Tag Archives: Ewan McGregor

Richard Stride- His Star Wars Story

Hello there! Death Star sized appreciation for you coming back for another Star Wars story. Our guest today is a man of many talents, he’s many Clone Troopers, he’s Poggle the Lesser and he’s the double for Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi among many other roles in the Star Wars prequels.

Richard Stride appeared in blockbusters like Gladiator and First Knight before moving onto Star Wars, he worked on Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith putting his professionally trained sword skills to good use before successfully setting up his own theatre. He also designed the Death Star (technically), so don’t mess with him, I certainly wouldn’t…

Thanks for talking us through your Star Wars story Richard, how have you been keeping busy through lockdown?

I think for most people it’s been a time for reflection and finding out what you want to do and that sort of thing, I’ve been doing a lot of workshops online, writing, making connections with industry people and apart from that I’ve been turning the garden into what looks like something out of Hampton Court Palace…

I hear that’s a common hobby now! I understand you run a theatre, is that right?

That’s right, I took a burnt out, derelict building which had literally nothing in it and renovated it. I was artistic director there for 20 years but just before lockdown in early April I left to pursue acting and concentrate on myself, the theatre is now run by a trust.

How has lockdown affected the theatre industry?

The pandemic had a big impact on theatre and its employees obviously as they are all closed. There is a good thing with the way I designed that theatre specifically; we didn’t have rows of seats, we had cabaret style tables which means that to a degree people were socially distanced anyway! Hopefully, they’ll take the bull by the horns and get open as soon as possible.

How did you get started with your acting career?

I had an interest during school and then I joined a local drama group. Out of drama school I went straight into a Hollywood movie called First Knight. I found myself going from pretty much one job to the next which was fantastic. I did a lot of film work, some TV and a bit of stage work. I thought I wanted to do more stage work and more Shakespeare particularly so that’s when I started up the theatre.

I saw you were in Gladiator which must have been epic to work on, but I do have a soft spot for First Knight as I was really into Arthurian legends as a kid. When I saw those films on your IMDB I did wonder how do films of that size help to prepare you for future roles?

First Knight was great as I did lots of sword fighting and I am a trained sword fighter, so it was great to do something I was highly skilled at. Different skills are really important in becoming an actor and for finding your way into the industry, they help you to find your niche and that allows you to get a foot in the industry.

We should probably get to the point of why we are here! You had an interesting time in Star Wars Episodes Two and Three with a variety of different roles, can you talk us through them?

I was a double (for Ewan McGregor) so they would do a lot of over the shoulder shots and we looked very similar, incredibly so actually. We wore the same hair piece and you could literally not tell the difference sometimes. Samuel L Jackson particularly confused us a lot, calling me Ewan and then seeing him shocked when an English accent came out of my mouth.

I was also Poggle the Lesser, I was various Clone Troopers and I stood in for a lot of characters. I stood in for Yoda even though I am six-foot-tall, they had a puppet and I did the lines! I was also the droid walking up to the opera house in Revenge of the Sith, there were lots of different things going on and it was brilliant, I loved it.

It’s interesting because on the other trilogies it seems a lot of the actors and performers had a small amount of time working on the films, but it sounds like you had a lot of involvement…

Yeah it was literally weeks. There was the odd day where I didn’t do much and others where you are working constantly. It’s tough sometimes because if you are there for twelve hours you are probably reading a good book for ten of those hours but they kept calling me up to do different things.

It was lovely to be really helpful and have a part in the history of it all, watching and observing others. What makes acting interesting is the learning side of it, if you stop learning you get bored!

How did the role originally come about?

I sent my showreel off to George Lucas and got the call to go to Elstree Studios at very short notice! I made it to the audition thankfully and there was this guy walking along and I said, “I’ve got an audition for Star Wars do you know where I should go?” He said he would take me, it turned out to be Rick McCallum the producer! He didn’t let on that he would be auditioning me which was classic. After the audition it went quickly, and I was told I’d got the role. I started the day not hearing anything and ended the day a part of Star Wars…

What was your fondest memory of working on Star Wars?

There were a lot of iconic moments. They rarely played the music but one day the Darth Vader music was playing when I was sat reading a book. I see gradually rising in front of me, Darth Vader in the scene at the end of Revenge of the Sith. As a child I watched these films endlessly, so it was a moment I loved.

I met a chap who I assumed was a crew member and we were just chatting, I asked what his role on the film was and he said “I’m C-3PO”, I said you don’t do the voice do you? “I’m C-3PO human cyborg relations” he blurted out literally a foot away from me. He (Anthony Daniels) showed me all the parts of the costume on a table nearby that was amazing too.

