Ian McDiarmid looks back on ‘hazardous’ Star Wars prequels (Exclusive)
The British thesp, who played the Emperor in the ‘Star Wars’ prequel trilogy and ‘Return of the Jedi’, was promoting the crazy-looking ‘Star Wars Celebration Europe’, taking place in Essen, Germany this July.
But he was happy to tackle topics as diverse as: why George Lucas sold the ‘Star Wars’ franchise to Disney, Lucas’ strengths and weaknesses as a director, problems on the prequel sets and the Emperor’s finest moment. Here’s McDiarmid on...
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...why George Lucas sold 'Star Wars'
“To make the kind of films that the made when he started, which I think is equally as exciting as him continuing the franchise. He has an experimental side of his brain, apart from in the digital universe, that hasn’t been exercised lately.
“[In the prequels] it’s not that George wanted to do everything: directing, the script and so on, it’s just that... George’s digital planning was such that the films were ready fairly circumscribed. It was quite hard for new people and people around him to be at their creative best. Now his collaborators are released from that even though he’ll be in the background suggesting storylines.
“I don’t think he’s run out of steam. I just think he loves encouraging young people. He’s done it throughout his life. He felt it was about time to empower them. Really exciting people like JJ Abrams, Michael Arndt, Lawrence Kasdan. It’s what the saga needs.”
Tech expert... Lucas sizes up a shot on 'Revenge of the Sith' set (Credit: Wenn)
...George Lucas’ limitations as a director
“I worked with Richard Marquand on ‘Return of the Jedi’, and one of the reasons that Richard was brought in was that he was very good with actors. George felt that sometimes actors wanted things from him that he just couldn’t give. George’s great skill was his technical expertise. His view of it is that he takes the casting process very seriously, and once he’s cast them he thinks ‘they will do what they do and I will do what I do’.
“In terms of helping an actor develop a character in depth, that’s not his strong suit. I was fortunate that my character - even though it was fairly straight-forward - was solid evil. Then with the prequels he was a devious politician as well. In a sense I had a strong hook and of course I’d been doing it for a while. The younger actors probably needed a bit more guidance than George was able to give.”
...the problems with the prequel trilogy
“George was always thinking about what he would do later when the digital component was added. That couldn’t be explained to people often because it wasn’t actually decided yet in the cutting room! I know George very well. He’s deeply intelligent and considered, but sometimes he didn’t have time to show that when the films were being made.
“I got the best reviews in the series because I had the biggest trajectory for my character. They were very flattering but the young cast [such as Hayden Christensen’ and Natalie Portman], they had quite a lot to deal with. There was no time. The circumstances we were working in were fairly hazardous as we were down in Leavesden studio before it was fully built and equipped. As we were filming those scenes they were building not just the sets for the next day, but the studio itself. We were surrounded by scaffolding and pipes. The first assistant director would say ‘I know it’s a nightmare but please don’t stop’. In terms of concentration it was much harder than usual.