Obi-Wan Kenobi,  Prequel Trilogy

Ewan McGregor should thank the fans of the Star Wars Prequels instead of crying about these movies

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Obi-Wan Kenobi actor Ewan McGregor cries about his experience on the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy and doesn’t seem to have anything nice to say about the three movies.

Looking back, McGregor, whose subtle Obi-Wan was seen as a bright spot in the troubled series, acknowledges that it “was hard they didn’t get well received. That was quite difficult. They were universally not very much liked.” […]

With each successive and underwhelming prequel release, director George Lucas employed more and more CGI, “because George loves technology and loves pushing into that realm,” McGregor explains. “He wanted more and more control over what we see in the background.” By Revenge of the Sith, physical sets and backdrops had almost entirely been replaced by bluescreens. “After three or four months of that, it just gets really tedious — especially when the scenes are … I don’t want to be rude, but it’s not Shakespeare,” he continues. “There’s not something to dig into in the dialogue that can satisfy you when there’s no environment there. It was quite hard to do.”

That won’t be a problem on the set of Obi-Wan Kenobi, where, as pioneered by creator Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian in a process called StageCraft, “they project [the virtual backgrounds] onto this massive LED screen. So if you’re in a desert, you’re standing in the middle of a desert. If you’re in the snow, you’re surrounded by snow. And if you’re in a cockpit of a starfighter, you’re in space. It’s going to feel so much more real.”

If McGregor wasn’t involved in Star Wars anymore, I wouldn’t care much about this. But he’ll play Obi-Wan again in a new series, and it’s certainly not because of scornful journalists like the one who did this interview. His return is largely due to the fans of the Prequel Trilogy who loudly asked to see more of the main characters.

So even if McGregor is not fond of these films, he should stop being a dick and keep it to himself, at least while promoting the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

16 Comments

  • Roxam

    I don’t think he was necessarily bashing them, but he could’ve certainly worded it better (much of the negativity from this article appears to be from the words of the author as opposed to Ewan himself). Having followed many of his interviews over the years where he discusses the PT, there were always two things that were consistent regarding his feelings to the movies (and were evident in this interview):

    1. He was very disheartened by the bashing the prequels got (I mean, who among us wasn’t?)

    2. He has made it no secret that performing around green screen is incredibly difficult, which isn’t really a unique issue for Star Wars (actors involved in other franchises dealing with heavy use of green screen/CGI tend to give similar comments). So I can sort of see his point as an actor trying to do his job. That said, the technology was still brand new at the time, so George, Ewan, and the rest of the PT crew should be happy at what they were able to achieve, and how George’s contributions paved the way for the advancements that Ewan mentioned make his job easier now.

    • Alexrd

      I’ll never understand actors who can’t deal with greenscreen. The past generations never had a problem with it. Acting is make belief. It’s playing pretend. Using your imagination is a requirement to being an actor. Greenscreen is nothing but a canvas. It’s no different than the back curtain in a theater stage.

      • Jure Humar

        I completely agree. It’s so pathetic that they “require” real sets to act. It makes no sense. It’s as if a writer would require a real setting to write a (fantasy) book.

  • Cryogenic

    I agree with Anthony here — if I don’t, he’ll disintegrate me!

    Only kidding. He’ll lock me in a cell and feed me to the Sarlacc instead.

    But seriously:

    While we need to keep the agenda of the Hollyweird Reporter author in mind, especially since they engage in the usual tokenistic bashing (while tepidly acknowledging the prequels have a legitimate following in a throwaway parenthetic comment at the end), Ewan does sound like he’s throwing the PT and its fanbase under the bus again.

    Instead of putting aside his frustrations and misgivings (which is different to saying he shouldn’t express them at all), Ewan dwells on the negative (ironically: something Obi-Wan accuses Anakin of in AOTC) — effectively gaslighting prequel fans, including younger generations, just finding their voice online, by pretending they don’t exist (sinning by omission).

