Episode 111

You’ve been holding your lightsaber all wrong, with Kyle Rowling

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Show Notes:

Kyle Rowling is a fight master, director of the Action Acting Academy, and he is also the man who taught Samuel L Jackson how to use a lightsaber. In this episode we hear about how Kyle became Christopher Lee’s body double, the real ending to the fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan, and what it’s like to have your own action figure and Lego minifigure.

Kyle has body doubled all the Sith characters in Star Wars, even General Grievous, and alongside legendary stunt coordinator, Nick Gillard, taught Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen how to wield a lightsaber. And yes, you’re holding it wrong.

Listen in for Kyle’s incredible stories of what it is like to work behind and in front of the camera on Star Wars.

GW: I’m here today with Kyle Rowling, who is a fight master, Director of the Action Acting Academy, which you can find at www.action-acting.com and he is also, wait for it… the man who taught Samuel L Jackson how to use a lightsaber. We will definitely be asking you questions about that. So without further ado, Kyle, welcome to the show.

 

KR: Thank you very much, Guy. It’s a pleasure to be here, mate.

 

GW: It’s nice to see you, it’s been a long time. Whereabouts in the world are you?

 

KR: The AAA is based in Sydney, Australia. I am Australian, born and bred. I’ve been here my whole life. However, at the beginning of the year, the family and I chose to make a move out of Sydney and I’ve moved about 5 hours south of Sydney down into the Snowy Mountain region. So I’m a country boy now. Which is a life change that was necessary and very welcome. It’s absolutely gorgeous down here. But yeah, the school was based in Sydney. I lived in Sydney my whole life and the school is now running again. Yeah, it’s took a couple of months, because when I left Sydney, we had a space that you visited when you came out that lovely hall.

 

GW: I remember it.

 

KR: Yeah, well, we had to give that up and so it’s taken a couple of months, but I have left my second in charge, my right hand for the last 15 years, Blake Wells, is now running classes again in Sydney. You find their details. Classes are now running again on a Wednesday night, drop in casual classes. Anybody can come, no prior needed experience. If you’ve ever had a desire to pick up a sword or pretend to punch somebody in the face. Classes are on every Wednesday night again now, and they can find the details through the website or through Instagram or Facebook.

 

GW: Excellent. Okay. Honestly, I prefer to really punch people in the face rather than pretend to do it.

 

KR: Yeah, well, I’m working on that as well.

 

GW: Some people really just need it.

 

KR: Yeah, they do. And that’s why I left Sydney before I ended up in incarcerated.

 

GW: Okay. Yeah. So, I mean, 5 hours is quite a long way, even by Australian standards.

 

KR: Yeah. It’s about 400 kms. Into the deep. Well, we don’t have much snow in Australia, but I’m now based about an hour from the ski fields. I’m not going to divulge the exact town, if that’s all right.

 

GW: No, of course. Don’t dox yourself.

 

KR: I needed to get away from it all for a bit. But I will say it’s absolutely beautiful down here. The family’s all adjusting very well.

 

GW: Well, my next question would be, how are the kids taking to the change?

 

KR: It was rough at the beginning, but we’d planned this for a long time. So they had a long time to get used to it. Obviously, for kids. Again, I have an 11 year old boy and eight year old daughter now.

 

GW: Oh my God. I remember they were, I think the youngest was still in nappies the last time I saw them. Wow.

 

KR: It has been a while, mate. But obviously for the kids that age, leaving their friends is the biggest issue. But they love it down here. They’re very sociable kids and they’ve made some wonderful new friends. Dylan started in scouts now, which he absolutely loves, so we’re all doing great. My wife is a high school teacher, so she managed to find a job in our town of choice. And so that was the clincher. So we got a little rental house. But we go back to Sydney, visit parents and friends and whatnot occasionally. So it’s all good. It’s all very, very good.

 

GW: Okay. Yeah, I moved from Helsinki to the UK in 2016 after 17 years of living in Helsinki. And it was pretty hard for me and it was pretty hard for the kids. We did it for family reasons and whatnot, elderly parents and so on. It was totally the right thing to do. But the transition was not easy.

 

KR: Yeah, I can’t express how much it was the right thing to do at the time. And so at the moment I’m in a hiatus of sword fighting and training. I’m by no means done. But it was just a time to get out of Sydney and take a break from the industry. There was a lot of things happening within the industry as an actor as well, that just wasn’t very coherent for my career at the time. So it was just a necessary thing to break and re-evaluate and see where the next move takes us.

 

GW: Excellent. Okay. So tell us how you got started swinging swords around.

 

KR: Wow. Okay. So when I was eight, a long time ago, far, far away. It started when I was eight, and that was 1978. I was eight years old and I started my first acting and martial arts class. Since I was about six, I remember, I wanted to be an actor and then I started martial arts. And then as a young teenager, I was actually more into guns. Guns were the thing that I loved, and I wanted to play with guns. Somehow, some way. And then, like many of us, I saw Highlander.

 

GW: What a film.

 

KR: That’s it. I missed it at the cinema, which really bummed me out. And the moment I could rent it, I rented it on a VHS tape. Kids, go and Google VHS tape. And I watched it four times in a row. And I was hooked. So that was the start of it. And then I kept with the martial arts, traditional. I started with judo when I was 8, I did judo for two years and then traditional Japanese jujitsu. I hate having to clarify that these days. But it wasn’t Brazilian jiu jitsu, it was traditional Japanese jiu jitsu.

 

GW: Which is a different animal altogether.

 

KR: Nothing against BJJ. They’ve taken one element of jujitsu, and absolutely what they’ve done with it is phenomenal. And then I moved on to Kung Fu and I did Yau Kung Mun Kung Fu for three for four years, and then Lau Gar Kung Fu for four years, which really got me into the weaponry side of things deeply. And then it was 2000, thereabouts, 2002, I went to the Paddy Crane Workshop in Banff, Canada, which is one of the last.

 

GW: I was invited to that, but I couldn’t go for some reason, I forget why.

 

KR: I was a key instructor for 20 years at the Paddy Crane. And it was the first Paddy Crane I was there and I met Brad Waller, who was the man instrumental for starting it all. And at the end of that first week, Brad invited me to come back the following year. It was only held every two years, but at the following year as an instructor and I was like blown away. Because I’d already been doing stage combat. I started stage combat in 1993. Okay, so jumping around here a little bit. But I found stage combat. I wanted to use my acting and my martial arts. So I went for a stunt grading. And in Australia we have very stringent gradings, like you do in the UK, you have a system for it and I got knocked back, which I later found out that they knock everybody back in Australia on their first attempt to see if you’re serious or not.

 

GW: Classic.

 

KR: Yeah. And then I heard an ad on the radio in the car for a stage combat workshop. So I went and checked it out and that was it. That was the acting and the martial arts combined into one. And so I trained with a man called Steve Douglas Craig, and we were buddies and partners for seven years, under the Society of Australian Fight Directors. So that was the introduction into stage combat and European weaponry. But it wasn’t until so in 2000 I got my fight directors certification through them. And then I went to the Paddy Crane and then my eyes were opened, because there was one thing that bugged me about stage combat. It was the old school, generic, every weapon has the same five targets. And you use them. Yeah. You know what I’m talking about?

 

GW: Yes, in the early nineties, I went to a couple of stage combat courses, and at least I got to play with a rapier, but this is not how rapiers work.

 

KR: So let’s cut, one, two, three, four, five. With the rapier and the longsword and the staff. But I got to Canada and I met people like Brad Waller and maestro Ray and Jeannette Martinez, Jarod Kirby, John Lennox, Stephen Hough, Scott Brown, all these historical martial artists that were there sharing. And I went, this is what it should be. And that really triggered my deep love and fascination for learning more about historical European weaponry. As I said, I had a lot of Asian weaponry under my belt at that point. And it was like, okay, now we can start working. So we came home and then for one reason or another, which we won’t get to like happens in every country, there was a need for a new association. And we mucked around. But around 2010 a group of students started the Australian Stage Combat Association, which was another not for profit governing body, the Stage Combat, which I’ve been the president of ever since. And we’ve done some amazing work with curriculum and development and I’ve continued to travel and train as much as I could to really bring, and I know this is one of the questions that you’re going to ask, the history back into sword fights. So I’ll leave that there for a moment until you get to your next question.

 

GW: But I can skip around my question. My questions are not written in stone. I literally just printed out on a piece of paper.

 

KR: Again, a lifetime journey that started when I was really inspired by Highlander, very sad that they made any sequels to it or they’re even considering a reboot.

