Star Wars' Hayden Christensen On Holding His Breath And Performing As Darth Vader In The Obi-Wan Kenobi Bacta Tank

Star Wars gave fans even more reasons to be excited about the Obi-Wan Kenobi series when the news broke that Hayden Christensen was reprising his role as Darth Vader opposite Ewan McGregor, but the big question was how much of Hayden Christensen the series would actually show in light of Vader’s iconic black suit at this point in the Star Wars timeline. The bacta tank scenes gave Christensen the opportunity to act without the suit in the present of the show, and the actor opened up about performing in the tank. 

Although the third episode featured a vision of pre-Mustafar Anakin (and was the first scene that Christensen filmed for the series) and the fifth episode delivered a flashback sequence to the Attack of the Clones era, the bacta tanks revealed Vader’s state ten years after Mustafar. The actor was underwater with some extensive makeup for the tank scenes, and he shared how he actually approached his performance:

While I was in the bacta tank fully submerged in water, I had to hold my breath for all that too. For some reason I couldn't breathe through the regulator. Although when I saw Ewan inside of it, it looked like he was actually getting oxygen through his because you can see the bubbles going. But no, I had to hold my breath, and I really enjoyed it. I mean, I found it very peaceful in the bacta tank and they're sort of meditative.

While Ewan McGregor was evidently getting the oxygen he needed as Obi-Wan, Hayden Christensen didn’t have the same luck with his regulator. Healing as best he could from being left to burn on Mustafar all those years ago clearly wasn’t exactly peaceful for Vader, but that’s not the case for the actor. Even though he had to hold his breath while fully submerged! 

Vader and Obi-Wan both healing in bacta tanks delivered a parallel between the characters, with Obi-Wan bailing on the tank as soon as he was conscious and pretty spry for a guy who was just dragged through a fire by his former best friend. Vader stayed in the tank to continue the imperfect healing from something that had happened to him a decade ago. According to Christensen, it was a good experience for him as an actor, and he managed to hold his breath for a pretty long time:

I enjoyed the whole process of getting to do the bacta tank. We knew I was going to have to hold my breath for it, so I got to work with a dive instructor to help build up my breath holds. And I think when we were filming, I got my breath hold up to like two and a half minutes, which was not bad.

Two and a half minutes is a pretty impressive length of time to hold breath, especially in front of a camera while also delivering a performance. Christensen made the most of his time on screen without the black suit, although it was a very big deal on set when he first walked out looking like the Vader of Rogue One and the original trilogy. Seeing the burned and dismembered body of the Sith lord also provided a terrifying contrast to Darth Vader wreaking havoc and taking lives when outside of the tank. 

All things considered, Obi-Wan Kenobi shed new light on Darth Vader even though the series is centered on Ewan McGregor’s character, and has filled in some blanks for their characters in the almost two decades between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Director and executive producer Deborah Chow acknowledged that connecting the films without contradicting canon was tricky, and the show has made the most of the wiggle room in the stories of Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia. 

See how Obi-Wan Kenobi wraps the latest chapter of the Star Wars saga with the limited series finale on Wednesday, June 22 at 12:01 a.m. PT with a Disney+ subscription. The platform is packed full of Star Wars content to help pass the time until the next project set in the galaxy far, far away premieres, with Diego Luna’s Andor in August

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).