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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!


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews

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 Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod)

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In Return of the Jedi maakten we kennis met een nieuwe Imperial: Moff Jerjerrod, die de ondankbare taak had te zorgen dat de tweede Death Star op tijd af was. Jerjerrod werd gespeeld door de Britse acteur Michael Pennington die toen al een enorme staat van dienst had als het om theaterwerk ging. Nu, 37 jaar na dato, mag hij zich een ware expert noemen als het om Shakespeare gaat aangezien hij naast het acteren in diens toneelstukken ook mede-oprichter is van de English Shakespeare Company. Afgelopen december had ik tijdens de EchoBaseCon het volgende interview met hem voor StarWarsInterviews.com en volgens traditie is het ook hier te lezen.


How did you get cast for Return of the Jedi?

Well, it’s a sort of half funny story, which is that because most of my work up to that point and subsequently has been in the theater and I was with the Royal Shakespeare Company from the mid 1970’s to 1981 or 1982. I had just had the great good fortune playing Hamlet for them and when you play a part of that kind there are people who say to you, oh, my goodness, what are you going to do next? What’s going to be the next great mountain you’re going to climb. What’s it going to be? The first thing I was offered was three days on Star Wars. This new Star Wars movie I didn’t know anything about, Return of the Jedi. It sounded like fun and easy. I only did three days on the film. So I’m really here at this convention under false pretenses because that’s all I did. On the other hand, I enjoy this, the fact that the films have lasted so well that people still have such enthusiasm. But whether you go to Cincinnati, Utrecht, Birmingham or Minneapolis, wherever you go, there is always the same. And I love to be part of that. To be part of a convention is great. So I got to just in the normal way. My agent said they wanted me for three days and I decided to do it. I didn’t audition. I didn’t meet George Lucas till the days that I did. I didn’t meet the director. So it’s sort of funny, haphazard way in which work comes to actors.

Did you see the first two movies before you got cast?

No. By that time, I knew a little bit or I asked around. I did get them in when I knew I was going to do my first convention about 18 months ago. I thought, I’m going to sit and watch the whole thing. Unfortunately, at that time, I had a little bit trouble with my eyes, I had some infections and things like that. It was physically very difficult to watch. I did my best to look at my scene and was amazed at how short it was because they had cut a lot. So I wasn’t really prepared. But I did understand the story.

Well, my next question was going to be if you found a way to play Jerjerrod in a way that would differentiate him from the other imperial officers?

At that stage all I had was what he actually did. I mean, I saw what he was doing, what his job was. You could press, if you would think in a very naturalistic, realistic way, maybe he’s a trained engineer or maybe he’s some kind of intellectual. What is it? I mean, he’s given this is very unpalatable job of building a new Death Star, and he’s immediately bullied by Darth Vader because he’s not making enough progress. Well, like with any character, you work out what the character might be like. You don’t use everything you think of because there’s no point wondering whether Moff Jerjerrod had a family or children that I could imagine that he did or didn’t. I could see this was a man who was under pressure, was being bullied by an authority, was going to stand up for himself. He was fundamentally probably quite a decent guy compared to many of the people.

And then, of course, we shot an alternative ending to his story by suggesting that he might have been strangled by Vader and only came across that years and years later as everybody else did. Well, it’s a pity that wasn’t it? In a way. But you get used to these things and you just go do the job and leave. The great Star Wars family is something I’ve never really been part of. I dipped in and out of it so quickly, I couldn’t really say anything authoritative about the entire sequence.

In deze deleted scene uit Return of the Jedi zien we Moff Jerjerrod aan den lijve ervaren wat een ‘Force choke’ van Darth Vader is.

Although it was just three days, can you remember any remarkable, unique, funny things that happened on the set?

I had the privilege of working with Dave Prowse, Darth Vader. It was a curious job for Dave who because after all, not an inch of his body was visible. He was locked away by Darth Vader’s shellac suit and in the end, his voice was going to be redoubled by the American actor James Earl Jones who had a particularly good timbre, voice for the part. I’ve often thought that was a bit tough for Dave, but I think he’d accumulated so much popularity is that because he has been in each and every film. He was quite self-confident. Our biggest difficulty was executing a shot, which is pretty typical. A tricky thing to do cinematically, though not impossible at all, is to walk together, maintain the same speed, the same speed of speech, the same stride so the camera could remain on the same angle tracking with you. That’s not so easy to do. We managed that. Unfortunately, at the end of the first take, well indeed in each of them, we were supposed to swing out of the camera’s view. We approached the camera and just as we were going off vision, it seems that I trod on Darth Vader’s cloak which was rather long and stretched behind him on the ground. And he froze because that’s you do when your cloak is stepped on and he himself said “cut, he mustn’t stand on my cloak”. We became quite good friends, in fact, and I’m glad of it. But it was it was all so brief, there’s no other anecdotes.