 

GW: Oh, God, no. I have heard. I just blocked it out of my mind, like, traumatic things, you can block them out. And I was too young to get into the cinema to see Highlander when it came out, but I was old enough to go see Highlander Two. I was looking forward to it so much. And then because I watched Highlander, the original Highlander, I don’t know how many times got on VHS and whatnot, and it was so good. Yeah, and we were so excited. Me and my friend James went and it was just so painful. It was so bad it actually stole goodness from the original because they came up with a whole load of absolute horseshit about them being aliens or something stupid.

 

KR: Highlander was perfect as it was. He got the quickening, he became mortal and it was over.

 

GW: Complete story arc. Yeah.

 

KR: It’s Hollywood’s fascination with sequel after sequel after sequel, which there’s only ever been one or two movies I can think of that actually had a good sequel to it.

 

GW: Godfather being one.

 

KR: I’ve got to be honest, I have never seen any of The Godfather films.

 

GW: Oh, totally worth it. The first Godfather, superb. And Godfather part two is I think that’s the only sequel has ever won an Oscar for Best Movie. Totally deserved it, it is as good as the first one? But that is really unusual. Also, Empire Strikes Back is as good.

 

KR: I’ll give you that. And I’ve got to say, the new Star Trek franchise, I’ve been very impressed with, I’m loving them. Can’t wait for the next one.

 

GW: I can’t get into them, I tried.

 

KR: See, I was never a Trekkie as a kid. I was always a Star Wars kid. So I didn’t do the TV series. I didn’t really do many of the old movies. And but I knew enough about Star Trek and I knew the characters, obviously, from watching the old original Shatner series. I just felt there was great chemistry with the actors and I thought they were very well done. But who knows? Each to their own.

 

GW: Also it’s worth remembering that, if you come across a particular franchise when you’re in its target demographic and then 20 years later they do new things with the franchise aimed at the same target demographic. You are no longer in that target demographic because you’re 20 years older.

 

KR: Yeah, I will tell you from actual conversations with George Lucas, why everybody got their panties in a twist about the prequels. George admits he makes movies for ten year old kids. So when we saw the first Star Wars, we were all ten. And then we want them to grow up with us 20 years later and be mature and be made for us again. But it wasn’t. I mean, I worked on the prequels. And we’ll talk about that. But when the last lot came out, I went and saw it and went, Oh. Then I went and saw it with my ten year old son. And I watched it through his eyes and him jumping up and down in the seat. And I went, I get it. I get it.

 

GW: I watched the last three movies with my daughters. They were not particularly keen on the original movies because it’s basically all boys except for a princess. One princess who doesn’t fight anyone. She’s very important and brave and everything. But she doesn’t fight anyone. I mean, she shoots a couple of people, maybe, but massively wasted character. Finally, you actually have a female protagonist and my female children go, oh, I want to be a Jedi. Representation matters.

 

KR: And my son, knowing that I’d worked on them and seen all the movies leading up to them. He was right in it, but he was the aimed demographic. And that’s what people have to remember. When you go to watch them, you have to watch them as a ten year old kid. Boy or girl.

 

GW: Although falls for The Force Awakens, my ten year old kid was internally activated to the max. I absolutely loved it from start to finish. It was pretty cool. One of the things about swords is they keep you young, apparently.

 

KR: Absolutely. Or they kill you.

 

GW: Yeah. Now, you’re the only person I know who Samuel L. Jackson has called a motherfucker to his face. So I have to know. What did you say to poor Samuel that made him call you a motherfucker?

 

KR: Everybody knows that that term was invented decades ago just for that man. We invented the term, and then we waited for him to come along for it. Yeah. It’s a wonderful story. So, yes, I’m deeply honoured to have been called to my face a motherfucker by Samuel. But we were training one day. It was the first training day that we had Sam for, for Episode Three. I’d met him briefly on Episode Two, but I didn’t work with him. So in Episode Three, we’re training him for his fight against the Emperor. Spoilers, if you haven’t seen him.

 

GW: It was a long time ago. If people haven’t seen the movies yet, it’s on them.

 

KR: I know, nobody has the right to ruin it. If I want to wait 30 years to see a movie, that’s my obligation. But we’re training and we got down about the first nine moves of the fight. We played with it a bit and said, alright, let’s just blow it, let’s run it. So it’s run through nine modes, boom, boom, boom. And he looked at me and said, “How was that?” I said, Yeah, all right, that’ll do, for now. And he looked me square in the face. Big bug eyes. “Fuck, that’ll do for now, motherfucker, was it right or wrong?” I can’t do it justice. It’s like just, Samuel L you know, in my face, like, what do you mean? And like, uh, uh uh. And then he just smiles and laughs. Gives me a hug. Whispers the N-word into my ear like, I love you N-word. And we went back home.

 

GW: My God.

 

KR: So it was a wonderful, wonderful experience, wonderful moment. But he really threw me because I really thought, it was my first day working with him. I didn’t know him at all. And I thought, Oh my God, I’ve just offended Samuel L Jackson. And I’m a part of this movie and I’m screwed. No, it was just him playing with me. And yeah, he had a ball with that, I tell you. But it was wonderful. That’s my Samuel L Jackson, motherfucker story.

 

GW: So how did you get into this position where you were teaching Samuel L Jackson how to fight with a lightsaber?

 

KR: When I saw Episode One at the cinema, I said to my partner at the time, we knew Episode Two was coming to Sydney to film, and I just put it out there in the universe: I have to work on these films. As it turns around, they were in Sydney rehearsing and it was actually my sister that got me the job, believe it or not. My sister was in a club one night and this guy was trying to pick her up and big noteing himself that he’d been down at the set and was working on Star Wars and blah blah blah. And so she started buying him drinks instead.

 

GW: Oh wow, that’s a good sister.

 

KR: Got him drunk and got Nick Gillard’s phone number. And Nick Gillard was the stunt coordinator for Episodes One, Two and Three. And if anybody doesn’t know Nick, trust me. You have seen him in a film. If you go and look at Nick Gillard’s IMDB, it is absolutely phenomenal.

 

KR: The Boss, and I affectionately call him The Boss, and I have called him nothing else since. Though I have one funny story from another show we did, but The Boss was. He’s done everything that you can imagine. He started his career under Vic Armstrong. Legendary UK stunt coordinator. But he goes all the way back to the early Bond films. Indiana Jones, you name it. Willow, Labyrinth, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. His bio on IMDB is phenomenal. So anyway, my sister gets his phone number and gives it to me.

 

GW: You owe your sister.

 

KR: Big time. And then we heard he was looking for a tall swordsman to double Christopher Lee. I called him up the next day and I said, listen, you don’t know me. My name’s Kyle. I’m a tall swordsman. I believe you’re looking for somebody, and here’s a little bit about me and blah, blah, blah. He went, all right, send me a CV. So I put a CV in the post and I sent it off. And I didn’t hear anything. So a week later, I sent him another one. And then a week later I sent him another one. I now know the story. So when he got my first CV, being English as he is, he opened it up and my English accent’s not great at the moment, but he opened it up and took one look at my headshot said “Oh, God, guys with ponytails are wankers” and threw it into the garbage. So it sat in the bin. It turned up a week later and he said, “Fuck that ponytail wanker” and again binned me. In the meantime, he’s gone through like 150 Aussie stuntmen trying to find somebody and not one of them could really use a sword. So the third one came along and he put it at the bottom of the pile, and eventually he got down to it. He said, “Oh fuck, the ponytail wanker. All right, let’s get him in.” So we came in and we started having a play. He’s given me a sword and he’s marking it through the choreography. And he has his famous up the back parry where he’s parrying down, like hanging down behind his back.

 

GW: Dreadful, dreadful thing to do in a swordfight.

 

KR: I know, but it’s a wonderful thing to do in a lightsaber swordfight.

 

GW: Yeah, it looks great on screen. Just don’t do it in real life.

