STAR WARS HOMING BEACON - The Official StarWars.com Newsletter
2005-06-23 - Issue #139
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DID PALPATINE THROW THE FIGHT?
The following is a sample entry of the new Set Diary series now
available for Hyperspace members. In the summer of 2003,
correspondent Pablo Hidalgo filed daily reports on the making of
Episode III, but by necessity most of the plot details were obscured
as to not spoil any secrets. Now that the movie is out, much of what
was too hot in 2003 can be discussed, with further insight into the
making of Revenge of the Sith.
It's one of the fieriest debates of online fan forums: when Palpatine
was cornered in his office's giant window-frame, was he really
overpowered by Mace? Or was he faking to lure Anakin? Could Mace
really have gotten the upper hand on the Sith Lord?
George Lucas is the ultimate keeper of the true answer, and he's not
telling... yet, anyway. If you had asked me in the Summer of '03,
when the sequence was first shot, I would have had a solid answer.
But, if you asked me in the Fall of '04, when the sequence was
re-shot, well... for those who want to debate, it's best to know more
of the story of how this scene came to be.
This entire sequence changed significantly during postproduction.
What we witnessed in Sydney told a different story. Anakin did not
earn Mace's trust by ratting out Sidious right away. He did not
agonize over his decisions while sitting alone in the Jedi Council
chamber. He did not rush in at the last minute to witness a
questionable balance of power. Instead, he stayed at Palpatine's
side, in the Chancellor's private office, as Mace and his posse of
Jedi barged in.
"Stand behind me," ordered Mace, in Sam Jackson's demanding tones.
But Anakin didn't budge. Instead, he watched passively as Palpatine
used the Force to snatch Anakin's lightsaber from his belt and
attacks Mace and the Jedi. There's ample evidence of this original
version for those with sharp eyes and behind-the-scenes photos. Heck,
even Hasbro action figures with Palpatine packaged with Anakin's
lightsaber got out there in the initial shipments.
So, if Sidious' entire duel played out before Anakin's stunned eyes,
I'd be inclined to think that his fall was just for show. This
changed after a screening George Lucas held for a few key colleagues.
Their reactions underscored the shortcomings of the way this duel was
constructed. Anakin's inaction was hard to justify cinematically.
"The story was there, but it wasn't clear," said Lucas at the time it
came to rebuild this scene. "It was too abstract. We opened up that
part and looked at what we could do."
When word of the change came down, the keepers of continuities
started carefully tracking the evolving consequences. Palpatine had
two lightsabers, then, since he loses this one in the duel with Mace.
I still have in my inbox a tentative email from one of the authors
asking, "um, have we figured out yet whose lightsaber Palpatine uses
in the fight with the Jedi?"
At first, it was feared it was impossible to CG the small
svelte-handled weapon over Anakin's relatively chunky handle, but
nonetheless, that was the lightsaber given to McDiarmid for the
pickup photography. The shots of Palpatine rising from his chair and
extending the weapon were reshot. The bulk of the duel between
Sidious and Mace stayed from principal photography, except for a new
touch -- a kick to Palpatine's face, done with stunt double Michael
Byrne. This was shot on a partial set of just a piece of window-frame
on Friday, August 27.
So... with this revised duel, if Sidious threw the fight, it places
an awful lot of faith on Anakin's timing ...and he suffered a
kicked-in face to boot. For what it's worth to those arguing, I doubt
there's anyone who thinks Palpatine's serious when he claims he's too
weak. That's obviously a lie. But was the fall into the corner that
preceded his pleas for help a lie as well?
What else changed in this scene? There are a few more interesting
details, particularly where it moved in the sequencing of the story.
But that will have to wait for another entry.
To read more of this kind of in-depth reporting from an eyewitness to
the Episode III action, sign-up to Hyperspace today and receive a
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I considered posting this in the other thread but I think it's rather unusual that there is an official discussion of this sort of fan debate, so I thought this merited its own thread.