In November 1978 verscheen een van de meest beruchte Star Wars producties ooit: de Holiday Special. Wat men ook over de zingende Leia, Chewbacca’s familie en het optreden van Jefferson Starship te zeggen heeft: de algehele mening is dat het animatiesegment absoluut de moeite waard was, mede omdat het de eerste kennismaking met fan favoriet Boba Fett was.
De man verantwoordelijk voor het animeren van Fett was John Celestri, die inmiddels al meer dan 40 jaar in het vak zit. Eerder deze maand sprak ik hem voor mijn site StarWarsInterviews.com en keken we terug op zijn lange loopbaan. Traditiegetrouw is het ook hier op StarWarsAwakens te lezen!
Over the last four decades you have worked in the animation business. How did you get started?
I’m basically a self-taught animator. I have always enjoyed being a cartoonist, telling stories, and performing. But my parents wanted me to pursue more practical occupations. As scholastic aptitude tests scored me extremely high in the areas of math, verbal comprehension, and abstract reasoning, my more artistic interests remained hobbies as I progressed through my high school and early college years trying to find a field of study that would provide me with an occupation. It wasn’t until I reached my early twenties that I discovered I had a natural ability to animate. I quickly learned that the field of animation encompassed use of both my academic and artistic talents. I became passionate about animating. Back in the early 1970s, there were few books on how to animate and fewer schools that taught animation. In New York City, where I grew up, the School of Visual Arts had a six-week, one night class-a-week, summer course, taught by a former Terrytoons Studio layout/storyboard artist. So I took that. I poured myself into my class project and by the end of the third week had shot my first pencil test reel on the school’s Oxberry camera stand. With my instructor’s recommendation in hand, I showed that 60 second pencil test to every studio in New York City I could. It’s a good thing I loved animating, because job openings were nonexistent and it took me twelve months to get my first freelance gig as an assistant animator on a couple of Hostess Twinkie commercials. But at the age of 25, I gave myself 5 years to see noticeable progress before going in some other direction. I even sent my portfolio to the Disney studio, receiving an encouraging letter but no job offer. However, six months after that letter arrived, I was hired in 1975 at the New York Institute of Technology as an inbetweener to work on the independently produced feature Tubby the Tuba. There I met and worked under the master Popeye and Max Fleischer Studio animators Johnny Gentilella and Marty Taras. During the 14 months I worked on that feature, I developed my skills into a Cleanup Assistant Animator, becoming Supervisor of the Inbetweener Department.
In 1978 you animated Boba Fett for the Star Wars Holiday Special. How did you get to work on this legendary TV show and was your initial reaction after hearing you got to work on an animated Star Wars segment?
I just happened to be animating at Nelvana Studies when the production started. I very much enjoyed seeing the first Star Wars film when it came out in the summer of 1977. I had watched reruns of the old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials on TV back in the early 1960s, and knew first-hand Lucas’ movie references. It was a ton of fun watching cutting-edge effects being layered over a classic storyline. So, I was excited to get a chance to work on a non-Saturday morning animated adventure. I knew we didn’t have the budget to produce the quality of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons, but we could give it our best shot! Villains are ALWAYS the most fun to animate. I was originally cast to animate the Devil in The Devil & Daniel Mouse and animated several scenes of that character but I had to switch over to Daniel Mouse because that animator drawing him dropped out of the production; so, I made sure the Nelvana producers made up for it. I jumped at the chance to animate what we at the studio thought would be a major villain in the sequel.
The animated segment of The Holiday Special is considered to be the best part. What is your own opinion about the Holiday Special?
I eagerly awaited the original TV broadcast of the show. Honestly, after watching the first 15 minutes of the live action, I was worried that all the viewers would switch channels before our animated segment which was the best part of the show had a chance to be seen.
The Holiday Special was the first time the general public saw Boba Fett. What kind of instructions did you get from Lucasfilm regarding his creation?
