Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, and Samuel Jackson discuss the joys of lightsabers and doughnut hairware

By Liane Bonin
May 12, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Keith Hamshere ©Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM All Rights Reserved
  • Movie

While some actors grumble about strapping on corsets or silly knee pants for Shakespearean dramas, ”Phantom Menace” stars Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, and Samuel L. Jackson trumped their couplet-spewing counterparts when it came to adapting to the, uh, fashion-forward costumes, hairstyles, and gizmos of George Lucas’ fantasy land. ”It was really weird looking at myself,” recalls the 17-year-old Portman, whose elaborate hairdos and geisha girl getups put Princess Leia’s bubble buns to shame. ”My friends and parents were all freaked out by seeing me in the makeup and the huge headpieces and the gowns. But they were wonderful, even though they weren’t the most comfortable.”

Jackson, who admits to having been blown away when he saw ”Star Wars” as a struggling young thespian, found it a little easier to get in touch with his inner Force minder. ”I walked into my dressing room, and there was my Jedi outfit,” says the 50-year-old actor. ”I was like, okay, WOW. So I s-l-o-w-l-y put it on, then I stood in front of the mirror and struck a couple poses and had someone take some pictures of me.”

Neeson, who helped out with the initial sketches for the ”historical, noble-looking and samurai-esque” do he wore in the film, was still more taken with his groovy lightsaber than his character’s personal style. ”George (Lucas) came out with this beautiful velvet lined box and opened it like he was offering a cigar and said, ‘Pick your lightsaber,” says Neeson, 46. ”The 10-year-old boys (inside of us) were very, very close to breaking out a few times when we were using them.”

Jackson’s inner 10-year-old surfaced in its entirety. ”You clip the saber on, and BOOM, you’re there,” he says. ”When nobody’s looking, you take it off and click the button to see if it’s going to go VROOM. It doesn’t, but you can go stand in the mirror and pretend it’s there, make some sound effects, have some fun. It’s kind of cool.”

  • Movie
  • PG
  • 134 minutes
Complete Coverage