‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Has Created a Major Hayden Christensen Problem
Obi-Wan Kenobi episode 4 spoilers.
In a recent interview with ET, Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s Ewan McGregor revealed that “hundreds of people” showed up on set to see Hayden Christensen in costume as Darth Vader again. And even more tune in to the show each week for that exact purpose. But, in reality, Hayden doesn’t appear much as Anakin at all. And he’s not the only one in that Darth Vader suit either…
To be fair, old Buckethead has never been played by just one person. Even in A New Hope, James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader while the late David Prowse wore his suit. For the next two films, Bob Anderson was brought in to play Darth Vader’s big fight sequences, and of course, Hayden Christensen eventually wore the suit in his prequel trilogy. And let’s not overlook Sebastian Shaw, who gave him a face in Return of the Jedi.
This time around, James Earl Jones has been enlisted to voice Darth again, although a credit to Respeecher tech suggests that at least some of his lines were generated by AI software, probably using older clips to add and enhance new lines. As you might recall, this same process was used to de-age some of Mark Hamill’s dialogue for Luke Skywalker just recently in The Book of Boba Fett.
But Jones and Christensen aren’t the only ones bringing Anakin to life this time around. After episode three of Obi-Wan Kenobi aired, stuntman Dmitrious Bistrevsky answered a number of fan queries on Instagram, where he revealed that three people wear the suit this season:
“We all worked together to create the best Darth Vader in cinematic history. It’s me, it’s Hayden, it’s Tom [O’Connell]. We are a symbiosis. We all contributed our strengths to create the best representation of the character.”
But who does what? And how much do each of these three actors actually contribute to the role?
“Hayden and I both act in the Darth Vader scenes,” says Bistrevsky. “We bring the character and emotions (and the pain, suffering, anger) I’m 6’7 so when you see a full body shot it looks better having an actor than a CGI creation. Tom specialises in the fighting. The fights are Tom. Full body with Helmet On is me, Hayden carries the heaviest burden of all, the pain and betrayal of his best friend and once mentor.”
Bistrevsky mentions in one reply that he learned the lines “like everyone else”, but he’s also quick to point out that: “Without Hayden there would be no story for me to tell. He is my friend, he showed up so hard for this project. He bulked, Hayden was so swole when he arrived to set that both Tom and I quivered in our muscle suits.”
It could be argued that this set-up is quite similar to The Mandalorian in that one central actor, Pedro Pascal in this case, played his role alongside other stunt performers under that helmet. However, the difference there is that Pedro also voiced the character, and even appeared without the helmet eventually as well.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is somewhat different in that Anakin Skywalker is also voiced by someone else too. So it’s odd in a way that there was so much fanfare around Hayden Christensen’s return given that he’s not really in the role much at all.
Yes, that’s presumably him in the bacta tank, and yes, he does pop up for a second as one of Ben’s visions in the desert, but more than ever before, this version of Darth Vader is a Frankenstein project made up of many more parts than just Hayden. And while it is understandable that promos would focus on such an iconic face in Star Wars lore, it does Jones, Bistrevsky, and O’Connell a disservice to sideline them all to this extent.
Just like Pedro’s voice work as Mando is unmistakable, the same is true of James Earl Jones, even with the robotic assistance. And while stunt work is par for the course in roles like these, the fact that Bistrevsky also acts as Anakin makes us question if Hayden is even needed there at all.
Of course, there are still two more episodes to go. For all we know, Obi-Wan Kenobi may flash back at some point to new scenes with a younger Anakin, and if so, Hayden could be de-aged just like Mark Hamill was in other recent Star Wars shows.
On top of that, Bistrevsky’s comments online suggest that we may eventually see Hayden’s face with the helmet off. If “Full body with Helmet On” is him, then it implies there will be scenes where Darth shows “Full body with Helmet Off”, which means that this could be Christensen’s time to shine. At some point, we might even hear Hayden’s voice again in the role as well.
But before you decry everything said prior to this, it’s worth noting that Helmet Off scenes with Christensen come with their own problems too.
In Return of the Jedi, just before Darth Vader snuffs it, there’s a beautifully symbolic moment where the helmet finally comes off for the first time, revealing the Anakin underneath that Ben and everyone once knew. To show him again in that costume without the helmet beforehand would rob this iconic scene of its power.
So that means Obi-Wan Kenobi is in a tricky position. Bring in more Hayden and you run the risk of undermining key moments from classic Star Wars. But if the show under-utilises him, Hayden’s involvement ends up feeling kind of pointless.
Although, there is something to be said about the power of nostalgia. Because, for most fans, none of these concerns will be concerns at all. As long as viewers get to see Hayden’s return in any capacity, then the “hundreds” who showed up on set and the thousands who tune in from home will still be happy.
And with all that in mind, a Darth Vader spin-off series that gives us even more of Hayden seems likelier every day.
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