 

KR: So he’s to my left and I had this sword down here and he goes, from here I want you to thrust me in the belly and from this position. And I did everything in my body just did it. I pulled my sword out to the right, flipped a moulinet, and I come through with a Chinese thrust to the belly. And he was like, What? What, what, what? What was that? What was that? And I don’t know. He said, do that again. And in my head I’m going come on, body. Don’t fail me now. So we got back in the same position, pulled out the same moulinet thrust and he was like, put the sword down, mate. You’ve got the job. So I then made an Englishman the best cup of tea he’d ever had. And that’s what bonded our friendship for life. Then he said, you got the job. He took me down to the set and introduced me to Ewan and Hayden. And then he said, Alright, nick off, come back tomorrow, so I get up to the car park and I start calling everybody I know, going, oh my god oh my god oh my god. And then he calls me, I go, yes, boss. What’s happening is listen, any chance you could come back? Rick McCallum, the producer, wants to have a look at you. I said I haven’t left. I’ll be there in 2 minutes. He’s now got two swords and I’ve got one and he’s marking through some choreo again. And he says, listen, look, this side that I’m doing is actually the side you’ll be doing. Because we will get back to Dooku and twin sabers in a minute. So he said what are you like with two swords? And he’s just kind of casually given me the other sword and I broke into a whole bunch of my Chinese flippy twirly stuff. And we went, “You wanker. All right, put the swords down. Make me a cup of tea, Rich will be here in a minute.” So Rick turned up and he’s gone, just do your flippy twirly shit, Kyle. So I did the flippy twirly shit and Rick’s gone, “Oh, lovely. Well done, spunky. See you tomorrow.” And so that was it. I was in. So I did Episode Two only a total of like 20 days on that one. But then I just made such a great bond with Nick to the point that he let me be a Jedi in the arena battle, which I pop up a couple of times and I now have an action figure for my character, Joclad Danva. So I have an official Star Wars action figure of me when I was in my prime at 30 looking all sexy. And then a few years back, my son for Father’s Day bought me the Lego Joclad Danva figure. So I have both of them sitting in pride of place in my special cabinet. So yeah, that was a bit of a rush. But I mean, that action figure came out eight years later when I guess George was saying, what else can we make some money on? And of course I don’t see a cent of that.

 

GW: But who cares? You have an action figure.

 

KR: You can keep your shiny gold trophy. I’ve been immortalised in plastic and that’ll do me. So I did the Arena battle for him. Again, funny, he was always trying to cut my hair again. And he still is to this day. If Nick could get me a job where I had to shave my head, it would be his happiest day on earth. But it we shot the arena battle for like five days. And for two days we had a whole bunch of kendo extras. They were all very stiff and very Kendo, and so we’d put them in the background. And the boss kept putting me in the foreground to do some fancy stuff. And on the third day, we turn up. He puts me in front of the camera. The cameraman was like, no, no, no. Look, we’ve seen him, the same guy for two days. You got to get rid of him. So they sent me down to the creature shop to go and get dressed up. Come back so we can’t see your face. And I get to the creature shop and there’s 12 alien heads lined up on these tables. I can take my pick. So I pick the weequay with four foot long dreadlocks. So I spent two days as a weequay, and then they were tired of him. And they sent me to get changed again. And I got a long blonde wig and a different change of Jedi outfit. And I came back as Sven, the Swedish Jedi. But I said, Now give me that long, blonde wig. So every chance I could get, I got longer hair than I had.

 

GW: Just to fuck with Nick.

 

KR: Just to fuck with Nick. So when Episode Three came around, we’d stayed in touch and he called me out and he said, Mate, you’re on full time this time. So Episode Three was six months, full time, six days a week, 10 hours a day. Once again, to double Christopher Lee. And I also was General Grievous, which not many people know about.

 

GW: Were you? I didn’t know that.

 

KR: I didn’t get the name and unfortunately the guy that did the voice gets all the credit for being Grievous. But he spent half a day in a recording studio, and I spent six months in blue spandex suit. So again, there was a lot of things. When we had the first script, the fight between Grievous and Obi-Wan, the big fight that they have, Grievous had one of the magna guards power poles. So we spent three months choreographing this incredible staff vs sword fight with Ewan and then George turns up two weeks before shooting starts. He says no, no, no. I’ve changed that now. He now has four arms and four lightsabers. And we just looked at him and George, that’s brilliant. That’s brilliant. And we walked away going, what the fuck is he thinking. So we had the challenge of creating the four on one Lightsaber fight at that point, we tried to change as little as possible for Ewan. So where the staff was a strike to the shoulder, strike to the leg, strike to the head, thrust to the belly. We used that same sequence.

 

GW: Different arms. Yeah.

 

KR: Oh, yeah. And then we made up what we called “ghost hits”. So I’d be striking this target, this target three hits, and they’d say right now there’s going to be one coming to thrust to your left hip, but I’m not going to throw anything at you. So Ewan said Okay, Parry, Parry, Parry. Nothing. Parry, Parry, Parry, nothing. Which is why Grievous gets two of his hands cut off quick.

 

GW: Makes life a lot easier.

 

KR: And then once he had that down pat, the CGI guys came up and they recorded the fight, and we talked them through all the ghost hits so they knew what they were doing. And then, of course, you see the movie and you get that stupid Cuisinart spinny, spinny, spinny thing that he starts the fight with. Most of the good fight that we had was gone. The best fight we ever did we think, Nick and I agree, just before he fights Grievous, the four magna guards step up on Obi-Wan. And we had this, that credible sequence of four guys with staves fighting one guy with a sword and we actually put him in the middle of us. One taking a turn. One taking a turn. And Ewan’s jumping and ducking and rolling, and it was incredible. And yeah, he cuts us all down. And then that bit where you see the last one crawling towards him and he drops the container on it. What happens is he just drops a container on one dude. And that was the end of that fight. So there was a lot of tragedy, but one of the best lessons I learnt from The Boss, especially after Episode Two, the first time I saw it in the cinema, I actually didn’t see me fighting Yoda because my head was in my partner’s chest crying my eyes out at how badly they had ruined the Anakin and Obi-Wan fight.

 

GW: I shouldn’t laugh because that’s distressing.

 

KR: We can laugh now, but I was gutted and I called The Boss up and go, did you see what they did to our fights? He goes, mate, it’s not your fight. George paid you for a product. It’s his fight. And if he wants to use one move, that’s his prerogative. So a really interesting lesson, that you get emotionally invested in the choreography and the training, but don’t get emotionally attached to the final outcome.

 

GW: Yeah, I guess it’s like if I buy a Swiss army knife and I snap the main blade off and glue it to the end of a stick, and I throw the rest of it away. It’s my knife. I can do what I want with it. But it must be hard to see something you created chopped up.

 

KR: Yeah, but I was glad to say when we did get to Episode Three and the big fight between Ani and Obi at the end. That’s a fight that me personally, again, being a Star Wars freak as a kid, I’d been waiting to see for 30 years. And now I get the opportunity to choreograph it. So that fight, I knew going in, I wanted to do the largest sword fight in cinema history. Doing my research prior to that, it’s the six and a half minute fight in Scaramouche from 1963.

 

GW: That’s the longest.

 

KR: Yeah, the longest. So the one time that we did this fight, me and my buddy at the time that was working with me, we did it in full, for Nick and Sam Jackson. I ran for 14 and a half minutes.

 

GW: Fucking hell, that’s a long fight.

 

KR: Yeah, there’s 11 and a half minutes in the final film. It was 596 moves in 25 sections and it covered over 800 metres in a straight line.

 

GW: Wow. That is an enormous fight. That must be the longest and the one covering the most ground. Yeah, it must be.

 

KR: Has to be. Yeah. I can’t think of any other flight that goes anywhere near 14 minutes. So they took 3 minutes out of it. But it’s still an amazing piece. But again, it is a fight director from a theatrical background. The one thing is the way they chopped it up, because the story was really important to me. And to Ewan and to Hayden and to Nick. You don’t get it in the way that it’s cut, but we wanted it to run. But he had to cut it in with the space battle and the ground battle. But even then, he cut sections up wrong. So what people don’t understand is Obi-Wan is never trying to hurt Anakin.

 

GW: Well, yeah, know, I got that.

 

KR: He’s trying to save him and bring him back. So the first 60 moves, he didn’t attack once. He parried and did nothing. Parry and avoid. And he’s like, okay, kid, get it out of your system. We’ll hug it out and we’ll go home and have tea. Then that’s not working. So he has to go for the small wound. All right, that’s not working. I’m going to take your hand off. That doesn’t work. Do not blame me for the end. I must say the end of that fight with the high ground and the leap over and the cut, cut, that is not my end. That’s George’s. Nick and I had an incredible end to it, and it’s tough to describe  but I’ll give it a go. But when we showed Ewan, he just dropped his saber grabbed me by the cheeks and gave me a big kiss on the lips. I mean, thank God somebody understands this character. Thank you.

 

GW: Okay, so your main claim to fame really is that Ewan McGregor has kissed you on the mouth. That’s a pretty good claim to fame.

