The dark side of the force is a pathway to many abilities and one of them is the force choke. The force choke has been seen in Star Wars movies since A New Hope and it is one of the Sith's more frightening powers. Somehow more personal than the flashy lightsaber or force lightning, the choke leaves the victim feeling completely helpless and at the mercy of the force wielder. But what is it like for the actor whose character is being choked? Domhnall Gleeson, who plays General Hux in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, recently explained how difficult it is, as an actor, to portray the force choke on screen, saying;
It's funny because you look at it and you're like, I don't know where to put, I don't know if it's supposed to be the feeling of an actual hand or whether it's just compressing on itself, you know what I mean? Do you scramble up to where you think the hand would be? Or do you scramble in at the neck itself? And are you trying to relieve it or trying to help?
Ultimately, Domhnall Gleeson told USA Today that he played it as if there was not an invisible hand but just that his neck was collapsing in on itself. But he brings up an interesting point that I've never heard discussed before. Does force choking feel like you are being choked or does it more approximate an asthma attack where your airway becomes constricted and you are fighting to breathe? While this might seem inconsequential, as Domhnall Gleeson's comments prove, it actually does impact how an actor physically acts out the scene. Being choked you might try to pull at the wrist or peel the fingers while a collapsing airway might cause you to suck in for more air or scratch at your throat. I imagine that Domhnall Gleeson will get especially good at being force choked in Episode IX now that he is at the mercy of his new volatile Supreme Leader.
I am curious what direction the various Star Wars directors have given actors whose characters have been force choked over the years. Were George Lucas or Rian Johnson specific as to this point or did they just leave it up to each actor's interpretation? Looking back on some of the previous force choke recipients, each seemed to play it a little differently. As Admiral Motti, it looked like Richard LeParmentier was clawing at his throat, whereas Ben Mendelsohn's Orson Krennic seemed to be reaching for an invisible hand and Natalie Portman's poor Padmé Amidala tried with both hands to pull off an invisible hand. So it seems there is no definitive way to act out this scene and perhaps the choke is supposed to feel different for each recipient and force user.
It is interesting to think about how much modern acting demands unnatural behavior from actors. More than just saying lines and emoting, the more fantastical a film is, the more actors have to act out or respond to things that don't exist. Being choked by an invisible force is just the least of it. Blockbuster films may ask an actor to make as if they are moving things with their minds or casting magic or pretend to be interacting with a fantastical creature when really it's just a ball on a stick or a guy in an absurd looking motion capture suit. Such is the challenge of making modern movie magic.
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