Was there a different skill set in your opinion working on the prequels compared to the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy?

It was all very new technology at the time. I think the type of camera they had on Attack of the Clones was the first time it was ever used in history. It was a whole different set of rules for filmmaking. I guess thinking about it there were probably a lot less actors as we were all doing multiple roles. Quite often you are stood in a blue box and had to imagine everything around you. I was in a battle scene holding a gun but the gun didn’t even fire, there’s no sound and you’ve got 60 people watching you and you are thinking, “I must look like a right tit.”

What I did was close my eyes for a few seconds and just picture that world around me, the sounds and everything else. It’s hard because clearly, you’ve got no threat around you and you are supposed to try and imagine all this stuff going on. There’s one scene in Attack of the Clones where I was all nine characters in the shot, a fan came up with the photo for me to sign, I asked where he would like me to sign and he said on whichever one is me which is a bit hard when you are all of them ha-ha.

George Lucas said something interesting once about this, he said one day they won’t even need to costume people, actors will just be in a blue suit. I think what was used was very ground-breaking, but it was in its infancy. Some of it was just too clean and I think they now are moving towards a combination of the real stuff and the green screen so that will probably work better in the future.

It must have been nice to have such involvement and have a named character too as Poggle the Lesser who has his own action figure and all that with you being a big fan too!

Yes it’s all been very useful, we had builders in the other day and the builder was saying something they were not too happy about and I said, “You do realise I invented the Death Star” it’s always a useful thing to say ha-ha!

Do you enjoy the conventions side of it?

What’s lovely is telling the stories about the experiences, reliving all that and keeping it fresh in your mind. People get so excited about the smallest nugget of information, it’s like you made their year!

You’ve already mentioned you sort of moved away from the theatre and you are trying to get your acting career going again so what’s up next for you?

I’ve got two films pencilled in, one is a small part playing a drug dealer which will be fun and the other is a period film and that’s a bigger role, they may get postponed a bit but hopefully it will all be OK.

Thanks to Richard for joining us! We’ll be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter any future roles Richard has, hopefully one will be back in the Star Wars universe!

Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Did you enjoy reading this interview? Lightsaber wielders must be your thing so check out our interview with Andrew Lawden who stood in as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Read more by clicking here.

Andrew Lawden – His Star Wars Story

Greetings exalted ones and thanks for reading our very first Star Wars story. The whole idea for this came from a Comic Con where I met Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and wished I could have chatted to him about a few of his best stories, feel free to read more on that by clicking here.

A great idea kid, some may say, but I won’t get cocky…where better to start than right at the beginning of the Star Wars film saga, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

Our first story is from a Naboo Royal Guard but more famously he has a place in history as part of one of the best lightsaber fights in Star Wars, the “Duel of Fates”, where he stood in for Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn against Ray Park’s Darth Maul. Spoiler alert, he fought the Maul and the Maul won (but then Obi Wan won so it’s all fine), our first guest is Andrew Lawden.

Andrew has numerous stage and screen roles to his name including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Ghostbusters 2 and most recently in Batman’s butler prequel Pennyworth but with Star Wars he has been able to forge an interesting side business known as “Jedi Fight Academy” where he trains future Jedi in their lightsaber skills at conventions and some more left field events.

Frankly, there’s a lot to get through, so what say we dive right in with the man himself! Andrew, thanks for agreeing to tell us your Star Wars stories, let’s start by just going through your personal involvement in the Star Wars franchise…

My involvement in Star Wars all came from working on Episode 1 and recently we celebrated 20 years since it was released. I was originally cast as a Naboo Royal Guard having sent a very cheeky letter to the casting people where I was enquiring about being a young Darth Vader, it being the prequel trilogy. They got back to me and said, “Yes he is a young man but we are starting off playing him as a child” but they said they would like to see me anyway.

After the interview process they originally offered me one of the Jedi Council members, an alien and I said no because at the time I didn’t want to spend 2 or 3 hours of the day in makeup. Back then creature acting wasn’t as revered as a skill or form of acting as it is now so they offered me a role as a Royal Guard but after a couple of days on set I was asked to be a stand in double for Qui-Gon Jinn, I ended up doing more as a stand in for Liam (Neeson) than the role I was originally hired for.

Naboo Royal Guard are neglected heroes of the original trilogy and don’t really pop up in other films, we were only really around for two or three weeks of filming and the battle scenes were done with very few actors and green screen. The great thing of all though was that I got to work with (George) Lucas.