 

KR: My wife likes that one too. But yeah, it was a wonderful moment. Because the only brief we had on that whole fight, apart from being shown the set model and saying it has to go from this landing platform down here, down these steps, across this hallway, into this room, out of this room, into this room, through the big room, into the little room. Back to the big room. Head here on the balcony. But the only thing was that Anakin had to lose his human left hand and both legs to become Vader. He already has his robot right hand. And so we choreographed it. So they both jumped off the floaty thing and landed on the dirt. There was another short exchange and Anakin disarmed Obi-Wan and grabbed him by the throat with the left hand. And there was just this moment of looking at each other and Obi-Wan saying, dude, don’t do this, you leave me no choice. And then as Anakin brings is cut in to cut Obi-Wan’s head off, Obi-Wan forces his saber up from the inside, flipped and cut off his hand that was holding his throat, ducked under and spun around underneath the slash that goes over his head, cut him off at the knees and force blew him down the hill.

 

GW: That would be so much better.

 

KR: Now wait for it. As he’s tumbling down the hill, Obi-Wan then grabs him with the force and holds him four feet from the lava. And holds him through the whole speech. And Anakin says I hate you and so Ewan has to say, “Well, I can’t help you”, and walk away. And I said, Ewan, I want you to hold him, but turn and take two steps before you let him go.

 

GW: So he doesn’t fall in?

 

KR: No. So you don’t see him fall in. You know he’s going to. But with the moment you release that force hold, he’s going to slide into the lava. But you can’t bear to watch it. That’s when he kissed me. He holds him. He turns his back, takes two steps with his hand trailing behind him, and then drops his head and lets him go and Anakin slides into the lava. That’s the ending you should have got.

 

GW: That would have been so much better.

 

KR: Ewan abused George on a daily basis for three weeks. Begging for that. Begging for that. And in the end, it didn’t happen.

 

GW: Fuck.

 

KR: So please don’t blame me. Don’t send hate mail, because it did have a much better ending.

 

GW: Okay. So you sort of casually skipped over the Count Dooku, Yoda fight. Yeah, because you said they were looking for a tall swordsman to be Christopher Lee’s stunt double? So that was you?

 

KR: That was me. Yeah. I was originally hired to double Chris. Now, Chris’s six five, was, God rest him. I don’t know. We’re going to have a chat about him shortly. So I was in three inch heels, I’m six two.

 

GW: Aren’t you normally in three inch heels, mate?

 

KR: No, they’re normally six inches mate.

 

GW: But you can’t find the six inches ones.

 

KR: But because they didn’t want a three inch heel on the boot. So the boot was built up on the inside. Here I am, dealing with a horrible cloak to try and fight in, which is why the Jedi ditch their robes as well. They’re a bitch to fight in. So I was doing the Ginger Roger things. Yeah, doing everything the boys were doing, but backwards in high heels. So yeah, I trained with the boys for 17 days and then we a week of shooting for that. Just an incredible experience. Again, this is the first feature that I’m working on now and then we get to the Yoda fight. Now I’ve been weeks prior to this trying to choreograph the Yoda fight and the Boss came down to have a look at me one day and guess, what are you doing? Just do your flippy twirly bullshit. Yoda is so fast and the computers are so fast it doesn’t matter. I want you as fast as you can be. They are just going to put Yoda in to match you. So on the first day on the set we had six little chalk marks on the floor that I had to hit each of those marks and pull a pose where they were going to put Chris in for his dialogue and his look. So we take off and I do flip, flip, flip, 12 flips, hit the mark. Cool. Do it again. Hit the mark. And the Boss came up to me. He goes, different again, but nice. And there was no way that I could remember what I was doing.

 

GW: So yeah. So they weren’t really carefully choreographed, it was just like flip it about a bit and then do this.

 

KR: I tried to choreograph it. It was too slow and wasn’t working. So Nick just said, just do it. So Nick was the only one that knew I was doing anything slightly different between each chalk mark. But he didn’t care. I hit the mark the same and that was all that mattered. And then they put Yoda in later on. But the funny thing, like I remember the first day on set. And I’d get in there at 4 a.m. to get the makeup and costume done. So I’m in costume and I’m sitting on the set and then you can’t miss Christopher Lee when he walks in the room. He’s just head and shoulders above everybody. And I look over and I see Chris talking to George, like standing 60 yards away, talking. And then Chris just looks around and spots me and just puts his hand up and gives George the ‘hold on a minute’ and walks over to me and introduces himself.

 

GW: Oh, what a gentleman.

 

KR: Dude. You have no idea. This happens for a week. He only ever sees me in the Dooku outfit. And on the final day, I’m in the makeup room and they’re de-robing me, and the beard comes off and the wig comes off and my hair falls out and over the shoulder I hear, “So that’s what you look like, dear boy.” He’d been standing there for 5 minutes waiting to meet me. Not his double, me. So I was like, Wow. And he said, Come here. And I stood up and he gave me a big hug and said thank you. I know we’re going to talk about it. We might as well keep going with Chris, if that’s OK. Again, as some people may or may not know, he apparently still holds the world record for more sword fights on screen than any other actor in history. Starting from his days as an extra on Errol Flynn films on the ship. Going through all of his other films. At the time, well, that was 20 years ago. At the time that was a thing. To be asked to be his double now because he was in his golden years and just unable to do it. You can understand the pride and the privilege of that moment. To be able to do that for him. Because we’d filmed all the Yoda flight before he came to set, so we were just putting him in his bits. So you know at the beginning he salutes Yoda. And as he steps out, “This the first thing you’re going to do, Chris, you’re going to bring it up and moulinet it out,” and he goes, “I know this,” “I know you do, sir.” And like between you and me, this isn’t a salute to, Yoda. This is me saluting you. And he just stepped out and he brought his saber up to me and he saluted me. We saluted each other. And it was just such a wonderful thing. One of those guys that once they’re all gone, we’re not getting them back. You know, we’re not going to see the likes of him or Anthony Hopkins or any of those gentlemen again. Yeah, once they’re all gone, we’re looking at the end of an era. I’m doing my best to try and raise my son the best way that I can. But there was something different about those men. They will always be and always should be an inspiration to anybody coming up under them. We had some fun. It was another fun story on Episode Three, we knew he was not going to be fighting. His heart was failing. He had orders not to lift his hands above his shoulders or turn his head quickly.

 

GW: Wow. I didn’t realise he was that ill.

 

KR: He was 84 when we did Episode Three. So we completely worked on the premise that we were going to do the same way as we did Episode Two. He was going to do none of the fighting. And George was like, no, no, no, I want him to fight. We got to set one day and I’m in costume. He’s in costume, he’s like, Is Chris ready to do his fight? Said, no, Kyle’s going to be doing the fight. And he’s like, no, no, no, it’s got to be. Chris says, okay, there’s a little bit of a kerfuffle. And the boss said, take him up to the room and teach him. Now, go. So we took him up to the room. He did about 2 minutes and then like, “No, I can’t do this. I’m not doing this.” And sat down, pulled out a big ten inch stogie and started smoking a cigar. So we chatted and chatted, and then we got called back down and the day continued on. And then that night I was at home and I get a panicked call from Rick McCallum, the producer, saying, “Spunky, what happened today? What happened with Chris? What happened?” “I don’t know. What do you mean?” “Well, he’s just called us from his hotel, and he wants you to call him back. He’s just got back from the hospital. Call him, talk to him and then call me back. Let me know what’s going on.” All right. Okay. All right. So I call him up. “Yes, boy?” “You’re right? I hear you were at the hospital.” “Oh, no, no. That’s just my weekly check-up.” “Oh, they said you want to talk?” “Yes. We didn’t get to finish our conversation.” And so we chatted for an hour. And then I called Rick back and he said, “What was it?” “I said, none of your fucking business. He’s fine. He just wanted to chat to me.” One of the many amazing moments and memories that I have of him. It was funny you’d be having a conversation with him and he’d go, “I remember once in 1942… Cats are wonderful things, aren’t they? They’re so wonderful.” You’d see the brainwashing kick in where he starts going to talk about a story of being behind enemy lines in 1942 or something, and then all of a sudden he’s talking about cats. Is this guy senile or is this deprogramming? Yeah, he still to this day wasn’t allowed to talk about things that he did during the war. And it happened a thousand times.

 

GW: Yeah. It’s that generation, they don’t talk about that sort of thing.

 

KR: Well, I mean, from what I understand, he was a spy. He was forbidden. It’s not that he didn’t want to. It looked like he wasn’t allowed to.

