In korte tijd heeft Clem So een indrukwekkend CV opgebouwd: de laatste paar jaar was hij te zien in films en series als Spectre, Skyfall, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who, Sherlock en Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Hoog tijd dus om hem een aantal vragen te stellen over zijn ervaringen en hoe het was op de set van de laatste Star Wars film!
Interview met Clem So
What, or who, made you decide to enter the movie business?
My brother Tom had an acting role in the James Bond movie Casino Royale, he played Mr. Fukutu and encouraged me to join some casting agencies for film extras. I have a similar look to him, so I thought, why not. I now do a lot of extra work as a supporting artist on many productions and I am also beginning to branch out into acting.
How did you get cast for The Force Awakens?
The Force Awakens was cast solely through one agency and through what is the normal procedure for a extras agency, production will send a criteria for what sort of characters they are looking for and the agency will then send back suggestions based on this, then they let you know if you are picked providing that you are available for the filming dates. I had to turn The Force Awakens down first time around because I was already working on another movie called Pan. Fortunately for me, I was asked back later on for a second round of filming with The Force Awakens. This may have been due to slight filming delays during the time that Harrison Ford was recovering from his foot injury. It’s a bonus if it’s a project your a fan of, but at the end the day you don’t get into these things because you’re a fan, everyone who clocks in is turning up to work.
Were you a Star Wars fan before you got cast? Do you recall the first time you saw a Star Wars movie?
I am a big fan of science fiction and comic books. I saw Star Wars: A New Hope when it first came out in the cinema in 1977. I was 16, there was such a buzz around it and it was like nothing I had seen before, you really felt like you were along for the ride, there was robots, big furry creatures, laser swords, what’s not to like? And of course the sound track was epic, who could forget the theme music now? I was at University when Return of the Jedi was first released and I remember the excitement of watching the trilogy back to back in Leicester Square and I also took all my kids to see the prequels which was a joy to share that with them.
I know you played a Resistance Fighter in The Force Awakens. I was wondering if you played more roles in this movie?
My role was as a Resistance Fighter and I played no other role.
In which specific scenes can we see you?
My scenes were shot at the RAF base at Greenham Common and I think it was widely publicized that filming was taking place there when a drone accidently stumbled upon it and published pictures revealing X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon. So I might be seen in the background at the air base. We also filmed at Pinewood Studios where all the internal Resistance base scenes were shot. I am clearly seen standing next to Finn in one scene where everyone is discussion the plan of attack on the Starkiller base.
Can you share some of your memories regarding the time you worked on The Force Awakens?
Walking pass a life size Millennium Falcon, that will stay with me forever. A lot of effects were hands on, so most of the droids and creatures were real not CGI. You did feel like you were living in a real Star Wars world where people are X-Wing pilots, droids are running about all over the place. I could almost hear the John Williams theme music in my head.
Did any strange, weird or remarkable things happen on the set?
A funny thing happened during a over head shot of the air force base. I don’t think this shot was used in the movie. For the shot I adopted a near by R2 unit, it was rather peculiar looking because it was pink. I later found out that it was called R2-KT and named after some ones daughter Katie. (editors note: for more about R2-KT visit her website) During the shot I help the R2 unit across the runway, it is of course done via remote control. I started to get into character and began talking to the R2 unit while walking. We did this for several takes, but during one of the breaks between takes I am still habitually talking to the droid like it’s my little pet and as I look up, of all the people to be standing there is Anthony Daniels looking at me as if I am raving mad.
Did you get to interact with some of the big stars of this movie like Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver? How were they?
There is a chain of command during filming and it is understood by all involved that you don’t ever talk to main cast unless they are speaking to you. These actors are under tremendous pressure with a lot riding on them, so their focus is everything. Apart from Adam Driver and Mark Hamill, all the main cast were present during my scenes, but no interaction other than reaction for a scene.
How did JJ Abrams direct you? And what impression did he make on you?
What came across to me is how much J.J really cares about the franchise, I think he had an almost impossible task to fulfill the expectations of nearly 40 years of dedicated fan base, but I think he pulled it off.
The big question: will we see you again in Episode VIII and/or Rogue One? And if so: can you tell something more about this?
I think you will agree that Disney/Lucas Films has done a terrific job keeping The Force Awakens spoiler free, everyone involved in these films has to sign a non disclosure agreement before starting work on these projects, so even if I was involved, I couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to.
You have worked on other big productions like Spectre, Skyfall, Guardians of the Galaxy and TV shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who. Quite a list! Is there a difference in working on Star Wars and these other productions?
There’s a certain gravitas in the undertaking and making. Star Wars has prestige and you sense that when you are on set. It’s steeped in movie history. Star Wars is just like that Imperial Star Destroyer that you see looming into shot in the opening scene of A New Hope. It is just simply massive. Of course Doctor Who and James Bond are also iconic characters but Star Wars is the grand daddy of them all. Regarding whether there is a difference in working on Star Wars and these other shows. For me there is no difference other than scale and budget and I treat them all with the same work ethic with respect and professionalism.
My final question: Of all the things you have done so far…what do you regard as the highlight of your career?
I feel very grateful for all the wonderful films and TV shows that I have worked on so far and I value every experience equally. Achievement doesn’t interest me so much. It’s a hard industry to keep finding work in, so when I am working, that is the highlight for me.
Many thanks to Mr. So and to my friend Rick from Sci-Fi signers united for making this interview possible!
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