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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 Jude S. Walko (Bounty hunter)

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Regisseur, acteur, producer, schrijver… en bounty hunter. De in Amerika geboren Jude S. Walko is het allemaal. In zijn inmiddels lange carrière was hij te zien in de Power Rangers, produceerde hij de horror/fantasy film SiREN en regisseerde hij The Incantation. In 2019 was hij te zien in aflevering 3 van The Mandalorian als bounty hunter die het op Din Djarin heeft gemunt. Eerder deze maand had ik contact met Jude en deed hij voor mijn website StarWarsInterviews.com het volgende interview, dat zoals altijd ook hier te lezen is!


How did you get started in the movie business?

I started out primarily as an actor, in the early 90s, but it’s hard to maintain a career as a working actor, so then I started working on film sets, additionally, as a Production Assistant. I eventually worked my way up to Coordinator, Supervisor and finally Producer. Now I am a member of The Producer’s Council of the Producer’s Guild of America and still remain a SAG actor.

How did you get cast for The Mandalorian?

I was in the right place at the right time. I got a call to check my availability when I happened to be in Los Angeles, which eventually led to a fitting and a role. They contacted me again when I was in Boston, but unfortunately the timing didn’t work out. Maybe I can get a spot somewhere in season 2.

In The Mandalorian you play a bounty hunter. How did you get this specific part assigned?

They liked my long beard and unique look, so decided to keep me as one of the Human Bounty Hunters. That was great because unlike people that spent hours in prosthetics, my make-up was relatively easy. I had the added bonus of people being able to recognize my face on screen, unlike many of the actors who were buried in a ton of Make-Up FX.

Were you a big Star Wars fan before you got cast?

I have a very unique relationship with Star Wars. I was 6 years old when I watched the first one in a theatre in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia with my big brother. I thought everything was really happening in space, as I was too young to know any different. Back then, some of the actors would tour with movie props and Mark Hamill visited our town. Somewhere I have a polaroid of me sitting in a mini X-wing fighter they used for some cockpit scenes. It was towed on a trailer by a pick-up truck. They also shot parts of The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia in our town, which starred Mark Hamill and Kristy McNichol not long after. I credit that experience, and the resultant fanfare, for giving me the bug to pursue a career in the film industry. Once I got older and realized they were movies, I fell in love with the process. I don’t consider myself a fan in the classic sense, as much as I do it actually being a part of my personal story. Luckily this story continues with The Mandalorian.

How did the shooting of your scenes go? 

Fantastic. I have been on nearly 100 film sets in all sorts of capacities for over nearly three decades, and I have to say it was one of the most professional sets I have been on. The average age of the crew on the sets was probably closer to my generation. Nothing against the younger professionals, but it just demonstrated to me that they had chosen a lot of seasoned veterans of the industry, because they wanted everything perfect.

You were directed by Deborah Chow, who will be directing all episodes of the upcoming Obi-Wan series. Do you think she’s a good choice?

Deborah was amazing. I would love to see more directors like her, especially being female and a minority. On a production that big, there are a lot of people and many things going on at once. Deborah had a very cool head and commanded a great deal of respect from the executives, actors and technicians. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni were also there, in a creative capacity, and you could see how she managed to consider their notes in stride, all why commanding the set. She had the added pressure of having George Lucas on set one of the days I was there, and it was nice to see her shine in her element. I also would like to add that she had a predominantly female AD team, which were an extreme joy to work with.

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

Yes! As I mentioned I had less make-up time than others. So, one day, October 19, 2018 to be exact, I was out of the chair earlier than expected. The ADs told me to go wait on the set and relax. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was Jon Favreau’s birthday. So, I go on to the set, which was essentially the bar set you see in the series. Lo and behold, none other than George Lucas was there with a bottle of wine for Jon. It was just the three of us. I politely asked if I should leave, and they invited me to remain on set. It was a nice serendipitous moment. The crew eventually sang Happy Birthday, with a cake, to Jon after call, and George stuck around most of the morning.

What is the best memory you have regarding The Mandalorian?

