Revenge of the Sith’ Q&A

Having wowed the Leicester Square crowds at last night’s ‘Revenge of the Sith’ premiere, Hayden Christensen (Anakin), Ian McDiarmid (Chancellor Palpatine) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) sat down with assorted hacks this morning to discuss the new film. This is what they had to say, although beware, there are spoilers ahead.

Anthony, congratulations, you have made movie history – the only actor to have a speaking role in all six of the ‘Star Wars’ films. When did you first realise how big a deal it was becoming?

Anthony Daniels: It was actually Newsweek magazine that just blasted the whole thing – saying this is going to be the best thing ever. Because ‘Star Wars’ opened with no publicity – it was just audiences going in and coming out screaming and taking their friends and so it built. Originally ‘Star Wars’ for me was a 12-week gig, and that was it. You know it was 30 years ago that I met George Lucas in an office down the road from here, and I didn’t want to meet him; I didn’t want to play a robot in a low-budget sci-fi movie. Can you imagine how I would have felt today, as a shelf stacker in a supermarket going: ‘Aaah, I could have been in that movie!’ So I guess the force was with me.

Ian, your character becomes almost satanic in this movie – how did you turn him into this hideously evil monster?

Ian McDiarmid: Well, it’s interesting – especially in the sequels and for those of you that didn’t see ‘Return of the Jedi’ – because I just play a straightforward politician. Now there is a contradiction in terms. Charming, smiling – out for the good of the world, the universe and the community. And underneath there lies a monster. So it was very easy to build the character – I just looked in the newspapers.

Did the make-up help?

Ian McDiarmid: Yes, it certainly helps to be a monster in monstrous make-up. But George is very interesting; when we started ‘The Phantom Menace’ he said: ‘You should think of your eyes as his contact lenses,’ which is a great thing to say to an actor. So my face was actually his mask. And then when I put on the actual mask, I’d become him. So that kind of schizophrenia was always fun to play, and in this film it’s great – he is who he is. Worse than the devil I think, really, and certainly worse than Darth Vader, who in this movie comes across more sympathetic than people might imagine.

Hayden, the iconic scene for you is when we see the rotted, melted face of Anakin, before Darth’s mask is attached. Was it worth all the pain and suffering in make-up for that moment?

Hayden Christensen: Absolutely. The pain and suffering actually came when you took the prosthetic off – they made a full body prosthetic that they would glue to every inch of your face – putting it on was fine, taking it off was a different story. But with the full make-up on, you’re unrecognisable, which helps in making that transformation. But it was a thrilling moment, lying there on the operating table as that mask came down.

How did people react to you when you were in the full Darth Vader regalia?

Hayden Christensen: Watching everyone take him in for the first time was what was really cool. People that I had befriended and spent a lot of time with, who knew I was in the costume, would see him and though there was an excitement and a certain awe, there was also a fear and respect. As I walked by their eyes would light up and they would sort of lower their heads a bit and take a couple of steps back and let me pass. A very empowering feeling.

So was the day you first put on the suit a real event?

Hayden Christensen: It was a glorious day. It was the last day of filming as well and everyone from the production office and everyone working on the film came out to witness it. It was an exciting day.

Were you always pleasantly surprised by Natalie Portman’s hairstyles?

Hayden Christensen: There was a new hairstyle every day, more elaborate than the last, but she can pull them all off, which is pretty impressive.

What was the best thing about turning bad?

Hayden Christensen: Obviously, in this film, getting to become Darth Vader and putting on the costume, and having that in my back pocket now. The Darth Vader card.

How about you, Ian, did you enjoy playing the baddest of the bad?

Ian McDiarmid: Yes, he is the darkest of the dark, the blackest of the black, even worse than Satan. And it’s fun - you don’t get a part like that every day. I like the fact that he doesn’t really have any psychological workings. He was spawned in hell – Sith’s are, apparently. They can’t get better. Except you’ve seen the movie – he goes to the opera – so his one redeemable feature is he’s a patron of the arts.

Anthony, what was good about being in a tin can for weeks on end?

Anthony Daniels: Not a lot, frankly. The costume was made to a mould of my body, but in the manufacturing it all shrank and on the first day it took two hours, with six props guys, to squeeze and push and screw me in there. My moment of joy came when I finally stepped out of my tent – there was no Hollywood glamour, just a tent in the desert – and saw all the crew. The Americans were going ‘Gosh, that’s incredible’, and the English were going ‘Quite interesting, isn’t it’, and the Tunisians were going ‘Wow’ because they really thought I was the second coming. That was my moment of joy. The next moment the assistant director said, ‘Can you come over to the set?’ And I took one step in the costume and it nearly broke and cut my foot off. I knew I was in deep doo-doo from then on.

I would imagine that you couldn’t afford to put on even a few ounces of weight?

Anthony Daniels: If you’ve met Rick McCallum you know they’re not going to make a new costume every time we do these films, so I’m actually wearing the same costume and it’s beginning to smell a bit now. Like Hayden I work out a bit to try and stay strong and healthy, although I think I blew the diet last night [at the premiere] as champagne is very fattening, I understand. But the biggest shock for me was talking to myself through most of these movies because R2-D2 is adorable but doesn’t speak and it’s kind of hard to do a performance with actors who don’t respond.

Hayden, did you think Anakin’s slaying of the children in the film was a step too far?

Hayden Christensen: Well it took me by surprise when I read it for the first time. But it’s a necessary evil – all the Jedi have to go, even the children. It’s a dark film and Anakin does some pretty dark things on that downward spiral.

Early on in the film you get to terrorise Christopher Lee like he has terrorised so many film fans over the years. Did you get any tips from him?

Hayden Christensen: He’s full of tips and stories – what a man – he’s just a well of knowledge and experience, and he’s happy to share it all. I always tried to sit down to get a story or two out of him if I could.

Given that the story arc is all about Anakin’s transformation, was there ever a moment when you were worried about what you had to deliver, and did that challenge make you nervous?

Hayden Christensen: Of course – it’s a daunting task taking on a role that has such a tension, and as much as possible you try to disregard all of it, but there were a few very pivotal scenes that were a challenge. Obviously the one with myself, Ian [McDiarmid] and Sam Jackson is a big one, and you go to work on those days thinking: ‘I’ve got to deliver.’ Thankfully George had conceived such a well-arced character that I really just had to follow the script and follow his lead.

Anthony, you get to say the last words in the last film and the first words in the first one – how does that feel?

Anthony Daniels: I didn’t realise that I had the last line in this movie because sometimes the scripts change. I had the first line in the first movie, which was [doing C-3PO's rather camp voice]: ‘Did you hear that? They’ve shut down the main reactor. We’ll be destroyed for sure. There’ll be no escape for the princess this time!’ And I didn’t really know what I was talking about, frankly. I’d never been in a film before and I thought: ‘This is weird!’

Anthony then goes on to talk of the last line in ‘Revenge of the Sith’, but for fear of spoiling the surprise, we’re leaving the final part of his final answer on the cutting-room floor.

However, to find out what poetic gem ends the film, ‘Revenge of the Sith’ hits cinema screens everywhere on Thursday (May 19). And to read Time Out’s Q&A with George Lucas himself, make sure you return to the site tomorrow.

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