The new Star Wars VII lightsaber may have divided the fans, but it looks as though it has some supporters… including Darth Maul himself.
During the recent Cardiff Film and Comic Con, I caught up with Ray Park – perhaps best known as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace – to chat about the new hilt.
And it seems he rather likes it.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Yea, I got really excited and wished that I was in it… they wouldn’t have it if they couldn’t use it.”
“I think Rob Inch – I worked with him on Sleepy Hollow – he’s good at traditional sword work and horse riding. That’s what he’s great at and I think he’s co-ordinating the new Star Wars movies. He’s the right man to do it and they won’t just have the lightsaber just to show it – they’ll do something great with it. I’m excited to see what they’re going to do.”
The new lightsaber generated a lot of buzz after it was first revealed in the recent Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer.
Unsurprisingly, the new design proved rather controversial with the addition of a crossguard – two smaller lightsaber prongs which protrude from the hilt, much like a medieval sword.
But while many fans wondered about the practicality of the new saber, Ray Park thinks that it wouldn’t be included just for the sake of it.
“He’s a big Star Wars fan himself,” he said of J.J. Abrams. “[The lightsaber’s] different and it’s traditional, you know? It’s got that traditional vibe – like, old school. I’m excited about it. I was jazzed to see it and I was like ‘I want to be part of this!’”
Obviously, Ray Park is no stranger to controversial lightsabers… after all, when Darth Maul was first introduced in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, his double-bladed lightsaber was just as divisive.
But when fans finally him in action, Darth Maul became an iconic Star Wars villain.
“I grew up watching Star Wars so I knew all about the lightsabers,” he explained. “But I used a lot of my martial arts background. As soon as I saw the double-bladed lightsaber in the storyboards, before I got the job, I said to Nick Gillard who was the stunt co-ordinator, ‘I could do this with it, I could do that…’ and it just came to me. I think having that chance to do something with a Bō staff – I’ve always spun a stick around, ever since I was a kid – but to portray that as Darth Maul with a lightsaber was pretty awesome.”
“We all sort of worked together,” he added. “Nick Gillard was co-ordinator, but we all sort of worked together. If you had an idea, you’d go ‘What about trying this? Can I try this?’ and so Nick was really open about any suggestions. And when it came to the flamboyance of Darth Maul, Nick left it up to me. George and Nick were like ‘Whatever you want to do, that’s up to you’ so if I had a moment to spin it and show off, and add it to Darth Maul’s character, I had the freedom to do that.”
Unfortunately, Darth Maul met a rather tragic end during the events of The Phantom Menace.
Although he returned during the Clone Wars TV series, it’s unlikely that he’ll appear in the upcoming sequel trilogy.
But Ray Park may have some insight when it comes to planning out lightsaber fights with an all-new blade.
“We were asked not to reference the old movies with the fights, but to come up with something fresh and original,” he said. “George wanted to show these Jedi and Sith in their prime, to show that as the story goes on their moves change, you know… as they get older. But when they’re younger, they can go crazy with big flashy moves.”
Will Star Wars VII take an equally fresh approach when it comes to its lightsaber duels? For now, we’ll have to wait and see. But with an admittedly ‘old-school’ style of lightsaber, I can’t help thinking it might be more Game of Thrones than Jackie Chan.
Finally, I couldn’t help asking Ray whether he would return to Star Wars.
After all, he’s such an enthusiastic guy, and clearly loves the galaxy far, far away.
“I want to be Darth Maul again,” he said. “At the time when we were filming, I already knew what the story was for Episode II and III, so we all sort of knew – we’d talk about what happened and it would play into how we were going to do the fights. Originally, I wanted to have my lightsaber break in half and then use the two singles – because I could do that. But Nick wanted to use it in the second movie… so that’s why it breaks and falls apart, but I only use the one… it would have been good.”
And when I asked him about returning for a Darth Maul spin-off, he could hardly contain himself.
“I’d do it for free,” he laughed. “Star Wars gave me my break – it gave me my start – and I wouldn’t have all the other jobs and opportunities if it wasn’t for Star Wars. We even joked about Darth Maul having robotic legs when we were filming on set… and they brought him back in The Clone Wars. There’s hope.”
“I would do it shirtless, tattooed body like they did in The Clone Wars,” he laughed. “I would have two double-bladed lightsabers… when they were filming Episode II and III, I was practicing with two double-bladed lightsabers just in case. I said, ‘how am I going to step this up a bit’.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens heads to cinemas on 18 December 2015.
What do you think of the Star Wars VII lightsaber? Would Darth maul kick ass with a crossguard? Let us know what you think in the comments below…