    There’s something a touch image-conscious, even snooty, in his remarks. He says absolutely nothing about working with a visionary filmmaker like George Lucas (aside from indirectly acknowledging the tedium/difficulty of working with greenscreen: poor, poor Ewan!). Nor does he acknowledge the visionary and complex aspects of the prequels themselves. These things weren’t just put together in a day. They were the result of years of planning and careful execution (unlike throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks Disney) — and there’s actually a strong set of messages and themes at work that were cogently woven into all three (again, vis-a-vis the Disney movies, which aren’t exactly chopped liver, but seem to be occurring in a strip-mined, fishbowl universe by comparison).

    As Anthony rightly points out, Ewan’s ingratitude stands out in stark relief given what he is ostensibly giving an interview for: (partially or mostly) to promote the upcoming Obi-Wan miniseries. While it’s the author’s own flourish (or possibly even an editor’s), the article even begins by referring to him as Obi-Wan, despite describing the effects of the COVID vaccine on Ewan the actor! That’s how big and iconic his character is — how big and iconic, in part, Ewan helped make Obi-Wan become (stepping into those big shoes of Alec Guinness’), to be sure; but it would all be for nothing if George Lucas hadn’t given him that opportunity… and yes… if the *fans* hadn’t demanded to see Ewan playing Obi-Wan (and Hayden playing Anakin) again.

    Saying that the dialogue isn’t Shakespeare is also quite rude; despite Ewan affirming to the contrary. I take his point. He felt he didn’t have much to hang onto as an actor. But before Lucas winnowed down the scenes in editing, there was ample dialogue (if still, compared to what some of these actors were used to or expecting, quite basic) for them to chew on, and more than enough physical acting, especially for Ewan, to keep busy with. On the other hand, of course: I wasn’t there. So who am I? But it’s a tad insulting to Lucas and to the fans of these films that he can’t say anything good about them; or recognise the beauty and magnetic appeal (even to those who hate them) of the finished result. We get it. He was disappointed. But there’s a brittle, dour, handwringing tone, and a lack of chivalry, in his recollecting that grinds.

  • Carlos Cuevas

    He works for Disney now, this is the narrative he’s been instructed to follow. Expect some BS like “hAyDen cAn aCt wHeN hEs GiVeN pRoPeR DiReCtIoN aNd a gOoD sCrIpT” and many more when the series comes out.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Carlos:

      You’re not wrong, Carlos. He’s working for people that don’t exactly have the warmest regard for the prequels, starting with all that anti-PT dogwhistle and empty fan pandering when they were beginning to promote “The Force Awakens” (or “The Farce Engorges” as one YouTuber calls it). That said, Ewan has expressed similar sentiments before; and not just the once. At this point, he’s either telling people what he thinks they want to hear, or he still feels genuinely sour about his experiences years after the fact (or, maybe, a bit of both). It’s the ingratitude and the chip-on-his-shoulder aspects that are annoying.

        • Cryogenic

          @ Carlos:

          Yep. He’s either dialled up his disdain (or forgotten his earlier enthusiasm), or the remarks were edited and more positive statements were left out. On Naboo News in 2019, for example, he was similarly negative in another article, yet a touch more self-aware:

          http://naboonews.com/2019/01/31/ewan-mcgregor-the-star-wars-prequels-meant-a-lot-to-the-generation-that-were-kids-then/

          (Reproducing the Vanity Fair remarks from that page)

          “Episode III was all green screen: they had us on green disks on a green floor with a green background, and a guy on the floor rotating us like chickens, as we lunged at each other with lightsabers. What keeps you emotionally grounded is the other actor. Episode II, I was on my own, speaking to thin air. But this scene was harrowing for Obi-Wan. I lose Anakin, and we see the danger of what it might lead to in Episodes IV, V, and VI. For all my moaning about green screen, I did enjoy playing Obi-Wan and this link to Alec Guinness. George Lucas wanted to do something very different with the prequels. That’s why people felt cheated. It was upsetting when people would laugh and joke about it. Now, many years later, the prequels meant a lot to the generation that were kids then. So from smirking, cynical opinions, now I’m getting feedback from the kids they were made for. I’m really happy about that.” —As told to Joanna Robinson

          Note that he said in the middle of that rant (in addition to falsely/melodramatically asserting that “Episode III was all green screen”):

          “For all my moaning about green screen, I did enjoy playing Obi-Wan and this link to Alec Guinness.”

