After almost two decades, Ewan McGregor will return to the Star Wars universe in the Obi-Wan Kenobi event series coming to Disney+. The character is the same, but the filmmaking techniques are light-years beyond the tools George Lucas used on the prequel trilogy between 1999 and 2005. Like many fans, McGregor wasn't always pleased with the extensive use of blue screens that moved away from the practical nature of the original trilogy and made it hard to immerse one's self in the world.
"George loves technology and loves pushing into that realm," the actor recently explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "He wanted more and more control over what we see in the background. 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. 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."
"On the prequels, at that point, George was going away a little bit from puppetry and Yoda was becoming digital for the first time," the prequels' production designer Gavin Boquet told SYFY WIRE in 2019. "George has always been one to explore those sort of possibilities."
McGregor won't have to worry about acting against non-existent environments and creatures on Obi-Wan, which is borrowing the revolutionary StageCraft technology created for another Star Wars television project, The Mandalorian. The process involves projecting highly-detailed backgrounds onto giant LED screens (dubbed the "Volume") that put the cast and audience into the thick of the action in real time. "So if you're in a desert, you're standing in the middle of a desert," McGregor said. "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."
Speaking with SYFY WIRE last year, Rogue One and Mandalorian cinematographer Greg Fraser asserted that "the world as a whole is kind of underestimating" StageCraft.
"I had the opportunity to show a lot of filmmakers through the Volume in the first season and when you’re standing there with George Lucas or you’re standing there with Steven Spielberg and they’re both like, ‘Whoa! This is really cool,’ you go, ‘Yeah, this is really cool,'" he added. "I know that every studio on the planet — be it Sony, Warner Bros., [or] Universal — need to be embracing this technology. Not embrace it [but] they need to promote it to their filmmakers because it allows filmmakers to do things that would ordinarily cost more money or be more restrictive. I think there are ways to use this technology to save money, but that’s not the main thing. It’s to improve the quality and do it with less infrastructure."
McGregor won't be the only prequel veteran returning to the galaxy far, far away. Hayden Christensen is coming back to play Obi-Wan's fallen Padawan, Darth Vader, while Bonnie Piesse and Joel Edgerton reprise their roles as Luke Skywalker's adoptive parents, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Moses Ingram (The Queen's Gambit), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Rupert Friend (Hitman: Agent 47), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Sung Kang (Fast & Furious 9), Simone Kessell (The Crossing), and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems) round out the supporting cast of characters. Who those characters are exactly, we're not sure — Lucasfilm keeps its secrets more secure that Jabba's Rancor pit!
Filming on Obi-Wan Kenobi is set to commence this month and McGregor prepared by growing out his beard (he's gotta match Alec Guinness's hermit swagger now). Disney+ has yet to set a premiere date for the limited series, but if production is only just kicking off, we don't expect it to be ready until the start of 2022 at the earliest.
At the time of his conversation with THR, McGregor had done some screen tests with director Deborah Chow and a few others. "I can see that she is a really, really good director," he said. When asked if he'd met the actor set to play a young Luke, he remained a little more cagey. "That's very possible," he added. "I don't know."