 

GW: Mention the things he’d done.

 

KR: But again, absolute, absolute gentleman, so awesome and so privileged to have had that opportunity. He was very grateful for the work that I did for him to give him his last hurrah, the way he did.

 

GW: Yeah. It’s funny because I’ve seen those films more than once, and it never crossed my mind that it wasn’t him actually doing it.

 

KR: Well, that’s it. You do a good job.

 

GW: Clearly those heels worked.

 

KR: Yeah, heels work. I mean, I was in a wig and a beard every day in full costume, so that when my back was to the camera, they didn’t have the CGI his head onto me. They did for all the forward shots. And there were times that, I looked at it and that’s definitely me.

 

GW: I will watch those fights again to see if I can see the joins?

 

KR: Yeah. You can hit pause occasionally and you’ll go, oh yeah, look, that head’s a little rounder and that chest’s a little more barrelled and but we have the Episode Two Star Wars chess set, my son and I. The board has a photo of Dooku fighting Anakin. But the photo, they haven’t Photoshopped his head out. They haven’t done that. So it’s fuzzy, but it’s clearly me. It’s fabulous. That reminds me. I was going to talk about Dooku and twin sabers. So yeah, many people have seen a promotional shot of Dooku holding two sabers. In the original fight he fights Obi-Wan first and kicks the shit out of everyone and gets rid of him. Then in the movie, what you see is he’s fighting Anakin and Obi-Wan goes “Anakin!” and throws him his lightsaber. And Anakin starts fighting with two sabers. That’s not how it happened. Obi-Wan was unconscious and he’s fighting Anakin, he just stops and takes a pause and looks him up and down, goes this kid’s good, and he sucks up Obi-Wan’s saber and he attacks Anakin with two sabers. Anakin panics at first. And then Anakin starts looking and analysing. And in the space of about 20 moves Anakin worked out the twin saber system. And he disarms Dooku, takes the second saber and comes back and attacks him again. And then we disarm that and then we cut his hand off. And it’s the same thing that happened because Nick loved my twin saber spinning bullshit. So when I fought Yoda, I did the same thing. When he says, “It’s not over yet, my friend,” he sucked up a second saber and came at Yoda with two sabers. And this is all stuff that you didn’t get to see, unfortunately. But the cool thing is that as far as the canon goes, apparently Joclad Danva, my Jedi character is the young Jedi that invented the twin saber system.

 

GW:  Oh, really?

 

KR: He was a terrorist Kasi champion. Which is this tournament within the cannon. It’s an intergalactic tournament of saber fighters. And it was no killing. And there was an amnesty for anybody that wanted to come. So bounty hunters or whatever. Anyone could come and fight at this tournament. And Joclad was the champion of this tournament. But he had one rule is that he would never use the force in a sword fight. And the only time he got beat was because one of the other contestants used the force against him and beat him. So then we tied this together, that Dooku, when he was a jedi, found this kid and said teach me this stuff that you’re doing. Okay. Right. Which led to a wonderful little short that I always wanted to do with Chris. And I may still do it, but I’ll have to do it animation, obviously. But it’s just a little story of Joclad and Dooku. Dooku making him a backup plan. So after the battle of Geonosis, Dooku comes back to grab something when he had to bugger off quickly and he lands, because nobody really knows what happened to Joclad Danva. But the way they edit it, I’m alive, I’m dead. I’m alive, I’m dead. I’m alive, I’m dead. You can see me down and up and down and up and down. And so when he arrives back at the planet, he feels this really strong Force disturbance. And he starts looking around and he finds a really badly wounded Joclad in a corner. Barely alive. And he goes, This kid’s tough and he’s good. So he takes him off and hides him on a little moon rock. And heals him. But Joclad has no memory of who he is. So he starts teaching in the ways of the Sith. And Joclad develops the ability to throw lightning through his lightsaber. And then Dooku says, right, I’m going to tell you the truth. You were a Jedi, but they left you behind to die. And he goes, well, fuck them. I’m a Sith and I want you to join me. And he goes, fuck you. And so Joclad buggers off to go hide on a rock like Luke does with all of this Sith and Jedi powers. Just the baddest dude in the universe and wants nothing of any of them. So it’s a little short animation that I’d love to do one day.

 

GW: Yeah, it’s a funny thing is there’s an awful lot of cannon material, back stories and other stories and stuff that I’ve just never come across. To me, Star Wars is just the movies. I’ve never read any of the books. I don’t know why. They’ve never grabbed me.

 

KR: No, I wanted to see the movies and that was it.

 

GW: Now, I’m sure there are a bunch of questions that listeners would be wanting you to ask right now about, you know, but I think a lot of it goes to kind of almost like invasions of privacy of famous people’s lives.

 

KR: You can ask. There are some that I won’t say. Look, there are many stories I won’t say and I won’t tell, especially in a podcast like this. But let’s say we have a whisky in hand, then it’s carte blanche. But ask away, and I’ll tell you whether I can or not.

 

GW: All right, well, I’ll just mentally edit out any of the obviously invasive ones. Who was the guy who was the most impressive actor to work with in terms of what they could do, physically.

 

KR: Hayden.

 

KR: The kid was a machine. Still, to this day, I’ve never met anybody like him. So Hayden was Canadian, grew up playing ice hockey, could skate before he could walk. He got signed on to Star Wars and a week later he was scheduled to sign on to the US pro tennis circuit.

 

GW: Really?

 

KR: Yeah. Nobody knew this.

 

GW: I didn’t know that. Okay.

 

KR: But he went down the movie route instead. I could show him thirty moves, and we’d walk through and tap through thirty moves. Yeah. All right, let’s just do that one more time without talking. We’d tap through it. All right, let’s go. He’d be hell for leather, full speed. Perfect in every way, shape or form. The kid was nuts.

 

GW: So being good at tennis doesn’t give you that. What had he done to be able to learn choreography like that?

 

KR: I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know what it was. He’s just, I hate using the term, but he was just a natural. And I think the desire and the passion to do well. To really want this. They did some horrible things to him, and I’m going to say he was a fabulous actor. But a lot of that was beaten out of him doing these two films. And with the deadpan delivery of Jedi, because they were meant to be in control of their emotions, therefore no emotions. And in my opinion, controlling your emotions is not no emotions. And at one point, he was like getting upset. And he’s like, George, how am I supposed to transition to the dark side without getting that? The answer was, oh, we’re going to give you contact lenses. That was his entire transition to the dark side.

 

GW: Oh, yeah. It was the least convincing part. There are many flaws in those movies, but.

 

KR: Please, everybody, don’t blame Hayden for the performance that he gave because that was the performance he was directed to give.

 

GW: And actors do what they directors say.

 

KR: That’s our job. That’s why they’re the director. They direct us in the direction they want us to go. If you want to see Hayden perform really well, go and watch Glasshouse, which was his film that he did before Star Wars that he got Star Wars from. Phenomenal young actor in every way, shape or form and a brilliant kid. And just crazy, lovely, he was nineteen when we did Ep. 2. Just a lovely guy in every aspect and just the most phenomenal sword choreography learner and theatrical, solid person I’ve ever met to this day.

 

GW: Yeah. I was expecting you to say, because you were talking about Ewan McGregor doing all this leaping about and rolling around. I thought you would probably say Ewan.

 

KR: Don’t get me wrong. Ewan was very, very close. Very close. Ewan had done the first film as well. So when I first met Ewan, he’d already done Episode One with Nick. So Hayden hadn’t done anything prior to that. And I got to say, those boys work their arses off, especially for the big fight at the end. When they weren’t in our training room, they were on set. When they weren’t on set, they were in the training room. And every time they were on set, they had a pair of sabers with them at all times. And when they were doing a camera reset or a lighting reset that would be practising and running it through. Because, again, fights are never shot in sequence on film. We had 25 individual beats. Yeah, some of those were actually 80 moves. And we get on set and they say, what are we do? And say we’re doing beats 17, 18, 19 today and they’d write 17, right? Start with, boom. And they would just go straight to beats 17, 18, 19. They could run 60, 80 moves at a time.

 

GW: That’s very impressive.

 

KR: I was a little bummed, I got to be honest that I didn’t get a call for the Obi-Wan TV series. After the fights that were prevalent, we’ve seen in the last three films and things that I’d heard Ewan say about those fights. I thought for sure he was going to say, there’s no way I’m wielding a saber without Nick and Kyle there. And unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

 

GW: But yeah, it’s not necessarily even up to him.

