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Emotional beats – Star Wars Episode 03

Posted on September 27, 2011 2 Comments
Filed under Acting, Animation, Education

When looking for great acting I usually refer to boring and austere black and white or pre-1970s movies but once in a while I am amazed to find great performances in contemporary blockbusters or mainstream shows. The “Lost” TV series being my first source of reference at the moment but more on this later.

I am currently working on a shot involving two characters and a story plot based on Star Wars Episode 03 and while looking at the original movie and a specific scene with the Senator Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker, I was amazed at the performance of Scottish actor/theatre director Ian Mc Diarmid. To be fair, a movie featuring a 60+ years old stage trained shakespearean actor is very likely to present some exceptional acting moments. Everything from his body posture to his face and voice are outstanding. Loot at that subtle hand shake on the wider dramatic shot. Hayden Christensen’s acting seems cartoony and, as my friend Richie would say, almost grotesque in comparison ;-)

Here is the full keyframable quicktime video sequence between the sly Palpatine and candide Anakin followed by a series of screenshots to highlight the key moments of that very impressive performance where he reaches his goal after a series of tactical advances in the manner of a chess player.

Even without the audio you would be able to witness his emotional beats and get a good feel for his manipulative strategies, shifting between parental, authoritarian, cynical and sheepish attitude. What a little snake! ;-)

Notice how much a head rotation, squeezing of the eye lids, contraction of the nasal muscles can affect the expression. It is amazing how much he is able to communicate within the same body posture.

You can also pay attention to the asymmetry of his mouth in 4b and 4c and finish with a good look at that priceless fake smile on 9c that can only be detected by the fact that the eyes muscles don’t get involved in the upward motion.

I would highly suggest you to check out the HD version at the following address:

I think this could be a nice add-on to the Jeff Gabor interview I featured few days ago. If you don’t have outstanding drawing abilities, there is no way you could work out and plan a similar animated scene in sketches and thumbnails. Using edited video references seems like the best option for subtle acting shots.

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