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Exclusief interview met Derek Arnold (Vober Dand)

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Derek Arnold

In The Force Awakens werden diverse nieuwe wezens en leden van de Resistance en de Republic geïntroduceerd. Creature performer Derek Arnold nam er van alle drie een voor zijn rekening! Mede dankzij zijn ervaring in de productie War Horse was hij een van de twee personen die de Luggabeast tot ‘leven’ brachten en speelde hij verder Vober Dand en chancellor Villecham.

Eind april had ik het genoegen om deze veelzijdige acteur te mogen interviewen voor StarWarsAwakens.nl.

Interview met Derek Arnold

Hi Mr. Arnold, let’s start at the beginning: how did you start your career the movie business?

I started acting as a teenager in Canada and then went on to drama school in Toronto. I moved to England in 2008 to continue my career in theatre and after a few years acting on stage I was given the opportunity to work in film and Star Wars was the first film I was cast in.

In The Force Awakens you played two parts: Vober Dand and Chancellor Villecham. Besides this you also puppeteered the Luggabeast. How did you get cast for The Force Awakens and how did you get these specific roles?

In 2012 I was part of the team that puppeteered Lord Voldemort in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, where I met Brian Herring who was the puppet co-ordinator for The Force Awakens and puppeteer for BB8. At that time I was in rehearsals for the West End play War Horse and the week after the Olympics opened I began my contract as a puppeteer for Joey the horse.

The Luggabeast puppet was designed very much like the horse puppets in War Horse and they knew they needed two guys to be inside it. Brian remembered that I was in War Horse so he called me and asked if I wanted to help out on a little project he was working on. He couldn’t tell me what it was, only that I needed to meet him at Pinewood Studios to find out. As Brian walked me into the offices I looked around and all I could see was Star Wars posters and memorabilia. That’s when I found out the “little project” was Star Wars! So it was Brian who opened the door for me to be a part of such an iconic franchise. Obviously I jumped at the chance and signed all the non-disclosure agreements and then met Neal Scanlan (head of the creature department) and Paul Kasey (movement co-ordinator). I mentioned to Brian and Paul that I had done some physical ‘skins’ work in the past (animal and creature costumes) and they took that on board and went on to cast me in the other roles.

Your character Chancellor Villecham is seen in one scene, the one where his planet gets blown up. Were there more scenes filmed with this character?

No, this was Chancellor Villecham’s only scene. That being said, he did get his moment and I think all the people that worked so hard to create and build him were happy with the result.

In the Resistance base scenes you played Vober Dand. I think he has the looks of a real classic Star Wars alien. An amazing design! What do you think about him?

I really like Vober Dand, he’s such a fun character. Jake Lunt-Davies showed me his designs for Dand early on and it was great to go into the workshop every couple of weeks and see the progress of this character being built.

I agree he definitely looks like a classic Star Wars alien – he was very popular on set for this reason. He could easily have been running around the Echobase on Hoth!

Derek Arnold

Lanever Villecham (links) en Vober Dand (rechts)

What can you tell about the Villecham and Vober Dand costumes? Were the heads filled with electronics to operate the eyes, mouth and facial expressions for example?

The fun thing about Dand and Villecham is that their faces rest on top of my head, so I’m looking at my feet the whole time through the creature’s neck and it creates that hunched over look they have. The expressions their faces can create are amazing, Ady Parish spent days working on the mechanics of Dand and Villecham. The amount of detail he put into their heads is crazy. Their lips can curl and snarl, their noses can move around to sniff, I was so pleased when Dand got a line in the movie so that all that hard work paid off.

It’s one thing to be inside wearing the costume and animatronic head but the real magic comes into play when one of the puppeteers pick up the remote controls and manipulates the face. That’s when it really comes alive. The two of you (creature performer and puppeteer) have to really work together to create the character. Without that puppeteer the character wouldn’t be complete. Neal Scanlan had some of the best people in the business working on the film – the women and men who stood behind camera puppeteering each animatronic head made something technically difficult look effortless.

