Star Wars fans have long speculated about Anakin Skywalker’s possible return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. With the high likelihood of Force ghosts appearing in the film — that is, if they haven’t been completely cut during reshoots — the timing seems right for the Skywalker patriarch to make an appearance.
Speculation surrounding Darth Vader’s return reached a pinnacle recently when Disney tweeted about Hayden Christensen’s attendance at the Galaxy’s Edge theme park, then promptly deleted the post, potentially implying the studio was trying to keep Christensen’s involvement with Rise of Skywalker under wraps. Now, a recently resurfaced interview may explain how George Lucas laid the groundwork for Anakin’s Force ghost to appear in Episode IX.
Warning! Speculative spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Lucasfilm producer Dave Filoni, who’s recent credits include The Mandalorian for Disney+, worked on Star Wars: The Clone Wars prior to the sequel trilogy. To bring the series to life, Filoni went straight to the source: George Lucas. Filoni has since established himself as a formidable repository of Star Wars lore, arguably second only to Lucas.
So what does any of that have to do with Anakin’s return in Episode IX? Reddit user Curbatsam posted an old panel discussion from 2014 where Filoni answered fan questions about Force ghosts. While The Clone Wars reveals how Yoda gained the ability to become a ghost from Force spirits, one attendee was curious to know who taught Anakin that same ability.
Filoni didn’t answer the question directly but did seem to confirm that Yoda planted the idea of Force ghosts into Anakin’s mind after the panel moderator made that connection. That’s probably how Anakin was able to show up as a Force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi. Additionally, it’s therefore possible that the seeds for Christensen’s return as Anakin’s Force ghost in The Rise of Skywalker were planted all the way back in The Clone Wars.
If you recall, the original version of Return of the Jedi included Sebastian Shaw’s Anakin in the scene, which was digitally altered for the rerelease of the special editions to include Christensen’s version of the character. During the panel, Filoni explains exactly why it’s young Anakin who appears as the Force ghost in the digitally altered version.
Here’s what Filoni said on the matter back in 2014:
“Anakin, when he appears in the Force, is the last moment that he was a good person that he very much wanted to be, the good person we believed in. It doesn’t make sense mythologically for him to maintain the guise of the old man afterward in the Force because he was never good, he was never balanced when he was that person. He was the wicked old man, so he has to shed that skin like everything else.”
Does that mean Anakin’s death brought balance to the Force? Maybe. It’s also possible that Anakin’s Force ghost taught Luke how to become one as well, and that’s why he’s also able to appear in Episode IX. There’s also the fact that Lucas provided input into The Rise of Skywalker’s storyline, meaning the likelihood of Anakin’s return is that much higher.
Either way, this resurfaced detail offers a lot of food for thought and lends credence to the idea that Hayden Christensen could return as Anakin, after all. At least if George Lucas gets his way.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20.