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Star Wars: How Darth Vader's Costume Limited The Duel In A New Hope

The "Star Wars" franchise has evolved since "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" premiered in 1977 in many ways, especially when it comes to the lightsaber fights. These days, the average lightsaber fight combines acrobatic sword fighting with state-of-the-art digital effects to create an awe-inspiring spectacle. And for true "Star Wars" enthusiasts, even the Jedis' fighting styles hold a deeper meaning, like how Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) changed his technique after Qui-Gon's (Liam Neeson) death during the prequels.

Obviously, this wasn't always the case. The first ever lightsaber fight happens in "A New Hope," between Darth Vader (James Earl Jones/David Prowse) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). There were some issues with the execution. First, consider what Darth Vader is: barely alive, needing machines to breathe, and wearing armor and a helmet that strongly resembles a Japanese samurai. Then, consider his opponent: an aging Jedi who's played by a 62-year-old Guinness.

Here's how Lucas described it to Rolling Stone: "[Prowse] couldn't move at all, really. We had to keep modifying the suit so people could move in it. By the time we got to the first lightsaber battle, we realized we weren't going to be able to do much. And so I accepted it was an old man vs. a half-man, half-machine."

Obi-Wan vs. Vader Part I might rank in the top five on Looper's list of the best lightsaber fights, but it's nowhere near the most technologically impressive. Here's how Lucas and company revised and perfected the lightsaber battle as the series went on.

It took several years to perfect the lightsaber duel

To start, George Lucas and company continued overhauling the Vader suit, coming up with a sleeker design for "Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back." Then, Lucas needed professional sword fighters. He hired English Olympic fencer Bob Anderson to stand in for Darth Vader in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi." Easy enough, considering Anderson could wear the Vader armor and disguise his identity. That still left Mark Hamill. Rather than try to cheat Luke Skywalker's shots with a stand-in, Lucas and company opted to have Hamill learn sword fighting. In the Rolling Stone interview, Lucas credited Hamill as being a skilled swordsman.

While filming the prequel trilogy, Lucas once again trained his actors in sword fighting. Lucas put Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen through a rigorous training regimen in which they practiced with carbon fiber swords. The sparring got so aggressive that they broke many of the prop swords. "It's like learning to dance, only if you make a mistake you get hurt," Lucas said.

These days, it's routine for "Star Wars" performers to receive sword fighting training. Daisy Ridley was particularly adept at sword fighting training when preparing for the sequel trilogy. One routine that was supposed to take three days to learn only took her 90 minutes.