StarWars.com: Sam Witwer On The Rise And Fall Of Darth Maul
Spoiler warning: This article contains detailed discussion of the Star Wars Rebels episode, “Twin Suns.”Click here for the full article
Sam Witwer is in a conference room at Lucasfilm in San Francisco, signing Star Wars Rebels posters. He wonders aloud if he should leave space for others to leave a signature. Then he has an idea.
“Maybe I should sign ‘Dave Filoni,'” he says jokingly, referencing his friend and the executive producer of the show.
“Draw him,” StarWars.com says. “With no cowboy hat.” Witwer laughs.
“He’d kill me. I’d never be hired again.”
Even if that were true, Witwer’s Star Wars legacy is secure. But it’s also a somewhat ironic statement. He came to Lucasfilm for a special screening of “Twin Suns” the day before it airs. “Twin Suns” is an emotionally heavy, instant-classic Star Wars Rebels episode in which Maul (formerly Darth), the massively popular villain Witwer has voiced since Star Wars: The Clone Wars, dies in a final confrontation with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“Or… Wait a second, that guy did kill me!” Witwer realizes. “Not cool.”
It’s the end of a long road for the devil-faced villain and for Witwer, one which began when George Lucas and Filoni decided to bring Maul — who had been sliced in half by Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace — back in The Clone Wars. Not in a resurrection, but rather, a revelation that he actually didn’t die from his injuries.
“I don’t know that I’d ever attempted [Maul’s voice] before I was hired to do him, and I think that proved to make me feel a little bit insecure,” Witwer says. “When I did the Son of Mortis for the Mortis trilogy [in The Clone Wars], Dave asked me when we were finishing up those three episodes, ‘What do you think about this whole idea that Maul might have survived?’ Because the rumblings were that this Savage Opress thing was going to develop into that. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know about that. That’s a little bit weird.’ And he says, ‘I might have something down the road for you.’ I said, ‘Like a bounty hunter?’ He’s like, ‘…Yeah…’ So I didn’t get it at all.”
While Witwer might have missed the hint, Filoni would soon make it clear.
“So finally he calls me up, and he says, ‘Listen, I need Darth Maul. Can you do it?'” Witwer says. “He wasn’t asking ‘are you available, are you this, are you that.’ He was asking me, very point blank, are you the right guy for this or should I go elsewhere? ‘Can you do it’ meant this is too important to mess up. If this is not something you think you’d be good at it, don’t do this. But he seemed to think I would be good at it. Without even thinking, I just lied to him. I said, ‘Yeah, I could do it. No problem.’ Just tried to put on this air of confidence. ‘No problem. I got you, man.’ And then as soon as I got off the phone, I think that’s when I started attempting to do the Maul voice.”
Now, there’s not actually much Maul voice to go on from The Phantom Menace. He speaks only three lines in the film, but the voice — featuring an airy, almost frighteningly calm intonation with a cultured British accent — is distinctive. And as Witwer is a true-blue Star Wars fan, he knew of the Darth Maul “Fear” tone poem featured in a TV spot for The Phantom Menace, offering him a bit more to study. He recites it word-for-word for StarWars.com, having memorized it long ago. It’s chilling to hear in person.