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George Lucas Had to Tell Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor to Stop Making Lightsaber Noises While Filming ‘Star Wars’

Photo Credit: Zayne / Twentieth Century Fox / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Zayne / Twentieth Century Fox / MovieStillsDB

If you’re a major Star Wars fan, you’ve likely pretended to wield a lightsaber in the middle of combat, either with a toy model, a replica or even a tree branch (don’t be embarrassed, we’ve all done it). To make the action seem even more authentic, you might have even made the lightsaber’s signature noise.

As it turns out, fans aren’t the only ones to have done this! In an interview with Conan O’Brien, Liam Neeson revealed that he and co-star Ewan McGregor used to make lightsaber sounds during the filmmaking process.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Natalie Portman and Liam Neeson as Queen Padmé Amidala and Qui-Gon Jinn in 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace'
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, 1999. (Photo Credit: Zayne / Twentieth Century Fox / MovieStillsDB)

Released in 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace serves as the beginning of the franchise’s prequel trilogy. It’s set before the original three films and follows Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) as they aim to protect Queen Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) following the Trade Federation cutting off all routes to Naboo.

As the film progresses, audiences are introduced to a young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), well before he becomes Darth Vader.

Upon its release, The Phantom Menace received mixed reviews from critics. Despite this, fans of the Star Wars franchise flocked to theaters, causing the film to become a box-office hit. It became the second-highest-grossing film ever at the time of its opening weekend, behind The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), and it received three Academy Award nominations.

The Phantom Menace was followed by two films: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Making lightsaber noises on set

Appearing on Conan O’Brien’s podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Liam Neeson revealed a number of fun tidbits about the filming of The Phantom Menace. One revelation was that, during their first lightsaber action scene, he and Ewan McGregor found themselves making the weapon’s noises.

“The first time we actually had to use the lightsaber to start a little fight… We both automatically [made the noises],” he shared with O’Brien. He went on to explain that director George Lucas had to pause filming to get them to stop, telling them, “Let’s cut there. Boys, we can add that in later.”

As amusing as this on-set tale is, it’s not the only time Star Wars actors have mimicked the sounds of the vast sci-fi world. While filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), Laura Dern would make “pew” sounds whenever she fired her blaster.

This behind-the-scenes fact was brought to light by director Rian Johnson and was later confirmed by Dern on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2015-present), with the actress recounting, “I was back in my bedroom at eight years old. Doing the scene, I went ‘Pew-pew!'”

Liam Neeson shared a conversation he had with a makeup artist

Ray Park and Liam Neeson as Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn in 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace'
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, 1999. (Photo Credit: Piftu / Twentieth Century Fox / MovieStillsDB)

Liam Neeson also shared a conversation he had with a makeup artist while appearing in the Star Wars franchise. It was one of the first franchises he’d done with so much CGI, and he recalled his makeup artist telling him that audiences would be looking at the effects more than they would be paying attention to his character.

“I was supposed to be doing this scene with a little flying monster. I didn’t know what this thing was going to look like. It was a little green tennis ball that was eventually going to be this flying monster,” Neeson recalled. “I’m in the makeup chair, and the lady says, ‘I [saw] a mock-up of the monster, and you could be a monkey smoking a pipe, and no one is going to be looking at you.'”

More from us: ‘The Terminator’ Producer Reveals Key Scene Cut From Film, Says It ‘Ruined It For Us’

At the time, much of the special effects featured in The Phantom Menace were considered cutting-edge. While they might look outdated now, especially when compared to the latest Star Wars films and series, they wowed audiences back in 1999!

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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