That’s the fun part for me, working with everyone in the CFX team and throwing ideas back and forth, creating something really special and something you hope the audience will remember and enjoy.

I was surprised when I heard you puppeteered the Luggabeast along with another performer; I thought it was some kind of animatronic. It’s a large creature and it has actor Kiran Shah (as Teedo) sitting on top. Could you explain what the technique behind the Luggabeast was and how itw as operated?

The Luggabeast took about seven months of development. It was another one of Jake Lunt-Davies ambitious designs that turned out great. Steve Wright and Jimmy Sands were always there while we were rehearsing and they spent countless hours making adjustments and fixing the Luggabeast so it was as comfortable as possible for us.

The basic design is two people inside standing up strapped into harnesses, like wearing a rucksack. I was operating the back legs, so each back leg had a rod attached to its foot and I was able to manipulate the legs with these rods. Tom Wilton operated the front legs and took a lot of the weight of the Luggabeast as most of it was in the front.  In post-production they erased our legs and rods so you couldn’t see us. We both worked together in War Horse so this wasn’t totally out of our comfort zone and we both understood the ideas and principles of making a four legged creature move. We had to work with Kiran Shah as well, as he was on top playing Teedo and the movements he made affected us and vice versa. We also had our movement co-ordinator, Paul Kasey communicating to us through ear pieces so we could change or adapt the movement during the scene if we needed to.

The hard part was that by the end, once the Luggabeast was totally fabricated and dressed and Kiran was on top, it weighed around 20 stone (127Kg or 280 pounds) AND we were in the middle of a desert in Abu Dhabi in 40-degree Celsius weather. But again we had our amazing CFX team looking after us – they would run in after each take and lift the Luggabeast as much as they could to take some of the pressure off of us and bring us water and a fan to cool us down.

Derek Arnold

Rey (Daisy Ridley) helpt BB-8 uit het net van Teedo (Kiran Shah) die op zijn Luggabeast (Derek Arnold en Tom Wilton) Jakku afstruint.

A lot must have happened on and off the set. Could you share some good stories?

Some of the best memories are of Abu Dhabi. They were long days in very hot weather but we all looked after and supported each other.

The three day Luggabeast shoot was a fun one and as punishing as it was, after each take when we had our CFX team around us helping to hold the Luggabeast up, we would all sing a song as loud as we could so Tom and I could try and take our minds off the pain. Surprisingly after three days of singing the same song it didn’t get old, it just made us laugh a lot and really helped to keep our spirits up.
Another great memory is of a very quick moment in the movie. BB-8 is in the desert by himself and as he rolls by, an alien with large red eyes pokes his head out of the sand and looks at him as he passes. It’s a very quick shot early on in the movie and one that almost didn’t happen.

The sun was setting and we were losing light, so we had about forty-five minutes to get the shot. We started to dig a hole in the sand to put the creature in, because it was on a lever system, sort of like a seesaw. I would push down on the lever and the head would rise out of the sand and then I could turn the head to follow BB8. Digging a hole in the desert is incredibly hard as the sand just starts to fall in on itself so we had a half dozen guys trying to do it. Time was running out, so Neal Scanlan jumped into the hole and started throwing out as much sand as he could. We eventually managed to make a pretty big hole, position the creature in it and then put the sand back in on top of it. Before filming we had a test run. I tried to push down on the lever but the sand weighed so much that it snapped and the head of the creature wouldn’t lift. At this point we only had twenty minutes of sun left, so again Neal came to the rescue! He laid down face first in the sand with his arm on the rod so that as I pushed he would lift the head of the creature the rest of the way so that I could then turn it to follow BB8. We only got about three or four takes in the end, so I was very happy to see that it made it into the movie.

