Attack of the Clones,  Prequel Trilogy,  Revenge of the Sith,  The Phantom Menace

The stunt coordinator for the Star Wars Prequels looks back on three lightsaber fights

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From Entertainment Weekly:

“Even Star Wars fans who have gripes about The Phantom Menace admit its climactic lightsaber fight is one of the best — if not the best — laser sword bout in the franchise. The riveting three-way battle with confident Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his eager apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) facing the ferocious Sith apprentice Darth Maul (Ray Park) is a spectacular sequence combining acrobatic moves and a clever deployment of an array of Force powers.

EW spoke to stunt coordinator Nick Gillard about that sequence — as well as the arena scene in Attack of the Clones and the Anakin vs. Obi-Wan fight in Revenge of the Sith.

The Phantom Menace

Gillard initially designed Phantom Menace fight with a five-minute demo reel to show Lucas. The director noted his films are for kids and played the footage for his then-5-year-old son Jett for a verdict. “Effectively, Jett Lucas decided the style of that fight,” Gillard says. The sequence ultimately took two months from start to finish because the team wanted to use the actors for as many shots as possible rather than stunt doubles.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment is when the fighting stops thanks to a series of forcefield chambers that briefly separate the fighters, ramping up the suspense. Neeson improvised the idea that Qui-Gon would use the time to sit and meditate, Gillard says. While Gillard suggested to Park what Darth Maul would do: “You look like a tiger in that makeup,” he recalls telling Park. “Why don’t you do what tigers do at the zoo when they walk back and forth looking at you through the cage?”

Attack of the Clones

[…] Filming [of the arena battle] took place over multiple days in Sydney, and the stunt team relied on detailed storyboards to capture both the overwhelming chaos of the battle and a few more intimate character moments — like Mace’s fateful clash with the mercenary Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison). Lucas also wanted familiar Jedi fighters like Ki-Adi-Mundi and the grinning, green Kit Fisto to participate in the battle, so Gillard worked with each actor to develop a signature lightsaber style. To populate the rest of the Jedi army, Gillard enlisted more than 100 fighters from sword clubs around Australia. He then spent a few days rehearsing with his new recruits, putting them through Jedi boot camp and adjusting their fight styles to be lightsaber-friendly.

Revenge of the Sith

[…] Filming the entire sequence [of the duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan] took about a week, but [Ewan] McGregor and [Hayden] Christensen rehearsed for two months until they could nail every kick, spin, and jump. The entire path of the fight had the actors traveling one kilometer and through seven different soundstages. “Obi and Anakin had to be really similar, as one taught the other, but Ewan moves very differently to Hayden, so the differences are very subtle,” Gillard explains. “When you saw them at full speed in the rehearsal room, it was a thing to behold.” Obi-Wan ultimately bests his apprentice, but it’s no victory: Anakin Skywalker dies, and Darth Vader rises.”

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  • Arnav “RayO1” Bhattacharjee

    Wow, the guy worked with each extra to develop a personalized lightsaber style. That’s impressive, to say the least, and though I do wish we got to see more of that in AOTC, the fact that they put in the effort to have such elements reflect the characterizations is phenomenal.

  • archdukeofnaboo

    Just after looking at the new “The Rise of Skywalker | Special Look” video on the official SW YouTube Channel. It’s heartening to see the comments these days, it’s changed so much since the dark darks.

    Here’s the top 3:

    “I find the lack of prequel footage disturbing.”

    “Hayden and Ewan, man. HAYDEN AND EWAN ARE SO IMPORTANT TOO DISNEY.”

    “They really like to ignore the prequels in any marketing stuff, don’t they? Kind of frustrating given how big an effect it clearly had on the franchise.”

    • jpieper668

      There was some Prequel stuff but not much and beginning the piece with so-called fan Jerk Jerk Abrams Doesn’t help either a real fan would respected the OT cast Not undo Their character Development and Victories from The OT along with Bringing Palpatine back

    • Cryogenic

      @ Arch Duke, @ Joe:

      Well, the footage they’re using from the OT era is certainly very lovely and a joy to watch (and what can beat that soft, gorgeous, cinema-verite 16-35 mm “behind the scenes” look?) — and you can’t argue with having the original cast, especially Mark Hamill, goofing off and fondly reflecting and explaining their hopes and enthusiasm for these movies. But yet…

      Yeah, Joe! Come on, Disney/LFL…

      This is now ridiculous. They might as well have not bothered with the scant prequel footage they used in your supplied clip, Joe. In three minutes and fifteen seconds of promo reel, the prequels get… what… FIVE SECONDS of footage??? And it’s all lifted from “The Beginning” (so just TPM).

      It’s literally two tiny clips of Ewan McGregor. Which in itself is suspicious. Ewan has long been a fan favourite, and now there’s the upcoming Obi-Wan series; and he, of course, is returning to his iconic role. And those clips flash by so quickly. You could call it subliminal advertising.

      “Prequels, go strap yourselves in. JJ’s gonna make the jump to fan pandering speed.”

