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Exclusief interview met Rick Stanley (Cutthroat hunter)

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In de herfst van 2017 kreeg ik een bericht uit Engeland: Rick Stanley, een Amerikaanse Star Wars vriend van me die daar woont wist te melden dat het hem gelukt was: hij was gecast voor de rol van Cutthroat Hunter in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Ik ken Rick al jaren, hij heeft me als oprichter van Sci-Fi Signers vaak geholpen en nog voordat ik het kon vragen gaf hij aan graag zijn verhaal te willen vertellen.

In onderstaand interview doet hij zijn Star Wars verhaal uit de doeken: van trouwen met een Britse actrice uit The Empire Strikes Back tot een site voor Star Wars acteurs opzetten tot zelf gecast worden voor Solo!

Interview met Rick Stanley

I’ve known you for many years and you’ve helped me with a lot of interviews so this is weird and fantastic at the same time! You’re in a Star Wars movie! How does that feel?

It’s been a real pleasure Dennis knowing you all this time and it’s been an honor helping you out! You have done an excellent job with Star Wars Interviews over the years with all the many fascinating interviews you have conducted! It is strange because I never thought I would work on a Star Wars film and have the great honor of being interviewed by you! To say I was over the moon and floating on air when I found out that I was booked for one is a vast understatement! It’s unbelievable how hard it is to get on anything with the Star Wars name and I consider myself very, very fortunate!

When and where did you see a Star Wars movie for the first time and did you become a fan right at that moment?

Well that’s kind of a long story. I was almost 20 years old when A New Hope came out and actually didn’t see it until it was broadcast on HBO. In 1977 being the age that I was all I could think about were all the B science fiction films that were in abundance as I was growing up! I know it sounds sacrileges to say but I even thought the name ‘Star Wars‘ when I first heard of it sounded cheesy! All I could think of was pie plates on fishing lines. Even all the hype and hoopla didn’t influence me and there was plenty of it at that time! I’m from Orlando, Florida and what turned me around was in 1980 I went to work temporarily down in West Palm Beach for a company that an uncle of mine was vice president of. I only worked the week days and the company would offer to fly me back home or reimburse me for my petrol if I wanted to drive. Well one weekend I didn’t want to spend the time going back home so I just hung out and saw that The Empire Strikes Back was playing at the theatres. I went to see it to find out what all the fuss was about and was completely wowed by it and have been an avid fan ever since! I to this day still regret not seeing A New Hope when it was fresh in the theatres!

Your wife (Stephanie English) was in The Empire Strikes Back 38 years ago. What took you so long to get cast for a Star Wars movie? Seriously: how did you manage it?

Yes, it’s hard to believe that I saw my future wife Stephanie English in that movie theatre so many years ago in West Palm Beach! She portrayed a Hoth Rebel Technician at Echo Base. She has been working in the film business for 42 years. We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary actually on the other Star Wars day May 25th. We didn’t plan to have it on that day which was amazing it happened that way! Stephanie got me into film work shortly after we got married and I moved to London. The way it happened is Stephanie got an email from one of her agencies that she is with asking if she knew anybody who had an American vehicle. She responded saying her husband ‘me’ had a pickup truck. I brought my Ford Ranger pickup truck with me when I moved to London. I ended driving it in the Ridley Scott film The Counselor and that was my first film work gig. Since then I have worked on quite a few productions, mainly background but some featured and the one that I’m really proud of is a National Geographic movie documentary called The Jesus Mysteries where I played a main cast part as the apostle James the Elder alongside Nick Simmons who portrayed Jesus. Nick is the son of the founder and bass guitarist of the rock group KISS Gene Simmons. With getting on a Star Wars film or any film for that matter it’s really luck of the draw but I think it’s even harder because of the popularity of Star Wars and the same with films like the Harry Potter prequels. It’s mainly about your looks and what they are looking for to fill a role at the time. I was put up for Rogue One which I would have loved to have got on but to no avail! Now with Solo I was put up for it 4 times and the fourth time was the charm! I was very happy when I heard that I was going to be included into that “hive of scum and villainy”!

