Star Wars: Hayden Christensen Invented Wattanese for Attack of the Clones
Before becoming Vader in Episode III and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Hayden Christensen gave Watto his own language.
This post contains light spoilers for OBI-WAN KENOBI
Star Wars is famous for its alien languages. Even in the original film, audiences heard Chewbacca speak in Shyriiwook, Greedo speak in Rodese, and Jawas speak in, uh, Jawaese. Because the series eschews the universal translators found in Star Trek or Doctor Who, new aliens bring with them new speech styles. You would think that inventing new languages would put a great demand on writers and actors, as when Troy Kotsur helped create Tusken sign language for Book of Boba Fett. But that wasn’t the case for one of the prequel trilogy’s most notorious characters.
Reflecting on his first go-around as Anakin Skywalker in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Hayden Christensen recalls reading his character’s dialogue in the script. The scene called for the now-grown Anakin to return to his home planet Tatooine in search of his mother. Along the way, he speaks with Watto, the Toydarian who held Anakin and his mother Shmi in slavery. Next to the English lines he was to speak to Watto, Christensen saw the parenthetical note, “in Wattanese.”
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Christensen revealed that he turned to George Lucas, director of Episode II and creator of Star Wars, and asked, “What should Wattanese sound like?” For a man who put such meticulous detail into inventing a universe, Lucas responded with a surprisingly nonchalant answer. “Well, you know, so long as it doesn’t sound like English or any other language that might sound familiar,” Christensen recalled. “You can just make it up.” And that’s what he did. “So, I was rushing the night before to try to figure out how to make up Wattanese, and every time I see that scene, I get a bit of a kick out of it,” he admitted with a laugh.
In fact, Christensen laughs quite a bit during the interview, and with good reason. After years of hearing nothing but derision for the prequels, the three movies are beginning to earn praise and Christensen’s performance with it. “[I]t’s just it’s been a great honor for me to get to come back to this character and to feel the support from the fans,” he shared. “It is hugely meaningful for me and ultimately, they’re the reason why we get to come back and do all this.”
Part of the “this” that Christensen gets to come back and do includes donning the Vader suit again and battling Ewan McGregor’s character in Obi-Wan Kenobi, marking the characters’ first meeting since Anakin’s downfall in Revenge of the Sith. Even then, Christensen sees “a throughline” from the young Jedi to the Sith Lord he now portrays. “Vader is trying his best to kill off that side of him, but there always has to be a little bit of Anakin in there,” he revealed.
These complexities to Anakin have always been a part of the character, even while speaking Wattanese. “There is just a lot going on with the character,” Christensen said. “He’s always sort of processing and trying to figure out what’s going on around him.”