      Obnoxious. Crass. Twisted. Perverse.

      I’m almost sensing a kind of “saga dysmorphia” on their side, or some weird purging ritual, where the prequels are being constantly alluded to by their absence and the tiny scraps they throw out: apophasis. Like they get into the digital editing bay and find themselves inserted there by accident. But we know this unwieldy denial is deliberate.

      “You were banished because you were clumsy?”

      Their constant, near-tyrannical emphasis on “family”, as some nostalgia-sanctifying meta-concept, is also incredibly grating — not least because a) they’re denying one branch/generation of the saga family almost entirely, and b) their own attempt at bringing a close-knit, loosey-goosey chemistry between the principal actors is either strained and contrived (TFA) or barely there at all (TLJ).

      I’m completely fed up of this middle-of-the-road, patronising, chocolate-box crap. This isn’t a good way to define the series (again: not when you’re excluding one-third of it). Lucas has called Star Wars a “soap opera”. But that’s not what they’re going with here. They’re trying to imply it’s all made with the best of intentions; even as they openly proceed in bad faith and deny the prequels their place at the table.

      I tell you what the prequels are to Disney. They’re Finn: the token black guy. They’re the uncomfortable “other” that has to be largely pushed aside and quarantined in polite “liberal” company. Can’t have those slaves rebelling. This curation of their intellectual property is also in-keeping with the cowardly conservatism at the core of capitalistic enterprise. In fact, it’s just what Disney does with its own chequered film past. This isn’t about family. It’s all about $$$.

      • archdukeofnaboo

        @Cryogenic

        I couldn’t put it any better than that. Or maybe I can try: the bourgeoisie and their Overton’s Window of acceptable Star Wars taste? “Liberal corporatists” as I think you dubbed them in a recent post.

        You know, the type of liberal who is all for social justice until his bank account comes under fire. The type of person who jumps up and down in rage on hearing the burning of Notre Dame or the pillaging of the Amazon Rainforest, but doesn’t blink an eyelid about rising homelessness in his own city or how Amazon treats its warehouse workers because that 1-day delivery is just oh too convenient. The type of person in mental paralysis about the future effects of climate change, but has never sought to complain about the tens of thousands of people who are not theoretical and actually happen to be suffering from brutal war and famine as we speak. The type of person who only figured out Facebook was bad when an election didn’t go their way. The type of person who saids we all need to quickly buy electric cars when the poor can barely afford to keep their 20 year old petrol going as is. The type of liberal who doesn’t dare question the role of women in an immigrant community. I could go on, yet I must stop.

        You see, the phony culture war works perfectly for the capitalist owner class because they have the above liberals and the working class (usually more socially conservative) distracted in a pointless scuffle, while meaningful issues are never debated. That the subject of discussion is more likely to be on the number of genders than on wage-slavery is truly a sad indictment on US society today.

        I would love to see Bernie do it next year and shake-up leviathan corporations like Disney, Cryo. But his supporter base are not very fond of the white working class and I fear the worst. Hopefully Corbyn has better luck.

        Have you see the leaked Amazon ant-union training video? It’s priceless:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQeGBHxIyHw

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        It’s funny you bring up Amazon — especially the one-day delivery thing. I recently ordered something on there (yes, I do use it, but who doesn’t?), and then found I’d been charged for the Amazon Prime service. I didn’t want it, so I went onto my account and cancelled after my bank billed me for it. I then called the customer service centre to request a refund. In their defence, at least, the lady on the phone (Indian, of course — I even took her name), the refund was applied automatically, or so she told me. I saw no indication of this online when I cancelled, but the money arrived back when she said it would.

        Now, that’s a fairly trivial degree of harm, but when I was reading around on the issue, trying to make sense of what happened and why I suddenly had that charge, I discovered that being charged for Amazon Prime is something that has happened to — or rather: been sprung on — many people. Amazon uses dirty, misleading tactics to dupe you into clicking the wrong thing when you’re placing an order and proceeding to the delivery stage. Even if you’re careful, as I always try to be, it’s easy to get fooled. They’ve been done by the Advertising Standards Authority a number of times: out of 11 complaints to the ASA in recent years, 10 were upheld. You can confirm that statistic and read more about some of their recent trickery over the Amazon Prime service (which the ASA again ruled unacceptable) here:

        https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/amazon-prime-free-trial-subscription-advert-banned-asa-a9178001.html

        Everything they do is highly deliberate — designed only to maximise profits.

        I shared a whole bunch of articles on Amazon on my own Facebook account not too long ago. I’ll have to go back over them. Working conditions, including the speed that warehouse employees are are expected to work at, and the targets they’re pressured to meet/exceed, are all appalling. Of course, as you alluded to, much worse things happen in Third World countries, but none of this says anything positive for the era of corporate capitalism we have somehow agreed to trap ourselves within.

