Sign In

Was Sebastian Shaw the wrong choice for Anakin?

Author
Time

I can somehow see the point of casting an experienced actor (instead of David Prowse) for the end of Return of the Jedi and I have to say that Sebastian Shaw’s performance of Anakin’s death was really great.

From my point of view however, 78-year-old Sebastian Shaw seemed like a weird choice for the character even back then in 1983.

Since ANH it was established that Darth Vader was a “young Jedi” and a pupil of Obi-Wan until he turned to the dark side. In the same movie, we hear Vader calling Obi-Wan an “old man” during their lightsaber duel.

I know that Vader and Luke’s father were still separate characters at this point of time.
Luke’s father was probably meant to be more or less the same age as Obi-Wan.

In TESB, both characters were merged into one and Luke’s father Anakin suddenly became “the young apprentice of Obi-Wan who turned to evil”.

So, I basically imagined a Jedi who was in his 20s (like Hayden Christensen) or early 30s when he became a Sith and fathered Luke and Leia but Shaw looks noticeably older than that (more like a guy who became a father in his 40s).

Furthermore, I think that Shaw didn’t really look menacing or “dark” enough for Anakin Skywalker.

When I saw the unmasking scene, my first thought was: “This friendly grandpa was Darth Vader, one of the most feared villains in the galaxy? Really?”

What do you think?

Author
Time

I imagine the thought process when casting Shaw was “Dads are old, cast an old guy.” And that’s honestly the impression I get from Shaw Anakin, too. If you think about the actors’ ages, Shaw was way too old to play Luke’s dad. But in the final movie, he just gives me the vibe of the father of an adult son. So it never bothered me.

Maybe you could explain it away with how the dark side had been rotting him away for more than half his life.

Death of the Author

Author
Time

Vader is too young but that is because of the prequel timeline. It was a mistake to place Revenge of the Sith a mere twenty years before Star Wars.

It would have worked if Anakin was in his twenties in episode I and by the end of the trilogy he was in his forties. But that would have made Padme older by extension.

Author
Time
 (Edited)

JadedSkywalker said:

It would have worked if Anakin was in his twenties in episode I and by the end of the trilogy he was in his forties. But that would have made Padme older by extension.

Maybe Anakin and Padme were each others’ second marriage and Luke and Leia were the kids remarried couples seem to have so often in their late 40s.

You could then retroactively add some fanservice and make another OT character a Skywalker.

Boba Fett is Luke’s brother?

Death of the Author

Author
Time

I think the prequels would have worked best with Anakin being around 12-14 years old in Episode I, 22 in Episode II, and around 32 in Episode III.

Based on this calculation, he would have been 55 years old at the time of his death in RotJ.

I think Shaw can easily pass as a 55-year-old Anakin Skywalker, but never as 45.

Author
Time

Hayden Christensen was the wrong choice for Anakin.

And in the time of greatest despair, there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as the Son of the Suns.

Author
Time

I see it as how much the Dark Side cost. He looked older than he was. I wish they would have cast someone more age appropriate, but I think he produced the desired effect. You can’t really look at any of the cast ages in Star Wars.

Author
Time

It’s almost like they made it up as they went along.

Author
Time

JadedSkywalker said:

Vader is too young but that is because of the prequel timeline. It was a mistake to place Revenge of the Sith a mere twenty years before Star Wars.

It would have worked if Anakin was in his twenties in episode I and by the end of the trilogy he was in his forties. But that would have made Padme older by extension.

Yep. Sure it would mess with the ‘young Jedi’ line, but that could be chalked up to him becoming a knight rapidly after beginning his training.

You probably don’t recognize me because of the red arm.
Episode 9 Rewrite, The Starlight Project (Workprint V4 Released!) and ANH Technicolor Project (Released!)