It was George Lucas who requested that the studio I worked for design the look of the cartoon in the style of French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud, whose work could be seen in Heavy Metal magazine. That direction and a black-and-white home movie showing a person wearing Boba Fett’s prototype costume were basically all the cues we had to work with. All the color models and basic designs had to be okayed by Lucas before production of the cartoon proceeded. Regarding the animation itself, the biggest challenge was how to give a performance without facial expressions. I had to use hand gestures and body attitude. Not so broadly as a pantomime artist, but with economy of movement. I approached playing Boba Fett as a Clint Eastwood-style character in a spaghetti western, with mannerisms expressing a sense of extreme self-confidence. I used macho posing, tossed his rifle across his body from one hand to the other. In one particular scene, I had Boba adjust the fingers of his glove before gesturing with his hand. I timed tilting Boba’s helmeted head to go up and down, side to side to change the arc of the helmet’s rigid eye-opening to reflect the tone of his dialogue delivery. All of these were some of my touches.
In the mid 80’s Nelvana produced two other Star Wars animated shows: Droids and Ewoks. Why didn’t you work on those shows?
By then, I had left Nelvana Studios and was animating for other studios.
Right now Mandalorians are in the spotlight again thanks to The Mandalorian TV series. Have you, being a “Mandalorian Godfather”, seen it?
I don’t subscribe to any of the Disney cable channels, so I haven’t see The Mandalorian TV series.
How do you look back at your Star Wars Legacy?
Actually, I feel quite proud that the animation stands on its own as being the seed that helped grow the character of Boba Fett. Fact is, the Nelvana Studio staff was very young and inexperienced, myself included. I had been in the animation business a mere three years and had been a professional animator for only a year and a half when I did that animation. What it lacks in finesse is made up for with energy and commitment to doing my best and then it was the only performance associated with Boba until The Empire Strikes Back. I was extremely disappointed that the live-action Boba had so little screen time in Empire. Truth be told, I wish the animated sequence in The Holiday Special was officially acknowledged as being part of the Star Wars “Canon”, but that’s not my call.
You currently have an Indiegogo campaign where fans can get a hand drawn Boba Fett sketch. Sounds great! Can you share some information?
I have been a classical 2D pencil-on-paper animator for 45 years. I have always enjoyed capturing quirky personalities with my pencil; and now I want to share some of my favorite character drawings by presenting more than 80 of them in a large-sized 80-page 8.3 x 11.7 inch landscape portfolio, but I need your help to get the funding to lay out and print the book.
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Exclusief interview met Nick Stanner (Stunt performer – The Mandalorian)
Wat zou Star Wars zijn zonder goede stuntlui? Iemand moet de stormtrooper zijn die door een vlammenwerper in rook opgaat of van een rots af valt!
In The Mandalorian ging stuntman Nick Stanner meer dan 30 keer ‘dood’ en was hij als diverse personages te zien. Van Mandalorian tot stormtrooper! Onlangs interviewde ik hem voor StarWarsInterviews.com en zoals altijd is het ook hier te lezen!
How did your journey in movies start? How and why did you become a stuntman?
Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska I was not around film at all. I grew up competing in Gymnastics for my parents’ club all the way through college. I was always flipping off something and in eighth grade I remember watching a movie, not sure which one, but I mentioned I wanted to “do that” as I pointed at the screen. My mom asked if I wanted to be an actor, and I said, “No, I wanna do the cool stuff!” Mom said Oh a stuntman?! I said yeah, and went back to being an eighth grader. Fast forward to after college, I was looking for a new apartment in Lincoln Nebraska where I went to collegians was telling my mom and she said, “I thought you said you wanted to go be a stuntman! When are you going to do that?” The second I heard my mom say that and I knew she supported me no matter where I was, I decided to leave. I headed to Florida to get involved with the live stunt shows at the theme parks like Indiana Jones at Disney, Sindbad at Universal and many others in the Orlando area. Once I got into some of those shows I started to meet people in the film industry.
How did you manage to get hired for The Mandalorian TV series?