        Even you forgot to explicitly mention their blatant tax evasion. The fact that Jeff Bezos is THE RICHEST PERSON IN THE WORLD is a stunning indictment of the corrupt practices of Amazon and of capitalism in general. This man holds an utterly obscene amount of wealth — wealth that he has obtained, like all billionaires (even Lucas can’t escape condemnation here), by parasiting off the backs of others and using every political lever to his advantage.

        A solid article on the gross injustice of the existence of billionaires, and how they procure their wealth, which is worth reading:

        https://truthout.org/articles/billionaires-are-panicking-over-the-growing-popularity-of-a-wealth-tax/

        (Note: The article states that Bezos is the second-richest person in the world, after Bill Gates, but the Internet disagrees).

        Here are a couple of salient paragraphs:

        A favored argument of billionaires and their defenders like [CNBC host] Jim Cramer is that a wealth tax is essentially “confiscating wealth.” But none of these mass fortunes were created in a vacuum and without the benefit of public goods and the structures of government. [Michael] Bloomberg’s major clients are Wall Street banks, who all benefit in times both bad and good from an implicit government backstop. [Bill] Gates has the legal system to thank for enforcing Microsoft’s patents. Every tech billionaire has government-funded research to thank for the creation of the internet, and all billionaires that employ workers can thank the government for an educated workforce.

        Wealth is often culturally viewed as evidence of hard work, grit and smarts, without any consideration of whether luck, grifting, corruption or illegal acts may have also played a role. In her new ad, [Elizabeth] Warren points out some of the more questionable parts of her billionaire critic’s past: the Securities and Exchange Commission charged [billionaire hedge fund manager Leon] Cooperman with insider trading. He’s hardly the first billionaire whose wealth may have accumulated due to lax enforcement. Jeff Bezos, the second-richest man in the world (being recently surpassed by Bill Gates), may have the government’s failure to pursue an antitrust case against Amazon to thank for his billions.

        ———————————–

        Your Amazon “union-busting training” video is absolutely mortifying. I had to check it wasn’t a parody. It’s the most Orwellian thing I’ve ever seen. Reprehensible and shockingly hostile in its anti-union overtures — truly McCarthyist — while trying to trick employees into somehow believing it’s not opposed to union activity!!! I may have heard about it already, but I’d never clicked and seen it till now. I’m honestly blown away by the sheer chutzpah of that video, and Bezos himself. It’s completely beyond anything I’ve seen outside of, say, “THX-1138” or “Demolition Man”, or a Scientology motivational video. It’s so extreme, I have to ask myself: are we actually living in a simulation? I have difficulty believing the reality of something so paranoid and brazen. Maybe we’re all inside a David Cronenberg movie.

        I want Bernie to win (or failing that: Andrew Yang). Not convinced he will (and certainly Yang won’t — but his campaign is still important). Bernie has a real chance, but he’s pretty old, and there seems to be a certain reluctance from some people — who certainly should know better — about moving away from Obama/Hillary-style centrism, toward a more progressive politics of the 21st Century. Indeed, Obama actually “outed” himself and came out swinging against Bernie and AOC the other day: to a room full of wealthy Democrat Party donors, of course. He wants people to believe that Bernie is bad news; that too much change, too soon, is bad for America. The irony of that, coming from Mister “Hope” and “Change is coming to America”, is off the scale — almost as bad as your Amazon video. Which only underlines the need for a left-wing movement against corporate tyranny all the more.

        I shared this clip to a Bernie page the other day (the wonderfully uncompromising Noam Chomsky defending Sanders), and it got a lot of likes and re-shares:

        https://www.democracynow.org/2016/4/27/noam_chomsky_bernie_sanders_is_not

        I suppose the United States is a bit of a weirder place. There’s more focus on middle-class liberal concerns than in the UK. It’s lunacy, as you suggest, to get swept up in pointless debates on gender pronouns when the deeper issues are being ignored. The searing injustice of income inequality, the climate crisis, the Earth being in the middle of a sixth major extinction event, lifting the poorest people in the world from abject poverty, ending bloody conflicts and famines around the world, and last but not least, the very real threat of nuclear war, are issues that must be vibrantly discussed and resolved.

        Yes… I’m white working class and a Corbyn supporter. Though his deliberate dithering on Brexit hasn’t impressed me one bit. In protest, I voted for the Greens in the European election, and they’re certainly a good party to give one’s vote to. However, two weeks from now, I’m intending to put a tick for Labour again — I see no other way of driving the Tories out, avoiding a Hard Brexit, saving the NHS, ending austerity, and building a more just and equal society for all. Unfortunately, the British electorate is largely controlled by the corrupt media, which is almost entirely owned by a handful of wealthy billionaire magnates. It is easy to play on fear and get people poor people of low education to vote against their own interests. It’s the story of capitalistic democracy in a nutshell.

        But there is more reason to hope of late. The Internet has begun to create a tilt in people’s thinking. Not all people. Not even most people. But some people. The tide is beginning to turn. Alas, if people don’t wake up soon, the Earth is surely to be plunged into a global tragedy — which could have been prevented had the dangers been seen and acted on sooner. Not unlike the Jedi in the PT. The movies we know and adore are now more relevant than ever.

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