The Lightsaber Armory

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April 9, 1998
Episode I March Pickups, Day 5.

Here at Leavesden, there is a cart packed full with nothing but lightsabers, waiting on standby. Prepared as replacements in the event of damage during Nick Gillard's elaborately choreographed combat scenes, there are almost a dozen of each fighter's particular design. Long metal tubes painted in fluorescent colors will guide the glowing blade effects to be added later. Gillard smoothly draws a saber from the mobile armory on B Stage and hefts it expertly, spinning it. "We had to really work to get the balance right," he explains. "It had to be a practical sword for the fight scenes. It's a businesslike weapon."

How do you build a Jedi lightsaber blade these days? Gillard originally looked at carbon fiber rods, but "you shatter one of those with a really good blow and you've got flying shards and sharp points. No good, too dangerous." After testing various diameters and weights, Gillard settled on aluminum tubing. But testing against bluescreen showed that small bits of shrapnel were showing up during blade clashes. Plastic shrink-wrap over the fluorescent painted tubes solved this problem, giving the present design to the unusual blades. "We've gone through up to 20 of these a day in action," Gillard notes. The total has been around 300 stunt sabers.

Shattered blades? Shrapnel? Twenty strong aluminum blades destroyed daily in combat? Well, Gillard's very realistic lightsaber fights in Episode I are...energetic.

Keywords: Behind-the-Scenes, Props, Stunts, Production Diary

Filed under: The Movies, Episode I

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