One of my best friends that I met at the very first show I did when I moved to Florida was Ryan Watson, the Stunt and Fight Coordinator for The Mandalorian now. We have known each other since 1999. He is one of the best in the industry for fights and creative camera work.
Which characters did you play as a stuntman? The Mandalorian himself?
I played a mandalorian, but not THE Mandalorian. The Mandalorian stunt double is Lateef Crowder. He is amazing with movement. I played numerous characters. I died 32 times in the first eighth episodes, many as a stormtrooper. I did all the high falls so any time someone falls from a roof, that’s me. You can count at least four in the final battle in episode 1. 3 falls in one circle of the gun and one when IG-11 shoots me before they walk in the door. That’s a couple examples, but I am all over the place. I also was the green face guy with Carl Weathers and speeder bike trooper.
You just mentioned that you ‘died’ 32 times. What was your favorite death scene?
Each death was unique. My favorite is high falls, which is why I get to do them all, but being torched by mandos flame thrower as a stormtrooper.
Which of these characters was your favorite?
They are all fun to play, but there is nothing like being a jet pack mandalorian flying on wires. Kids dream come true!
Did you meet the Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal? How was he to work with?
I met everyone and worked with the whole cast! It’s an amazing crew with no lack of talent and everyone is very down to earth. Being there every day, I had a chance to get to know everyone pretty well. Pedro is a jokester so we got along great. I’m a big comedy fan so I enjoyed Bill Burr.
Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?
There were a few funny moments on set. Lots of laughs all around really but when it was time to work playtime was over. Off the set there was plenty of laughs and good times. When you’re working 10-14-hour days it takes the whole crew to keep everyone in good moods and in the film biz there is no shortage of laughs.
What is your favorite anecdote regarding the production of The Mandalorian?
My fave laughs, not sure of anecdote, was when Bill burr would mess with the crew. He has such quick wit and had the entire crew laughing!
Were you a Star Wars fan before you got cast?
I was a so-so Star Wars fan. I liked the movies, mainly the first 3, and saw them pretty young. Being involved has brought me a little deeper into the world but I would not consider myself a diehard fan.
The question I have to ask every stuntman: what is the most dangerous stunt you’ve ever done?
Most dangerous stunt would be getting hit by car in Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon, or a 9-story high fall while being lit on fire, but it could be being hung underneath a helicopter by 75 feet of cable and flown over Los Angeles! Hard to pick just one, they are all super fun to me!
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Exclusief interview met Jake Cannavale (Toro Calican)
In aflevering 5 van The Mandalorian maakten we kennis met de jonge premiejager Toro Calican, gespeeld door Jake Cannavale. Speciaal voor zustersite StarWarsInterviews.com beantwoordde hij kort enkele vragen!
How did you get cast for The Mandalorian and were you a Star Wars fan?
They asked my agent if I would like to be in it. And I’m a massive fan and always will be.
How did the shooting of your scenes (most of them with Pedro Pascal) go?
They went very well. There was not a single difficult person to work with on that entire set. In my so far very short career that’s already not something I take lightly. Pedro Pascal was awesome! Mad love to Pedro.
You were directed by Dave Filoni, who many fans see as George Lucas’ heir. What is your opinion of him?
Other than the fact that he genuinely loves The Phantom Menace I have literally nothing bad to say about Dave. He’s the man. I loved working with him as an actor, and I have nothing but faith in him as a fan.
Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?
During me and Ming’s fight scene, Dave told her stunt double -whose name is also Ming- to actually kinda beat me up…it looked fantastic.
What is the best memory you have regarding The Mandalorian?
Probably knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that I can pull off a blue leather outfit.
Besides acting you’re also a musician in a band called Vixen Maw. How would you describe the music you make and who are your musical influences?
