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Dueling Jedi
In 100 years of cinematic history, there have been countless epic battles between heroes and villains. But none has been as hotly anticipated or will be as closely dissected by moviegoers as the final showdown between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi that forms the climax of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.

It's not the first on-screen showdown of lightsabers and swordsmanship between the two characters, but it promises to be the most thrilling, says Episode III's stunt coordinator and master swordsman Nick Gillard, who also created the stunts for The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. "We had gone as far as we could go with the Jedi fighting style,” he says. "So we really had to up the ante in this movie.”

To design and choreograph the sequence – as well as the myriad other action-packed scenes in Revenge of the Sith – Gillard says he first discussed with writer-director George Lucas the fighting prowess of each of the characters, which were ranked against other Jedi on a scale of 1 to 10.

"Obi-Wan is at a level 8, which is where Anakin starts. But Anakin jumps to level 9 – and the difference between 8 and 9 is enormous. A Jedi can get to level 9, but that's the difference between light and dark. The duel actually gives you quite an idea about these characters, because Anakin has learned the fighting, he's enormously talented – but he hasn't learned the mental side of it.

"Knowing all of that from a story standpoint was enormously helpful in choreographing the sequence,” Gillard says.

Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin, and Ewan McGregor, who stars as Obi-Wan Kenobi, faced a formidable task when they arrived in Sydney, Australia, to begin rehearsals and training. Christensen had a particularly grueling preparation schedule.

"Hayden worked really hard,” Gillard says. "He did six hours of sword fighting every day with us, then he did two hours of training – an hour solid of weights and an hour of cardiovascular work. And he had to eat about six times a day!”

As central as the lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin is to the movie, it's only one of the many stunt sequences on which Gillard worked. "You don't notice them as much as you would in other movies, because there's so much other action. I probably spent an equal amount of time on the stunts as I did on the sword fighting. They're very difficult and demanding to work out.”

Lucas says Gillard's work is integral to the success of Revenge of the Sith. "Creating an action scene is very hard work,” he says. "Nick has worked with Hayden and Ewan and turned them into amazing swordsmen. The speed they reach is unbelievable – and it's all them up there.”

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