years go by, STAR WARS is going to fit in your heart?

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: It will always be very dear to my heart, without question. It’s been a wild ride for the past five years and it’s dramatically impacted by life for the better. I cherish that and feel forever indebted to George for giving me the opportunity.

And you know what? I believe him. He answered with sincerity that you just can’t fake. His answer really hit home for me because of an encounter I had with Mark Hamill a year or two ago. Moriarty and I had lunch with Mark and were able to sit with him and talk for a couple hours. It was a childhood dream come true. Of course all I talked about was STAR WARS and by the end of it Mark looked like he wanted nothing more than to punch me in the nose and get as far away from me as possible. Sorry, Mark. I respect your rage but I just couldn’t help myself. A week or two later, he made that big announcement that he no longer wanted to be known as Luke Skywalker, or something to that effect. When I heard this I almost died. I gave up STAR WARS for a week. I thought for sure that I was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And who knows, maybe I was. But it’s nice to see that Hayden has a totally different outlook on being a part of this phenomenon, which I bet can seem like more trouble that it’s worth at times.

Afterwards, Hayden went outside and I decided to say hello. When I approached him and introduced myself he was genuinely warm and giving. I started thinking that what he said inside wasn’t bullshit. This guy really is Anakin Skywalker in his heart, the good Anakin who smiles at the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI. I hope to catch up with him in about twenty years and test that sincerity again. Let’s hope his love for STAR WARS never fades.

Now that we’ve reached the end of the journey, I can’t help but think back five long years to when Darth Maul proclaimed that the Sith would have their revenge. Back in 1999, I interpreted this line like a direct promise from George Lucas: One day EPISODE III will be upon us, and we will finally savor the Sith’s inevitable victory. And now, at last, the Sith have had their revenge. Palpatine became Emperor, Anakin became Vader, the twins were born, the Republic fell, the Empire struck, and Yoda was exiled to Dagobah... well, sort of. And although the debate may still be raging as to how elegant or how junky the final STAR WARS movie might be, there’s no debating the astounding box office revenue REVENGE OF THE SITH generated and how absolutely breathtaking this new DVD looks and sounds.

May the Force be with you, and may the TV show be good.

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