What’s the biggest difference between acting in Star Wars and a Shakespeare play?

One’s a bit louder than the other normally. And that’s the Shakespeare play. It’s the same process. It’s exactly the same process. But of course, this is affected by the fact that usually in the theater you’re working and you’ve got to be audible and visible to somebody who’s hundred meters away. In the cinema the camera comes and looks at you. I’ve always loved movies; I’ve not done as many as I would wish to have done. But I have become quite experienced in terms of playing big theaters physically, which is quite a thing. But basically it is the same activity. After all, you could probably do a thesis about why Star Wars is Shakespearean. Somebody has probably written an academic paper about it. The camera will find you whatever you do, all you’ve got to do is think the right thoughts. Screen acting is no different technically from stage acting.

You have an amazing resume when it comes to theater work. Yet most people will always remember you for your role in Star Wars. How do you feel about this?

It makes me laugh. It’s completely fine. I am doing an interesting thing. Beginning next year, which in a way answers your previous question because I’m doing a production of The Tempest. I’m going to do it in a particularly small theater in London in which nobody is going to be more than about 20 meters away from the stage. It’s more a room than a theatre which has a capacity of about 80 people. I’m really looking forward to that, because as you kind of say, I’ve done an awful lot of these big things with big parts. I’m now going to do something in a room that’s no bigger than the one we’re sitting in now. I’d love to see if I can combine my fifty-five years of experience with what I know to be necessary to be truthful in acting.

Of all the parts you have played, what is your personal favorite?

I feel it does go back to Shakespeare. Hamlet, of course. But then I was the right age to play, which I wouldn’t be now. I did that when I was in my mid-thirties in Stratford. I did it for two years. Not every night because you play in repertoire, but they’re like an opera season. You do maybe two or three performances a week and then you have two weeks off. So it was not as exhausting as it might been. I’ve recently, by which I mean in the last five or six years, done King Lear twice. Once in New York with an American company in 2014 and then in 2016 I did a big tour in the U.K. in a new play, a different production of King Lear. I’ve played that twice, which is very unusual. You normally only get one chance at those parts because there’s so many other people waiting to play them, but I got lucky with that. I was able to improve the performance the second time and I’m very happy with that.

Back to Star Wars, a franchise that is still relevant. Did you expect this back in 1983?

No, I’m not sure that many people do. I think George Lucas and I guess others did. But I thought nothing of it. I knew it vaguely as I said. It didn’t strike me as something that would necessarily last for a lifetime. For a lot of people, of course, it has. Look around at the convention today, several people who were not born when it came out. But it’s been brilliantly handled as a phenomenon in terms of the days of releases of all the films, the conventions, the whole. As a phenomenon it is extraordinary. It should get Oscars not only for the films, but for the production, the technique. How to handle an audience of a long period time so they don’t go away from you.

Have you kept up with the recent releases?

Truthfully, for a long time, I thought the focus had probably shifted away. Of course, there’s a difference between those first half dozen and the later ones. I sort of lost interest and that’s no reflection on them but probably reflection on me. But I will go and see the new one now, because since the last one came out, I’ve done six or eight of these conventions and I’ve enjoyed them all, fantastic to meet the fans. So to return a compliment I will go and look at the new film. So the next time I’m asked the question by someone like yourself, I’ll have a proper answer for you.

If you have to describe your Star Wars experience in one word or one sentence, what would it be?

At the time it was ordinary. I couldn’t say more than that. My experience in retrospect now is actually quite intense pride because I see that without knowing I’ve entered an enormous extended family. I meet old colleagues who I haven’t seen since that time. I’m very pleased to be part of it and to know that those three days seem to have borne fruit so widely, so universally, I suppose I can say that.


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Interviews

Exclusief interview met John Celestri (animator – Star Wars Holiday Special)

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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.

Click here to go to John’s Indiegogo page!


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Exclusief interview met Warren Fu (Visual Effects Art Director)

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(Image credit: Partizan)

Wat hebben General Grievous en deze videoclip met elkaar te maken? Het antwoord is Warren Fu, die gedurende zijn tijd als Art Director bij ILM de befaamde cyborg  ontworp en in 2013 de clip van Daft Punk’s Get Lucky regisseerde. Fu’s carrière startte ooit bij Industrial Light & Magic en in de jaren na zijn vertrek heeft hij zich opgewerkt tot een gerenommeerd regisseur van muziekvideos. Naast Daft Punk heeft hij ook met The Kooks, Depeche Mode, The Killers, E.L.O. en Snoop Dogg gewerkt. Een bijzondere loopbaan, dus reden genoeg om hem te interviewen voor mijn site StarWarsInterviews.com! Zoals gebruikelijk is het interview ook hier te lezen.