I guess seeing all the amazing production value that was there. We had playing cards, money and drinks in the bar all with excruciating, Star Wars-specific detail. I had a gun that looked very much like Han Solo’s in the original series, and had the full weight of a real weapon. I kept it low slung like an old western gunslinger. There were droids and Jawas running around and a landspeeder. It was amazing to be surrounded by this universe that I had grown up in as a kid and had become the cultural juggernaut it has. In addition, it was great to see all the stars come out. Taika Waititi, Carl Weathers, Gina Carano and Bryce Dallas Howard were all there when I was as well as Pedro Pascal. Also Gina Rodriguez said hello to me one morning, as she was shooting next door.

I read that you’re currently working on an animated feature based on your life and experiences in Thailand. Could you tell something about this project?

Animation has always been a passion of mine. I’m a huge stop-motion fan from the Ray Harryhausen days, right up to contemporaries like Tim Burton, Henry Selick and the Chiodo Brothers. I’m also a lover of all things Disney, Pixar and Laika and have been a professional member of ASIFA-Hollywood for as long as I can remember. So cut to Thailand. I have lived there for over 20 years and have a wife and two children there. This project, Jaoshu Mai?! was a chance to combine two of my loves. At one point I had trademarked the term Thailanime and we did an animatic for the project with the help of Anthony Conley of Neopets fame. It’s still in development, like a lot of my projects, but ideally, I will definitely direct some animation projects someday.

Jude S. Walko op de set van The Incantation

You have worked on various movies in all kinds of ways: as an actor, director, producer. Which movie is your favorite and are you most proud of?

Well I wrote, acted in, and directed The Incantation. We shot it in France in a castle and under the catacombs, and I called in a favor from the very generous Dean Cain. It was hard and mostly privately financed, so there were are a lot of challenges. However, my producing partner Dan Campbell, of Blue Falcon Productions, and myself, pulled ourselves up from out bootstraps, as the saying goes, and pulled it off. I will never probably never be as grateful to a cast and crew as I was on that one, as it was my directorial debut. Please be sure to check it out on Amazon Prime or iTunes and always support Indie Film. Do it for the little guy. I also directed a film called Shark Island that is currently in post-production, so be on the lookout for that.

Any chance we’ll be seeing you doing conventions soon?

I would definitely be down for it, but don’t really feel I am a big enough part of the universe to warrant that. Maybe someday I will have a greater role in that community and would love to participate more. Never say never. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my story!


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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Lorne Peterson (Industrial Light & Magic)

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Hij werkte aan de eerste zes Star Wars films, was één van de originele leden toen Industrial Light & Magic werd opgericht én won een Oscar voor Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ik heb het natuurlijk over special effects legende Lorne Peterson, die decennia lang aan de grootste films werkte: zo staan onder andere E.T., Ghostbusters en Jurassic Park op zijn c.v. Afgelopen december had ik tijdens de EchoBaseCon het volgende interview met hem.


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

I was only hired for two months and I knew a lot from industrial design. It was a wonderful experience; we all became friends. I was only twenty-nine years old the day I started, and a lot of us had gone to the same colleges. Some of us knew each other from one college or another and friends were brought together. So, it was it was very much like to be almost in college art department but with more money. Way more money.

You are also featured as Rebel in the Yavin 4 scene. What are your memories from the filming of these scenes?

Well, you know, that it wasn’t supposed to be me originally. There were just natives in Guatemala and one of them was going to be the tower. But he was too stiff. You know, he wasn’t a good actor. Not that I’m a great actor. (Laughs) I was of the three of us who went down to Guatemala the only one that didn’t have children. I wasn’t married, no children. So, I volunteered to work on the tower. You know, we only had three wires down now, and you have to stay really still for a while. Let it go so it wouldn’t go like this. (makes a waving gesture) I’d spend for hours and hours up there waiting for the sun to be just right, in the costume and with the helmet. It was a fun adventure. It was a little bit like Indiana Jones. We flew into Guatemala and then they put us on a military airplane, the DC-3. No pain at all. It had the seats and instead of sitting like this you sat against the side of the window. The seats were just made out of scraps of fabric, so there were bags of stuff on the inside. They were transported into the jungle. It was not a commercial flight, but it was a fun.