Vixen Maw is an experimental grindcore band. I would describe us as the musical equivalent of getting lobotomized by an unlicensed brain surgeon with Parkinson’s disease and medical fetishism. I don’t like to speak on behalf of my band members (or anyone, as a general rule) but I can say we are all pretty eclectic in terms of our musical tastes, with extreme music being the anchor, or epicenter, so to speak. So our influences are pretty all over the place. I will say that we are currently writing a new album from our own respective quarantine spots and some of the bands I’ve been listening to for inspiration include Chepang, Bandit, Narayama, Vulva Essers, Cloud Rat, Botch, Wormrot, Coke Bust, Gulch, and Bryan Adams.
You’re almost 25 years old. Where do you see yourself in 10 years and what are your career goals?
In ten years I see myself hopefully having had enough memorable screen time to be sampled in some kids shitty grindcore band that his parents are sick of hearing rehearse from their garage. Also I would genuinely love to be writing for a living. Theater, film and animated television.
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Exclusief interview met Richard Stride (Poggle)
Door de jaren heen is er de meest grappige en bizarre Star Wars trivia in boeken en op internet verschenen, maar wat de geur(!) van de Death Star plannen was -tot vandaag!- goed bewaard gebleven!
In een interview met zustersite StarWarsInterviews.com deelt Richard Stride (die aan Attack of the Clones en Revenge of the Sith meewerkte) een leuke anecdote.
How did you get started in the movie business and how did you get the parts of Poggle and a Clone Trooper in Star Wars?
I went to drama school at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts and in 1993 I graduated and went straight into a Hollywood movie called First Knight. I actually was originally cast as Obi-Wan’s double for the films Episode II and III. However, I gained many extra characters along the way.
How did you play Poggle?
I was in motion capture suit and had a great scene with the late Christopher Lee. When filming the scene with Christopher Lee, with the Death Star plans, I made a remark to the props guy that how clever even the smallest props where in design and craftsmanship in even the Death Star Plans. He started to laugh which was strange and when I asked him what was so funny he told me they had forgot to make them and he had to dash out the day before and went to Halfords and it actually was a car air freshener. So I told Christopher Lee when handing over the Death Star plans it was something to freshen the whole Galaxy with.
Can you share some of your memories regarding the time you worked on both movies?
I loved it. I spent all my time on set and didn’t really go to the green room as it was so much more interesting to watch other peoples scenes etc. It was lovely to be part of a big family on set and chat to so many interesting people.
How did George Lucas direct you?
He is a very visual director and has a very clear idea of what he is after. You have to put your trust fully in a director as they can see everything, and that’s what I did.
Did they give you any memorabilia after the movie was finished?
I was given a T-shirt and a signed call sheet on the last day of filming and a personal thankyou of George Lucas.
When was your first encounter with the Star Wars phenomena?
I saw it as a child on TV and loved it. I watch it over and over again.
What are your thoughts on the two Star Wars movies you were in?
I liked them and they are great movies to keep returning to as you learn something new each time.
What do you regard as the highlight of your career so far?
I loved doing Star Wars, but also Shakespeare in Love, and playing Hamlet for the stage.
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Exclusief interview met Paul Brooke (Rancor Keeper)
Het is een van de meest bekende scenes uit Return of the Jedi: de scene waarin we een huilende Rancor keeper zien met op de achtergrond de zojuist door Luke verslagen mega monster. Afgelopen december was de Britse acteur Paul Brooke die deze rol vertolkte te gast op de EchoBase conventie in Utrecht. Uiteraard sprak ik hem voor mijn site StarWarsInterviews.com over de wellicht meest bekende seconden uit zijn leven én kwam ook een van de meest bekende acteurs allertijden ter sprake. Volgens traditie is het interview ook hier te lezen.
How did you get cast for Return of the Jedi?
I was touring India with a play for the British Council and my manager had trouble getting in touch with me because we were moving around from city to city. When we got to Calcutta, there was a message in the hotel waiting which said, “I’ve accepted two days filming for you the week you get home”. You have nothing to do. But we both made the money. Which made me laugh at the time and hadn’t really made me laugh ever since because I feel like I’m privileged to be even in a small role, the smallest role I ever played in front of a camera in a lucky career where I’ve rarely stopped working. But how lucky I was to be part of this extraordinary franchise.
