The Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series marks the return of the titular Jedi Master for the first time since 2005's Revenge of the Sith, with Ewan McGregor once again playing role. Accompanying the leading man is his prequel trilogy co-star Hayden Christensen, who dons the Darth Vader suit as he hunts his former mentor. The fallen hero is more than a commanding presence from afar, getting involved in the series' events personally this time around.
If Vader is going to be involved in a series starring McGregor, including Christensen is a natural decision. The chemistry between the two has been evident since the prequel trilogy and remains nearly two decades later, as is evidenced by their fun at Star Wars Celebration and on the press circuit. With the series only halfway through, there's much more to be seen between the pair as the rivalry between Vader and Kenobi has only just begun to heat up.
As has always been the case, it takes a village to bring Vader to life. James Earl Jones has once again lent his iconic voice for the role, which may or may not have been aided by Respeecher technology previously used for The Book of Boba Fett's Luke Skywalker. Christensen wears the armor a significant amount of the time, but the physicality of Vader also requires larger performers to double as the role - something that's recently been clarified by the Sith Lord's stuntman.
Vader Stuntman Reveals When Christensen Dons the Suit
Stuntman Dmitrious Bistrevsky took to Instagram to respond to fan inquiries regarding Darth Vader suit duties for Obi-Wan Kenobi:
"Darth Vader is played by three people, 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."
Bistrevsky and Christensen are responsible for the acting, while O'Connell works on Vader's fight choreography. Bistrevsky confirmed that Christensen gets replaced during scenes when Vader is fighting as well as for full body shots of Vader:
"Hayden and I both act in the Darth Vader scenes, 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 specializes 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."
Evidently, Christensen's physical preparation was enough to get his doubles shaking in their boots:
"Hayden wore the suit, I wore the suit, Tom wore the suit. We all worked together to create the best character we possibly can. We are a team. 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."
As for Bistrevsky's performance, his work required the same amount of commitment to the lines as Christensen - with some special assistance:
"Yes I did, I learned all my lines like everyone else. But we found out early on that when I spoke with anger it shook the helmet. So we had a voice actor on set, my friend Dorian, he would voice act the scene, and I would act to his intensity while adding my own character choices. We danced together to create the performance alongside my movement coach/consultant Olga Sokolova. Her and I have a secret hand language so she would be giving me notes in real time as well. It was a great big dance, it shouldn't have worked, but it worked out beautifully."
Team Vader Brings the Heat
The approach to bringing Vader to life for Obi-Wan Kenobi is very similar to the original trilogy's process.
For A New Hope, it was exclusively the late David Prowse wearing the suit, with Jones doing the voice for each film. But for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Bob Anderson was brought in for the more sophisticated fight sequences. Though he was significantly shorter than Prowse, Anderson's swordfighting expertise was a necessity, and the solution was to film him from lower angles.
Revenge of the Sith was a bit of a different case, as Hayden Christensen was actually granted the opportunity to wear the Vader suit. His armor was built for a taller actor, making it difficult for him to see out of the helmet, but the minimal time on screen and presence of the much shorter Ian McDiarmid made any height disparities unnoticeable. Kenobi requires nearly all of Christensen's work to be done in the suit, creating the need for the involvement of Bistrevsky and O'Connell to bring the fiery villain to life.
In many ways, the trio's work is similar to the team-up of performers who bring the Mandalorian to life, with the only difference in this case being the use of Jones' voice as opposed to any of the other actors. However, Bistrevsky noted that he does full body shots with the helmet on... which seems to imply there may be some sequences where Christensen wears the suit and audiences get to see his face (and maybe hear his voice).
There's been extensive discussion by Christensen of preparation done for lightsaber combat, which McGregor has commented on as well. While O'Connell may be the main guy for battles like Vader's recent beatdown of Obi-Wan, there's a fight of some kind that allows Christensen to pick up a lightsaber again and put his talents on display. Future confrontations between the former brothers may not be like cookouts, but Vader can be expected to have a heated approach to dealing with the Jedi Master.
New episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi stream Wednesdays on Disney+.