          Not hearing that this time. It’s like he regrets becoming involved. I sincerely hope he thinks more kindly about them than that.

    • Steven D Bragg

      He said many of the same things im magazine interviews in 1999-2005. I still have many of the magazines. I mean even Alec Guinness called the dialogue banal and ropey.

  • Cryogenic

    I just posted the following to the Naberrie Fields discussion board:

    In 1999, any number of publications ran a piece on TPM. The Sunday Times in the UK issued a “Special Collectors Issue” magazine, which I eagerly purchased and still have (second-hand copies going cheap are still plentiful on eBay). I knew there was a quote lurking in there from Brian Blessed of interest — it’s basically the antipode of Ewan’s salty remarks in the Hollywood Reporter interview. Luckily, I found the quote, along with some other complimentary statements. There is a neat dialectic between Ewan’s recent remarks and Brian’s comments from 1999. I think we can each decide which of the two perspectives resonates more strongly for us:

    First, Ewan in the Hollywood Reporter:

    McGregor’s first taste of Star Wars was a very personal one. His uncle is Denis Lawson, a Scottish actor who played Wedge Antilles — the only X-wing fighter besides Luke Skywalker to survive the original trilogy. He still remembers being a young boy and seeing his uncle firing away at the Death Star on the big screen.

    Years later, Lawson advised McGregor against taking the part of Obi-Wan Kenobi — he resented that his own part in Star Wars ended up overshadowing the rest of his career — but “the closer I got to it,” McGregor explains, “the more I wanted to do it.”

    But what began as a star fantasy evolved over a number of years into an actor’s nightmare. With each successive and underwhelming prequel release, director George Lucas employed more and more CGI, “because George loves technology and loves pushing into that realm,” McGregor explains. “He wanted more and more control over what we see in the background.” By Revenge of the Sith, physical sets and backdrops had almost entirely been replaced by bluescreens. “After three or four months of that, it just gets really tedious — especially when the scenes are … I don’t want to be rude, but it’s not Shakespeare,” he continues. “There’s not something to dig into in the dialogue that can satisfy you when there’s no environment there. It was quite hard to do.”

    Now, Brian Blessed in the Sunday Times magazine in 1999 (p. 16):

    Unlike other science fiction, Star Wars cannot date by growing old: it is set not in the future but the distant past, and its story has universal themes. “Star Wars is not a simple morality play,” wrote the late Joseph Campbell, an authority on mythology. “It has to do with the powers of life as they are either fulfilled or broken or suppressed through the action of man.” When Lucas’s colleagues went to the cinema and saw as a finished entity the ridiculous venture they had been part of, some were moved to tears.

    Before long a cult developed around the film’s creator, a devotion so strong that rational, intelligent people can seem to lose balance. “Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are the three finest films I’ve ever seen,” says the actor Brian Blessed, who appears in The Phantom Menace as the voice of a computer-generated character, Boss Nass. “I feel that Star Wars does more for the civilised development of the human race than any other piece of art in the world.” Blessed was entranced by Star Wars when he first saw it in Birmingham, where he was playing King Lear. He emerged from the cinema feeling cleansed, and two decades later his conversation still includes Star Wars references. “I’m not interested in asteroids, Commander,” he might say, or “That’s it — the Hoth system.” If Shakespeare were alive today, says Blessed, he’d be George Lucas.

    • ArchdukeOfNaboo

      I hadn’t read those Brian Blessed comments before, thanks for sharing. I believe Brian was one of the earliest PT actors (along with the guy played Chancellor Vallorum) to take a dig at the prequels, so it’s good to know it wasn’t all negative from him. These quotes are remarkedbly high praise for one film series.

      One PT alumni who has always elighted me with his unbridled joy is Samuel L. Jackson. He speaks so lovingly about Lucas and his time on set, there isn’t the slightest whiff of ingratitude. Others could do with taking a leaf out of his book.

