Dave Filoni interview: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

As Star Wars: The Clone Wars season three arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK, we chat to director Dave Filoni about the series, and what to expect from season four…

With the release of the excellent third season of The Clone Wars on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK this week, and its fourth just starting in North America, the man at the helm of the Star Wars animated spin-off joins us for a chat about the series, George Lucas and the fate of Ahsoka Tano…

Can you tell us anything about season four?

Well, we’ve taken everything from the previous seasons and improved on them. I think we were at our best for the season three finale and it’s going to get bigger and better – the visuals, characters and storylines are just getting better. This season will surprise some people where we go, whilst also remaining faithful to the show so far and the Star Wars films.

What is George Lucas’ involvement with The Clone Wars?

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Most stories come straight from George. Some expand on the notion of the Force – in season three, we saw the Force personified [during the Mortis Trilogy]. He can attack these stories on The Clone Wars in a way that he couldn’t on film.

We meet once a year and go over all the ideas for the upcoming season. Both sides have their own thoughts, and we meet somewhere in the middle. George is playing with his universe and often asks us to take a character, like Ventress, and make a story arc for them.

Are there any characters or stories you can’t touch upon?

Not much is out of bounds. George is pretty bold in terms of stories or characters.

Boba Fett, for example, is an interesting character. In The Clone Wars, we’re keeping the myth of him alive – he walks on the edge, and that’s what makes him interesting. One of the exciting things about our own characters like Rex [popular Clone captain] and Ahsoka [Anakin’s feisty young female Padawan] is that their stories are not set in stone, to reveal new things is good for the audience.

The kids know and feel for Ahsoka the same way we did when we grew up with Leia. It’s wonderful to have the growth of ownership in these characters. I keep telling my writers that, in years to come we’ll be at a Comic Con in our later years with fans still turning up in Clone Wars cosplay!

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Ashoka was very much at the heart of the show. As her Jedi skills grow, will we see less of her?

We do what we need to do for the stories themselves. All these characters are fighting for the same space, for bigger stories. Four episodes is a good run to take character arcs and expand their stories. We then take a break and explore others.

We all have our favourites – Plo Koon is mine! When we’re doing stories we try to get our favourites in, but what happens is: “I hate to say it, but we don’t need him in it”. It’s about balancing need. George often spoke about the fact that by the end of Star Wars he had so many characters fighting for screen time – we face the same issue.

Cad Bane was an instant hit with the fans, any news?

Cad will definitely be back, he’s such a fantastic portrayal of the Spaghetti Western character – malevolent but likeable. The tougher and more heartless he is, the more we like him!Is there an end strategy for the show, or are you planing the long game?

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Well, we work season by season, though we are working on more than one season at a time. I have an endgame in mind. [Laughs]

Please tell me Ahsoka will be ok?

[Laughs] I get together with George and we talk about what we both think, as I do with other writers on the team. George debates on certain characters and the truth of long held secrets in Star Wars will be revealed, there are many layers to go before the end.

I have to say, though, the end has been on my mind a lot lately…

I noticed in the season three DVD extras you meet with George, and he has the Star Wars ‘bible’ with him. What’s it like to have such a significant document in your company?

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It’s a binder he had from even before Star Wars, with his name scribbled on it. I’ve no idea what’s in it! [Laughs] But it contains information and ideas that didn’t make it into the films. We’re already doing a lot of ideas that were overlooked or left out of the films, things that George didn’t have time or space for.

Who knows that Palpatine and Sidious are the same person? Who knows certain things? All we have to do is ask George, he has all the answers! He’s our greatest asset. Sometimes I feel like peeking over his shoulder just to see what’s in it! [Laughs]

Season three saw some violent scenes, is there a conscious move to  push what’s acceptable?

We’re dealing with characters that are evil. It’s not fun, they’re pathetic. You want the good guys to win ‘cos the bad guys are so bad. But we try to be careful as we make our way down that dark path, it’s a difficult choice. Just like George had to make with the films.

Sith and Empire are dark, dark films. Even Jedi is fun but sinister, as the Emperor tries to lure Luke from his father. We don’t shy away from the Brothers’ Grimm style – good will persevere, but it has to speak to evil.

We have to show the audience that good will prevail though [Laughs]. It’s difficult for us as we know that evil wins this particular battle, though good wins in the end. The Clone Wars is certainly set in the darkest possible time throughout the whole Star Wars story.

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Any chance of another Clone Wars movie?

I would love to and I think it would work, but it’s up to George. I’m all for it.

It’s weird, we’ve come leaps and bound since The Clone Wars [the theatrical release from 2008]. Even when it came out we had much better footage – we were like, “Man, look at what we have on screen, we’re much better than this!”

Usually, the film is the highest version in terms of quality, and we want to make the show better than ever. Every week we’re competing with the films, we want to honour them. Every Star Wars film was about pushing what was possible in terms of effects, puppets, matte paintings, stop motion and now digitally. We treat the series in the same way.

My hope is that, in years to come, people will still be watching The Clone Wars and they’ll still hold up. That’s my goal – time tested.

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Dave Filoni and Lucasfilm, thank you very much.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 3 is on DVD and Blu-ray now.