How did you join ILM and became one of the artists to work on Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith?

I studied business and economics at UC Berkeley, but I somehow managed to get an internship at ILM with some drawings I had done on the side as a hobby. Within a few intense and dedicated years of practice, I worked my way up from making photocopies and cleaning people’s monitors to being a VFX art director at ILM. By the time Attack of the Clones was in pre-production, I submitted my artwork to Doug Chiang and I got into the concept art team at Skywalker Ranch. I felt honored when I got the call to return to The Ranch for Revenge of the Sith.

Your biggest contribution to the Star Wars saga was the creation of General Grievous. What were your influences?

My main inspiration for tone and attitude was Michael Meyers from Halloween although the final character in the movie didn’t act like that. If you study the face, you can find a few other influences: The Crow, Shrunken Heads (in the mouth) and the some shapes stolen from the Desert Skiff.

Copyright: Lucasfilm

You once said you preferred working on the MagnaGuards over Grievous. Why was that?

The MagnaGuards turned out closer to how I envisioned them. I pictured Grievous being a silent but deadly character that spoke through its intimidating presence so I was a bit surprised to see how animated and talkative he turned out. But at the end of the day, my work as a conceptual designer was in service of greater story so it doesn’t matter how I envisioned him, I’m just happy I was able to contribute the design to this great universe. I’m actually pleased to see that he’s still a prominent character in the universe. It’s pretty surreal to think that he’ll be around longer than I will.

I read that in the workplace you were known for your dry sense of humor. Do you have good anecdotes?

If you work or hang out with me for an extended period of time you’re gonna have impressions done of you, usually behind your back. I enjoy making fun of others because I have a low self-esteem and I need this to make myself feel better about… myself. For some reason, the people that enjoy the impressions the most are almost never the person I’m doing the impression of. In retaliation, that impersonated person will do an impression of me and then I won’t like it because I’m sensitive and what’s called “a terrible sport.” It’s a vicious cycle.

You wrote and drew a comic, called Eyes of Revolution, where you used your own face for Jedi Master Sifo Dyas. A clever way of becoming a part of the Star Wars lore! What made you do this?

I helped create Grievous, so in a way, he’s a part of me. In the story, Sifo Dyas’s blood is infused into Grievous’s body, which makes him his parent by blood in a weird way. So putting myself in there as Sifo Dyas was a way for me to say to Grievous: “Who’s your daddy?!” I actually didn’t think anyone would catch that easter egg because I thought it was pretty subtle.

Copyright: Dark Horse Comics / Marvel

What inspired you to make the comic?

It was a rare opportunity to tell our own stories. For the entire process of being a part of the Skywalker Ranch art department we were in service of George’s story. So when the idea for the graphic novel came about we were all pretty excited to hear that George gave us his blessing to tell our own stories in the universe he created.

This was right after we had finished work on Revenge of the Sith, so the creation of Grievous was fresh on my mind. And because I knew they wouldn’t have time in the film to tell the character’s backstory, I felt the urge to do that.

Why did you leave ILM and Lucasfilm?

I love concept design, but I always felt that it was fulfilling only a part of who I am. I love music, acting, drama, comedy, choreography, cinematography, sound design and storytelling, so many things outside the realm of concept art. Directing my own projects allows me to combine all of my favorite arts into one singular artform. I had directed a commercial for Aaliyah when I was an employee at ILM and I caught the directing bug after that.

You’re currently a music video director and you’ve worked with big bands like ELO, Daft Punk and Depeche Mode. That’s quite a change of a career! What made you do this?

The collaborative spirit of filmmaking is where I feel most at home. It’s the most challenging art I’ve ever done, but I have this burning desire to tell stories and create experiences, so it almost feels like I have to do it.

Do you miss working on new Star Wars projects?

Of course! If I were to work on anything Star Wars in the future, I would prefer it to be as a live action director. I would love the opportunity to direct an episode of the TV shows like The Mandalorian or the upcoming Obi-Wan series. Ahem, hi Kathleen Kennedy!

How do you look back on your time at ILM/Lucasfilm?

The greatest learning experience anyone could ask for. I got to collaborate with some of the most talented people on the planet, and created strong bonds and friendships that have lasted over 20 years now. I feel so lucky and honored to have been part of that group. I went back to visit a few weeks ago for the employee screening of Rise of Skywalker, and it felt so good to be back and see everyone making magic still.

