From his adventures in The Clone Wars to his classic role in A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi is Star Wars‘ quintessential Jedi mentor. With an Obi-Wan television show officially on the way (finally!), now is a good time to revisit the venerable Jedi and talk about his history and many adventures.
Below, you’ll find 10 facts about the character played by Sir Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor you may not know, from behind-the-scenes facts to obscure Star Wars lore…
Obi-Wan’s home planet is named after Jon Stewart
Obi-Wan hails from a planet called Stewjon. It’s never actually appeared in either the canon timeline or the defunct Legends continuity. But it’s canon because George Lucas declared it to be so during an interview with television host Jon Stewart at Celebration V in 2010.
Stewjon officially became Obi-Wan’s home planet when it was added to StarWars.com’s Encyclopedia (now Databank) of lore. The original bit — Lucas wryly joking that the planet was called Stewjon in the first iteration of the A New Hope script — is apparently all it took for this mysterious planet to become canon. George Lucas has that power.
Obi-Wan almost left the Jedi as a child
In both canon and Legends, Obi-Wan’s relationship with the Jedi Order and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, has sometimes been rocky. The canon novel Master & Apprentice shows how Obi-Wan clashes with his teacher over their different philosophies regarding the Jedi way of life, as Qui-Gon has an opportunity to join the Jedi Council and leave their partnership behind, but their relationship perseveres when it matters most.
Jude Watson’s Jedi Apprentice series, which chronicles Obi-Wan’s earliest Legends adventures, also explores Obi-Wan’s anxiety about the Jedi Order, from being chosen by the mysterious Qui-Gon to his brushes with his master’s last apprentice, a padawan who turned to the dark side. Obi-Wan’s most turbulent moment with Qui-Gon arrives when he decides to leave the Jedi Order in order to aid the young revolutionaries fighting a civil war on the planet Melida/Daan. Fortunately, Obi-Wan’s exit from the Order is only a temporary one and he is soon back alongside his master.
Obi-Wan had several rematches with Darth Maul
As The Clone Wars animated series expanded the Star Wars story onscreen beyond the film saga, the story Obi-Wan and Darth Maul’s rivalry grew. Show supervising director Dave Filoni had this to say about the two clashing again decades after The Phantom Menace:
“Obi-Wan, to me, has grown as a character so much that he knows he could dispatch Maul, or Maul could dispatch him, but to what point? Obi-Wan is entering the realm of becoming selfless, and wholly selfless.”
Instead of a lightsaber duel with dramatic choreography, Obi-Wan and Maul’s last confrontation in Rebels is a quiet tragedy. Obi-Wan slays Maul in one strike after a battle that takes place mostly in the opponents’ heads.
Obi-Wan once faked his own death
One of the early challenges to Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan’s friendship came as a result of the Jedi Council’s plans during the Clone Wars. In order to foil a bounty hunter’s plan, Obi-Wan fakes his own death and goes undercover as a scoundrel. For Obi-Wan’s mission to remain a secret, Anakin Skywalker and his apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, both have to believe Obi-Wan is really dead. As shown in The Clone Wars, Anakin is angry with Obi-Wan when the truth is finally revealed, and perhaps this when the fissures in the trust underlying their friendship begin to form.
He prepared young Jedi for a disaster like Order 66
The novel A New Dawn is remarkable for several reasons. It explores the backstories of popular Star Wars Rebels characters Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, while also revealing a connection a young Kanan and Obi-Wan.
In the years before Order 66, Kanan attends a class taught by Obi-Wan, who says that in times of trouble Jedi may be asked to heed a recall signal to gather back at the Jedi Temple as an emergency measure. Kanan suggests that the signal could be used to tell Jedi to avoid the Temple as well, an idea Obi-Wan uses later to prevent people from walking into an attack by Imperial troopers.
Obi-Wan helped young Luke Skywalker from afar
In Marvel’s Star Wars comic, Luke discovers a journal written by Obi-Wan that reveals how the Jedi Master protected his young ward during his childhood on Tatooine. The journal reveals that Obi-Wan once rescued Luke from Jabba the Hutt’s enforcers, who planned to sell Luke into slavery. When he wakes up at home the next morning, Luke can’t recall the incident — implying that Obi-Wan used a Jedi mind trick to erase his memory.
In another story, Obi-Wan plays Tatooine’s version of Santa Claus, secretly gathering the parts little Luke needs to fix the Skyhopper he wrecked while racing through canyons with Biggs. It’s very sweet.
Sir Alec Guinness was nominated for an Oscar for Star Wars
The Star Wars saga has been a powerhouse at the Academy Awards ever since 1978, when the movie later titled A New Hope was nominated for 10 awards and received six. Most of these awards have been in technical categories, such as film editing, sound, and visual effects.
It was Sir Alec Guinness who received Star Wars only acting-related nomination to date. Guinness was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, which went to Jason Robards for Julia. Other performers have received Academy Awards for films before and after their Star Wars careers, such as Natalie Portman’s win for best actress in 2010 or Lupita Nyong’o’s best supporting actress award in 2014.
… But he didn’t love the role.
Guinness criticized Star Wars for having “rubbish” dialogue in a 1976 letter to his friend Anne: “Can’t say I’m enjoying the film — new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wages of pink paper — and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable.”
The actor also wrote in his memoirs that he hoped not to only be remembered for Star Wars and told a story of a time a young fan, who’d seen the movie over 100 times, asked him for an autograph. Guiness agreed to sign as long as the fan promised to never watch the movie again because “this is going to be an ill effect on your life.” The kid’s mother wasn’t happy about that.
According to Guinness, he grew so tired of Star Wars fan mail that he started throwing the letters out at one point. That said, his 2% cut of the Star Wars royalties allowed him to live quite comfortably, per his own account.
Interestingly enough, Ewan McGregor has also expressed discomfort with the franchise at times. Specifically, he became frustrated with fans who would ask him to sign merchandise just so they could turn around and sell it.
Toshiro Mifune almost played Obi-Wan
Well known for working with director Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune was Lucas’ ideal actor for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, the Japanese actor turned it down because of reservations that the role would “cheapen” the popular image of samurai. It’s understandable, as Lucas used Japanese-style clothing and the image of the wandering warrior right alongside laser swords and spaceships.
Mifune’s daughter Mika explained, “At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride. So then, there was talk about him taking the Darth Vader role as his face would be covered, but in the end he turned that down too.”
Obi-Wan’s voice in The Force Awakens is straight from the Original Trilogy
During Rey’s Force vision in The Force Awakens, the voices of old Jedi Masters can be heard. While she sees her own past and Luke Skywalker’s, Obi-Wan and Yoda speak to her. Ewan McGregor provided new dialogue for the scene: “These are your first steps.” But Rey’s name was actually spoken by Guinness, in a fashion. Producer Bryan Burk presented to director J. J. Abrams the sound of Guinness’ voice, cut from the word “afraid” to sound like “Rey.” Although Guinness passed away in 2000, he remains a part of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy.