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Film

Watch Alec Guinness discuss the creation of Obi-Wan Kenobi

If cinema wasn’t considered ‘big business’ before the 1980s, it certainly was after, as the decade quickly consolidated the massive gains of the 1970s to capitalise on the commercial filmmaking opportunities to come. 

Characterised by the ‘high-concept’ film, with spectacular yet simple plots, with striking marketing that extended from posters and TV adverts to T-Shirts and lunchboxes, popular blockbusters began to be churned out by the industry, leading to consistent success for production companies.

Action-packed, loud and exciting, the decade was defined by the likes of Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Aliens and Die Hard, with each film being heavily marketed with merchandise deals quickly lining the shelves of department stores across the world.

Taking advantage of modern evolutions in CGI, as well as famously using practical effects, Star Wars was seen as the shining example of how to release a successful movie franchise. Starting with the release of A New Hope in 1977, George Lucas welcomed the concept of the big-budget blockbuster, with his lead cast of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Alec Guinness proving to boast considerable pulling power.

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Although he doesn’t show up (in physical form at least) throughout the rest of the original trilogy, Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi has become one of the franchise’s most celebrated characters, brought to life by Ewan McGregor in the prequel films and recent Disney+ series. 

In a rare interview from 1977, Guinness discusses how Lucas sculpted the Kenobi character, stating, “there are suggestions there in the script. George Lucas suggested to me something of a samurai warrior in one way, hence why I’ve partly dressed like this. Something of a wise man and a, kind of, monk-like character”. 

Loyal and headstrong, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a mainstay of the Star Wars franchise, and is the only character of the entire series to be made more popular by the prequel series. Played by Guinness in A New Hope, McGregor takes up the mantle in The Phantom Menace, crafting a truly compelling character over the course of three films that remains loyal to the original version, whilst adding a fresh twist. 

Further explaining how Lucas conjured the Obi-Wan character, Guinness adds, “I think that there have been not borrowings, obviously, but a suggestion from Tolkien’s books of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings”. 

The latest Obi-Wan Kenobi series has brought the character to the attention of modern audiences, though seems to be devoid of the same imagination that made the character so beloved in the original and prequel trilogies. Despite this, Obi-Wan will remain a mainstay in the Star Wars franchise for many decades to come.