Ewan McGregor: CGI Yoda in ‘Star Wars’ Prequels Was ‘Not Nearly as Endearing’ as Puppet

"It didn’t feel like Yoda to me anymore," McGregor said of the character transitioning from puppet to CGI.
Yoda in "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith"
Yoda in "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith"
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved/Courtesy Everett Collection

Ewan McGregor predicted in April that filming the Disney+ “Star Wars” series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” would feel “more real” compared to shooting George Lucas’ prequel trilogy. Whereas McGregor was forced to act opposite green and blue screens for the majority of the prequel movies (he estimates 90 percent of “Revenge of the Sith” scenes were filmed without any idea of what his surrounding looked like), the Disney+ series is utilizing the same StageCraft technology as “The Mandalorian.” The technology allows McGregor to work on a set backed by a massive LED screen that projects photorealistic environments around him.

“I’m having such an amazing time down there with that incredible technology, and not being in front of too much green screen and blue screen,” McGregor recently told Pedro Pascal during an appearance on Variety’s “Actors on Actors” video series. “It’s like the beginning of Hollywood. It’s almost like when they had three-sided sets all in a row, and a bunch of guys with windup cameras, and you would just go from one stage to the other, one background to the other. Well, we’re doing sort of the same thing, except just the background changes instead of the stage.”

McGregor continued, “I’m excited about it because I feel like anything’s possible now. That you can invent stuff, interiors or exteriors that don’t exist in the real world, and put us into that environment. And also, you don’t have to fly ever. I mean, traveling has been great for the first 30 years of my career, but now I just want to stay at home. I just want to drive to work and drive home from work. I want a proper job.”

It wasn’t only the sets that vanished by jumping to digital during the making of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, but also Yoda. McGregor told Pascal to appreciate working with a Yoda puppet on “The Mandalorian” (that would be for Grogu, a.k.a. Baby Yoda) because the actual Yoda turned into an entirely digital VFX creation during the productions of “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.”

“The first film I did, I was lucky to do my scenes with the Yoda puppet,” McGregor said. “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.”

McGregor continued, “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’s “Star Wars” return in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” won’t begin streaming on Disney+ until 2022.

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