Wednesday 30 November 2022


The time for heroes has returned, in the all-new Willow TV series. Image: Disney+

Thirty-four years on from his enthusiastic and spirited playing of the role that established his acting career beyond being a beloved Ewok in Return of the Jedi, versatile all-round nice guy Warwick Davis returns to the role of the diminutive hero with lots of courageous heart and enthusiasm, Willow Ufgood, for an all-new eight-episode fantasy adventure continuance based on George Lucas and Ron Howard's 1988 sword and sorcery fusion cult hit Willow, airing exclusively on Disney+ from today (30th November, 2022).

Talented writer/producer Jon Kasdan, son of the legendary Hollywood icon Lawrence Kasdan, takes the reins of this new franchise with both confidence and a clear passion for the project, which has been several years in the making. Taking a leaf out of the The Force Awakens storytelling motifs, the new Willow series brings together characters old (not just the now more enlightened Willow (certainly the Yoda of his universe) but also the fun return of Joanne Whalley as warrior now queen Sorsha) with many diverse new unlikely hero characters (from international casting backgrounds) as they take on an ominous dark force threatening the lands of the force field barrier protective realms beyond Tir Asleen and the realm of Andowyne (once again brought to the life within the gorgeous scenery of Wales). As such evil builds, led by some grotesque new monsters, Willow's powers for good are needed more than ever. But what happened to that scoundrel swordsman Madmartigen (originally played with such charisma and zest in the film by Val Kilmer)? And what is the destiny of the once enchanted, prophecy-given child Elora Danan, whose identity has been kept such a closely guarded secret across the years?

Willow’s World: Nature & Place • Lucasfilm

Disney+ was kind enough to invite Star Wars Aficionado to a preview of the series opening episodes in London a few weeks back. So what did we think? Well, with a first episode weighed down somewhat from re-establishing the past events of the 1988 movie whilst also stetting a new tone for the ongoing series (best described as a family friendly Lord of the Rings in scale mixed with the kind of light and flippant humour enjoyed by another cult classic, The Princess Bride), alongside necessary exposition and the need to bring in the many new characters, it's really from the second episode that Willow Mark II gets a chance to properly breathe and start hitting its potential groove (and watch out for a notable scene-stealing appearance from Warwick Davis's acting daughter, Annabelle, who gives a genuinely heartfelt performance as Willow's concerned daughter), with even darker apocalyptic dangers to be faced...

Warwick Davis with the main Willow series cast and production team in London - November 16th, 2022. Image: Disney+

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the saying goes, and I think modern audiences will greatly enjoy this special comeback kid of a franchise, the assured return of Davis as Willow, and the series overall potential fantasy adventures to come... 

New episodes every Wednesday.

Tuesday 29 November 2022


Surrendering to the Force in this great on-set posed publicity image for the classic sequence.

Pushed into the hangar bay by Darth Vader's continuing onslaught, and with the arrival of Imperial Stormtroopers further blocking his escape, Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a final sacrificial gesture so as to buy escape time for Luke, the rescued Leia, and the the others onto the Millennium Falcon. Kenobi's end of life work at bringing the eventually revealed brother and sister together in battle against the evil of the Empire has finally been achieved...

Great close-in shot of Guinness and his lightsaber weapon.

Vader makes a rushing offensive in an unused alternate take as Kenobi makes a mid-section lunging motion with his lightsaber.

Kenobi blogs and swings himself to the opposite side.

Crossing swords in a specially posed image on set. Image via The Star Wars Archives.

The classic posed confrontation shot, without airbrushed lightsaber blades, used across the world in publicity.

Alternate shot of the classic scene, again with non-re-touched blades.

Another of the great classic posed images used for publicity.

A selection of specially posed images on set from the hangar towards the actors.

The five guard Stormtroopers rush to watch the duel.

An interesting sacrificial gesture by Kenobi towards his enemy (almost like the sword master duellists of old saluting their opponent), developed by Lucas with Guinness on set. A posed image on set, note the lack of Stormtropers compared to the similar images above.

The cut-in half on set practical effect developed by John Stears that was ultimately replaced with an optical effect slow down in post production.

Another angle of the unused shot.

The collapsed Kenobi costume on fire in another unused and abandoned moment.

Additional image with airbrushed Vader lightsaber blade.

The final effect with collapsed cloak as seen in the completed movie.

Dust to  dust! Vader's foot searches for remains within Kenobi's cloak. Prowse's stand-in, wrestler/actor Moray Bush wears Vader's costume for the scene, filmed by the second unit.


