A lightsaber is a part of a Jedi, a defining tool that reflects their personality, their goals, their needs. It turns out, this is just as true of the prop lightsabers designed by Lucasfilm as it is for their in-universe depictions.
Recently, StarWars.com posted an article about the behind-the-scenes details of some of the lightsaber designs in The Rise of Skywalker, and it’s a fascinating read. It includes a lot of small touches that you as a viewer wouldn’t notice in the film, but that define these weapons, speak to the personality of the people who wield them in the fiction, and reference their real-world origins.
For instance, the double-bladed switch-blade-y lightsaber wielded by Dark Rey in the film. As explained in the article by Lucasfilm archivist Madlyn Burkert, the design originated from a concept that used Rey’s staff as the base for the weapon. When it evolved into a more standard lightsaber design, it got sharp red accents and lots of blacks to emphasise its villainous nature. But what might not be as noticeable is that the black accents near the ignition point, which look like char, are in fact references to Darth Vader’s lightsaber, which had a similar char in certain props. Also, that snapped-together look? It’s accomplished by two strong magnets, which hold the weapon together when it’s not snapped in. Neat.
I also really appreciate the subtle details revealed here about Leia’s weapon. Like how the prop is stored in the Lucasfilm archive with a bag marked with the letter Q—for queen, of course—and how it has very small, more organic design touches in hidden parts of the blade that you would likely never see on film. This is what’s neat to me, how these are designed to show character in ways that exist just for the sake of the object itself, instead of for the presentation of the movie as such. Also, those rose gold accents? To die for. Leia had good taste.
For more details, check out the article on StarWars.com, which also includes a video with a tour of even more Star Wars props.