 

KR: Not necessarily. But he would have had a bit of sway if he said, I want them.

 

GW: Sure. Now, what actual weapons do they use on set for the Lightsabers?

 

KR: For Episode One and Episode Two, what we had were there were aluminium tubes.

 

GW: Aluminium tubes? They would just get dinged up in 2 seconds, surely?

 

KR: Yeah, funnily enough, that’s exactly what happened. So that’s why on Episode Two we went through close to 200 blades. There was a resin handle and they’d been moulded perfectly off them. And then Thomas, the saber guy, amazing props maker, would grind off most of the lumps and bumps. And then paint them on. Because when you’re using them, you can’t see. And then we had a grub screw and an aluminium tube in it. Sometimes these things in a sequence of 20 moves would end up like a banana.

 

GW: Yeah. Why aluminium?

 

KR: Well, that’s just what they had at the time, right? So that’s what we were using.

 

GW: I mean, you thought it was something like rattan would stand up better.

 

KR: Yeah, well, they were using aluminium for whatever reason. But Episode Three rolls around and we start training with aluminium. And Thomas comes up one day and says, here, I’ve got something new for you boys to try. And Hayden and I just got down to beat a fight, so. And he had bamboo inside heat treated plastic.

 

GW: Oh, better.

 

KR: So much lighter. Great. So Hayden and I grab these sabers off him and we went hell for leather. And at the end of 20 moves, these things were like a wet noodle. Shattered the bamboo inside. They were dangling around like a whip. And, like, Thomas just looked at it like, “You pricks.” took them off us and stormed out of the room, and the next day he came back, and what we finally settled on was carbon fibre. So we had carbon fibre tubes inside and they’re about a 12 mil diameter carbon fibre tube. There was only one broken saber during all of Ep. Three. That was because someone, and I won’t mention names, threw it against the wall, having a fit on set. And threw it, yelled at somebody and walked off for the day. So that was the only one we broke.

 

GW: So then the special effects guys had kind of paint in the lightsaber blade over the carbon fibre tube.

 

KR: Yeah. So the carbon fibre either had green or orange glow tape on it, like iridescent tape. So that they could tell the difference. That was the biggest bummer about the Ani/Obi fight at the end of Ep. Three is they both have the white sabers. There was no green or red like there was at the end of Return of the Jedi, which really added that extra bit.  Yeah. So the CGI blades, they just added them in.

 

GW: Interesting. Okay. You can tell I’ve thought about this a lot. Actually, I am a Jedi. I mean, I know other people are Conan and some people are ninjas. Okay. So you have an actor who takes his lightsaber handle off his belt and he presses the button and it goes, [lightsaber noise].

 

KR: We cut and we hand him one.

 

GW: So you cut and you hand him one. Okay. And that must have happened every single time somebody pulls out a light saber.

 

KR: Yes and no, because they can also erase the blade. We have the hero sabers, which were metal, hand turned. Which would have the blade in it dangling off the hip and they’d pick it up and they’d bring it up into their pose with the blade there. And they would just erase that blade and then go [lightsaber noise].

 

GW: Makes sense, makes a lot of sense. That’s been bothering me for a while.

 

KR: A lot of times I’d just pull out the handle. And other times, we would just swap them out. Cut them in and cut them out. Movie magic, brother.

 

GW: Yeah. Yeah, totally. And it’s always been, “deception” is the wrong word.

 

KR: Magic. Yeah.

 

GW: Spectacle. Yeah. It’s supposed to be spectacle. And you’re supposed to go, how did they do that? So I don’t normally watch “making of” DVDs because most of the time I don’t really want to know.

 

KR: There is one documentary that when I was back teaching actors I’d make every single one of my actors watch. Any acting students at any institute that I’m working out or even through my own school. And it’s called “Within a Minute”. Rick McCallum, during Episode Three, took 48 seconds of the Ani/Obi fight at the end, got the 48 seconds where they run out on that arm and the larva burns the arm and the arm breaks off and drops down into the lava river. 48 seconds. And he said, what’s really interesting about the filmmaking process is to take a sequence less than a minute and see how many people are involved in making that. So that 48 seconds required 910 people.

 

GW: Wow. I was guessing 100.

 

KR: 70,441 man hours of work to create 48 seconds. It it’s only an hour and 17. It’s on YouTube. It is an amazing documentary and insight. Now in that hour and 17 minutes, he talks about the actors for about a minute and a half. And the reason I show actors is to show that you are one tiny cog in this massive machine.

 

GW: You’re just a cog that happens to have the spotlight on it. The rest of the machine is invisible.

 

KR: Your cog is useless without that machine. Absolutely useless and it was it’s an incredibly goes all the way through from George first penning it all the way down through the office folks that are working out the pay. To the caterers, to the carpenters, to the set painters, to us in the stunt room. You name it. And the cool thing was, while we were filming, Mount Etna erupted, I think. I believe it was Etna and George went “quick!” and he threw four guys on a plane to fly to film it. So when you were watching those lava explosions during that flight. There is real footage of the Mount Etna eruption.

 

GW: That’s genius.

 

KR: He said, “I want real footage of lava. Go get it.” He put four guys on the plane and flew them out there and they filmed for a week. And then they flew back and they had that digital lava, which was real.

 

GW: That’s amazing.

 

KR: Yeah, very, very clever.

 

GW: And it’s that sort of attention to detail that makes, that makes a difference in lots of different kinds of works of art. And an awful lot of this stuff never gets seen. Like that business with the backstories, right? Characters have backstories. I listen to a lot of the book writing podcasts and quite often. They have novelists on. And one of the things that the novelists often say, I don’t write novels, but this is interesting anyway, the one thing a lot of novels do is they write an entire backstory for a character who may be just a waiter who hands the main character glass of wine in a restaurant and is never seen or heard of again. The writer knows that character’s backstory, which just makes it more likely that it will all seem to have a kind of a depth of field.

 

KR: Most script writers do the same thing, and it’s called the Bible for any production. Script writers and the Bible for any film will be twice as thick as the actual script. Just giving all of that. Yeah, and it’s great. And I think it’s vitally important so that if you have a question for the writer, they can tell you. Though, as an actor, I see acting students coming up and making up incredible bullshit backstories. And for my money as an actor, I don’t need any part of my backstory that isn’t referenced within my section of the script or within the script. So if my third grade teacher isn’t mentioned in the story, then I don’t create the backstory for that. I don’t need to. But if she is mentioned even in passing, then I will give a backstory for her name and what she looks like and whether she was nice or nasty to me, a supportive teacher or whatever. So the details that I have in my script or in the story that pertain to me, I will give backstory, but I don’t tend to give time to it. And I see actors getting bogged down in so much bullshit that is totally irrelevant for them as the actor.

 

GW: Yeah. It reminds me of in historical martial arts it’s usually pretty clear which practitioners have actually studied the history and all the stuff around. You can look at a historical fencing treatise as a book of techniques: ‘Do this with the sword or this or do that or your opponent does this. You should do that.’ That’s kind of the heart of it. And we’re recreating those actions. But lots of things which impact how you bring that to life aren’t mentioned in the text, like, they may not say why you would be fighting a person or what specific kind of fight it’s going to be. Is it a duel between two slightly drunk nobleman around the back of the pub? Or is it something that was arranged a month ago and it’s a public display or whatever. And these things may not be actually mentioned, but that information is available if you have it, it just helps everything to make sense, even if you don’t actually refer to it specifically when you’re doing the thing.

 

KR: Totally. I mean, who is sitting on the throne at the time? Who is the most powerful noble? All of those things historically were important.

 

GW: Yeah. And they can impact why would you stand in a guard to wait. Well, there are lots of reasons. One reason may be that in this particular time, in this particular place, if you had been challenged to a duel, you have to stand and your challenger has to attack with a committed blow. And that was how the fight was supposed to start. In the same way in the old days, a lot of fencing matches, classical fencing matches, would start from engagement. They moved the fencers further apart later on, but there have been times when the normal starting position is you are both engaged in sixte and that’s where you start from.

 

KR: It’s like Romeo and Juliet. God knows what training Shakespeare actually had. But I can tell the little that I know, my little historical knowledge. He was trained. He knew sword fighting. The way he describes the fight where Mercutio and Tybalt square off. And it’s like, “come, sir, your passado.” And it’s vital that Mercutio draws first as the challenger. That way, Tybalt can defend himself. He’s being called out in the middle of the street when they’ve been told by the prince, don’t fight or I’ll kill the lot of you. I always find that actors say that, oh, Tybalt’s furious. He’s got to draw his sword first, come on then! It’s like, no. Don’t do that. He says, “Come, sir, your passado. Draw your blade, make your move, and I will counter it, but I will not.”