You run a great website called Sci-Fi Signers United where convention organizers can book actors from Star Wars and many other franchises. For the people who don’t know this site: what was the reason you started it?

Thank you for those kind words! Well actually a mutual acquaintance of mine and my wife started what was called the Sci-Fi Convention Signers Co-Operative and I helped run it with him until he decided to disband it. After that I started the Sci-Fi Signers United from scratch and kept the same spirit there! It’s a site where organizers can contact the actors and film professionals directly for shows and autographs without having to go through an agent. I don’t make any money from it. I offer it as a free service for the signers to help them out. A lot of them that are on it are mutual friends that Stephanie has worked with over the years and some of the new ones are friends I have worked with on other productions.

Since you’re Star Wars character now I was wondering if you’re about to enter the signing/convention circuit yourself now?

No, it just wouldn’t be my cup of tea to do it. I really enjoyed going around the country with Stephanie when she was signing at shows but she is retired from doing them now and it wouldn’t interest me at all to do it myself. I will consign it to good memories of fun times! We both want to concentrate on the film work and I’m content just keeping the Sci-Fi Signers United running!

Back to Solo: please tell everything about the character you played and in which scenes you were in.

To start off when I went for my fitting I asked what my character was called and was supposed to be and the wardrobe guy said I was playing a reprobate a ‘cutthroat hunter’. I said well that sounds pretty cool! I was wearing a dark beret, a blueish grey long sleeved shirt, a dark suede coat that came down below my knees and it was left open with a wide belt wrapped around it with a large rectangle silver belt buckle and I had a leather ammo pouch attached to the belt. My trousers were baggy and black almost like cossack trousers. I also wore tall brown boots with greyish colored boot guards wrapped around them. To top it off I had an orange neck scarf that the wardrobe lady would make a point tying it in a French knot. She called me her little Frenchman every time I would go to change in to costume! From the day I got fitted to my last day on it I got French resistance comments and even one of the costume designers was amused by it when we were lined up my first day on set for a costume check! I also got a lot of Che Guevera comments because I guess I kind of looked like him with the beard and beret. I had a prosthetic scar on the left side of my face. It was a really cool getup! I was there for the Sabacc table scenes, the droid arena scenes and several bar area scenes! It was a really big and amazing set and spent I would say about 80% of my time on set. Some films you can spend hours in the green room or holding area before you are called to set but that wasn’t my experience on this one. I felt lucky when I was able to get outside to have a cigarette break I was on it a week and did 12/13 hour days each day. I was exhausted but man it was worth it! Also one of the days I was there they took me to a different part of the studio and did a 3-D scan on me in costume and also I did an action photo shoot doing various poses.

You were on the set with most of the main actors like Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover. How were all those stars on the set and behind the scenes?

All of them were absolutely awesome and what an honor it was for me to be amongst them with the many others who were there with me also! Man I’m still pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t all a dream! They all nailed their parts brilliantly and it was an honor to be able to witness that first hand and be a part of it all!

Could you share some good anecdotes regarding your time working on Solo? The more the better of course!

Well let’s see… there was one time when we were waiting for them to set up another shot on a different part of the set I decided to rest my weary legs after standing up most of the day and took a seat on Han’s sabacc table stool except I was sitting backwards to the table with both my elbows propped on the table with my legs stretched out and crossed in front of me. The only others that were sitting in that part of the room with me at the time were Therm Scissorpunch and his alien buddies! Another time I was waiting again for them to set up a shot and I was sitting on the stairs facing the bar area and the girl taking care of Joonas Suotamo stood directly in front me and had his Chewbacca mask in her hands but she was holding it behind her talking to somebody in front of her. She backed up a little too close to me and it started brushing me in the face so I had to move and find a different spot! My wife Stephanie dropped me off at Pinewood Studios each day in the morning and picked me up when we wrapped for the day and I would always sit at a bench next to the security office waiting for her to roll up in the car. The second day I was really tired because I hadn’t had much sleep the night before and also the night before that. I just wanted to get home, take a shower, get something to eat, go to bed and start it all over the next day! I completely forgot to have hair and makeup remove my scar after I derigged. When I sat down on the bench waiting for Stephanie a young woman was sitting on the bench also. After a while she looked at me and asked me if I was a stunt man. I said no why? Then she said how did you get that scar? At that moment I realized that I forgot to have it removed. I told her I was working on a film and it wasn’t real. She then asked me what film I was working on and I told her I couldn’t say! I thought that was pretty funny!