What was your initial feeling when you got the part? Star Wars was very popular and this much anticipated movie promised to be big; it had the biggest budget of all three.
I wouldn’t have known that from my two mornings. But having said that, I’ve appreciated it, to be honest, more over time than I did at the time. For the reason that I’ve given you. Because I was nice and busy, I was lucky with work, and I was normally playing much better parts. But then the fact that people remember after all these years and that I get mail every week shows that even if it’s a small part, if it works, which is not just tied to the actor, of course it’s down to the script and everything. But if it works, it can make an impact that people will stick with. I’ve had the most extraordinary stories from people over the years of not only of their enjoyment, but of the passing on their enjoyment to their children and even grandchildren, which is rather touching. Probably if I’ve been offered the part and I was at home because I had loads of work where I had more to do, I would probably have turned it down and I would have regretted it like mad with hindsight.
Did you see the other two movies?
I think I’ve seen them both. I’ve certainly seen Star Wars. I was amazed and surprised that a very intellectual British theatre director, a famous guy at the time called William Gaskell, who I worked with at Royal Court Theatre, a pioneering theatre in London and who was rather up-market in all sorts of respect. I was doing a play with him before I got offered Return of the Jedi and he came out with the fact that he was a huge Star Wars fan. At the time I hadn’t seen the film and I didn’t think I thought, well Sci-Fi not particularly my scene. But then when Gaskell said, but it’s wonderful, it’s absolutely wonderful. You have to see it. So, I did and I was hooked like all the millions of others over the years.
What do you remember about the filming of your scenes?
The main thing I remember is how short it was. I did the little bit with Mark Hamill and then the following morning it was just me on a rostrum in front of a blue screen. No Rancor and nobody except for me being given directions by Richard Marquand, the director. Raising my head a little, turning the right a little up a little more. Now you’re looking at the Rancor, which of course I wasn’t, because the Rancor wasn’t there. And then on the cue having to burst into tears. That was my experience from the acting point of view. I mean, that in itself is not easy because normally you have other actors or even if the Rancor had been there in some shape or form you can respond to that. Responding to thin air is not always easy.
Did you know then what the Rancor looked like?
No, not at all.
The first time was when I saw the film and the first time I was actually WITH the Rancor was two years ago in Kentucky when this guy who built a huge Rancor for thousands of dollars and who takes it round the conventions, making money from people to be photographed with the Rancor. He said my model is up, would you pop up when you have a break, have some photos taken? I said “of course!”, and it was stunning.
Can you share any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things that happened?
I think the strangest is what I’ve already told you because it was so brief. I didn’t get to know any of the other actors. So, I said hello and shook hands with Mark Hamill. There were no personal stories. The strangest thing I think was the only time at that that I had to do something which was apparently responding to a creature that wasn’t there. But I’ve had other strange experiences in films and television. Maybe the strangest acting during a scene with Marlon Brando in an anti-apartheid film called Dry White Season, where although he was there and huge at the time. He was one of the only actors who made me feel small. It was really delightful, but he didn’t learn his lines. So, after you’d said you’re lying to him, you waited for ages while the woman upstairs told him through an earpiece what to do next, so there was a silence. You heard this in the background and then he’d come at you one hundred miles an hour force of his personality. You’d come in on cue. Then another long gap while upstairs the line was going into his ear. That’s difficult because you can’t suspend disbelief. It becomes a like an acting exercise because normally the response of the of the people helps you to act well, and if you’re not getting it straight back, there’s nothing to believe. So, when he speaks, you can respond to that but by then you’re out of the action for a period while the woman is telling him what to do. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I mean, heavens, having acted with Marlon Brando, hero of my youth.