Author
Time

The twenty years between Anakin’s fall and ANH is really set in stone. Vader didn’t know he had twins. He knew Padme was pregnant, but not twins. So sometime between conception and birth was ALWAYS (at least post ROTJ) was when Anakin’s fall happened. Anakin should be 10 years younger than Kenobi. That fits in Episode I, but the timeline Lucasfilm came up with doesn’t fit with any of the character ages. Vader, Kenobi, Owen, and Beru should be close in age. The actors are roughly right for Kenobi, Own and Beru, but Hayden was too young and Shaw too old. Alec was in his mid 60’s during the OT, so Anakin/Vader should have been in his mid 50’s. The established timeline is 46 years old for Anakin. I think the Clone Wars need to be longer and the time between II and III needs to be longer by about 7 years making Anakin 53 in ROTJ. This also fixed Kenobi, Own, and Beru’s ages to match the actors. Though spending 20 years in a desert can make you look older (lots of real world examples), how do you explain Anakin? Could hate and pain prematurely age someone that much?

Author
Time

Stress can certainly take it’s toll. Look at any U.S. President before and after eight years in office. Anakin was horribly burned and spent two decades in essentially a portable iron lung suit. Plus the effects of being on the Dark Side, which certainly didn’t help Palpatine’s looks.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

Author
Time

yotsuya said:

The twenty years between Anakin’s fall and ANH is really set in stone.

That’s actually an interesting point, because if you use carbon freeze/relativistic time dilation on Padme, you can really fix a lot of the issues with the timeline. If in Episode 3 Anakin was in his thirties along with Owen and Beru and Obi-wan was in his forties, you could simply have the twins be conceived then put Padme on a ship at sublight relativistic speed for a while. When she returns ten years have passed for the galaxy but for her it’s been less than a year, whereupon the twins are born. The Clone Wars could take up to ten years longer, the Jedi would be practically extinct for an extra decade, Anakin would have given up hope of Padme’s return…and Anakin would believably be in his sixties by ROTJ.

You probably don’t recognize me because of the red arm.
Episode 9 Rewrite, The Starlight Project (Workprint V4 Released!) and ANH Technicolor Project (Released!)

Author
Time

To be honest, at first I couldn’t tel if you were joking or not.

Author
Time

I think it likely made more sense in whatever the original context was long before the Prequels were a blip on anyone’s radar. Shaw’s performance is the key and he’s excellent in the little time he has onscreen. I’ve never considered his age before but he seems perfectly fine as a contemporary of Obi-Wan.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.
“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford
YT channel:
https://www.youtube.com/c/DamnFoolIdealisticCrusader

Author
Time

captainsolo said:

I think it likely made more sense in whatever the original context was long before the Prequels were a blip on anyone’s radar. Shaw’s performance is the key and he’s excellent in the little time he has onscreen. I’ve never considered his age before but he seems perfectly fine as a contemporary of Obi-Wan.

When you go back and think about watching that scene for the first time, he is a reasonable casting choice. When you think about what Obi-wan said in ANH, and early in ROTJ. Anakin was a student of Obi-wan’s. We aren’t really given the context that he should be younger, but that is implied, especially after we meet Yoda. Sebastian Shaw was older than Alec Guinness by 9 years. Hayden was younger than Ewan by 10 years. Can 25 years in that suit serving the dark side age someone that much? And let’s not forget the burn scars.

But then again look at Harrison Ford in TROS And Sebastian Shaw in ROTJ. Do they look the same age? They are, but do they look it? And who looked older in the ST, Hamill or Ford? And I think the makeup and costume kept Shaw from showing his true age. The images of him in the film as Darth and the images of him without makeup look very different.

Author
Time

SilverWook said:

Stress can certainly take it’s toll. Look at any U.S. President before and after eight years in office. Anakin was horribly burned and spent two decades in essentially a portable iron lung suit. Plus the effects of being on the Dark Side, which certainly didn’t help Palpatine’s looks.

That doesn’t explain why he looks old as a force ghost though.
Hayden Christensen is 40 now (almost the same age as Vader in ANH) and he still looks pretty much like his younger self in ROTS.

If Anakin never fell to the Dark Side, then there is no way he would look like Shaw.

Author
Time

screams in the void said:

I think he was right in the context of the original unaltered trilogy , before the prequels , back when it was widely believed by a lot of authors that the Clone Wars took place 35 years before the original film .

Definitely. The timeline chicanery of the prequels is a bit of a pain.

Ideally, David Prowse should’ve been unmasked Vader/Ghost Anakin. He was only a few years older than Anakin’s post-PT canon age!