Looking at the future: what are your current and upcoming projects?

Slowly shifting away from music related projects and into more narrative storytelling, hopefully in TV and films. I wouldn’t mind getting into a bit of music creation and composition for my own film projects.

(Image credit header: Partizan)


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Exclusief interview met Henning Ludvigsen

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Iedereen die Fantasy Flight Games bord- en kaartspellen als Imperial Assault, Legion of Star Wars: The Card Game ooit heeft gespeeld is bekend met het werk van Henning Ludvigsen. Voor deze (en nog tientallen andere spellen) heeft hij illustraties verzorgd. Zo zijn bijvoorbeeld de bordstukken van Imperial Assault door hem ontworpen. Speciaal voor deze site was hij bereid enkele vragen te beantwoorden!


How and when did you become a Star Wars fan?

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. I was born in 1975, and even though I was too young to see A New Hope at the movies, I did watch The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi at the movie theatres. I remember other kids crying when Han Solo got frozen in Carbonite. I can’t remember not being a fan or having Star Wars being a huge part of my life. I had a bunch of toys, and I’ve played tons of SW games, read the comics, and collected memorabilia throughout the decades. I’ve never outgrown it, and probably never will.

What inspired you to become an artist/illustrator?

It was never any doubt. As a kid I was always the artsy one, and it was probably the one thing I was decent at, so I decided early on to work in the artistic field. I took the leap after middle school and took a two year traditional art education before starting working as a graphic designer and illustrator in the advertisement industry at the age of 18. About 10 years later I moved on to the computer games and board games industry.

You did the artwork for various Star Wars games from Fantasy Flight Games. How did you get this job? Did FFG ask you?

I’ve had the pleasure of working on a variety of Star Wars games for FFG; Star Wars – Imperial Assault, Star Wars – The Card game, Star Wars – Legion, Star Wars – Age of Rebellion, and probably some that I’ve forgotten about at the moment.
It all started out with creating basic character illustrations for Call of Chtulhu – the card game and Game of Thrones – the card game, and moved quickly over to boardgames. Since then I’ve made many games for FFG and other clients, and they kept throwing amazing projects at me, and I did my best to keep up with the workload and deliver as well as I could. I’ve never had to do anything special to get my board game gigs, they all seem to land in my lap, which is what happened to all the Star Wars projects as well.

What information do you get from FFG before you start creating the artwork for a new Star Wars expansion?

Luckily, I’m very familiar with the Star Wars universe, but I always got plenty of information enough to cover my understanding and get me going. It’s usually enough with a simple description on the setting of the game, or expansion, and then a set of very basic doodles or schematics of the tiles simply showing what’s important for gameplay purposes. They usually come with a short sentence on the tile if the designers have something specific in mind that they need to have included.

What are the boundaries of the creative freedom you have?

The only boundaries are the already established lay-outs and mechanics of the tiles that I need to make my art work with. However, I see this more of a challenge than boundaries. If I need to create a known location from the movies, for instance the Cantina from Mos Eisley, but the lay-out of the tile doesn’t match up 100% realistically, it’s fun to find solutions on how to still make the location familiar to the true fans of the movies.

Mos Eisley Cantina tile van Imperial Assault

Are there specific Star Wars reference guides or books you use creating your art and scenery tiles?

I’m mostly using the internet to search for references, simply due to time and that it’s easier to get references to very specific things or elements that I’m looking for. I have also found myself pausing the movies and screenshotting frames when I’m having a hard time finding something specific for reference.

Can we see new Imperial Assault tiles you designed in the near future?

I honestly don’t know. It’s been a while since I did the last set, and it’s also been a while since I’ve worked with Fantasy Flight Games in general. I truly hope they do contact me again as I really love working with them.

Of all the Star Wars creations you made: which one is your favorite?

It’s hard to say, and I’m rarely happy with my final work. However, I’m proud of the work I’ve done on Imperial Assault due to the amount of tiles done, but I also very much enjoyed working on the card game illustrations.

Carbon freeze tile van Imperial Assault

Do you actually play the Star Wars games yourself?

I have never played any of the Star Wars games I’ve worked on, unfortunately. This all comes down to time, or lack thereof. I’ve made over 250 board games, and I’ve probably only played 5 or 6 of them, ever.

What are your current (Star Wars) projects?

I don’t have any current Star Wars projects, unfortunately. But I do get to work on tons and tons of other IP’s that I’ve been a huge fan of from when I was a kid. I keep finding myself grinning and pinching my arm in excitement from being lucky enough to get the chance to work on these things.


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