Interview with Sam Witwer

Many people want to be a powerful Sith capable of bringing down entire ships and their crews. Well, actor Sam Witwer was lucky enough to play Darth Vader’s secret apprentice “Starkiller” in the Lucasarts hit The Force Unleashed. Not only can Sam take giant ships down, but also Superman himself, as he’s currently playing Doomsday on CW’s “Smallville.” EUC’s Andrew L. was able to sit down with Sam and discuss a few things about his work on The Force Unleashed, “Smallville,” and much, much more.

interview-long

NOTE: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed contained within!

EU Cantina (EUC): Greetings Mr. Witwer, and welcome to EUC!

Sam Witwer (SW): Hello

EUC: How have you been? I know you must be busy– what with working on Smallville and such.

SW: Yeah.  Not as much free time but I’m having fun.  But I’m good. Thanks for
asking.

EUC: Sure, not a problem. Now, it’s been three months since the release of The Force Unleashed, in which you of course played the main character. What is your personal reaction to the huge success of the game, as well as the success of the Downloadable Content?

SW: I think it’s well deserved.  The game’s main mechanic is fascinating to me.
I love experimenting with the various force abilities.  The boys at Lucasarts did a wonderful job and I love receiving the credit.  I mean, it’s totally unfair,  but I’m more recognizable than, say, the lead animator…  Why?  ‘Cuz he animated ME.  It’s my likeness in the game.  I wonder if the guys behind the scenes are enjoying it as much as I’ve been if only for that reason.

Sams Starkiller as seen in TFU Downloadable Cotent for 360 & PS3

Sam's "Starkiller" as seen in TFU Downloadable Content for 360 & PS3

EUC: What is it liking knowing that you not only will forever be a part of the Star Wars lore, but also a huge part in it, with what essentially creating the Rebellion and all that.

SW: Wonderful. I think we told a really good story.  Haden Blackman really
crafted something that felt like a central part of the saga instead of an
amusing side story.  Nothing against side stories, in fact,  I’m a huge fan
of the Karen Traviss stuff,  but this was a unique situation.  We were given
the opportunity to develop the prototype hero.  The Luke before Luke.  The
Starkiller.  I loved how that all related to the central story of the Saga.

As for the weight one feels when given that responsibility,  we certainly
felt it.  We had endless talks over lunch about Star Wars.  WHY do these
characters feel classic?  WHY do we like them?  WHY the hell do we still
CARE after 30 years?  By all rights it’s just a movie.  We shouldn’t care.
But we do, we very much do, because the story hits us on this almost
molecular level.

We can feel that there’s something very important to be learned from it.  That’s why we watch these damned movies over and over again.  We feel like if we just pay closer attention to Yoda in that one scene that we might just learn something about life that we hadn’t learned in the first hundred times we’ve seen the film.

EUC: After that it’s kind of a silly question to ask but, were you a fan of SW before doing the game?

SW: Oh, I’m sorry.  Did I give myself away?  I need to watch that. Star Wars was something I was born with.  It’s had a profound influence on me and continues to… oh and it’s just fun, man.

EUC: How did you get the job? What is it like working with Lucasarts?

SW: Well,  long story short,  there was this secret meeting at Lucasarts where
they unveiled (or unleashed) this concept painting by this brilliant artist
Amy Beth Christenson that was meant to represent,  and be a jumping off
point for Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice.  Casting was to begin soon so
they needed to know what they were looking for.  Well, my buddy David
Collins saw the concept art.  He went to Peter Hirchman who was a Battlestar
fan and they both agreed, “Um… that’s Sam Witwer.”

Turns out Amy Beth created a character that looked exactly like me.
Absolutely coincidence.

I got a call from David.

“Dude,  send me your headshot and your reel.”

“Uhh.. why?”

“Just do it, dude!”

From what I understand,  my headshot made it to the top of the pile very
quickly,  probably in no small part due to the fact that my headshot looked
just like their character.  Then i remember this one night when i was at my
brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner.  I got a secret call from David in which
he said the words, “Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice.”  I kinda had to sit
down.

A month or two later I was brought in for a grueling audition in which I
performed for about 45 minutes straight.  Not long after that,  I had the
role.  I was pretty damned pleased.