Guinness confers with Peter Diamond and George Lucas, as assistant director Anthony Waye overhears in the background.

After three weeks of rehearsals, fight shooting was now ready to begin on the hangar bay set/adjoining corridor at Elstree, and the scene where Vader says to Kenobi: “We meet again at last”, filmed on Tuesday 1st June, 1976. Lucas and his crew, working from storyboard sequences which involved contributions by legendary British movie sketch artist Ivor Beddoes (who would also contribute on The Empire Strikes Back), film the important action in three specific sequences, with the individual scenes within those parts shot from three to four different angles (one of which would be of Sir Alec fighting, whilst another would involve Dave Prowse attacking from his side) and then photographed in a wide master shot (breaks would also be taken so as to allow Dave Prowse, boiling in the Vader costume, to have his helmet taken off and un-sweat). 

As the duel progressed (also shot on Thursday May 28th and with a second unit coverage day on Thursday 2nd June), a well-trained but over-enthusiastic Dave Prowse, unaware of his own strength within the costume, and during the scene where the two warriors are close-up to one another in an attempt to break each other's sword contact, accidentally hurls Alec Guinness with such force that the famous thespian is quickly dispatched to the other side of the corridor floor! An apologetic Prowse, Lucas, and other members of the crew, quickly rush to Guinness aid (recalled Prowse to Starlog magazine in 1978: “There was one moment in the (lightsaber) fight where we (he and Alec Guinness) came up close to each other and we’re talking through the words. And then I push him away. I sent him flying. I’d obviously caught him off balance and sent him spinning up the corridor. Everybody rushed in and grabbed hold of him and picked him up and shook him down. I certainly apologized.” Though a little winded, Guinness, who gentlemanly blames himself for the fall, would tell the continuing-to-be-extremely-apologetic Prowse not to worry, and is soon back filming the next part of the scene. Prowse added to Photoplay magazine in 1978: “He’s such a nice man. He (Sir Alec) actually apologized for falling over." Prowse further recalled to Starlog: “He was marvellous to work with and most friendly. They (the cast) accepted me as an actor on the same par with them. And it was just super.” 

Guinness keeps his lightsaber close between takes.

Guinness contemplates with his raised lightsaber blade as Lucas talks to an out of shot Dave Prowse about Vader swinging the final death blow swing.

Because of the lack of strength in the rods, and the fact that they would break easily (with technicians, in between takes, having to sweep up bits of debris that would fall as the blades clashed), the duel took longer to film than anticipated (in the finished theatrical version there are moments when you can see small bits of the light reflective tape coming off the surfaces of the sabers when they clash)-recalled Prowse to Photoplay: “The biggest problem during the fight was that we couldn’t touch. We couldn’t hit each other because as soon as the dowls (lightsabers) touched they broke. So there we were, swishing away trying to avoid each other like mad.” For lightsaber rehearsals on set, in which still photos would also be taken for publicity purposes (with airbrushing being done to the shots by ILM a year later), the actors would use uncoated wooden rods before using the actual real props. 

Sir Alec Guinness with the impressive full lightsaber blade prop. The actor enjoyed the film's new spin on the King Arthur and wizard Merlin legend.

Whilst fighting Darth Vader, Obi-Wan’s line of dialogue “If my blade finds it’s mark you will cease to exist,” though filmed, was cut from the final edit, and replaced with some over dubbing with the dialogue: “You can’t win, Darth.” With the late decision to kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi just before the film began shooting in Tunisia in March, 1976, Marcia Lucas helps George with additional scripted and filmed lines of Force related dialogue linked to Kenobi during this tense sequence, so as to build up his mysterious demise into the Force. Marcia was keen to reference the mystical Force more in the film than was actually ultimately showcased and talked about.

With certain shots from the duel also being  flipped during the editing stages. Vader’s slicing through Ben Kenobi, filmed on Thursday May 27th, was achieved by replacing Guinness with an empty shape padded cloak, set up so that, as Vader’s lightsaber hits it, an electronically detonated charge cuts the cloak in two pieces, with the bottom half falling a split second before the top reached it, to show what was supposed to have happened. Unfortunately, the prototype release mechanism created by John Stears and his practical UK effects team would catch fire several times, making the shots filmed impractical for use. One long shot scene, showing the collapse of the Obi-Wan costume, would however be successful enough to be slowed down in post production, to give the appearance of the evaporation of Ben's body into the Force.

Posed image of Kenobi preparing to sacrifice his life to the Force.

