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Exclusief interview met Gerard Smith (Resistance Colonel)

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Gerard Smith

Wat velen niet weten is dat The Force Awakens een Nederlands tintje heeft. Nadat eerder de Nederlandse acteurs Dickey Beer (Return of the Jedi) en Carel Struycken (Ewoks: Battle for Endor) in een Star Wars film te zien waren was het nu de beurt aan Gerard Smith.

Hoewel Gerard in de Verenigde Staten is geboren heeft hij (naast de Amerikaanse) ook de Nederlandse nationaliteit, heeft hij hier gewoond en spreekt hij ook de Nederlandse taal. Toen ik van hem bericht kreeg dat hij wilde meewerken aan een interview was dit dan ook geweldig nieuws: een Nederlandse Star Wars acteur die vragen beantwoord voor de Nederlandse Star Wars community! Treffender kan het niet.

In The Force Awakens speelde Gerard een Resistance colonel en is hij te zien in diverse scènes op de Resistance basis op D’Qar… maar daar vertelt hij zelf meer over in onderstaand interview (dat op verzoek in het Engels is).

Interview met Gerard Smith

Hi Mr. Smith, it’s great to have an interview with a Dutch Star Wars actor for the Dutch Star Wars site! A perfect match! My first question for you: Could you tell how you got started in the movie business?

I initially got inspired to be an actor by watching countless episodes of a show called Daktari as a kid. Daktari, Swahili for “doctor”, is an American children’s drama series that aired on CBS prime time between 1966 and 1969 in the United States. The series, an Ivan Tors Films Production in association with MGM Television starring Marshall Thompson as Dr. Marsh Tracy, a veterinarian at the fictional Wameru Study Centre for Animal Behaviour in East Africa.

However, it wasn’t until many years later that I actually walked onto a movie set for the first time.

Whilst completing my MBA (Masters in International Business and Economics) at UCLA – University of California, Los Angeles, a professor pulled me over after giving a presentation with my group and told me that I was a pretty good presenter and had I ever thought about acting. He suggested that I do so and wrote down a few names and numbers that I could call (this was before the internet took off), and gave them to me. So I contacted them and one thing led to another and I ended up on a movie set.

To be honest, I don’t actually remember what movie or TV show was my very first. I just remember calling the numbers my professor gave me and sending my photos in to them in the mail. Then I got a phone call one day and was asked to come into an agency in West LA on the Sunset Strip (Hollywood Boulevard). I registered with the agency and from that moment on I was on many productions.

I quickly earned my way into the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA) and was able to gain more respect by building my portfolio and ultimately landed a legitimate Hollywood “acting” agent/manager.

Can you tell how you got cast as a Resistance colonel for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? How did the casting process go?

It was my destiny. I came to the UK in 2012 for the Olympic and Paralympic Games after closing out and selling off my successful outdoor and adventure business in Belgium (think The North Face, Arc’teryx, etc.). I was hired on for the last 7 months as an event manager for The Games. My contract ended after The Games finished and I decided to stay in London to look for work.

So, one day I simply Googled acting agencies in London and a plethora of agency names came up. I registered with a few of them and was asked to come into one of them for a registration day. They said they were a new agency representing SA’s but had extensive contacts in the film industry. I didn’t think much of it nor did I hear anything from them for ages and then one day I got an email informing me that I had been chosen – from my picture – for a new movie and asking my availability for the summer months.

There wasn’t much of a “process” really. I was chosen from my picture, although I heard that there was a casting for some supporting actors. Once my availability was considered to be sufficient, I was informed that I would be a “pirate” in the anonymous movie. This is the 1st movie that I had been in for many years since I left Hollywood and when I heard “pirate” I immediately thought that the movie was a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel or something along those lines.

I then went to a fitting at Pinewood Studios where they took very accurate measurements.

I was not initially cast as a Resistance colonel. I was a basic Resistance fighter fitted into a standard Resistance “pirate” military outfit. On the first day of filming, I went to wardrobe and my costume was fitted on me. I, as did everyone, had to be inspected and given the personal approval of Michael Kaplan, Head of Costume Design. He looked me up and down, through his big black-framed glasses, and he very quietly and calmly told his assistant standing next to him to upgrade me to a Colonel.

How did the filming of your scenes go?

I was in multiple scenes both on location at the RAF Greenham Common – the Resistance base on D’Qar – and at Pinewood Studios.

In general, the filming was quite intense because I had to focus on my performance as an actor as well as concentrating on other things going on around me such as health & safety as well as other personalities and the absolute awe of being on the set of Star Wars with the original cast and incredibly talented crew, technical specialists, artists, creatures & robots.