      I would love to see a panel one day with as much of the PT actors brought together as possible. You may see a different side to Ewan.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        They are high praise, aren’t they? I’m not aware of any negativity, per se, from Mr. Blessed. A few years ago, however, a video was published on YouTube where he was interviewed about his role in TPM; and while Blessed was mostly his uber-gregarious and “1000 energy drinks” self, there is a moment where he seemed to imply that Jar Jar was a bit full-on and could have done with being toned down a notch (but to be fair: in answer to a question put to him) — and that he tried to offer technical advice to this effect to George Lucas (based around the dialogue and some of the alleged “sounds” that Jar Jar makes):

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTJ3DSNP6Dg&ab_channel=TheGeeknd%5BJamieStangroom%5D

        The example he chooses is a poor one, in my estimation. When Jar Jar tells the Jedi about the Gungans having retreated to their “sacred grove” (Blessed’s wording), the dialogue there, in my opinion, is perfectly intelligible — indeed, a close-up is even employed on Jar Jar’s face in that moment, and then we see Jar Jar gesturing for the Jedi (and the queen and her entourage) to follow him (with a smooth transition taking us straight to the Gungan Sacred Place that Jar Jar has led them to).

        That said, I think Blessed was actually being fairly gallant and reasonable in trying to “explain” why Jar Jar didn’t necessarily go down well for some people (the operative term being “some people” here: Gallup polling at the time demonstrates that many people had no issue with Jar Jar; or nothing like the backlash would have you believe). He offers something of an actor’s critique; rather than bashing the character or Lucas’ intentions.

        However, I think he exaggerates the idiosyncratic nature of Jar Jar’s dialogue; and he also seems to overlook the fact that the film was clearly designed to be seen more than once (and that the target audience — young kids — seemed to love Jar Jar and follow along with him just fine). It’s also possible that Lucas *did* take onboard what Brian Blessed said to him (assuming Blessed is being truthful or recollecting faithfully).

        I agree that Samuel Jackson has radiated good vibes about the prequels since the start — he even begged for Lucas to put him in the prequels on a British TV programme! Like Christopher Lee, he understood the nature of the material, and what he was getting himself into, right from the beginning. On the other hand, compared to Ewan, he was only playing a tertiary character. It seems that Ewan was hoping for a slightly more tangible experience.

        A prequel panel would be awesome! But these people lead busy lives, and I wonder, at this stage, if it’ll ever happen. But yeah, I imagine if Ewan did one, we’d see some of his lost enthusiasm return.

        • ArchdukeOfNaboo

          I do hope they can put Ewan and Hayen together for the Kenobi press tour – just the two of them. And what I’d give to be the interviewer!

          I’m genuinely excited about this show. I have seen neither a trailer nor a photo, so I’m working purely on my imagination. I have to go back to 2004 or 2014 to recall anything like the feeling of the butterflies for Star Wars.

        • Cryogenic

          @ Arch Duke:

          “I do hope they can put Ewan and Hayen together for the Kenobi press tour – just the two of them. And what I’d give to be the interviewer!”

          They’re the rock stars of the PT, like Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford for the OT; and, to some extent, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega on the sequels, aren’t they? It’d be great to see them together again.

          “I’m genuinely excited about this show. I have seen neither a trailer nor a photo, so I’m working purely on my imagination. I have to go back to 2004 or 2014 to recall anything like the feeling of the butterflies for Star Wars.”

          I think I was only pumped up good and proper the way you describe in 2012 — after the announcement of Lucas selling to Disney (although I also had *very* mixed thoughts about that), but more because there was a whole new trilogy in the works. The mythical sequel trilogy was getting made at last!!! (Albeit under Disney — and, well, we saw how that went). That was the most exciting announcement since Lucas announcing the prequels, or the build-up to the release of TPM for me.

          I think this’ll be a cool series, but my expectations are “in check”, as they say, because this is an entirely separate project. It has the original actors, but then, so did the Sequel Trilogy. Neither have much to do with George Lucas. It’s a spinoff/an adaptation/a tangential yarn. But this has every chance of being one of the better ones and pulling in a good number of viewers. It’s just… it ain’t the prequels, either. I long for a slightly more ethereal take on the whole thing (what Lucas seemingly intended for the sequels). We’ll see.

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