A lovely shot of the two icons behind the scenes.

Sunday 27 November 2022


A specially posed publicity image of David Prowse as Darth Vader and an unhooded Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan, preparing to lightsaber duel. Note the non-airbrushed blades in the image. 

"Ben hurries along one of the tunnels leading to the hangar where the pirateship awaits. Just before he reaches the hangar, Darth Vader steps into view at the end of the tunnel, not ten feet away. Vader lights his saber. Ben also ignites his and steps slowly forward."

Star Wars screenplay, from The Art of Star Wars - 1979

Obi-Wan's access to the docking bay is blocked by a familiar foe...

"We meet again at last..."

Obi-Wan activates his lightsaber- seen here as the light reflective tape rod.

"Now I am the Master!"

"Only a master of evil, Darth!"

The duel begins!

Close-quarters duelling leads to Vader physically pushing Obi-Wan away for an attempted killer blow!

The lit reflective blades captured in this outtake footage.

Pushed to the wall before Vader's lightsaber strikes. Note the pyrotechnic charge embedded into the wall in this outtake image.

On the attack as Vader strikes a nearby panel. Un-rotoscoped lightsaber shot outtake.

Great image showing the explosive on set pyrotechnic and an un-rotoscoped original reflective tape lightsaber.

Rounding away from the threat of Vader.

"You should not have come back!"

Vader forces Kenobi down towards the hangar bay entrance shield door.

More great duelling images of the carbon rods and reflective tape rods.

Behind the scenes images of Sir Alec Guinness holding some kind of long stick, perhaps for support on the potentially slippery surface that was always being cleaned. The stick might be linked to one of the prop lightsaber blades, possibly some kind of overlength cast-off.


Around May 18th, 1976, the first batch of lightsaber choreography begins across a three-week period between Dave Prowse and Sir Alec Guinness, supervised and choreographed by the film's British Stunt Coordinator Peter Diamond (who has also given some prior individual training to the bulky Prowse at a North London sports arena). These rehearsals take place at varying times during the shooting of the movie at Elstree, often during breaks in set building, in one stage housing specific Death Star sets, or on parts of other soundstages where nothing had yet been built. 

Peter Diamond and Lucas watch the rehearsals at Elstree.

Image: Kurtz/Joiner Archive.

Originally, Diamond would try to get his experienced-with-actors fencing colleague and Olympic sportsman friend Bob Anderson to play Vader for the duelling scenes opposite the distinguished Guinness (and especially for the older man's stunt safety), but he proves unavailable for the period of filming needed. The rehearsed scenes would include duelling references to Kendo (Japanese swordplay) and past sword fights of classic Hollywood movies.

Working from Lucas's desire for the actors to have two locked hands holding their lightsaber during fighting, because it looked more powerful on screen, the actors would at first use what looked like fatter at the base, hard Styrofoam type prototypes of the blades in early rehearsals, of which posed images of the actors' sparring would be specially shot for promotional purposes, linked to the film's important promotion of the esteemed Guinness. 

Though many carbon fiber blades were constructed, so many got broken during the filming of the duel that Peter Diamond had to ultimately ask the actors to connect the blades on screen with less force!

Apart from what was already present in the script, there was very little information about either Obi-Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader to be gleaned by the actors, and, in between filming scenes and fight rehearsals, Prowse and Sir Guinness would have chats with each other about their special roles because neither were told anything by George Lucas (who'd also attend the duel rehearsals) about the Sith or Vader's background. 

Early lightsaber ideas testing at Elstree circa January-April,1976.

Note the technician on the left wearing glare eye protection with this testing.

Developed from Ralph McQuarrie’s original sketches, the handles of the finalized prop lightsabers would be seven inches long and one inch in diameter. An internal motor would be used to rotate the handle, with the two sides of the carbon fiber blade coated in a light reflective tape similar to the material used on motion picture screens, with one of the two sides being painted four sides higher than the other side, which, when spinning, would give the blade its flashing effect. To enhance the lightsaber blade effect, a device was specially created between UK Special Effects Coordinator John Stears and Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor to lock a light source on the camera allowing it to move freely and also be aligned with the blades reflection.

Unhappy with the finished practical lightsaber effects developed and filmed in the UK, Lucas, with a back-up plan already in mind by the later conclusion of principal photography, would enhance the effects with additional rotoscope animation (the previous two hands holding the lightsaber technique proving easier for the post production US animators at Van Der Veer Photo Effects to ultimately rotoscope the weapons' glow).