The Star Wars prequels have had a rough couple of decades, from seemingly universal mockery to a renewed level of appreciation, as the audiences that watched them as children grew up and re-appraised their strengths and weaknesses. But now that we live in a more civilized age, it would seem, fondness for the films has helped Ewan McGregor re-appraise his own connection to the franchise.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in a wide-ranging profile as the actor prepares to return to his role as Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi — living a life of exile on Tatooine in the self-titled Disney+ series, set a decade after Revenge of the Sith — McGregor reflected on how his excitement to be a part of Star Wars was, initially, dampened by fan reaction to the prequel films. “[It] was hard they didn’t get well-received,” McGregor acknowledged. “That was quite difficult. They were universally not very much liked.”
But times have changed, for both the actor and the prequels — not just because of their audiences growing up and reclaiming the trilogy as their own slice of Star Wars, but because over the years, the franchise itself has recontextualized and re-visited the storytelling of the era to flesh out the things that people appreciated most about its world, from shows like The Clone Wars to decades of books and comics. “I’m really excited about it,” the actor said of returning. “Maybe more so than the first ones, because I’m older — I just turned 50 — and I’m just in a much better place.”
It’s not just critical revisits that have evolved, of course, but the technology too — gone are the days of endless bluescreen as George Lucas pushed the digital effects processes he pioneered alongside ILM across the prequel films. “There’s not something to dig into in the dialogue that can satisfy you when there’s no environment there,” McGregor recalled. “It was quite hard to do.” That pioneering has come full circle, thanks to The Mandalorian’s championing of virtual sets through 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,” McGregor added. “It’s going to feel so much more real.”
As for the show itself, McGregor stays fairly mum on what audiences can expect out of Obi-Wan’s return. Aside from a brief mention of lightsaber training — postponed so the actor could recover from the second shot of his covid-19 vaccine — McGregor had one cheeky tease, answering a suggestion that some of his test screenings for the series could’ve involved a young Luke Skywalker.
“That’s very possible,” McGregor teased. “I don’t know.”
How very Obi-Wan Kenobi of him, from a certain point of view.