It was imperative to be absolutely focused on your role at that moment. It can be quite distracting to be standing next to a 7 foot Wookiee as BB-8 scoots past you or Admiral Ackbar positions himself next to you in the War Room. Not to mention being in the same room with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and many others. So total FOCUS on the task at hand and staying in character was key and it was very important not to get star struck. I carried on performing as if it was just another day at the office.

My scenes started filming late spring and early summer at Pinewood Studios. However, as we all know, Harrison Ford broke his leg on set and many of my scenes were postponed until late summer after Harrison returned back from LA fully recuperated. Upon our return in late summer, as you can imagine, the emphasis on being SAFE on set could not be over emphasized!

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You were there on the set with some Star Wars legends like Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and new stars Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. How were they and did you get to interact with them?

The entire cast and crew were incredibly nice. As well, I will take a moment here to mention that the Director, J.J. Abrams, was (is) an incredibly talented, patient and all round nice person and extremely fun to work with. I am NOT just saying this just to be saying it. I have worked with a lot of directors and A-listers and believe me they are not all so patient and fun to work with!

Yes, I got to speak with many of the Star Wars legends, but not at great lengths except on one occasion.

One morning on location, I was asked by an AD to follow him. He brought me close to the Millennium Falcon and then asked me to stop and wait there until he came back. Then, after about 15 minutes, he came back and asked me to follow him closer to the Millennium Falcon. He brought me right under the spaceship and then I started seeing familiar faces like Carrie Fishers stand-in and Harrison Ford’s stand-in. Then J.J. emerged out of a crowd of activity under the Falcon where it became apparent to me that they were preparing to film a major scene. The AD put his hand on my shoulder and said “this guy” and J.J. gave a quick sign of approval then spun around and disappeared into the busy group behind him. The AD just walked away and told me to stay where I was standing.

It was about 9am by this time and the sun started burning its way through the early morning mist. About that time, a group of very nice wardrobe and make-up ladies approached me and started pulling out their sewing needles and make-up kits and went to work on my uniform and my face making sure everything was perfect. Not long after that, Admiral Statura (Ken Leung) approached me from the same group that J.J. had disappeared into. He said that we would be doing a scene together with Harrison and Carrie. I didn’t have time to get nervous or think about how incredibly cool this was. So Ken and I stood there together about an hour talking and getting to know each other in the warm morning sun. A very pleasant experience. Turns out he is from the same part of the States I am from and we just couldn’t stop talking. He even told me that his closest childhood friend in New Jersey was called “Gerard”! We had a lot of fun talking while waiting until everything was set. In the meantime, the lead photographer and his team also came over to us and took like a zillion photos.

Finally, Harrison and Carrie came out under the Falcon to rehearse their roles. Carrie’s action was to come to Admiral Statura (Ken) and me after her intimate moment with Harrison. So before we formally started rehearsing, she came up to me, reached out and shook my hand and said hi and asked me how it was going. We talked for a while in the morning sun with Ken and then Daisy Ridley came bounding over to say hi. She was smiling from ear to ear and very jubilant. Extremely nice and you get a very sincere feeling about her.

Ken welcomed me to the Star Wars family and made me feel very at ease. Carrie talked to me about many things and was explaining to me about her dog before J.J. came over and got her and asked her to go back to Harrison that we were ready to start filming.

After a few rehearsals, J.J. walked up to Ken and me and gave us a few suggestions to nail the action. Then he shook both of our hands and emphatically said let’s do this as he walked away.

I spoke with Harrison Ford on a few other occasions, mostly at craft and about coffee, but he was rehearsing the details of his scene with J.J. whilst we were all talking.

What great/funny/remarkable stories can you share regarding your time on the set of Star Wars?

I don’t know where to start (or stop). I couldn’t possibly explain them all here, so I will only select a few. The entire experience was amazing. From the outset of filming, J.J. Abrams made us feel like “part of the family”. Sometimes J.J. would take a moment at the beginning of the day and give a short impromptu speech about how he was really happy to have us ALL working together and that we should ALL feel as one family and that we indeed ARE all one family!

I guess one other remarkable moment was when, as if it couldn’t get any better, I had to step out of the scene for a few minutes while some cables were being moved in the place I was standing. So I was asked to step off (and down the steps) to the ground level. I just stepped into a group of onlookers and didn’t really look anyone in the face until after. So a few minutes went by and I decided to look quickly to my left. So, standing directly next to me was Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm), Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg. Kathleen looked back at me and said “Hi” and Tom looked over and gave me a friendly nod while Simon Pegg kept staring straight ahead in total amazement of the set and what was going on.

The other truly remarkable thing about Star Wars and my time on the set was the SET itself!!! The set design and all of those absolutely incredibly creative people that helped make that happen is truly beyond comprehension! I couldn’t help just looking and studying (on my down time) the intricacies of the set design of the Resistance base! Incredible!

