Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor are back in the hotly anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi (Picture: Disney; Reuters)
Ewan McGregor hadn’t swung a lightsaber in anger for over 15 years.
Upon leaving Star Wars behind following the release of Revenge Of The Sith in 2005, it seemed like the 51-year-old Scottish actor was happy to hang up his Jedi robes and embrace franchise retirement.
Now, though, older and wiser, he is returning to the biggest role of his career: Obi-Wan Kenobi. It begs the question: is swinging a lightsaber like riding a bike?
‘It took a little while,’ says McGregor, remarkably candid company for a project so wrapped in secrecy.
‘I mean, I was probably fitter doing this one than I was doing them in the 1990s. Fight stuff is like doing a boxing match. Every fight scene is a round of boxing and you’re absolutely white by the end of it. You have to make sure you’re in good shape.’
It’s been a convoluted road to get here. First mooted in 2015, Obi-Wan Kenobi started life as a movie before being shelved following the poor performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Their return has been a long time coming… (Picture: Ian West/PA Wire)
It re-emerged in 2019 as a TV series for Disney+ and finally arrives at the end of this week almost 45 years to the day since A New Hope hit cinemas.
And, of course, as it’s a Star Wars project, that means we know next to nothing about it. Still, McGregor fills in as many blanks as Disney’s lawyers will let him.
‘We find Obi-Wan in a broken place,’ he says. ‘It comes a few years after Order 66, when the Jedis were all but wiped out and he’s lost his brother and his padawan to the dark side, and he feels responsible for that.
‘He’s in hiding because the Jedis are being hunted down by the Grand Inquisitor, who is trying to wipe them out, and he’s lost his faith. I thought it was interesting to take a character you know and love and put them in that sort of place and see if they can get out of it.’
Ewan plays Obi-Wan (Picture: AP / Disney+)
Hayden is back as Darth Vader (Picture: Lucasfilm Ltd.)
But McGregor is not alone in returning to the franchise after a long time away.
Hayden Christensen is also back as Darth Vader, who is on the hunt for Obi-Wan after Obi-Wan left him for dead at the end of the third movie – and, naturally, that means slipping into that iconic suit.
‘It’s been a while,’ says Christensen, relaxed and content in a way I didn’t expect. ‘The day I put the suit back on was incredible. It’s such an iconic costume and you really feel the significance of it when you’re wearing it. It wasn’t something
I was expecting for many years. One of my favourite things about wearing it is watching other people’s reactions and watching them see Darth Vader.’
But amid all the excitement about McGregor and Christensen returning to Star Wars, we can’t escape the Wookiee-shaped elephant in the room: no one really liked the prequels.
They were savaged by critics, slammed by fans and were the death knell for George Lucas’s film career.
Does returning to the franchise now come with a weight of expectation to get it right second time around or is it more a case of just enjoying it this time?
‘I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on the prequels,’ says Christensen. ‘It was beyond my wildest dreams. But getting to come back to the Star Wars world after all this time away, you know, I think you have a different perspective on life in general and you appreciate things in a different way. It’s been really great.’
Moses Ingram also stars in the series (Picture: Disney+ via AP)
McGregor agrees: ‘I loved it. I don’t ever feel that way. There’s no place for the weight of expectation on set. You always hope the work you’re doing is going to be liked and mean something to somebody but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the audience when we’re making it.
‘I didn’t even feel a weight of expectation in the first three. Even when the first and the second one came out and there was loads of criticism of them, it wasn’t like, on set, you’re paying any attention to that. You’re just trying to get this moment right for the character in whatever situation.’
The two of them have struck up a bond as strong as their characters from the movies (except the betrayal part). Each lights up when given the chance to speak about the other. It’s easy to get the impression reconnecting was every bit as important to them as the series itself.
‘It was so great to come back to Star Wars but it was especially thrilling to do it with Ewan and reconnect with him,’ says Christensen. ‘We definitely have a special bond because of our time together during the prequels and I’ve got so much love and admiration for the man.’
McGregor recalls their first reunion: ‘It was just great to see him again. I met up with Hayden in pre-production and we went for a walk in Santa Monica.
‘It was during the lockdown and I hadn’t seen him in years, and I only got to see his eyes because we were walking along with our masks on in a park and it was just great to catch up. We just caught up about our lives. So much has gone on since we’ve seen each other last.
‘It’s been really special to be on set with him and see how loved he is. The crew is really into Star Wars and when Hayden came on set it was crazy. The buzz!’
Obi-Wan Kenobi is streaming on Disney+ from Friday.