You joined Solo after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were replaced by Ron Howard, a real veteran director. How was he to work with and how does he distinguish himself from other directors?

Wow!!! What an honor it was to be directed by the legend who is Ron Howard! I would call him a director’s director! It was a pleasure to see him work and do his magic! He is a very hands-on director and knows exactly what he wants! He is also the first Oscar winning director to direct a Star Wars film! I grew up watching him on the Andy Griffith show and when I was a teenager watching him on Happy Days and the George Lucas masterpiece film which is American Graffiti!

What are the chances we will see a Rick Stanley action figure in the future?

Hahaha!!! Well they do have the scans and photos so they have the tools to make it possible! A person can only hope!!!


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars Interviews

Fan sinds 1983. George Lucas cultist en aanhanger van Legends (1976-2012). Oprichter van StarWarsInterviews.com waarvoor hij 170+ cast en crewleden interviewde en waarmee hij de credits haalde van The Making of Return of the Jedi, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor, The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook en Star Wars Icons: Solo. Geboren toen de opnames van A New Hope van start gingen. Voormalig assistent van Anthony Daniels. Vader van 2 Padawans.

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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Daniel Keys Moran

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Medio jaren 90 was het de Amerikaanse auteur Daniel Keys Moran die Boba Fett ‘nieuw leven gaf’. Voor de korte verhalen bundels Tales from the Bounty Hunters en Tales from Jabba’s Palace schreef hij hoe Fett aan de Sarlacc ontsnapte en zijn loopbaan als premiejager vervolgde terwijl hij ook met een verhaal aan Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina bij heeft gedragen.

Daar het gonst van de geruchten over een Boba Fett film was het dus hoog tijd om hem te interviewen voor deze site!

Interview met Daniel Keys Moran

I’d like to start at the very beginning: what got you into writing and how did your career take off?

I can’t remember ever not wanting to be writer. Wrote my first novel at 8 “Third Degree Magic,” the main two characters were me and my friend Steve. The bad guy was named “Diablo.”

Sent my first story off to a magazine at 13, “A Day in the Life of a Telephone Pole.” Wrote my first real novel at 15, an alien invasion western novel. Finally sold a story to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, at 18. Few years after that sold my first novel to Amy Stout at Bantam Doubleday, we’re now married and have five children together.

When and where was your first encounter with Star Wars? And what did you think of it?

My high school debate team won a pretty big debate and as a reward we were offered the chance to do several different things one of them was going to see this obscure movie called Star Wars at the Chinese Theater on opening day. I don’t think we were at the first showing I vaguely recall getting back to the school pretty late in the day but maybe the second or third showing. Pretty good chance David Gerrold (the writer of “Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles,” Chtorr, “The Man Who Folded Himself”) who later got to be a great friend, was in the theater with me when we watched it. He was also there for an early showing, that first day.

I was blown away. It was the first SF movie that managed onscreen the sorts of things I saw in my head when I read Edgar Rice Burroughs.

You wrote two short stories about Fett (called A Barve Like That and The Last One Standing), creating a lot of background for the character, who was especially back then a huge fan favorite. How did you approach this massive task?

It wasn’t a massive task. It was a short story and a novella, and while I put a lot of skull sweat into them, most of what I’ve ever written’s been a heavier lift. They were fun to write, aside from dealing with Lucasfilm. I put a pseudonym on “A Barve Like That” because I was cranky with Lucasfilm; they were mad about that. So it was a surprise to me when they had me write “The Last One Standing” I was pretty blunt by that point, having done two stories already and scratched the itch to work professionally on Star Wars. Wrote them an outline, told them they could have it or not have it but I was writing what was in the outline, and they said yes. So that was a surprise. Then they tried to excise what was probably my favorite scene in that story; Kevin J. Anderson stopped them, and I’m grateful for that. It was published as written, minus a few word changes here or there.