What is the best or most precious memory you have regarding The Force Awakens?

I am not sure if it’s the most precious moment, but it’s the one that I think about almost every day and that’s when I was selected to be in a scene with Han Solo, Princess Leia and Admiral Statura in front of the Falcon Millennium. It’s the scene I just described 2 questions prior to this one.

When J.J. Abrams came over and shook my hand before we started to film that scene, I knew that it was a special moment. It was even more special after we successfully completed the scene and J.J. came out and was smiling and said, jokingly, “if it didn’t work it was all Gerard’s fault” and was smiling from ear to ear looking at me!

In a previous scene on another day when Princess Leia was giving a speech to all of us inside of the Resistance base, J.J. came out from behind the camera between ‘takes’, walked towards the edge of the platform where we were all standing and looked at me and asked me what my name was in front of all of my Resistance Alliance Rebel colleagues. I told him my name was “Gerard”. He said, hi Gerard, and politely asked me if I could stand more “straight up” in the group rather than leaning slightly to one side because it didn’t look right on camera. I was embarrassed like hell but my fellow Resistance fighters were like, he spoke your name! What an honour to have J.J. Abrams actually speak to you!

Star Wars VIII is currently filming and Rogue One will be released in December. Will we see you in one of these movies (or in both)?

No, I was not involved with Rogue One. “They have contacted me to be involved in Star Wars VIII, but of course, I can’t disclose much about that now. Plus I don’t know anything . . . It’s really on a “Need to Know ” basis, even for some cast members and walk-on actors like myself. ”

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Besides Star Wars you have acted in a lot of popular movies and series: SPECTRE, Blade, Babylon 5… what is your own personal favorite of all the things you’ve been in?

I really enjoyed working on Blade. That’s the most memorable for me. We filmed most of the vampire scenes in the San Fernando Valley in an abandoned factory building. Each day we had to walk through a huge “shower” and get covered in artificial blood before filming. That was after getting our vampire fangs fitted and special shoes. Each day we had new shoes and new clothes as well because they were ruined by the fake blood and impossible to clean it off. Every day after filming we had to take a shower before leaving (obviously).

Since I do some martial arts, and the director liked my look, I was upgraded to do a fight scene with Wesley Snipes. Since I had to work with the fight choreographer, I was invited to go behind the factory where Wesley’s trailer was. They had built a mini-outdoor gym on the side and so Wesley told me I could pump a little iron if I wanted. So that was cool.

Unfortunately, the entire fight scene that I am in with Wesley did not make it to the final edit. But it was really cool to have done it anyway.

I read you once helped Arnold Schwarzenegger move his furniture out of his house. I just have to ask: how did you get into a situation like that? Helping out ‘The Governator’?

It’s an amazing story really. As anyone that knows me can tell you, I am a huge fan of everything Terminator, so when I first met Arnie on the set of Batman and Robin in 1997 on the Universal Studios lot when he was Mr. Freeze and I was a Gotham City wealthy patron, I was very pleased to say the least. He was full on in his outfit and stepped out to have a puff on a cigar. I had “seen” him a few times since I lived in Venice Beach and joined Gold’s Gym on Muscle Beach where he used to pump iron out in the open Californian air. He passed by there every so often. He also owned a restaurant and Austrian beer house in Santa Monica called “Schatzi’s” where I used to frequent. So I had seen him a few times, but never met him until on set.

In addition to doing the acting thing, I was also an event and party manager at a VIP party service to the stars based in Beverly Hills called The Party Staff. They regularly sent me out to great locations such as The Playboy Mansion and other residences in Beverly Hills. On one occasion, I was assigned to Arnie’s house to manage one of his many charity events he was putting on. So that’s how I ended up in his Beverly Hills mansion moving furniture with him. It wasn’t a lot of furniture or big stuff. Just a few tables in the den. He asked me to help him move them out so that when the guests arrived, they wouldn’t be tripping over things and more space would be available for guests to congregate in the den if they so desired.

My final question: Could you say something in Dutch to all the Dutch Star Wars fans out there?

I am honoured to be a global citizen of the world and to represent the Netherlands in such an iconic movie as Star Wars! As a teenager, I was scolded once by my science teacher in school that I was a “dreamer” and was told on multiple other occasions to stop looking out the window and daydreaming. The creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, was in fact a dreamer. The creative team that Lucas initially set up in the summer of 1977 got together to “dream” of the worlds that Lucas had created to help bring the movie to life. So if I can say just one thing, that’d be “STOP NOOIT MET DROMEN!” (“NEVER STOP DREAMING!”)

That’s a great advice! Dankjewel voor het interview en hopelijk tot ziens in Star Wars VIII!

Special thanks to Sci-Fi signers united!SCiFiSigners

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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