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Obi-Wan Kenobi

Character Profile

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Alec Guinness as Ben

Alec Guinness as Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi on Tatooine in Episode IV.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

Obi-Wan in the Star Wars Original Trilogy

Episode IV: A New Hope

Nineteen years after Obi-Wan first came to Tatooine, Bail Organa sent Leia to recruit him for the Rebel Alliance. Leia's ship was captured, but the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO arrived safely on Tatooine and were purchased by Luke Skywalker's uncle. R2-D2 led Luke to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Not wanting to tell Luke the truth, Obi-Wan said that Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Luke's father, a Jedi Knight; this was true, he justified later, “from a certain point of view.”

Obi-Wan, Luke and the droids hired smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca to take them to Alderaan, Leia's home planet. When they arrived, they discovered that the planet had been destroyed by the Death Star, an Imperial superweapon. After they were dragged in by the Death Star's tractor beam, Obi-Wan set out to disable the tractor beam, while Han and Luke rescued Princess Leia.

On the Death Star, Obi-Wan faced his former apprentice one last time. “If you strike me down,” he warned Vader, “I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Sacrificing himself to save Luke, he focused himself in the Force at the moment of his death, making his body disappear.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

As a Force ghost, Obi-Wan offered further guidance to Luke. As Luke attempted to destroy the Death Star, Obi-Wan advised him to turn off his targeting computer and use the Force; this resulted in a successful shot. On Hoth, Obi-Wan's spirit appeared to tell Luke to find Yoda, hidden on Dagobah, and receive further training. When Yoda seemed resistant, Obi-Wan helped convince him to train Luke. After Yoda's death, Obi-Wan revealed to Luke that Leia was his twin sister.

Obi-Wan After the Star Wars Films

Obi-Wan's spirit would continue to guide Luke after the defeat of the Empire at Endor. He warned Luke about a possible invasion by the Ssi-ruuk, helped him find another surviving Jedi in the Lost City of the Jedi, and led him to Lumiya, a Dark Jedi and secret apprentice of Darth Vader.

But Obi-Wan's spirit form was only temporary; nine years after his death, he appeared to Luke in a dream and said that he had to move on to a new plane of existence. He reassured Luke that he was the first of a new order of Jedi, and that he was strong enough to continue without Obi-Wan's guidance. Many years later, Luke would name his son Ben in honor of Obi-Wan.

Character Development of Obi-Wan Kenobi

In early drafts of Star Wars, the Obi-Wan-like character was Luke Skywalker, an aging general from the Clone Wars who was finally returning to the battlefield. Eventually, Obi-Wan Kenobi became the archetypal mentor figure to the new Luke Skywalker, the archetypal young hero.

The vaguely Japanese sound of the name Obi-Wan Kenobi points to George Lucas' inspiration from Japanese samurai films. In the Star Wars DVD commentary, Lucas mentions that he had considered a Japanese actor, Toshiro Mifune, for the role. Mifune had played General Makabe Rokuruta, one of Lucas' inspirations for Obi-Wan's character, in the film The Hidden Fortress.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Behind the Scenes

Obi-Wan Kenobi was first portrayed by Sir Alec Guinness in Episode IV: A New Hope. Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and is the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for a Star Wars film. Ewan McGregor portrayed the young Obi-Wan in the Prequel Trilogy. Voice actors for Obi-Wan in animated series, radio dramas, and video games include James Arnold Taylor, David Davies, Tim Omundson, and Bernard Behrens.

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