It’s one of my favorite stories. It came from Harrison Ford’s desire to see Han Solo die in Return of the Jedi “he’s got no Mama, he’s got no Papa, he’s got no story.” So I took that and ran with it. I did the first “Old Han” story as well as the first real Boba Fett story, taking them into the future and dealing with the loss of their youth.

You also wrote the tale of Kardue’sai’Malloc, the devaronian seen in the Cantina. What was your inspiration to write his story?

That was a pure “I want to write Star Wars” thing. Kathy Tyers had written an excellent story about the Modal Nodes, the band that plays during the Cantina scene I wrote a story that surrounded hers, about Kardue/Labria, who always seemed to me to be having an awfully great time in the bar that day. Turned him into a music collector who worshipped the Modal Nodes, and had a fun story about how he arranged to have them playing at the bar that day.

One of your Boba Fett stories and the Devaronian’s tale were heavily edited. In fact, the Fett story was published under your pseudonym JD Montgomery. What was exactly edited, and what was the reason?

Devaronian’s Tale wasn’t edited that much. Mostly they wouldn’t let me swear, or mention whores. I wasn’t thrilled with the changes, but they were minor.

I don’t know what happened with “A Barve Like That.” I agreed to do it, then they told me I couldn’t really write my outline, where Fett spent years down in the Sarlacc; he could only be down there for a day or two. So I wrote that story. Then they told me the Sarlacc couldn’t be intelligent, which was the actual center of the weakened story, so I took all the Sarlacc’s contribution to the story and gave it to one of Fett’s fellow prisoners “Susejo,” or O Jesus backwards. I’ve had people write me telling me they loved that story, and OK, but man, it was only a shadow of what it should have been. In its final form Fett falls into the Sarlacc, argues with a fellow prisoner, and climbs back out again. Eh.

How did you react to the news your stories were edited and why did you choose to have one being published under a pseudonym?

I behaved with forthright and reasonable bluntness. Later on I met one of the ladies who worked at Lucasfilm, and upon hearing my name, she took two steps backwards. So maybe my perception isn’t the whole of the story.

I always thought that back in the 90’s Lucasfilm didn’t want authors to write about the pre-A New Hope era because they were making the prequel trilogy. However, they let you write about Boba Fett in his younger days. Do you know why they approved that?

No idea.

A couple of years after your Fett stories the movie Attack of the Clones showed the origins of Fett, contradicting your stories. How did you feel about this and which version do you prefer?

I prefer mine, of course. But it didn’t particularly annoy me. I don’t care much about canon, and my stories are still out there for anyone who wants to read them. And frankly, even within the universe of commercial fiction, Lucas was utterly contemptuous of his own early writing, when it came time to make the prequels. The idea that I should get annoyed about him ignoring mine? No.

In your stories Fett’s real name was Jaster Mereel, something which was later retconned and Jaster became another Mandalorian. Did you know about these retcons and do you like them?

I haven’t followed along with anything except the televised & movie material. Shout out to Star Wars Rebels, there that was a fine piece of work. Watched it with my youngest boy, start to finish.

There are rumors about a Fett spinoff. Any advice for Lucasfilm? You’re the expert!

I’ve had a guy at Disney email me a couple times over the years regarding Lucasfilm adapting “Last One Standing” into a Fett movie. Not asking permission, they own those works, just letting me know they were thinking about it. So that was kind. But after Solo stiffed, apparently there’s some question about the Fett movie being made.

As to advice for Disney? I thought The Last Jedi was brilliant, the first Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back I thought was a complete success on its own terms. Then I thought Solo was perfectly adequate and inoffensive, and as much as I love Star Wars, that’s a little sad. So for advice? Get the creative team behind The Last Jedi on your Fett movie, rather than the team behind Solo.