George Lucas had spent a lot of his budget on effects, but it took quite some time before ILM had produced an effect that was usable. I read that at one moment the pressure became really high. How did you experience this?

Yeah, it was very high. You know, when he came back from England, we’d hope that there were more of those special effects done than there were. The reason that a lot of it wasn’t done yet was we were still building the equipment, the cameras and the rudimentary computers that were used at the time. So they were actually built on the premises and so there were two shots that we did right at the beginning to show George that they were possible to do without going through a lot of optical processes and that was the detail of the gun firings, the large gun like this firing on the Death Star. And then the other one was the drop of the escape pod with R2-D2 and C-3PO. They showed me a sketch of it and they said I needed to make the model quick. So I made it in a week.

After the huge success of Star Wars, the expectations for the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, must have been big. Was this the case and can you tell something about your experiences when ILM was suddenly becoming THE effects company?

Well, it was pretty unusual because we didn’t expect it to happen. There was no expectation that it would become a blockbuster. My partner and I and the people at ILM, we rented the equipment back from George Lucas and did Battlestar Galactica. George wasn’t really happy about that, doing a film that was a little bit similar to Star Wars. But we had to make money, but then Star Wars did make a lot of money. So then George Lucas asked six of us to move up north to start over again in an empty warehouse and so that’s what we did. We went up, there weren’t even walls inside the building. We laid out two by fours like where we wanted the rooms instead of doing a drawing. We just basically took a bunch of two by fours and made different rooms in the hallway and then had the carpenter start to build after that.

Ok, what is your favorite moment or memory regarding working on the Star Wars movies?

Yeah, well, that’s a little bit hard. There are so many memories over 40 some years. Like I said, I was only hired for two months and the reason I was stayed on longer was that because I work in industrial design, I knew of a material called Superglue. Now everybody can buy superglue but you could only get it industrially at the time. When I arrived, the first few days they were using a five-minute epoxy, which you had to keep mixing over and over again. So I took a pencil and I cantilevered it over the edge of the table, then put a little drop of superglue and then I moved my hand and it stayed there. Everyone asked how do you do that? I said, we have to get this stuff. It makes it much faster and stronger and better. So that’s the reason that they never said “well we only hired you for two months and you have to go”.

From the beginning you’ve worked closely with George Lucas. How would you describe him?

He’s maybe the contrast of Steven Spielberg. George is a really quiet, relatively quiet person and he certainly knows what he wants. But usually the set is set up that there isn’t as much activity. He’s concentrating on what exactly he wants. Spielberg is somebody who… activity can happen all around him and people with clipboards, telephones, telling you’re your mother or wife is calling. Do this, do that. And then he’s happy to do that. George Lucas is different. He would like more contemplating to himself what it should be.

How was it to work with Lucas?

Well, I use an example that when we were doing Empire, I had saved a bunch of questions for him about the models and he was coming to the model shop that day, so I wanted to ask him what he wanted on this model, what he wanted with that. I started asking the first question, and he stopped me. He said, well, that sounds like your job to me. It was like, that isn’t what he wants. You didn’t think of that as his job. He already hired me because he liked what I did and you do whatever you want. “I like whatever you want to show” is a real joy to work with. You didn’t feel he was micromanaging anything.

You have created a lot of models for the Star Wars movies. Which one stands out for you personally?

The Millennium Falcon was a real favorite because that was one of the first models I worked on. But then also Slave I because what had happened at that time, the model shop was getting bigger and bigger and I was having less time than I could actually put my hands on a model. When Slave I came along, I really liked the design of it. So I said, well, I’m going to split off and devote more of my personal time to working on it with two other people; Ease Owyoung and Samuel Zolltheis to do that particular model. I was really satisfied with the look of it.

Lorne Peterson en Ease Owyeung met het Slave I model.

Is there any model that when you look back, you’re thinking, well, I should have made different.

I never quite thought of it that way. Granted there are some ships that were in the distance, the fleet ships that were less important. It’s just like if it was going to be close to camera, I would have done more work on them. But they were far away from camera and it wasn’t as important.

