As one of the guiding lights in the Star Wars saga – training Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy, then exiling himself to Tatooine in time to mentor Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy – Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the fan base’s favorite characters. In the original trilogy, Alec Guinness played an old, wise Obi-Wan.
Then, in the prequels, Ewan McGregor managed to do what Alden Ehrenreich would later fail to do: he played the younger version of a fan-favorite Star Wars character that was made iconic by a different actor and won over fans. Both actors did a fine job with the role. So, here are 5 Things Ewan McGregor Brought (And 5 Things Alec Guinness Brought) To Obi-Wan Kenobi.
10 Ewan McGregor: Irresistible charm
Anakin Skywalker was supposed to be the lead character of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but since Hayden Christensen’s acting was wooden and devoid of genuine emotion, fans took more to the storyline involving Obi-Wan Kenobi. Ewan McGregor’s effortless charisma made all of Obi-Wan’s facial expressions and line deliveries compelling. All McGregor had to do was turn up one of the corners of his mouth to convey something Obi-Wan was thinking or feeling. He embodied the character and brought irresistible charm along with him. Obi-Wan is one of the purest-hearted Jedi, so an actor with McGregor’s easy charisma was a requirement.
9 Alec Guinness: A spiritual presence
Obi-Wan’s role in the original trilogy is that of the wise, old mentor figure; the powerful wizard who joins the young heroes on their quest, and then sacrifices himself so that they can continue the fight without him. Obi-Wan is essentially the Gandalf of A New Hope, and the role required an Ian McKellen-level screen legend to pull it off. Fortunately, George Lucas landed such an actor when Alec Guinness signed on to play the part. He brought a spiritual presence to the role of Ben Kenobi, one that set the mold for all the on-screen Jedi Knights to come.
8 Ewan McGregor: A wry sense of humor
Cringeworthy lines about the length of trade negotiations aside, Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan is one of the funniest characters in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Whenever he’s required to spring into action or react to some grave danger, he’s all business. But in his off-time, Obi-Wan has a wry sense of humor, and McGregor nailed it. One-liners like, “So uncivilized!,” brought a relatable charm to Obi-Wan. He could do several somersaults in the air and slash down a Sith Lord while he was up there, but when he landed on his feet, he’d have the perfect line to undercut the situation with some comedy.
7 Alec Guinness: Infinite wisdom
Although he’s not as wise as Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the wisest characters in the Star Wars universe. He’s smart when we see him as a young man in the prequel trilogy, but it took the effects of Order 66 and decades of self-exile for him to truly become a wise man in time for the events of the original trilogy.
Obi-Wan has experienced a lot of exciting – and sometimes terrifying – things in his life, so he has advice on how to deal with pretty much anything. Even if your religion is wiped out by an autocratic government power, Obi-Wan will have some tips on handling it.
6 Ewan McGregor: The peak of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber abilities
In A New Hope, we see Alec Guinness’ older version of Obi-Wan Kenobi engage in one last lightsaber duel before being struck down by Darth Vader. But it was a very tame lightsaber duel, using a fighting style that is more commonly used by older, slower Force users. Ewan McGregor gave us the peak of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber abilities. He primarily shows off his skills in his intense battle with General Grievous – one man versus a four-armed robot wasn’t an easy fight to win – and also, when he leaps out of the bottomless pit that Darth Maul has thrown him into, triumphantly slicing the Sith Lord in half.
5 Alec Guinness: The Jedi mind trick
The Jedi mind trick is one of the most intriguing parts of the Star Wars lore. A Jedi with complete control of the Light Side of the Force can trick non-Force users into believing a lie. In A New Hope, Alec Guinness brilliantly introduced us to this concept when he told some Stormtroopers, “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” He convinced them that R2-D2 and C-3PO weren’t the droids they’d been ordered to capture, and the Stormtroopers let them pass through into Mos Eisley. Guinness’ subtle flick of the hand while performing the Jedi mind trick is what really sold it.
4 Ewan McGregor: Obi-Wan’s battle stance
Ewan McGregor gave us Obi-Wan’s iconic battle stance. He would hold up his lightsaber and draw his other hand back, as if he was about to slingshot the blade at his opponent. This battle stance would be recreated for the prequel-era Obi-Wan we see in animated shows like The Clone Wars, but it was McGregor who first pioneered it on the big screen.
The Jedi have very specific fighting styles in the Star Wars canon, and the style used by McGregor’s young Obi-Wan is different than the style used by Alec Guinness’ older Obi-Wan in the original trilogy. It’s more impressive and lively.
3 Alec Guinness: Riveting monologues
Before appearing in Star Wars, Alec Guinness starred in such iconic movie classics as The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, so George Lucas knew he could be counted on to deliver a couple of hefty monologues. Ben Kenobi is responsible for a lot of the exposition and world-building in A New Hope, as he explains the Force and the Jedi and the Sith and the Rebels and the Empire (which would all have been nonsense to none-the-wiser moviegoers in 1977), and also tells Luke about the dangers of Mos Eisley and the power of Darth Vader. All of his monologues are riveting.
2 Ewan McGregor: Internal conflict
When we catch up with the elderly Obi-Wan in the original trilogy, he’s made peace with the world. He’s one of the most powerful (and only surviving) Jedi Knights in the galaxy, he’s willing to spring into action when evil forces come to the Rebellion’s door, and he’s made peace with the prospect of death. The younger version played by Ewan McGregor was filled with internal conflict, particularly over training Anakin. He only trained him because it was his Master’s dying wish. He wasn’t ready to take on an apprentice, and yet he did it anyway – and it ended tragically.
1 Alec Guinness: Obi-Wan as a Force ghost
Before Alec Guinness reappeared as a ghostly Obi-Wan in The Empire Strikes Back, Force ghosts were unknown to Star Wars fans. Since his ghost doesn’t appear until the fifth movie (in chronological order), it can be easy to forget that Guinness introduced the idea of the Force ghost to the world. He came up with the beyond-the-grave voice of the Jedi – not too spooky, but still pretty otherworldly – and he made the very concept of a Force ghost seem palatable, and not ridiculous, as it could’ve been misconstrued. Obi-Wan’s Force ghost appears to Luke like a godsend whenever he needs a little boost of guidance.