In the 80’s puppeteering was at its peak. Star Wars, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are good examples. In the 90’s CGI took over and it seemed old fashioned puppeteering was gone forever. Nowadays puppeteering is coming back; The Force Awakens is a good example. What is your view on this?

I love talking to the guys on set who worked on the original Star Wars, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Legend, etc. They have so many great stories about those times. Those were all movies of my childhood and it’s very surreal to be friends with the people that brought those characters to life.

I think the two departments have found a beautiful marriage. It’s so awesome to see practical creatures and affects be so prominent in the film but there was a need for CGI to help us. As I mentioned, for the Luggabeast our legs and the rods attached to the beast were painted out. They also needed to remove Brian Herring from all the shots with BB-8 as he was puppeteering it and Unkar Plutt had some CGI help with his face, etc.

It’s great to be on set and see the two departments working hand in hand and I think that’s a great place to be moving forward from, not only within the Star Wars films but also in the industry as a whole.

Were you a Star Wars fan before you got cast? And in case you were: was being in a Star Wars movie some kind of ‘dream coming true’?

Oh I was totally a Star Wars fan and this was definitely a dream come true. That being said, until I got onto set and started speaking with some of the other guys I didn’t realise how limited my knowledge was! We have some true fans on set, so I’ve been working hard to catch up!

Rogue One is coming up this year and Episode VIII is currently filming. Will we see you in one of these movies as a new character and will Vober Dand return?

I’m really looking forward to the upcoming films. I saw the trailer for Rogue One and think it looks amazing!! Fingers crossed we see some familiar faces in VIII.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed as well! Thank you for the interview!

SWIsmallbannerStar Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

 

Geboren toen de opnames van A New Hope van start gingen. Voormalig assistent van Anthony Daniels. Auteur van de 'Star Wars Interviews' boekenreeks waarvoor hij 180+ cast en crewleden interviewde. Trots op zijn vermeldingen in de credits van de boeken The Making of Return of the Jedi, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor, The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook, The Star Wars Archives en Star Wars Icons: Han Solo.

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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Dominic Pace (Bounty Hunter)

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Na lang wachten was het dinsdag dan zover: de eerste aflevering van The Mandalorian, de allereerste live-action Star Wars TV serie ooit. En hoe kun je zoiets beter vieren dan met een exclusief interview met een van de castleden?

Afgelopen april kwam ik in contact met Dominic Pace die in deze serie de rol van een bounty hunter vertolkt. Dominic is al decennia lang een enorme fan met een dito collectie. Hij kon destijds nog maar weinig zeggen over de serie maar we spraken af om er in november op terug te komen, wat ook gebeurde. 

Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed hij het volgende interview wat zoals gebruikelijk iook hier te lezen is.

Interview met Dominic Pace

You’re a pretty big Star Wars fan and you have a pretty big collection as well. How and when did you become a fan?

Before I could even spell. My first playset was the Cantina Playset. I had the original 12 figures. My mother got me that magnetic alphabet board and I remember the first word I put together on there was ‘Jawa.’

(image credit Dominic Pace)

The dream of every fan is to actually be in Star Wars. How did you get cast for The Mandalorian?

I am blue collar actor. I have been very fortunate to land numerous Guest Stars and Co Stars on television, however I never turn down work of any kind. In order to survive in this business as an actor, you have to accept flexible jobs of all kinds. I was invited in for a simple makeup test for a major Hollywood Special Effects Company, Legacy Effects. It was there that I met Brian Sipe, one of the leading makeup artists within their company. There was no discussion of any future work or what the project was. I had previous prosthetic experience before (Van Helsing, Bright, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). I was calm and professional for the entire 6 hours of application. Brian and I got to know each other. At the end I handed him my business card telling him I’d love to work on whatever project he was doing. It did not cross my mind one bit that it was Star Wars as Star Wars has always been filmed overseas for the most part. I received a phone call two weeks later to report for a project code named, Huckleberry. I did not realize it was a Star Wars project until I was invited into a wardrobe room. I quickly noticed some of the sample wardrobe photos on the wall. Any Star Wars fan would’ve been able to have connected the dots at that point. What added to the shock and excitement was that I was lead into another room with a clothing rack. It had my name on one section of the rack with the words ‘Bounty Hunter’ next to it. I was at a loss for words and just tried to stay calm.

