“Star Wars” fans flocked to theaters this weekend to buy $238 million worth of tickets to “The Force Awakens” in North America, alone, but the majority of them probably didn’t notice the voices of a few familiar characters subtly mixed into a pivotal scene.
Director J.J. Abrams told Entertainment Weekly‘s Anthony Breznican at a WGA screening over the weekend that both Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels, and Yoda puppeteer Frank Oz lent their voices for a moment that might be missed if you’re slurping your soda too loudly.
And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, then it’s probably best to stop reading now and just try to catch the moment about to be described during your first viewing.
So here’s the official warning: SPOILER ALERT!
OK, who’s still here?
The characters return for a brief moment in the montage of backstory that audiences see when Rey (Daisy Ridley) touches Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, which Obi-Wan gave him in “A New Hope.” While viewers were afforded a rare glimpse of the missing Jedi, as well as shots of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his Knights of Ren in the aftermath of a slaughter, they also heard a trio of familiar voices.
“The idea of the voices was, we wanted the audience to feel — but not necessarily be presented right in your face — this idea that familiar, Force-strong voices were connecting with her. At least as well as they could,” Abrams said.
“You do hear a little bit of Yoda. You hear Luke yelling out, ‘Nooo!’ from that moment in ‘Empire.’ And you hear Obi-Wan at the end say, ‘Rey … these are your first steps,'” Abrams says. “Here’s the cool part. We asked Ewan McGregor to come in and do the line. And he was awesome and we were very grateful. He was incredibly sweet and handsome, and all that stuff. Then he rode off on his motorcycle. Literally the coolest voice over actor ever.”
But there’s more. Sound editors also found a way to work in the voice of original Obi-Wan Alec Guinness saying, “Rey.”
“I said, ‘That’s cool, is that the thing from Ewan McGregor?’ He said ‘No, we took a line from Alec Guinness saying ‘Afraid,'” Abrams explained. “So when you hear Obi-Wan talk to Rey it is both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor doing the voice.”
Abrams said that although Oz was “incredibly generous” to record new lines for Episode VII, they ended up using existing Yoda dialogue from previous films.
“He was very generous to say, ‘Whatever makes the movie better, I’m happy to help out,” Abrams said.