Interview: Supervising Director Dave Filoni Discusses 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Season 4 Finale

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Dave Filoni. 2012-Lucasfilm-Used with permission.
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Dave Filoni. 2012-Lucasfilm-Used with permission.

Everyone knows the name George Lucas. He's the guy who created the "Star Wars" universe. A name that is quickly becoming as recognizable is that of Dave Filoni, supervising director of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." He's the man responsible for making sure the animated version of "a Galaxy Far, Far Away" runs like a well-oiled probe droid week after week. I had the opportunity to talk to Filoni about the return of Darth Maul and what we can expect from him in this week's episode and the future.

Tell us a little bit about what fans can expect from the episode tonight?

You're going to get to see the full rehabilitation of Darth Maul from his rather chaotic state as this machine man turns into a more formidable opponent that in some ways the fans might have expected originally. We're going to see how he can recover from the state we found him in last week and ultimately how his revenge fuels himself into a confrontation with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

There was a comic book back when "Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith" came out that had Darth Maul alive and on Tatooine. Did that have any influence on the direction you moved in when bringing the character back?

"Visionaries" is the one where he first showed up with robotic legs. It was a short story that was proposing an idea that Maul maybe had survived. George brought up the idea of having Darth Maul be alive. Then I said, "You know, there's this comic book where he is alive and has these robotic legs. We brought that image up in the story meeting with George. It was up to him whether he wanted to go with that vision of it or not. That's an example of how things kind of run into each other. We're not telling the same story that you saw in that comic book, but it did influence some of the choices we made for the screen depiction of Maul.

Who came up with the spider leg idea instead of just starting off with the mechanical legs?

The spider legs were 100 percent George. When hashing these stories out, we do it all together in a writers' room. It includes six writers, George Lucas, and myself. George will say something like, "I want to do this story where we bring Darth Maul back." Then we all politely argue the different points of why we should or shouldn't. After that we outline everything together. George has a very heavy hand in all that of course. It's great because he gets to be the final say in the room. I do a lot of sketching in those meetings. I am drawing pretty much constantly the whole time so we have a visual to go with in our very early thinking. "Star Wars" is very visual. We work better when we're looking at visuals of everything. When you're looking at a lot of things, you need something to grab onto so you know what you're talking about. When we were envisioning how we would find Maul and what kind of state he would be in, I was sketching these different manifestations of legs. We all agreed that Maul would be holding himself together through his rage and his hatred. It would be an unconscious reaction. It wasn't an engineered thing. George said, "Why don't we give him a big spiderlike body." He loved the image of Maul hanging upside down from the ceiling in this decrepit state. I started doing some sketches in that direction, and it really went from there on out.

Talk to us about working with Sam Witwer and his portrayal as Darth Maul?

Sam is great to work with. He also played the son in the "Mortis" trilogy last season. When you come in to work on "Star Wars," you want it to be fun. It's very hard work. We try to work at a very high level and be creative. You want to feed off of everybody's creativity. Sam is so into whatever role you give him. He really throws himself completely into it. That's very inspiring. You go, "This guy is giving me everything. I have to make sure he's equipped. The more detail I tell him, the better he's going to be able to portray the character. He's like an encyclopedia for "Star Wars." It's unbelievable. I think he's almost up there with Pablo Hidalgo and Leland Chee, the keeper of the Holocron here at Lucasfilm. That's quite a statement to say if you know who those guys are. He's an uber-nerd, which has gone from being something that was laughable when I was a kid to being a term of respect now. It means you've amassed a large deal of knowledge. Sam has that and I think it shows when he plays Maul. I needed somebody that understood the responsibility of playing Maul. He needed to understand the people that would say, "No way! That's impossible! How could he do that?" If you understand that side of it, I think you'll be more successful when actually portraying the character. I think that's why Sam was really successful; especially with the first part where he brought the schizophrenic lunacy to the character. He then really leveled that off for the ending. He showed the level of cunning and intelligence I don't think people realize the character has.

Has original Darth Maul actor Ray Park seen the new episodes where the character returns?

I don't think he has as of yet. He's a busy guy lately with "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." I can't wait for Ray to see it. That'll be exciting for me.

What are we going to see of Darth Maul in coming episode and next season?

What's interesting about Darth Maul is he's one of the only characters from the films we've ever brought on to the show that we don't really know what happens to him. We brought on Chewbacca, Bossk, Admiral Ackbar, Tarkin, and other characters, but we all kind of know where they end up in the future. We all know their stories. It's just great to see them in this timeline. The audience doesn't know if Maul is going to be around for one episode, two episodes, or 20 episodes. One thing I will say is he's far more cunning and intelligent than what people gave him credit for. He's not just the blunt instrument you saw in "Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace." He has a strategy and some things to work out with Savage Opress about who's really in control. He's involved in a spectacular storyline in the next season. It's a real chance for us to explore this character in a way that we didn't have the time to in "The Phantom Menace."

For more articles by Eric Shirey, check out:

Interview: Sam Witwer Talks About Playing Darth Maul for 'The Clone Wars'

Interview with 'Boba Fett' Actor Daniel Logan for 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars'

Interview: 'Clone Wars' Voice Actor Nika Futterman Talks About Assajj Ventress

Eric Shirey is the founder and former editor of Rondo Award nominated movie news websites MovieGeekFeed.com and TheSpectralRealm.com. His work has been featured on Yahoo!, DC Comics, StarWars.com, and other entertainment websites. Eric has interviewed and worked with actors like Harrison Ford, Brooke Shields, Kenneth Branagh, Gerard Butler, Brendan Fraser, Selena Gomez, and many more.

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