In The Mandalorian you play the bounty hunter Gekko. How did you get this specific part assigned? And what kind of character is Gekko?

Gekko is just the nickname and not official by Disney. Makeup artist Brian Sipe was working on some sort of GreenPeace Convention a few years prior. He did this extensive prosthetic on this model. The model had these two humps on their head with a very distinct makeup design similar to a Gecko. The model was holding a Gecko in her hand. Brian gave me the same mold, but altered the head bumps to horns. The paint design stayed the same. It is a one of a kind Bounty Hunter and species in the Star Wars universe as of now. I am 100% certain no one has been established with this look except me due to the origin of the model outside Star Wars. I was personally given this role as it was the most extensive makeup. Brian appreciated my attitude and patience so he gave me the most elaborate design for my two episodes.

Het Gekko model, met op het hoofd een… gekko. (image credit Dominic Pace)

You wear heavy makeup and prosthetics. Can you share your experiences getting dressed up as Gekko?

Normally this would be a tedious process as the entire character took about two hours each morning to prepare. I’m sure every Star Wars would agree that it would be an absolute joy to watch your detailed Star Wars character come to life each day. Richard A. Porra was the costume designer. Richard gave me a bandolier, forearm guards sewn into my dark blue robe, along with a face mask which really made the character. Initially I almost had a bare face. I was being rushed to set and I could’ve left the mask behind as they had trouble finding it on day 1. I really wanted that mask and reminded Richard that the initial screen test had the mask. It truly makes the character as it makes my Bounty Hunter more mysterious.

How did the shooting of your scenes go?

Though it was priceless enough to have been at least featured in the Cantina, what Star Wars fan wouldn’t want their own bit of action? It was an exciting time, but a stressful time, as I wanted to make sure my character was established. As the performer, you do not have a say in this. The director and producers either want you in their shot, or they don’t. It’s never your choice. The first week was amazing in that, the first day I arrived on set, standing in the cantina with his arms folded was none other than George Lucas. At this level, you cannot approach the stars or producers unless they acknowledge you or initiate. I mention that because as much as any fan would love to approach Lucas, you are just there for a job. Regardless, it was such an honor to be in his universe that day with him present.

The cantina scenes were finished after the first week. The first assistant director asked about 20 featured cantina aliens and Bounty Hunters to stay behind as the director Deborah Chow wanted to have us all line up. I had no idea what the lineup was for, but in general, it was mostly likely that they had to make a cut for the following week. Not everyone was going to be chosen for the following week. They cut half of us, and luckily I was chosen. Making that cut solidified my Star Wars immortality. Not only did it lock my place in the universe in focus, but also I fulfilled my dream of being in a Star Wars action sequence.

As an Italian American, I was always inspired by the Rocky series growing up. Carl Weathers was an essential part of the Rocky success. It was such an honor to be alongside Weathers whose had such a legendary career. My adrenaline was pumping so hard during this one scene, and being alongside Carl made it that much more special.

The overall experience was simply priceless. However an entire year of not being able to say anything, along with waiting to see if you made it into the shots was stressful in a good way.

You just mentioned George Lucas. Did you meet him?

I did not meet him that day as I always have a tremendous respect for the head producers and director. When you have a $100 million budget on the clock, unfortunately it’s not a meet and greet time. However simply being in his universe as one of his characters was an honor enough. I had the privilege of meeting him years prior at a charity event, but not on set.

Dominic Pace & George Lucas (image credit Dominic Pace)

Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?

