The lightsaber duel to decide the fate of the galaxy between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, also known as the Battle of the Heroes (which could be making a return soon), is now one of the most iconic scenes in the entirety of Star Wars.
Many fans often reflect on the way the fight ended, with Obi-Wan shouting, "It's over Anakin! I have the high ground!" That concept of the high ground has become as iconic as the scene itself, but that wasn’t the original way Obi-Wan was set to cut off Anakin’s limbs. The two characters’ actors actually preferred the alternate ending to what happened in the final cut.
Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen Wanted a Different Ending
In an interview with Star Wars Theory, Star Wars prequel trilogy stunt coordinator Nick Gillard revealed that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker actors Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen actually opposed the now iconic high ground scene at the end of the lightsaber duel on Mustafar.
Gillard stated that there was a version of the fight that ended much differently than what was released in the final cut and that McGregor and Christensen tried to convince George Lucas that it was a better idea:
“Even the boys, Ewan and Hayden, went to George and said, 'George, this!' and he was having none of it.”
Gillard also stated that he and some of the other crew members "hated the high ground," but he understands at the same time how it continues to resonate with fans:
"The thing we fought for most of all was the high ground thing. We hated the high ground thing (laughs). You know, it has its place now."
The stunt coordinator went into detail about how the concept of the high ground actually came to be, and it has to do with a real-life story of how Christensen "fell over" a hill. Gillard added that when he saw that, it made him think about Vader's physical ability and ultimately affected his decision to include that at the end of the fight in Revenge of the Sith:
"And it was about, it really was about, Hayden and I used to walk to this restaurant at night in Bondi, and there was a big grass slope and that was the quickest way (up), but he fell over it. The first time we went, he upended himself and slid all down the bank and said ‘I’m never going that way again.’ And in my head I thought ‘Vader is bad on a slope.’ It gives you something to work with, but that’s sort of how that happened."
Gillard then revealed that there was a different version of how the duel ended and that Obi-Wan actually defeated Anakin in "a different way:"
"But we had a different version of that where that didn’t happen and Obi cut his arms and his legs off a different way."
The stunt coordinator went into detail about the way the alternate version of the fight went. He said that some of the elements included in the final cut weren't there and that Obi-Wan never actually jumped onto the bank of the volcano to have the high ground:
"There was a version - that whole volcano thing where they land on that droid wasn’t there. Originally, they swung and landed - they swung off that great big boat and they landed on the side of the volcano, on the lava right next to each other."
Gillard then described in detail how the iconic duel actually ended in that version, explaining that Anakin's limbs were cut off in a much different way than in the actual film and that Obi-Wan was more on the defensive:
"And straight away, Anakin just grabbed him by the - he disarmed him, grabbed him by the throat, you know he’s got him and Obi’s saber is down on the ground, and Anakin says, ‘I’m sorry it has to be this way, my master,’ and actually lets (the lightsaber) go. Obi hunches to get away from it, sucks his saber up, as he pulls his saber up he cuts through Anakin’s arms, almost by mistake, and then chops through his legs almost by mistake, and the whole body fell off of his legs. It was more of a defense-gone-wrong kind of move. It was strong."
However, Gillard stated his respect for Lucas and said that if he wanted the changes to be made, it would be "foolish second-guessing him:"
"But, its George Lucas. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for George, so I think its foolish second guessing him."
Star Wars Theory echoed Gillard, saying "whatever George wants" is the right decision, to which Gillard agreed and responded, "Exactly. It's his vision."
Should Revenge of the Sith Have Ended Differently?
While the Battle of the Heroes is iconic, specifically the sequence where Obi-Wan has the high ground, many fans through the years continue to believe that it was out of character for Obi-Wan to end the fight so abruptly and treat the situation the way he did.
For someone that was like a father to Anakin, he severed three of his limbs in one swift motion and then left his former apprentice to burn by the lava.
In this alternate version that Gillard is talking about, it takes some of the weight off Obi-Wan's shoulders for him to end the fight in this way. Instead of using the high ground as an offensive advantage, he would have been forced to severely injure Anakin in order to save himself.
However, it is notable that McGregor and Christensen fought so hard for the battle to end in a different way than it did, but just as Gillard stated, Lucas had his vision and wanted it executed the way he felt was right.
At the end of the day, the ultimate outcome of the battle is the same either way, and Anakin would have been put in Darth Vader's suit of armor either way.