Comedian and actor (and voice of Darth Maul) Peter Serafinowicz waxes lyrical on why Star Wars is his favourite film
You could tell from watching The Peter Serafinowicz Show (just released on DVD) that guy loves his sci-fi. The centrepiece of his award-nominated sketch show every week would be a loving-crafted Star Wars pastiche. He’s also behind the spoof Tomorrow’s World show Look Around You and provided the voice of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace . Recently SFX interviewed Serafinowicz for My Sci-Fi, but that’s a pretty brief article in the mag, and Serafinowicz waxed so lyrical and with such passion on the subject of Star Wars it seemed a shame not to publish the full version. But you’ll have to buy the magazine to discover his choices for Favourite SF Novel and Favourite SF TV Show (both of which are more surprising selections, and prove his SF credentials).
When did you discover your love of sci-fi?
"I loved Doctor when I was a kid, of course, and I loved Sapphire and Steel as well, that used to terrify me. There were all these iconic images in that. That guy with no face. And that image has cropped up in quite a few things I've done so it was clearly influential.
“But the rally big one for me was watching Star Wars. It came out in '77 when I was, like, four or five, and I pestered my mum to take me to see it. She eventually took me, but she thought I was a bit young to see it. I actually got really bored the first time. My mum remembers me saying after about 20 minutes, 'Why did you take me to see this film, mum? It’s boring.'
“So, it didn't click with me until I was about eight or nine and it came on TV. And we had our huge industrial washing machine-sized VCR that we recorded it on. That was when it really clicked. I think there was one summer holiday – it would have been me and my brother, who at the time would have been about three and I was about ten – and we would both watch it together, at least once a day, sometimes twice a day during that summer holiday. And this became part of our culture, our subconscious. And to me it’s still the best. It's possibly my favourite film, Star Wars, which I refuse to call episode four, because that's just silly.
“I think when they did the release of it recently – one of Lucas’s many rejigs of it, which I find annoying, but, you know – one good thing about it was that they had the definitive making of documentary of the first film. And it was really something special to see how he created this world with no money, no support, all the odds against him. Either side of the camera looked just f**king terrible, and somehow he managed to make whatever was in the viewfinder of his camera look just magical. He created this whole universe.
“People have complained, justifiably, about the later three films, and I don’t want to get into that, because, well, I'm a part of it, whatever, but I think it's a testament to his vision, his imagination, that that universe, despite the release of the critically panned prequels, that universe still endures.
“Its scope is breathtaking. Its scope is truly galactic. You go from a huge spaceship to a tiny little bar somewhere, from some crappy spaceship to a busy street, to lush countryside, with all these different aliens.
Even coming up with all those names. I mean, Jar Jar Binks, right, say what you like about him, but at least that’s a pretty cool name. When people heard there was a character called Jar Jar Binks, they thought, 'Wow, that is going to be a cool character, that is a cool name.' And, you know, he turned out somewhat different from what we were expecting, to be diplomatic.
“I remember looking at the Star Wars action figures in the shop when I was a kid. We were kinda quite poor when I was a kid and I only ever got two of them, you know, and they were expensive. They were like £1.25 or something. I remember I has a Sand Person and a C3P0.
“If you've seen my show, you've seen the ‘Darth Vader in love’ sketches. And a lot of people said, 'Don't do any kind of Star Wars parody because it's been done and done; you can get it on the internet, blah di blah, Family Guy do it, Robot Chicken do it…’
But the thing was… James Earl Jones has got the best speaking voice that any human has ever possessed. And I got the chance to do him in my own show, as Darth Vader which is just such a super-dooper thrill.
“The initial thought of it was Darth Vader is probably in love with someone who is a pink version of himself, and that thing of them kissing and their helmets hitting with a hollow clunk, you know. So it all came out of that – just a kiss and thunck!
“But then it became the centrepiece of the series really. The whole crew stayed late painting the set – which, like in the original film itself, was really just cobbled together from bits of nothing. But we managed to get real costumes. We didn’t used the original music, for cost reasons. We used Holst’s the Planet suite, which was a big influence on John Williams‘s score, so we used that which was a lot cheaper but sounds the same, you know. That classical romantic period that John Williams ‘in quote’ borrowed a lot from.
“What I was interested in was just the day-to-day life on the Death Star rather than a big battle scene or, you know, just the daily goings on in the Death Star. When there’s not a big crisis happening, you know? Darth going to the toilet, and whatever. All that stuff.”
So you managed to get a whole series commissioned so that you could do one voice?
“Basically, yeah. Ha ha ha. I don’t know if you ever saw our original O News sketch that we did on the internet in 2006. Me and my brother filmed it in LA, and that contained a bit of me doing James Earl Jones. And from that, Matt Stone from South Park got in touch with me and said that Isaac Hayes was leaving South Park because Scientology was upset that South Park had been lampooning them, and told him that he had to stop doing the show. So he said they were going to reinvent Chef as Darth Chef and will you come and do him? So I got to that! I mean, f**king great, you know?”