You have been in the effects business for more than three decades. You have witnessed the evolution of effects, from models and stop-motion to CGI. What is your own opinion regarding this evolution and where will it go the next 10, 20 years?

I was very worried right at first and other people were worried that everybody kept hanging around and there were books like What color is your parachute or How to change your career? when CG first came along. But it didn’t work out that way. I mean, Dennis Muren said one time “I think the model shop has maybe two or three years left and that’s it”. That was 25 years ago so it actually worked really well. There was a real hand-in-glove relationship because they did opticals a lot better. They could combine images here and there seamlessly. Whereas in optical, it took a lot of work to get an almost perfect shot and the many times that bluescreen would show up around the edge and the mattes would show up, that kind of thing. So that worked really well. But it is true that CGI kept getting better and better. But it did kind of push the envelope even for the model shop, because the model shop, if you’re in the presentation they started doing bigger environmental models and with a lot of action involved in it. We were still doing really satisfying things. I’d say right now some films like Transformers are almost more just a cartoon. They don’t rely much on reality. But there are other films where they tried to be seamless, that it just doesn’t show at all. It’s pretty good. I still like the look of a model and a model shot, the atmosphere, the feeling that it’s actually there. Sometimes CG seems like a different world, that it just isn’t the same world that we live in. But it depends on how much time and money they spend on a shot.

What do you think of the effects of the new modern Star Wars movies?

I still would have preferred real shots with the Millennium Falcon. The one thing that stands out in my mind as the biggest problem for me was the red sand. Was that in The Last Jedi? Yeah. I just thought how could how could sand be white on the top and then red below? Normally things oxidize with air on the top. So it’s more likely that something underground when exposed to air would be rust red, but not red red. It looks like a cake. When the ships would fly over, I didn’t like that at all.

I think it was done for the dramatic effect.

Yeah, and also, I think it was a pity that they darkened the X-Wing because the way that we had made the X-Wings, we’d made them light so the oil drips, the aging and everything showed up on the light grey. When you make the model darker grey, it disappears. You don’t get to see all that kind of thing.

They look brand new.

Yes, they don’t need to look that way.

I prefer the old ones as well. So, there’s an incredible list of movies you have worked on. Star Wars, Indiana Jones. Which one is your favorite?

Oh, my God, I don’t know if I could pick one. One of the last ones I did was the series of Pirates of the Caribbean films and that was really satisfying to work on those ships were a lot of fun. But not every project was a lot of fun. Some of them had to be faster, late nights and all the tough and hard work to do, like the Executor. We did the Executor it had to be done in seven weeks and we just worked around the clock. We slept for five hours and then got back to work.

That was one of the biggest models.

I think, of that kind of models. Yeah, it was about three and a half meters long. Something like this. It had a lot of technical problems to solve like how do you cantilever something so narrow and thin out long and not have a droop and that kind of thing. It was made out of a honeycomb aluminum that they use in airplanes to the bulkheads and things like that. They’re very, very light, but strong and that’s how we made it.

It looks like a masterpiece.

I think we calculated that it had something like tens of thousands little lights that were etched into brows. We didn’t we didn’t have to make each hole. It was like a miniature neon behind these brass panels that have all these little holes etched through the brass.

Well, 200.000 might be too many, but I know it was like tens of thousands.

Regarding your work on Star Wars: how do you back at the movies and your time at ILM?

I sometimes describe to somebody it’s as if you walk around in the world and it’s a bubble that you walk with. I think I’ll probably be rotting in my grave and the people are still watching Star Wars, that kind of thing. Very few human beings ever get to experience something like that. It’s a body of work, of accomplishment that like travels with me all the time. So, it’s really an unusual experience.

Met dank aan de organisatoren van EchoBaseCon!


