Remembering Sir Alec Guinness the original Obi-Wan Kenobi


Yesterday, April 2, marked the birthday of Sir Alec Guinness, the man who originally portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Were he alive today, he would have been 101. Sir Alec was born on April 2, 1914 and passed away on August 5, 2010. He was knighted in 1959.

His was a long, rich and storied career that saw him win the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1957 for his role in The Bridge on the River Kwai, and several Academy Award nominations for various other excellent movie roles, including a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars in 1977.

Despite being a classically trained, Shakespearean actor, Guinness did not receive world-wide recognition until his turn on Star Wars. Surprisingly, he was one of the few people who believed Star Wars would be a box-office hit, and smartly negotiated a deal for 2% of the gross royalties paid to George Lucas, who received a fifth of the box office profit. Because of that genius foresight, Sir Alec was very wealthy, later in his life.

Another surprising caveat to the legendary actor’s role in Star Wars, is that he did not enjoy the eternal fame that attached him to Star Wars and the character of Obi-Wan. He once told a young fan that he would only sign his autograph, if the fan would stop watching Star Wars. The fan had told Guinness that he had watched the movie over 100 times.

On the Subreddit /r/StarWars, a letter has surfaced from Sir Alec Guinness to a friend, describing his experience on the set of Star Wars. Interestingly enough, the letter makes him sound like a bit of a curmudgeon, but many of the commenters on the Reddit thread, from the UK, note that it is just plain, old-English humor.

“Harrison Ford – ever heard of him?”

The fact that Sir Alec refers to the dialogue as “rubbish”, is classic. It speaks volumes of a Shakespearean actor making the transition into modern (the late 1970’s), main-stream Hollywood movie.

Even though Ewen McGregor did the role of a young Obi-Wan, justice, in fact he did an excellent job in his portrayal, Sir Alec Guinness will always be THE Obi-Wan Kenobi, and we as Star Wars fans will forever owe him a debt of gratitude.

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