The Gekko like bumps looked like breasts on my head. I brought it up to Brian during the initial makeup and costume test and thankfully he changed my head to horns. That would’ve been funny and embarrassing at the same time.

What is the best memory you have regarding The Mandalorian?

Getting to choose my own blaster. I think every Star Wars fan would love to choose their own lightsaber or blaster. Having that honor from the prop master was absolutely priceless. I picked the biggest blaster they had and I hope they make it out of a figure someday.

Final question: What is your ‘dream Star Wars project’?

Being a one of a kind Bounty Hunter in Season 1 of The Mandalorian.


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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Alan Austen (Stormtrooper & Bespin Guard)

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Brits acteur Alan Austen speelde maar liefst drie rollen in The Empire Strikes Back. Stormtrooper (op bovenstaande foto is hij de trooper rechts van Carrie Fisher), Bespin Guard én (de handen van) Han Solo. Speciaal voor StarWarsInterviews deed hij onderstaand interview, wat volgens traditie ook hier te lezen valt.

Interview met Alan Austen

How did you get cast as a Stormtrooper and as the double of Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back?

I joined Central Castings and The Film Artistes Association in early 1979. Being cast as a stormtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back was all down to luck for me. I was the correct height and age. I was already on set playing a Hoth rebel when I was asked to try on the stormtrooper costume. I fitted and I was able to walk around in it, so I was cast. Doubling for Harrison came about after the production team realized that they needed some filler shots of Han Solo. Harrison had already gone back to the U.S.A. so I was asked to double for Han Solo.

I read that in The Empire Strikes Back there are some close-up shots of Han Solo’s hands where they’re not Harrison Ford’s hands but yours. In which scenes can we see you as Solo?

Yes, my hands doubled for Harrison’s in several scenes. Due to the editing, it’s very difficult to tell them apart. I remember that I had to push buttons and flick switches.

Had you seen the first Star Wars movie before you got cast?

No, I had never seen the first Star Wars movie. Of course, now I have seen it several times and never tire of watching it. That goes for all of the original trilogy movies.

What do you recall of the shooting of your scenes?

So much stands out. Of course the Cloud City shoot out is vivid in my memory and also the carbon chamber scenes. The main thing was being able to run and hit marks whilst wearing a storm trooper helmet.

Alan Austen (zittend rechts van John Hollis die Lobot speelde) op de carbon freeze set

What would you regard as your best memory from The Empire Strikes Back?

I only did one Star Wars movie. So many cherished moments from The Empire Strikes Back. The lifelong friendships that I made, the laughs and fun that we had on and off set. A great conversation that I had with Billy Dee Williams. The fun moments with Carrie!

What did you talk about with Williams and what were those fun moments?

The conversation with Billy was him giving me advice about acting and working on movies. No personal stuff. Carrie was just constant fun always laughing and joking. No more to say other than that.

You have been in the convention circuit for some years now. What do you like the most about being a guest and what is the most remarkable or craziest thing that happened at a show?

Yes, I love doing the conventions, they are most enjoyable. A stand out moment was at a convention in The Netherlands when two stormtrooper cosplayers danced together in their costumes. This was videoed on someone’s phone and then watched by eight Star Wars actors on the flight home.

Besides Star Wars you have been in several movies including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon, James Bond: Octopussy. What do you regard as the highlight of your career?

The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark are the highlights. Later on I worked in British tv drama but nothing ever lived up to those two movies.

The Empire Strikes Back is not only considered to be the best of all the Star Wars movies by many fans. Actually, it is even considered to be one of the best movies overall. How does it feel to have been a part of this?

I am very honored to be a part of The Empire Strikes Back. However, I realize that I was and am very lucky. I am fully aware that it was a question of right place right time. I just hope that I lived up to the opportunity! I think I did.