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Exclusief interview met L. Neil Smith

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Tegenwoordig komen en jaarlijks diverse Star Wars boeken uit. Hoe anders was dit begin jaren 80 toen met uitzondering van de Marvel/Juniorpress comics nauwelijks sprake was van een Expanded Universe. Fans moesten het doen met Alan Dean Fosters Splinter of the Mind’s Eye uit 1978 en Brian Daley’s Han Solo trilogie (1979-1980). In 1983 verschenen er drie boeken waarin Lando Calrissian centraal stond, geschreven door de inmiddels gerenommeerde Sci-Fi auteur L. Neil Smith. De wat oudere Star Wars fans kennen deze ongetwijfeld!

Eerder deze maand had ik voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.comeen interview met deze schrijver die op een open manier terugblikte op zijn werk van 37 jaar geleden (en zoals altijd is het ook hier te lezen).


When and where was your first encounter with Star Wars?

I saw Star Wars the same way that everybody else did, after standing in line for a long time at a local theater that isn’t there anymore. I still think about it every time I pass by the location.
I’m afraid George Lucas had me the very moment I watched that big, endless triangular warship crawling past the screen. Everything else that came afterward was frosting on the cake.

Every Star Wars fan who grew up when the original trilogy was released knows your fantastic Lando Calrissian book trilogy. How did you get the dream job of writing these books?

It’s very kind of you to say that. My publisher at the time asked me to do it because LucasFilm wanted an additional writer to the great Brian Daley, whose premature death I still mourn, who wrote the Han Solo trilogy.

What was your inspiration while writing these books?

I’m not sure I can answer that. We had the very attractive character, Lando as we saw him in the movie. I was given only a request for three books about him. I decided to write about him before the adventure we’d seen onscreen, before he had the Falcon; even before he had a mustache.
It’s possible that James Garner’s wonderful character Bret Maverick was on my mind.

What directions did you get from Lucasfilm regarding which characters you could use?

I was allowed to use no characters or settings from the movie. I insisted on the Falcon or I wouldn’t do the job. I originally planned for my villain Rokur Gepta to be a dark Lord of Sith but that wasn’t allowed. Any animal species I mentioned, like Banthas, were to be
capitalized; any I invented were to be lower case. Very petty, I thought.

You introduced several new characters, like Vuffi Raa. Which character created by you is your favorite?

To ask that question is to answer it. I needed Vuffi Raa as a foil to Lando’s wit, sort of a Watson to his Holmes. I miss him very much, even today, but can’t write about him because he is the intellectual property of LucasFilm. I deeply respect intellectual property rights and have abided by them.

In 2014, Disney declared the Expanded Universe was no longer canon. It became ‘Legends’. What do you think of this, seeing all of your work suddenly become non-canon?

Vuffi and I didn’t know that and we don’t give a rat’s ass. Considerations like that are decided by literary history, not by faceless, unscrupulous, dull-witted corporate managers. I was the world’s greatest fan of Walter Elias Disney himself, growing up and have nothing but uttermost contempt for his profoundly unworthy successors.

What is the greatest Star Wars related anecdote you can share?

I know lots of stories I can’t share. Writing the books itself was an “adventure” in the Tolkeinian sense. After two different sets of editors, one in New York and one in Hollywood, piddled away five of the sixteen precious weeks I was allotted to do the work, messing up my outlines, I had nine weeks left to write three novels. I got up every morning, went straight to the keyboard until my wife came home for lunch. Then back to work until she came home again, we ate, and back to work until midnight or so. No re-writing. Nine weeks of that left me a physical wreck but I got it done and I’m pretty proud of it.

You have written many other books. Which one stands out as your personal
favorite?

Thank you for asking that. I’ve written about thirty-five other science fiction novels, two books of collected political essays, and a couple of political thrillers.

In some ways, my pet is still my first book, the one I’m best known for, The Probability Broach, an alternate-worlds murder mystery and now, after 40 years, the signature novel of the libertarian movement.

Of all of my work, perhaps it’s Pallas, the opening volume of the Ngu Family Saga, a huge series mostly about humans homesteading the Solar System. In another sense, it’s Rosalie’s World, my current work-in-progress which carries the Ngu family out to its first extra-solar settlement.
And then there is Forge of the Elders, originally a trilogy, a series in its own right, and its prequel, Blade of p’Na.
See what happens when you ask a guy which of his children is his favorite?