The bit where Ewan McGregor has the speech over Qui-Gon’s body as he’s dying, the reverse shot when Darth Maul kills Qui Gon, both of those are me. Those were interesting scenes to shoot, they took about three hours and I wasn’t allowed to move once I was down so I had people from make-up and hair and various people feeding me bottles of water but that’s the job, a very underrated job but a fulfilling job!

What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars?

There’s too many good things that happened! There was a very funny scene we shot one day where there is an attack in the palace and we did this long shot where Qui-Gon and Obi Wan go through this door and Queen Amidala follows with a couple of Naboo soldiers. We’d shot this scene a week previously where I was one of the soldiers following the Queen but there was a pick up shot where I was Qui-Gon so the funniest thing is in the real scene I enter and then I end up chasing myself through this door! Star Wars is full of weird stuff like that!

I was on and off the film for around 18 months and we were still shooting bits up until March 1999. There was a ceremonial scene that they did at the end of the film where they didn’t have the right amount of people for the shot, obviously a lot of CGI but they needed real people. It was the only time I changed costume in the film, I’d spent most of my time in the purple suit and jacket, blue breast plate and peaked cap like Captain Panaka but they wanted me in the brown and mustard yellow outfit with the peaked cap. The resulting line-up was hilarious, you’ve got the third Assistant Director, make up and dressers because they didn’t have enough people so you can imagine how funny it was standing next to the person who dressed you on and off for 18 months.

Was there a particular person be it actor/production/crew who created a big impression on you?

Qui-Gon GIN! Make it a thing Andrew

Apart from George (Lucas) of course, he loves and adores this world, the amount of detail in his head is phenomenal but there’s loads of it, literally loads of it! I’ll just go get some water [Andrew shows his water], lovely midichlorian free water! In fact I’m experimenting, you have an exclusive this is JEDI GIN, I just bought a gin making kit and thought I’d give it a go as a laugh so I thought I’d experiment with blue food colouring [Andrew shows his blue gin] and a friend of mine said I should experiment with green and call it Qui-Gon Gin!

Back to the question, there was this really good Assistant Director on it called Nick Hextall-Smith who went onto do the Indiana Jones chronicles, he handled a lot of the second unit stuff and a lot of the stuff I was doing. It was interesting to flick between the two of them.

Does working on Star Wars make you want to continue working in that genre or branch out more?

I have gone off and done lots of theatre, TV, film but I would love the chance to come back into Star Wars somehow. I was hoping I would get used in the new films, but I haven’t as yet. In the world of Star Wars they kind of know what you do, going forward they have things like The Mandalorian and Obi Wan and I’d like to get involved in those if possible as well as the animation and games.

I see you have Pennyworth going on, that must be an interesting project what is that like to work on?

That’s out now, I’ve seen it. It was all shot in the UK but American funded so there’s some time differences in when you can watch it. As it stands the new scripts are being written and they are looking to cast this year, they may have to wait for shooting. I didn’t get killed! I play Alfred Pennyworth’s Sergeant Major in flashback sequences so it would be very easy for me to come back. My impression was that the flashbacks were great for explaining Alfred’s life and why he does what he does. It’s very dark, grim and brutal, certainly not family viewing.

You run “Jedi Fight Academy” so to finish up would you say that is part of the lasting effect Star Wars has had on you?

I was at an event in Germany where a guy was in cosplay as Darth Maul with his double-bladed lightsaber and he knew the fight’s choreography. The organizers asked if they could film that part, I could remember a bit of it and we did it and it ended up on YouTube and other events asked if that would be something I could do.

There was nobody who had been part of a Star Wars film before, teaching classes. It works out at a 30-minute class where I can teach people the basics that we were shown from the film and that became the first version of the fight academy. I became a two in one guest in that respect, last year alone I’ve done it in Portugal, America and all over the UK and even been into large businesses and done this as a team building exercise, parties, weddings and it’s kind of grown just because I am the only Star Wars actor teaching this class.

I don’t see it as a business as such, [Andrew shows off various lightsabers] it’s one of those lovely things that came about by accident and took off.

With a wave of a lightsaber, we bid our first guest Andrew a farewell but check back soon as we’ll have more Star Wars stories, don’t forget to share your thoughts on this with us and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Did you enjoy reading this interview? Another interview awaits you with Miltos Yerolemou famed for his swordsmanship in Game of Thrones as Syrio Forel and for a short part in The Force Awakens. Read more by clicking here.