Ewan McGregor Admits That Yoda Should Be A Puppet Rather Than CGI

Image via Lucasfilm

Disney Plus’ Star Wars content is set to explode over the coming years. The Mandalorian remains the platform’s biggest hit and will be followed by a whole bunch of spinoffs in various stages of production. But in 2022, the spotlight will inevitably be hogged by Ewan McGregor’s hugely anticipated return to a galaxy far, far away in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Set after Revenge of the Sith, the show will reveal Obi-Wan’s wilderness years. These seem to be more eventful than we’d assumed, especially as Hayden Christensen will reappear as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.

Now, in the latest installment of Variety’s Actors on Actors series, McGregor and Pedro Pascal have compared Star Wars experiences. One of the most interesting insights was how CGI usage has evolved, particularly in using more practical effects and the Volume, which allows the actors to see their surroundings as they act. McGregor loves it, ruefully saying that in the prequels, “literally 90% of the scenes were just on green sets with green floors and green walls, or a blue set with blue sides and blue walls.”

The best part is when they compare acting with Yoda and Grogu. After Pascal waxes lyrical on how amazing it is to work with the Grogu puppet, McGregor talks about his experience with Yoda, saying:

“The first film I did, I was lucky to do my scenes with the Yoda puppet. And it was extraordinary, because I acted with him. I couldn’t believe I was acting with Yoda. There’s so many people operating him, and the stage is lifted up so they’re underneath the floor and we were literally walking next to each other — and he’s alive. Then every time George called cut, Yoda would die, because everyone just stops. It was sort of disturbing every time the end of the scene would come along.

Then they replaced him for our second film and our third film with the digital version of him, and it’s not nearly as endearing. Also, we know Yoda as a puppet. We know him from the original movies as a puppet. So when it was suddenly computer generated, it didn’t feel like Yoda to me anymore. It was interesting that it went back to an actual puppet with your series.”

McGregor also revealed one weird detail about filming Obi-Wan Kenobi. Despite his heavy involvement with Star Wars, he’s never shared a scene with a Stormtrooper.

“There’s no secret to when this series is being set, but I had to walk past two Stormtroopers. I realized I’ve never acted with a Stormtrooper because mine were clones, you know? It was the clone army. So I’d never seen a Stormtrooper. So I was walking past them in this scene. I turned around — and I was 6 years old again … because I’m so close to one and I got a fright, you know? So crazy. Then I asked someone, “Were there Stormtroopers in my films? Because I don’t think I’ve seen a Stormtrooper for real before.” They were like “No, they weren’t Stormtroopers; they were clones.” And Jawas, I had another scene with a little Jawa.”

It’s a fascinating interview and a great summary of how tech has progressed in the movie and TV industry since the early 2000s. But while it’s easy to criticize George Lucas for being too reliant on blue/green screen and CGI sets, we may not have technologies like the Volume without those techniques laying the groundwork. Even so, I’m very glad that all current Star Wars productions recognize the importance of practical creature effects and puppets, if only to give the characters something to emotionally anchor their performances to.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is expected to release in early 2022.