What are you currently doing? Are there besides Rosalie’s World other novels you’re working on?

Always. I mentioned Rosalie’s World. In that series, Ares is already “in the can”, waiting to be edited at Phoenix Pick, my current publisher, as is Only the Young Die Good, my second J. Gifford/Surica Fieraru vampire novel which is more science fiction than horror. I’m also in the middle of a new Win Bear, The Probability Broach, adventure. The Frozen Stars, a science fiction novel about Theodore Roosevelt, and I’m looking forward to writing Beautiful Dreamer, the final installment of the Ngu Family saga. If I have time, I’m 73 years old, I’ll also finish the MacBear-Lysandra Heptalogy.

Final question: How do you look back at your Star Wars work?

That’s very difficult to answer both truthfully and politely. Mixed feelings. I wrote those three little books under terrible conditions, wasn’t paid very well for them, wound up firing an agent over them, and had to threaten to sue before I got paid royalties.

On the other hand, thousands of individuals apparently love those three little books, I hear from them all the time, and I’m more grateful and appreciative about that than I can adequately express.


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Exclusief interview met Andrea Wickman-Miller (Jawa)

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Op slechts 7-jarige leeftijd in een Star Wars film meedoen. Het is iets dat slechts weinigen kunnen zeggen maar Andrea Wickman-Miller kan dat wél. Als kind was ze een van de gelukkigen die in Death Valley een Jawa kostuum mocht dragen voor de Tatooine scènes in A New Hope. Voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed ze onderstaand interview en zoals altijd is het ook hier te lezen.


How did you get cast for Star Wars?

When I was 7 years old my family lived in Death Valley, California. I attended a small school called Death Valley Elementary School. There were only about 60 students K-6 grade. In 1977, a film crew came to our school and asked if they could get 8 kids for the film. They measured the students and choose the 8 that were the height they needed. I happen to be one of the lucky ones chosen!

In which scenes can we see you?

My specific scene is carrying R2-D2, after he had been zapped, to the sandcrawler.

What do you remember about the filming of your scenes?

We had one day of getting fitted in our Jawa outfits and the second day was the actual filming. It was really hard to walk in the Jawa outfits, they were big, heavy and awkward. R2-D2 was really hard to carry. They had to take him apart to lighten him up.

Can you tell any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things that happened?

At one point, during filming, R2-D2’s head falls off!

Mardji the elephant was brought in from San Francisco. She was one of the banthas. It was pretty amazing watching her walk through the town of Furnace Creek. The film crew was there for 2 weeks doing several different types of scenes, CP30 was also there. We were paid a whopping $25 for 2 days work.

What was your reaction when you saw the finished movie for the first time?

During filming, all the adults thought, this looks like a ridiculous and cheesy movie. Our teacher actually said “I know how excited everyone is about the movie, but please remember not all movies make it to the theater.”

My whole family couldn’t believe how amazing it was! We were all just blown away!

Do you keep up with Star Wars? The new movies, TV series?

I do keep up with all things Star Wars. My husband and 3 kids are huge Star Wars fans too, so we have all been enjoying The Mandalorian.  We’re also heading to the theater on 1/1/2020 for our second time to watch The Rise of Skywalker.

I bet you have a Jawa merchandise/memorabilia collection in your house?

I know it’s hard to believe, I actually don’t have a lot of Jawa merchandise. Since I’ve started going to convention in the last couple of years my collection is starting to grow more because people have generously gifting me with Jawa items, and I love it!

You have attended conventions, signing photos and other memorabilia. What is your general feeling to signing things and meeting fans?

I have done a few private signing, one convention in Birmingham UK and one in Los Angeles, California.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from my first con, and I absolutely loved it!! They are so much fun and I really enjoy getting to share this common love of Star Wars with fans of all ages! I just love chatting with everyone and hearing their stories of what Star Wars means to them.

What are you currently up to?

I live in San Francisco, California and my husband and I own and operate a gym called The Firm SF. Fitness has always been my true passion. I’ll continue to do a few conventions here and there when I can make it work with my schedule.


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