 

GW: Yeah. I discussed this a bit with Ben Crystal, who’s an actor who specialises in original pronunciation of Shakespeare. And we sort of came to the conclusion that because they weren’t rehearsing these plays much, the actors must have been competent fencers who could throw together a sword fight in a few minutes. By okay, we agree on the starting position and we have this kind of theatrical on-stage kill or whatever the end supposed to be. And in between we are just going to fence without hitting each other.

 

KR: It’s my belief that I’ve been told that the actors of the time that the actors had certain sequences that they would as the actors, they would learn, and they would give them nicknames or whatever. So when you you’ve gone from playing Hamlet and you go to Romeo and Juliet and you go, OK, well, let’s do Barry, Bob and then Mary. So they would know these sequences. And at the end of Barry, I’m going to cut you in the leg. And in between, there might have been some back and forth. I’ve yet to read Dr. John Lennox’s book. I don’t know if you know John.

 

GW: I know John really well. He’s stayed in my house, we’re old friends. And in fact, I’ve been meaning to get him on the show for ages. Thank you for reminding me.

 

KR: His book on the history of stage combat. So from the early, early, early days, like way back Shakespearean days, he’s researched the book of the evolution of stage combat. So he will be able to give you much more info on that. But I believe that there were short sequences that all the actors at the time would learn. And they’re saying, right, you’re taking the A side. I’ll be the B side. And that tradition apparently went right up into like early Hollywood days, before they were like, now we want something more flash. And then you had the likes of Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone that were being trained constantly to be able to fight better.

 

GW: Huh? Interesting. So how much of your practise is actually historical martial arts, or has been? You mentioned a lot of like the Chinese weapons stuff and judo and jujitsu, and various other things which are which are living traditional martial arts. How much of the actual historical stuff have you looked into? It’s OK to say not much. Don’t worry.

 

KR: Yeah. No. No. Again, as I said, ever since my first Paddy, it has become a much deeper influence. As Blake and I have been recreating the curriculum for the Australian Stage Combat Association for the last ten years, it has been 100% trying to research more and more historical work and making sure that we’re using, to our best knowledge, the most correct techniques. So now, our longsword fight looks different to our arming sword fight, which looks different to sidesword fight which looks different to our Chinese Dao fight, which looks different…

 

GW: Hallelujah!

 

KR: I thought you’d appreciate that. Sidesword. Many years ago, I fell in love with Angelo Viggiani’s work.

 

GW: Oh, I adore Viggiani.

 

KR: And sidesword is our basic certification weapon. For basic certification, you do unarmed and you do sidesword. And when I started looking into it, all of a sudden, our sidesword had a completely different look to any other singlehanded sword that we were doing, because of my interpretation of Viggiani.

 

GW: Of course. And Viggiani actually goes into depth and detail about the mechanics. He tells you how to move.

 

KR: Yeah. And the reason I love Viggiani was because I’m going to these workshops, the Paddy Crane, I’m going to Combat Con in Vegas. I’m doing all these other things. I’m not going to teach longsword when Steaphen Fick and Scotty Brown are there. I’m not going to try to teach rapier when Ray and Jeannette Martinez or Jared Kirby or the likes are there. So I wanted a sword system. Everyone wanted me to teach the lightsaber lightsaber lightsaber. I wanted a sword system that I could teach, that people would enjoy. And the first time I presented it at Combat Con I asked Ray and Jeannette Martinez to come and sit in and critique the hell out of me. Because it was the first time that I had taken a historical treatise and I’d worked it out for myself.

 

GW: Right, right. That’s a big step.

 

KR: And so I’d make my own interpretations and could be very wrong for a lot of people. But what I did at the end of the day, Ray and Jeannette, or Mum and Dad, as I get to call them. Yeah, I got them down in the pub and said, what did you think, honestly? And they said, we can’t fault your work. Everything I did was spot on. The changes you made, we understand, theatrically. And we probably would have made the same changes theatrically for it. And it was fantastic. But what I love about Viggiani, so, you know Viggiani, you have his third position, which in his book is like extended out behind his back for some reason, which I don’t understand.

 

GW: Is it?

 

KR: Yeah, it’s almost parallel to the ground.

 

GW: So second is pointing forward, the third, he just turns the hand. The arm is the almost straight up and the sword is pointing straight back.

 

KR: Fifth is sort of down centred. So the beauty of it is, I take Viggiani as a basic, I can have that and there’s such simple mechanics of every human. So I can have an old man walking down the street with his walking stick and some guy comes out to mug him. And he points that at his chest and “Get away from me, you young prick”. And he’s pretty much in fifth. And he raises above his head. “Get away from me or I’ll crown you”. Yeah, he’s in third. Or the punk with the lead pipe steps out to rob you and puts the point in your chest and give me your money and raise it like, give me the money or beat the hell out of you. And he’s using the fifth and third. And so I now teach the one, like those seven guards I teach so it doesn’t matter what character you are playing. Now you could be playing Romeo. And you’ve still got the same basic mechanics from a punk to an old man defending himself, to a historical swordsman. And it’s just a beautiful way of using that one system. Yeah, Viggiani became very much a passion of mine after that.

 

GW: I love Viggiani. Are you using Swanger’s translation?

 

KR: I believe so, yes.

 

GW: Yeah, Jherek has done so much good work on the translation front. One of the reasons I’m a Capoferro man when it comes to rapier is because Jherek Swanger and William Wilson produced a free translation of Capoferro back in like 2002 or something, before my Italian was good enough for me to really deal with Capoferro in the original language. It just makes everyone’s life so much easier when we have access to these translations.

 

KR: That’s something I want to do with the Viggiani’s work. I’m not going to say on air, please ask me about it when you turn off the recording.

 

GW: Okay. All right. All right. Top secret.

 

KR: Top secret Viggiani stuff.

 

GW: Okay. Well, then let’s get straight ahead to what is actually my last question, which is what is the best idea you haven’t acted on?

 

KR: I saw this and I don’t know. I was racking my brain for this, through the whole bank. What is the best idea I’ve never acted on?

 

GW: Well, I’ve got one for you.

 

KR: Yeah, go for it.

 

GW: I think you should, seeing as you’ve actually done lightsaber stunt doubling stuff and choreographing lightsaber fights, you definitely have some authority in the lightsaber field. And while you certainly can’t produce the official Star Wars lightsaber training manual because that’s totally copyrighted and they’ll sue you to death. You can certainly write a memoir about how you did it, which includes all sorts of instruction about how you trained actors to use lightsabers, which happens to give them an actual proper lightsabery education. You could do that.

 

KR: I will answer that. Yes, I absolutely could. But no, I absolutely can’t. Because it’s not mine. It’s mine and Nick’s. And it’s mostly Nick’s.

 

GW: Okay. Well, why doesn’t Nick do it?

 

KR: Nick and I have discussed for many years about doing it, and doing the official book, because there is so much bollocks out there. Even some of my best historical sword friends around the world, that have started teaching lightsaber, which I still am technically not allowed to do, all hold the bloody saber wrong and it pisses me off. So I’ve corrected all of my historical friends. Many that you know.

 

GW: How should you hold it? I have a saber right here.

 

KR: Okay. You are going to hate me for it.

 

GW: Tell me.

 

KR: Right. No. Put your hands together.

 

GW: Why?

 

KR: Turn it off now. When you have a longsword or a katana you need the leverage. So we want those hands pushed apart for the push/pull side of side of things. Because you have three feet of heavy steel out in front and you need that extra leverage. The blade in that doesn’t weigh anything.

 

GW: Yes. So why are you using two hands?

 

KR: Ah. I don’t know. Because George said so. Because he modelled them off samurais. But we were so, so much, so much faster with our hands together. And because I’ll tell you the main reason that the hands go together on the lightsaber, Because it’s a fricking lightsaber, not a longsword. That is the fricking style.

 

GW: All right. Okay.

 

KR: So everybody wants to treat it like a glowy longsword or a glowy katana. And it’s not. You choke it up a little higher up on the hilt. Yeah. You hold it right up the top. And you get your hands together. And that’s just the way it was created by only true two Jedi masters on the planet, Nick and myself.