In fact, it was filmed in Zimbabwe because they wouldn’t allow at the time an anti-apartheid film to be filmed in South Africa. And I had two scenes there, one with Donald Sutherland and one with Brando. After I had done the scene with Sutherland they said, you can’t go home yet because we don’t know if Marlon Brando is coming or not. They said you don’t have to stay in the capital. You can go sightseeing, you can go to Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba and all these fabulous places but phone in every evening and we’ll let you know. So after about 10 days or something, I phoned in and they said, he’s not coming so you’re on the next plane back to London. I came back alone and they mounted his scenes, I think, at Pinewood, if I remember right. He was just in court scenes, so as isolated section of the film, he played an attorney. Then we filmed those couple of months later or something like that just outside London. When I first met him and introduced him, I said, I’m so grateful to you for not coming to Zimbabwe because I had this fabulous holiday at the film company’s expense. Now here I am at Pinewood being paid all over again for the same job. The great Marlon said to me “Glad to be of service”.
You have done a lot in your career but most people will always remember you for your role in Star Wars. How do you feel about this?
That’s part of the course with the acting game. The greatest thing for the actors of my level, basically a supporting actor, occasionally played leading part but mainly a supporting actor. The main thing is to keep working and you balance a part of which you have a lot to do a film or TV series with something where you don’t, or occasionally you do it just because it pays the bills.
I feel no negativity whatsoever about playing a tiny part and the fact that it has been clearly so focal for so many people is a bonus. You know it’s funny and genuinely touching when people get in touch with me and say “I saw this when I was six and I’ve been a fan ever since”. But I had so little to do. You know if you went to make a cup of tea you’d miss me and they say it doesn’t matter and they’ll always remember that moment. That is quite heartwarming. It’s great to hear.
Earlier this year a Star Wars fan film was released which features your character as a kid. It’s a prequel, an origin story where we see how he meets the Rancor. Have you seen it?
I haven’t seen it. I didn’t know is existed.
I was asked at some point, but after I retired, if I would be up in one of these later films for doing another scene. But I’d retired by then and I thought it was pushing it One of the things you have to remember as an actor is to remain reasonably match fit. You know you have to be up for it. The element of tension in front of a camera or on stage that you can still do your best. I felt having already given it up for a few years. Going back to it would probably not be a good idea.
For which movie was that?
I don’t remember. I’m afraid because I wiped it immediately. All I know is I’ve been retired for 10 years and it was during that 10 years. It was just an inquiry it might not even have come up with a job but I think it might have done because they were moving into this other area and they were I think they wanted to have a bit of a prequel for the Rancor keeper. Maybe they did it with somebody else and I haven’t seen that film that’s possible but I didn’t think that they did it.
The short film I was referring to isn’t official. It’s a fan film. Do you keep up with Star Wars? The new movies, TV series?
I haven’t seen anything of the stuff on television but I think I’ve seen all the films at least once but not the newest one. But I will do because my son will make sure that I do.
You have attended conventions, signing photos and other memorabilia. What is your general feeling to signing things and meeting fans?
Well I haven’t done a lot. I did one, for a different organization. I did one years ago maybe twenty years ago or more which had a bit to do with Star Wars, a bit with James Bond and other productions that I’ve been in. I was offered to attend conventions occasionally but I was always working so I never felt I needed to do it. I thought whatever my current project was I was lucky enough to be doing that. That was what I should be concentrating on. Now being quite a long time retired Zack got in touch with me nearly two years ago and suggested doing one in Kentucky. I thought what the hell. I went and did it and it was thoroughly enjoyable and the three days were packed with people. Then I did one for him ten days ago in Telford. So this is really only my third.
Looking back at Return of the Jedi, what are your feelings towards it?
What can I say. From an acting point of view it wasn’t hugely stretching. But, when I look back I think I’m really lucky to have been part of this legend. I feel that particularly because of the reaction of people and the fact that this very tiny bit of the film is remembered by so many people and think of it fondly. I really like that and probably they think about that much more about that than they do about television or films where I’ve had a lot to do.
I saw the movie in 1983, I was seven at the time, and I still remember you!
(Laughs) Extraordinary. Thank you!
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