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Dark Side, Light Side
Anakin Skywalker's journey to the dark side of the Force lends Revenge of the Sith a darker, more tragic tone than any of the other movies in the Star Wars saga. For the actors who inhabit the characters, that meant the opportunity to bring a new level of sophistication and nuance to their performances.

"The reasons behind Anakin's choice are very much rooted in reality, in things that we all experience and can understand,” says Hayden Christensen, who plays the man who transforms into Vader. "I get to explore some really difficult territory with Anakin, and that's exciting for me as an actor.”

Writer-director George Lucas says Christensen delivers an emotionally intense performance. "His own Darth Vader quality comes out in this one. Hayden definitely has a dark side, and that's one of the reasons I cast him. He's also handsome and charming, which is important, because if Anakin were always just Darth Vader, who in the world would care about him? It's a difficult transformation to pull off, and Hayden does it wonderfully.”

Christensen, a long time Star Wars fan, didn't just transform himself mentally – near the end of principal photography in Sydney, Australia, the physical transformation became complete. "Wearing the new Vader costume was something I had been looking forward to ever since I was cast as Anakin,” he says, adding that he had to gain more than 20 pounds of muscle to play the role. The suit, Christensen says, was also outfitted with a special apparatus that emulated the unforgettable sound of Vader's mechanized breathing. "The costume and my performance as Vader would have felt incomplete without it.”

When Christensen first appeared on the set in the Darth Vader suit, producer Rick McCallum recalls, the entire Fox Studios lot came to a standstill. Everyone had heard about the appearance, and it seemed they all wanted to witness the moment for themselves. "Hundreds of people congregated on the set that day to watch Hayden. It was the moment we had been waiting for, and it was the most meaningful and poetic day of the entire shoot.”

The experience was a bit different for Christensen. "As excited as I was to be wearing the suit, I was just trying to stay on my feet, not to fall over and break the costume,” he laughs. "Once the cameras started rolling and George shouted ‘Action,' it was incredible. Being inside the suit really does make you feel powerful and evil. Even today, nearly two years afterward, I can't forget it – and can't quite articulate how it made me feel.”

Anakin's full descent into the dark side comes despite the desperate efforts of his Jedi mentor and best friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who tries to forestall the inevitable. "In this movie,” explains writer-director George Lucas, "Obi-Wan is betrayed very deeply on many levels. How he faces and responds to that betrayal leads directly to the choices he makes in Episodes IV, V and VI.”

According to Ewan McGregor, who takes on the role of Obi-Wan for the third time, Revenge of the Sith was his most satisfying experience playing the part. "Obi-Wan has much more to do in this film,” he says, "and George has written a story that takes the character where I have always hoped he would go. Obi-Wan really loves Anakin, and he experiences a profound disappointment and sadness watching Anakin turn to the dark side. That was very interesting to play.”

To prepare for his final turn as Obi-Wan, McGregor steeped himself in the performances of Sir Alec Guinness, who originated the role in 1977's A New Hope. "This time, I'm a bit closer to Sir Alec in age, and it was my last shot at making it match up with his work. For three weeks, I had his scenes from the first three movies playing non-stop in my dressing room as inspiration.”

Also appearing for the third time in a Star Wars movie is Oscar-nominated actress Natalie Portman, who plays the idealistic Senator Padmé Amidala, now secretly marrie

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