The influences of the space opera subgenre, Japanese cinema – particularly Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces – and in certain cases, Spaghetti Westerns are blatantly obvious within the Star Wars universe. For the upcoming Disney+ series Star Wars: The Acolyte, however, Emmy Award-nominated creator Leslye Headland (Russian Doll) is choosing to borrow elsewhere. And pulling it off could potentially result in the greatest lightsaber combat sequences since Revenge of the Sith.
“[The Mandalorian creator, Book of Boba Fett executive producer] Jon Favreau said that when you’re working in this world, you want to go back to what George [Lucas] was inspired by,” Leslye Headland revealed to Vanity Fair.
“There were Westerns and then, of course, Akira Kurosawa samurai films, and the fact that he originally offered Obi-Wan Kenobi to Toshiro Mifune.”
“So I actually went more toward martial arts films and storylines that are a little bit more personal and less global and galactic. Those warriors were on missions that were deeply personal with people feeling wronged and having to make it right.”
For the uninitiated, wuxia – which literally translates to “martial heroes” – is a Chinese genre of fiction where martial arts meets fantasy. Often, the protagonists come from humble working-class origins, following a code of chivalry and travelling the lands to fight for justice. All very Jedi-like, if you ask me.
Hollywood was briefly fascinated by wuxia in the early 2000s thanks to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero (presented by Quentin Tarantino). Although you’d be mistaken in thinking the hype died right there and then.
In the years since, releases from House of Flying Daggers, Fearless, to Wong Kar-wai’s gorgeous Ip Man biopic The Grandmaster starring Tony Leung have made a splash. Hell, in the past few years, even the likes of Disney’s Mulan and Marvel’s Shang-Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings have furthered wuxia’s mainstream legacy.
Set during the end of the High Republic Era in 132 BBY – exactly 100 years before The Phantom Menace – Star Wars: The Acolyte will be written, executive produced, and helmed in a showrunner capacity by Leslye Headland. While details are still rather sparse, here’s the official description of what you can expect (courtesy of Disney+):
Leslye Headland, Emmy Award-nominated creator of the mind-bending series ‘Russian Doll’, brings a new Star Wars series to Disney+ with ‘The Acolyte.’ ‘The Acolyte’ is a mystery-thriller that will take the audience into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.