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Interviews

Exclusief interview met John Mogridge (Snowspeeder pilot)

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Vechten tegen de Imperials op Hoth, Han Solo naar de Carbon freeze leiden én The Emperor onthalen op de Death Star. Brits acteur John Mogridge deed het allemaal. In The Empire Strikes Back is hij namelijk te zien als Snowspeeder piloot en Stormtrooper terwijl hij in Return of the Jedi een Death Star Gunner speelde.

Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed John Mogridge het volgende interview waarin hij terugblikt op zijn Star Wars tijd. Zoals gebruikelijk is het interview ook hier te lezen: op StarWarsAwakens.nl!

Interview met John Mogridge

How did you started your career in the movie business?

I joined the F.A.A. (Film Artistes Association) and the Central casting agency in November 1978. The Empire Strikes Back was my second film. You got work by phoning the agents and asking if there were any work “Calls”. They’d say Empire Strikes Back, Elstree studios, 8AM. That’s how I got my first day on The Empire Strikes Back. That was March 1979.

Can you tell how you got cast as a Snowspeeder pilot and snowtrooper for The Empire Strikes Back?

I arrived on my first day and the 2nd assistant director, Steve Lanning, gave me my daily salary voucher (we call it a Chit) with the title “Rebel” on it. I was a rebel for a while. Then they wanted snowspeeder pilots and he gave me that job. I did that until the end of May or the beginning of June. Then I was given the Snowtrooper role. That was only for a short time and finished my on and off run on The Empire Strikes Back as a stormtrooper in the carbon freezing chamber and Bespin cloud city scenes.

John Mogridge en Alan Austen als de twee Stormtroopers die Han naar de Carbon freeze begeleiden.

Three years later I got the call for Revenge of the Jedi as it was called at the time. I only played an Imperial gunner on that film in the Emperor’s arrival scene.

Did you see the first Star Wars movie before you got cast? What did you think of it?

I took my brother to see the original Star Wars film and really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to get the autographs of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Dave Prowse for him when I worked on The Empire Strikes Back.

You’re one of the Snowspeeder pilots in the scene where Carrie Fisher gives the pilots instructions. What are the other scenes in which we can see you?

Some memorable scenes. The carbon freezing chamber seemed very high and a bit sinister compared to the bright and shiny cloud city set. I did a lot of filming with the second unit being directed by John Barry. Sadly, he was taken ill one day and died the next. A lot of people were upset by that. He was a nice man.

What do you recall of the shooting of your scenes?

A funny scene… there’s a picture on the internet where a snowtrooper is seen falling over as they enter Hoth. I was on that scene. I tripped but didn’t fall and it seems so did many others. It didn’t get in the film. Irvin Kershner took a long time to build a scene and the photo of me in the briefing scene standing around looking bored took ages to set up. He did do a great job.

John Modgride (recht van regisseur Irvin Kershner) op de Echo Base set.

Your Rebel pilot character got a name many years ago: Habeer Zignian. When and how did you find out and what was your reaction?

My character having been given a name was a complete and pleasant surprise. Although I only found out in 2018.

What is the best memory you have regarding Star Wars in general?

I am really proud to have been a very minor part in a great series of films. It changed my life. I met and I’m still in contact with so many friends like Alan Austen, Peter Ross, Chris Parsons (editor’s note: all three men played various parts in the original trilogy) and so many more who I wouldn’t have known without Facebook and the world wide family of Star Wars fans.


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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Bruce Logan (ILM)

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Vraag een willekeurige Star Wars fan wie in A New Hope de Death Star vernietigde en de kans is groter dan een Gorax dat het antwoord Luke Skywalker is. Fout! Het was namelijk ILM’er Bruce Logan die verantwoordelijk was voor het letterlijk opblazen van het Death Star model in 1976. Dit was slechts een van de vele special effects waar Logan voor verantwoordelijk was in A New Hope.

Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed Bruce Logan het volgende interview waarin hij terugblikt op eind jaren 70; de begintijd van Star Wars. Zoals gebruikelijk is het interview ook hier te lezen: op StarWarsAwakens.nl!

Interview met Bruce Logan

In the mid 70’s you joined ILM to work on Star Wars. How did you get this job?

I had met with George and Gary at the beginning of the production when they were interviewing visual effects people. George got back from shooting the live action in England, and because the signature (very hi-tech at the time) motion control effects system was being constructed not a frame of film had been shot. Panicked, he called me up to head up a second unit effects unit to shoot puppeteers in black suits “flying” miniature spaceships on black rods. Not surprisingly this did not work out very well. So my unit moved on to do some of the signature explosions in the show.

Why didn’t you return to work on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?

After Star Wars came out, George moved ILM north to San Rafael to avoid Hollywood and all the “rules” that when with it. Half of ILM moved with him and the other half stayed in the same building and broke off to form Apogee (editor’s note: a VFX company).

What do you recall of your meetings with George Lucas?

I found George to be very organized, the man knew exactly what he wanted but not always how to get it. He gave me marching orders and then left me alone to figure out how to do it. I’m not sure that I even watched dailies with him as my unit was at another location across town. He must have liked what he saw because our unit moved to bigger and bigger stages and we shot bigger and bigger explosions.

You’re one of the first crewmembers of ILM in the 70’s. What was it like working there back then in Van Nuys?

As I was not part of the main unit, I did very little work on Valjean. However, as I was friends with almost everyone there and because they had a full machine shop, I spent many weeks there with my full race Mini Cooper machining parts and fabricating equipment. So, I got to experience the entire production process without really being involved.

Which shots/scenes were you responsible for? And are there good anecdotes you can share regarding creating them?

My claim to fame is that I blew up the Death Star. When I think back to the first day of our unit, I remember Joe Viskocil, our powder genius who constructed all the miniature bombs, I realize we were just a bunch of unsupervised kids running the orphanage. Joe came in the first morning and there was a huge explosion and a cloud of smoke coming out of the little room on wheels that was used to load film. Luckily there was only a loss of hair and a rash on Joe’s arms. It was an interesting way to start. But it never really got any better as the explosions got bigger and better, I remember running around the stage wiping burning napalm from my arms after one of our larger explosions. Later, looking at pictures of our shoot, I see that our only fire protection was a single hand held fire extinguishers. Ahh! simpler days.

What was the hardest effect to create while working on A New Hope?

Although I was not involved, I would say the Landspeeder was one of the hardest. In a non-CG world getting rid of the wheels putting in heat ripples and suspending it in shot where we didn’t see the whole craft.

However, the construction and first extensive use of motion control is obviously the most significant innovation of the movie.

Which effect from A New Hope are you most proud of?

Blowing up the Death Star, who wouldn’t be?

© Bruce Logan

Today CGI has largely taken over and there are less practical effects. Is this –in your opinion- a good or a bad thing?

My favorite Visual Effects are when they based on live-action elements and then enhanced with CG. Whether based on miniature or full scale live-action, I like the organic feel of these kind of shots. Shot which are entirely CG still have an uncanny valley feel to them, even with the unbelievable advances in CG effects.

I read that you knew about Joseph Campbell before work on Star Wars started and you were happy George Lucas got a spiritual message out. Do you think that’s something modern Star Wars lacks after George left in 2012?

I think the Joseph Campbell influence fell away almost immediately. Any discussion of the “Force” became more about superhero (Jedi) powers and less about an elemental interconnectedness of all beings and all things. But the whole franchise is based on “A New Hope” and as such this philosophy unavoidably underlies everything. Thanks Joseph.

My final question: You blew up the Death Star, not Luke Skywalker. I guess you should have gotten that medal?

Yes. But what I don’t talk about so much is that, I also blew up Alderaan. I guess all that loss of innocent life, cancels out any medal I might be entitled to for the Death Star.


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