Header Ads

Why George Lucas Cast A Third Vader Actor For Return Of The Jedi

Darth Vader was predominantly played by two actors in the Star Wars original trilogy, but George Lucas opted to cast a third actor in Return of the Jedi. David Prowse famously wore Darth Vader’s iconic suit in the Star Wars trilogy, while James Earl Jones voiced Vader, giving the Sith Lord his famously imposing voice. For two brief moments in Return of the Jedi, however, Vader, now Anakin Skywalker once again, was played by another actor.

Darth Vader’s character development was at its most robust in Return of the Jedi, with the Sith Lord starting as an esoteric sorcerer and ruthless military leader in Star Wars and most of The Empire Strikes Back. The revelation that Vader is Luke’s father set up his characterization in Return of the Jedi, which transitioned Vader into the tragic figure that the prequel trilogy would expand upon. One of the best examples of this was Vader’s scene with Luke on Endor, where the Sith Lord admits that he’s too far gone for Luke’s faith to pull him from The Emperor’s clutches, a sentiment that Vader later proves untrue when he turns on his master to save his son.

Related: Star Wars: Why Luke & Leia Use Darth Vader's Lightsaber Fighting Style

Following Vader’s renouncement of the Sith Order and subsequent defeat of Palpatine, Vader is dragged into a hangar bay, where he speaks to Luke without his mask for the first and only time. For this scene, George Lucas wanted another actor to depict Vader, casting Sebastian Shaw as the redeemed Anakin Skywalker. Shaw was a veteran Shakespearian stage actor, and Lucas wanted him to depict Luke’s father in what was arguably the most dramatic moment for the dying villain. Shaw also depicted Anakin as a Force ghost in Return of the Jedi’s final moments, looking back at Luke from afar alongside Obi-Wan and Yoda.

For many, Lucas made the right choice by casting Shaw as the dying Anakin Skywalker, with the actor’s brief performance conveying the final tragedy of Skywalker’s story. Shaw depicted the complex mixture of emotions that Skywalker felt as he died in front of his son, leaving Lucas and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan impressed. Return of the Jedi’s second special edition, however, removed some of Shaw’s footage. The 2004 DVD release of Return of the Jedi (and all subsequent iterations) replaced Shaw with Hayden Christensen in the film’s final scene, a decision that caused some controversy.

Shaw’s replacement with Christensen was seen as disrespectful by some viewers, and it soon became one of the more infamous changes in the Star Wars special editions. The change was meant to tie the original and prequel trilogies together, though some argued that Luke would have recognized his father through the Force no matter how he appeared. Shaw’s appearance was also digitally altered in 2004 to more closely match the disfigured Anakin in the prequel trilogy.

Depicting Darth Vader throughout Star Wars was, ultimately, a collaborative effort by multiple talented actors. While James Earl Jones’ inflections perfectly captured the menace of Vader, David Prowse provided the Sith Lord with an imposing physicality and body language that sometimes went unappreciated. Casting Sebastian Shaw as the dying Anakin Skywalker, however, was a wise move by George Lucas, as Shaw’s brief scenes in Return of the Jedi provided the movie with some of its most heartfelt moments.

Next: How Star Wars Retroactively Improved Return of the Jedi

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.