Say what you will about George Lucas’ writing — especially his dialogue – but there’s no denying the man had a vision, and that vision changed cinema forever. He helped bring about the digital revolution, created one of the biggest fictional universes out there, and can also be a pretty good filmmaker with the right material. That said, Lucas is not known for eloquent and specific instructions for his actors. Instead, he is famous for his “faster, more intense” stage direction during the making of the original “Star Wars” trilogy — a direction that was sorely needed in the recent “Ahsoka” series.
Speaking with Empire for the 25th anniversary of the “Star Wars” prequels, Ian McDiarmid spoke of Emperor Palpatine’s fateful fight against Mace Windu in “Revenge of the Sith,” and Lucas’ direction in the making of that scene.
“George (Lucas) kept hyping me up on that,” McDiarmid explained. “I was screaming, ‘ABSOLUTE POWER!’ I said, ‘Do you want me to do some quiet ones, because this is a bit much?’ George said, ‘No, go further, go further!’ So I did, and he seems to have kept most of it — there’s no holding back there.”
McDiarmid confessed that line (the actual quote is “Unlimited power!”) is one of his most requested lines of dialogue by fans, but it may not surprise you to know which is number one. “The one that they like most of all is, ‘DO IT!’ People just love it,” he revealed.
Palpatine’s absolute power
The scene in question is a pivotal one for Palpatine and the larger plot of the prequels. It is the moment Palpatine fully reveals his true colors and appeals to Anakin not as a friend and confidant, not as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but as a powerful Sith Lord. “Unlimited power” was not just a taunt to Mace Windu, but a promise to Anakin. It strikes at the heart of what that trilogy is about. If the original “Star Wars” trilogy is the story of Luke and Vader, then the prequels are about Anakin and Palpatine, the one character in the franchise with no redeeming qualities.
A big part of why Palpatine works as a character is because of Ian McDiarmid, who manages to make prequel-Palpatine and original trilogy-Emperor feel both like two different people, but also the same two-faced guy finally unmasking himself to the world when the time is right. The moment Palpatine proclaims he has “unlimited power” despite appearing like a frail old dude is the moment he appears as his most powerful — which makes the lightsaber duel that precedes it shocking but unnecessary. Of course, McDiarmid was not initially set to do his own stunts, but unfortunately, George Lucas decided to change things around at the last minute — making the choreography in that scene quite complicated and a bit of a slog.
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