[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi through “Part IV.”]
For Hayden Christensen, time was a great ally when crafting his Darth Vader performance for Obi-Wan Kenobi.
in the Star Wars Disney+ miniseries, 10 years have passed since the last time Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi were face-to-face on Mustafar. In reality, 17 years have passed since Christensen and Ewan McGregor played opposite each other in their iconic sci-fi roles in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.
And it was that actual gap in time that allowed Christensen to bring “something different to the table” and better understand Vader and his swirling emotions when the former Jedi Master and Padawan spectacularly reconnect once more.
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter prior to the final two episodes of the six-part Disney+ series, Christensen that explores lightsaber duel on Mapuzo and Vader’s disappointment in how weak Kenobi had become. The actor also looked back on the prequels, including the moment that always makes him laugh to himself.
Vader’s introduction at the end of “Part II” was perfect. What was going through his mind when he finally sensed Kenobi through the Force?
There’s just so much history to that relationship. There is obviously a great bond that was broken, and I think Vader is still very much affected by that. That first shot in the bacta tank when you see Vader opening his eyes, the idea is that Obi-Wan is connecting with him and coming to his attention again.
How long is that vastly intricate makeup process?
It’s pretty extensive. It’s a good four to five hours in the makeup chair, but I got to work with a great team of makeup artists. And we all got to work very closely with [executive creative director of Lucasfilm] Doug Chiang, who gave great input into the overall look. But yeah, it’s a lot of time. (laughs.)
Is it always you in the suit, or is there a double, so you can get a rest from wearing that beast of a costume?
I’m not the only one in the suit because of the height difference between myself and the character. There’s some stuff that’s just a little bit too challenging for us to try to film with me in the suit. So I do what I can, and then I have the help of a couple of other great performers who do a lot of the work as well.
Is this suit more conformable than the custom from Revenge of the Sith?
You know what, it was a little bit more comfortable. (laughs.) I think they make improvements each time they make one — but still, it’s a very heavy custom.
In the series, 10 years have passed since Revenge, just what is your process for this iteration of the character? Do you still consider some vestiges from Anakin in him at this time that you wanted to make sure shined through?
Yes, I always see Anakin as a throughline and an undercurrent to this character. Vader is trying his best to kill off that side of him, but there always has to be a little bit of Anakin in there. And that presents itself, and that’s a part of the fun. I’m always thinking about the Anakin aspect of this character.
That encounter at Mapuzo in “Part III” was for most fans — you can’t please everybody — but for most, spectacular. I thought your performance shone through the suit spectacularly. Actors have told me in heavy makeup and/or a cumbersome costume, they have to give so much more to the performance. What was your process for the crucial scene?
You know, this is the first time we’ve seen Vader sort of chronologically this close to the Anakin Skywalker character, so there are some indications of Anakin in there. But for the most part, we’re trying to remain true to what we know and love about this character, and make sure we honor the way he moves and sounds to stay true to that continuity.
I loved the Mapuzo fight because it reminded me of the duel in The New Hope. The confrontation was more about the meaning of the fight, rather than the battle itself. When your characters fought in revenge, it was this eye-popping spectacle, but this was slow and deliberate. Can you expand on this from your mind’s eye?
Well, I think that came as a shock to Vader to see how disconnected from the Force Obi-Wan is at this point. I think Vader wants Obi-Wan to be able to put up more of a fight. I don’t want to say too much [about what’s to come].
Fair enough. I have to you that it really warmed my heart when you said in previous interviews that you feel how much fans adore and appreciate you because you didn’t necessarily always feel that way. Has that feeling intensified now that the series is underway?
I’ve gotten so many nice messages from people, from friends, showing their support. And it’s just it’s been a great honor for me to get to come back to this character and to feel the support from the fans. It is hugely meaningful for me and ultimately, they’re the reason why we get to come back and do all this. So yeah, I value their feelings a lot.
If you don’t mind sharing, did Mr. Lucas send a note, or has he said anything about your return?
(laughs.) No, I haven’t heard from Mr. Lucas yet. I hope he’s enjoying the show.
I’m curious if you looked back at the work in the prequels to prepare for Obi-Wan Kenobiand is there a moment that you are particularly proud of?
I certainly went back and watched all the films again and studied Anakin as much as I could. There is just a lot going on with the character. He’s always sort of processing and trying to figure out what’s going on around him.
I don’t know that I have a scene that I was most proud of, but there’s a scene where Anakin goes back to Tatooine in Episode II [Attack of the Clones] and speaks to Watto. The script had the dialogue written in English and then, in parenthesis, it said: “in Wattanese.” It wasn’t until the day before we started filming that I went to George, and I was like, “What should Wattanese sound like?” And he was like, “Well, you know, so long as it doesn’t sound like English or any other language that might sound familiar. You can just make it up.” (laughs.) So, I was rushing the night before to try to figure out how to make up Wattanese, and every time I see that scene, I get a bit of a kick out of it.
I know some actors do not like to watch themselves onscreen. They’ve told me it’s a matter of being too critical, seeing an instance they wish they could change. Since you got a second bite at the apple with this character, did you plan differently?
I wouldn’t say a different plan, but we are further informing this character and how we go about doing that. I think it’s interesting to approach this character after all this time and at this point in my life. I am definitely bringing something different to the table.
Safe to assume if Disney came to you with an Anakin prequel or Darth Vader limited series, you’re down?
Absolutely! To get to do more with this character would be amazing!
And finally, a fun one: Has Anakin softened at all about loathing sand? I assume you’re aware of how many fun fans have had with countless Anakin-sand memes.
(laughs.) You know, I think it’s funny people have taken such an interest in that line. Some of the dialogue is…different from what you’re maybe expecting. But I never had any issue with that line. (laughs.) I understood Anakin’s feelings toward sand, but maybe it was a bit of an odd time to bring it up, as he’s flirting with this girl who he has so much affection for. But, you know, he’s Anakin.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Obi-Wan Kenobi streams new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.