 

GW: Although, you say that. But, in 2006 in Singapore, I taught a seminar, a historical longsword seminar for Lucasfilm animation in Singapore. For the animators who were creating the Clone Wars series. And at the end of it, they brought out a whole bunch of sabers and they asked me various questions about which means I have, technically, I have trained the animators who created the Clone Wars series, which means that technically I am also a Jedi master.

 

KR: You’re a Jedi Padawan, I’ll give you that.

 

GW: Oh fuck off. I am no such thing.

 

KR: All right, you can be a master, my friend. I also did all the mocap for Battlefront after we finished Wanted with Nick and he couldn’t go and do it. So I went over to Vancouver and spent a week doing mocap. So I’ve actually doubled Darth Vader as well. In that game, I’m Darth Vader.

 

GW: Oh, fantastic.

 

KR: I’ve had all the Sith characters. But that’s the thing. With the saber and all my friends you see them spreading their hands really wide and it’s like, okay, but it’s slow and it doesn’t need power. It doesn’t have any weight.

 

GW: I dispute your assertion that having my hands apart makes my blade work any slower than having it together. I dispute that assertion.

 

KR: Then we need to find a time to get together and play again.

 

GW: Okay, let us do that, because I don’t buy the ‘it’s faster’ thing, I don’t buy it. Because that’s not that’s not been my lived experience of it. But we were talking about this book that you and Nick are definitely going to write.

 

KR: We would love to. It has always been on the plate, but and that’s when we were kind of in with Lucasfilm. Now with the angry mouse in charge, we don’t know if it’s ever going to happen. It has been 20 years and Nick is over it, and I’ve got to admit that another reason that when the new movies came out everyone’s like are you excited? Are you excited? Are you excited? And I really wasn’t. And I couldn’t work out for a long time why I was over Star Wars. And why I didn’t care anymore. And then one day it dawned on me, that much like Wizard of Oz, I’ve seen the wizard behind the curtain. I’ve seen the stupidity, the arrogance, the ignorance, the selfishness that went into making those movies, and it stole the joy that I’d had since I was a young kid. And all of a sudden, it was just another job. So I was never able to look at them the same way as I did. And I don’t wish to detract from anybody’s enjoyment of the films, the books, the TV series or anything like that. I haven’t watched Mandalorian. I haven’t watched Boba Fett. I haven’t watched any of the TV stuff yet. And when the movies were coming out, people thought I’d be so excited and I was like, no, I’m just not.

 

GW: It’s like the “making of” DVD thing. If you work behind the scenes, or if you see behind the scenes it’s not surprising to me that it steals some of the magic.

 

KR: Yeah, a little bit. But I can still enjoy films very, very, very much. But there are things about Star Wars, which is as much as it was some of the best times of my life, it was also some of the most infuriating. That’s just the way it goes. Whether it does turn out technically faster or not, it is the style. And you can’t argue with the books.

 

GW: But that’s fair enough. No, that’s, that’s a fair point.

 

KR: It’s what makes it different. People say, oh look, it’s just a laser bladed long sword. And they are forgetting one important fact. The lightsaber precedes any human weapon on Earth by hundreds of thousands of years.

 

GW: It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

 

KR: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. So, I mean, it could be a million years ago, technically. It’s never established. So when I love it, like I was throwing in Zwerchhaus and all sorts of stuff, all that. “Look at that, he’s using a Zwerchhau”. No, no, no. Somehow the atoms that make up you as a German longsword fighter are the same as the atoms in the midachlorians from this Jedi a million years ago that have floated through the universe. And you just haven’t forgotten it. That’s my way around the bullshit.

 

GW: Yeah, because I do remember that a big deal was made about, “Oh, my God, Yoda is using German longsword!”

 

KR: No it was never that. Yoda was never there. It was just Kyle, flippy twirly as fast as you can and we’ll do something with Yoda later. I had no idea what they were going to do.

 

GW: OK. So there was no actual deliberate, OK, we’ve got some historical martial arts stuff here, let’s throw it in.

 

KR: And I did that. And I did that with the Hayden and Ewan fight in particular. There’s one part that is cut out, which I am upset was cut out, but there was a mistake when they were filming and they’d crossed the theatrical line and they couldn’t reverse it.

 

GW: How do you mean?

 

KR: So when you’re filming, you have what’s called “the line”. Imagine if I’m in a room and we have two actors. You draw a line, an imaginary line down the room and I can film anywhere on that side of the line, 180 degree curve, but I can’t cross that line. So if I’m filming two people at a dinner table. And you and I are at a table and the camera’s on you and I’m on the left of screen and you’re on the right of screen, I can angle that camera around 180 degrees on this side of the table and you will always stay on the right of screen. And I will say on the left of screen. But if I cross the line, we go to the other side of the screen and it does people’s heads in. We had a bit in the fight section where they had both hands on. Nobody would notice that all of a sudden the left hand’s on top and the right hand’s not.

 

GW: I have noticed that in the past. So I would, but most people wouldn’t.

 

KR: When they end up jumping down and they are standing on the pipe crossing over the lava. And they are using one hand for balance. And I threw in 38 moves of Rapier. There was a whole bunch of thrusting and parrying, riposting, dégagés, coupés, the whole bit. And as they move their way across this, but we couldn’t reverse it because all of a sudden their swords would have been in their left hand.

 

GW: It would have been really obvious.

 

KR: Yeah, it would have been really obvious. So that’s the one bit that I know is missing. And because, yes, I had some katana in there. I had some longsword in there. And again, yes, I favour the German school over the Italian. We can’t do everything. Yeah. I’m sorry, sir. My early influence was Scotty Brown. God love him. Teaching actors I just find that like Viggiani is simpler, teaching the wards and then transitioning from one ward to the next. So there was this beautiful piece of rapier across this pipe that unfortunately is one of the two and a half minutes of footage that got cut out.

 

GW: That’s a shame. That would have please me mightily, I can tell you.

 

KR: I also invented an unarmed Jedi fighting system. So in the room where they both disarm each other and they have their little squabble on the table. We were talking about unarmed, so I’d made their arms, their sabers. So it was very much based on Shaolin Longfist. So, a bladed hand with fingers pointed, and their arms became the saber, and we did this really cool, sort of Chinese-inspired straight arm fight, which nobody had ever seen with some cool wrap ups and twists and locks and stuff. But unfortunately, when we finished that and showed George, he just wasn’t into it. He just wanted swords.

 

GW: Honestly, when it comes to like Star Wars stuff, to me, it isn’t Star Wars without lightsabers. So that film, Rogue One, quite possibly in many respects, the best of all the Star Wars films. But it didn’t actually do it for me because the only moment which actually felt like Star Wars, was the very end when Darth Vader shows up and turns on his lightsaber. I was like, Oh, Star Wars.

 

KR: It’s like Star Trekky Wars thingy. No, I really agree. And when we got the script, because normally there’s been one fight at the end of the film. From the very first Star Wars, from A New Hope, to Empire, to Return of the Jedi.

 

GW: There’s the classic duel at the end between the goodie and the baddie. Always.

 

KR: When we got the script for Ep. Three and there were 11 fights and the first one happened in the first 5 minutes, we were like, oh shit, we got some work to do.

 

GW: Brilliant. So we’re not going to get your idea that you haven’t acted on yet?

 

KR: Seriously. You want to see one idea that I haven’t acted on? This is one that I haven’t yet acted on. And it is something that I desperately have had a longing to do for a long time. But I do feel if I even say any more than I have right now, somebody’s going to steal it and do it before I do.

 

GW: In my experience, you will tell me at the end of this when we turned off the thing and that’s fine. So I’m not pressuring you to actually tell it to the listeners. Absolutely not. But in my experience, ideas are cheap and execution is everything. So example, I produced a card game, something I had no experience of doing, but I’ve raised some money and found the right people. The two most common responses. The first must call response is “that’s so cool”. When I’m talking to somebody who’s a sword person, it’s like, oh, that’s so cool. Second most common response was, I have the same idea.

 

KR: So I’m sure that somebody else has had this idea as well. But I don’t want to trigger anyone to go, oh, he’s going to do it. I better do it first, because I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it.

 

GW: Okay. Honestly, I never worry about sharing my ideas like that.

 

KR: I normally don’t, but this one’s kind of special to me. And it’s been my experience, the moment I put an idea into the universe, I often miss the boat.

 

GW: Interesting. Okay. Well, I tell you what, let’s wrap up now. Because I want to hear what this idea is. Well, thank you very much indeed for joining me today, Kyle. It’s great seeing you again.

 

KR: Been an absolute pleasure, mate. Thank you very much. It been an absolute pleasure. It’s been wonderful catching up. You look great.