EUC: When you mention David,  I’ve had the amazing chance to talk with David a few months before “The Force Unleashed” came out. From what I’ve read, and from what you describe, you two are very close. Can you tell fans a little about that?

SW: David and I have been close for many years.  We have plans to conquer the
world together.  He is simply one of the most ridiculously talented people
I’ve ever met.  He’s a super audio guru,  he’s an incredible musician,
besting me on guitar, bass, keys and drums.  He’s also a really smart
actor.  So smart, actually, that he won the role of Proxy who is,
coincidentally, my character’s best friend.  I think his read on that
character is brilliant.  You need to be really intelligent with a keen sense
of humor to pull that roll off,  and David has both.

Little David Collins trivia…  David and Jesse Harlin were the guys who
came up with the Mando connection to the Republic Commandos.  How’s that for a dream job?

Friends in the game as well as in real life!

Friends in the game as well as in real life!

EUC: You often have to play the evil roles, but this is absolutely in contrast to your own character. Do you enjoy playing them or has it been just coincidence? I mean, you are currently playing the only person to ever KILL Superman, Doomsday.

SW: Well,  I’ve played a little bit of everything.  In the Mist, I was maybe the
nicest guy in the movie.  That didn’t work out too well for that character
thanks for Marcia Gay Harden and Bill Sadler.  As for Doomsday,  or Davis
Bloome, whatever you wanna call him,  Davis is a great guy.  He just happens
to have this problem.  He keeps turning into Doomsday.  Starkiller?  Starts out as a bad guy,  but then saves the universe.

Why do I get these roles sometimes?  Um… I dunno.  Perhaps my cavemanish
features and heavy brow?  No idea.  Maybe I look like I’ve been punched in
the face one too many times.  For me, these roles are challenging cuz it’s
not who I am at all.  Well,  Wayne Jessup in the Mist… That’s a bit more
me.  Starkiller,  well,  I guess I’d been waiting to play that badboy since I was a kid… but really he’s kinda Han Solo with a touch of Luke and a bad attitude.  Davis?  Um…  I dunno, man.  All that emotional stuff is draining.  They DO pay me, though,  and that’s very nice of them.

EUC: A little while back, in an interview with SW Insider, you stated you may be interested in a role in the live-action series. With having more experience with TV and knowing that the show will be starting production soon enough, is that still the same? Perhaps it’s changed due to be contacted by Lucasfilm.

SW: Interested, sure.  But I don’t know that their show will cross paths with
Starkiller.  Ya never know, though.  I certainly don’t.  Write your
congressman.

EUC: Also on an interview with G4′s “Attack of the Show,” the whole fact about your characters always being, well, stabbed was brought up. In terms of TFU, how much of a shock was it for you to find out that Vader would do that to his own Apprentice.

SW: I love that scene.  It shows just how terrified Vader is of his Master.  I
also took great pleasure in playing and performing Palpatine in that scene.
He just walks in,  says, “Hey… so this secret you’ve been keeping from me?  This project you’ve been working on for 15 years? Yeah, that?  Destroy it in 20 seconds.  Kill it.  Kill this son of yours and I’ll bet that’ll just make my day.”  And, of course, the Emperor delights in watching Vader agonize for a brief second,  and then do it.

That Palpatine…  Helluva sense of humor.

I do love how Vader *almost* does the right thing at several points in this
story,  but he’s just not ready to.  We see mirrors of situations he’ll be
placed in later in the series which prepares him to eventually ::SPOILER
ALERT::  kill the Emperor and redeem himself in Return of the Jedi.

EUC: Did you enjoy playing the role of Starkiller and, if given the chance, would you do it again?

SW: Over the process of working on this game,  chewing over Star Wars movies,
working out his history, developing a vocal pattern that I felt fit with the
original trilogy (since that’s almost where we are in the timeline), and
working with my dear friends,  I gained a great ammount of affection for
this character.  I’ve become attached to him and I really hope the audience
did too.

To answer your question,  absolutely.  I love that guy.

EUC: Sam, thank you so much for joining me, and I wish you continued success in Smallville!

SW: Thanks a lot.

Back to Interviews