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

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Exclusief interview met Kathy Tyers

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Haar bestseller The Truce at Bakura was ooit het directe vervolg op Return of the Jedi, ze schreef korte verhalen over Oola, Bossk en de Cantina band, was lang één van de auteurs die schreef voor de Adventure Journals van West End Games en Balance Point (waarvan hierboven de cover te zien is) uit de New Jedi Order reeks is van haar hand. Ik heb het uiteraard over de Amerikaanse schrijfster Kathy Tyers die in de ‘Star Wars renaissance jaren’ in de jaren 90 met haar boeken en korte verhalen enorm heeft bijgedragen aan de opbouw van de Expanded Universe. Onlangs sprak ik deze bijzonder vriendelijke vrouw (die een echte fan is) over haar Star Wars periode…

Interview met Kathy Tyers

I read that in the summer of 1977 you were such a big Star Wars fans that for two weeks, every day you took a friend to see the movie. What was it that you liked so much about Star Wars?

The story was uplifting. The music was fabulous. The visuals were amazing, especially for the era. Most of all, I loved watching their faces when the Millennium Falcon went into hyperspace. That was an amazing visual effect in 1977!

You once said that after you heard you got to write your first Star Wars novel your handprints were on the ceiling. Are they still there?

You certainly did do your homework! I don’t live in that duplex anymore, so I have no idea. But it would be fun to go back and see.

Your best known Star Wars book is of course The Truce at Bakura, which takes places almost directly after Return of the Jedi. What was your inspiration while writing this book, and what directions did you get from Lucasfilm?

When I got the call from my editor at Bantam Books, Janna Silverstein (shout out to Janna!), she asked for 4-5 story ideas to pitch at a conference call four days later. The idea that wouldn’t let me go was that somewhere in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, our heroes would end up fighting alongside Imperial troops for just a little while. What, I wondered, could make that happen? And once the threat was neutralized, would they turn on each other… or would each side emerge with a little more respect for the other side?

My directions were to include as many main characters as possible, to set the story immediately after Return of the Jedi, and to make sure nothing in my novel contradicted anything that was shown to take place roughly five years later, in the books that Tim Zahn had already contributed to the series.

Fortunately, the Powers That Be liked my favorite idea. I was asked to develop a longer outline for the book, and since I write from an outline anyway, that was a familiar pleasure. I felt that I already knew the characters well, and it wasn’t hard to imagine what they might do next. The good people Lucasfilm offered a few tweaks to the outline and turned me loose to write the book! They also had to give it a final OK, of course.

For the three ‘Tales of’ anthology books you wrote the stories about the Cantina band, Oola and Bossk. Did you get to choose the characters? And what made you pick exactly these characters?

I begged to be able to write about the Cantina band, since I am also a musician and played wedding gigs for years. It was a chance to get a little snarky about how difficult this can be! Kevin J. Anderson, who coordinated the anthologies, also let me choose Oola – again, because I have a bit of experience dancing (long ago…). But he told me rather sternly that I wouldn’t get first pick on the Bounty Hunters anthology. Fortunately, I had a great time writing Bossk.

You said that writing for Star Wars was a bright spot during a dark time in your life. I fully understand it if you don’t want to talk about the negative part, but I would like to ask what made writing for Star Wars so bright for you. 

The exciting story lines – the smart, creative people I worked with – the chance to contribute something that would be read and remembered, at least for a few years. And I really did love the Galaxy Far, Far Away. I love the “space opera” genre and have written my own five-book space opera series, starting with Firebird.

Most of your Star Wars work was in the period 1993-1996. Five years later you returned to write Balance Point for the New Jedi Order series. What made you leave in 1996… and what made you return in 2001?

Back in the 1990s, the Star Wars novels were being written by invitation (they might still be; I don’t know). It was an honor and a privilege to be asked. I also was asked to write for the Adventure Journal, but sadly, they stopped publishing. And my personal life got pretty complicated in the late 1990s, so I focused on other projects. In 2001, once again I received an invitation to write a Star Wars novel—from Shelly Shapiro at Del Rey Books, this time (shout out to Shelly!). Once again I was delighted and deeply honored.

When you returned for Balance Point in 2001 the Star Wars universe had changed a lot since you left it in 1996. How did you prepare for this novel? Since it was part of a series, did you read the previous New Jedi Order novels?

I definitely had catching up to do! By 2001, the Star Wars Role-Playing Game had become a major part of Star Wars fandom, and the good people at Del Rey sent me a crate of reference materials, sourcebooks, etc. I had the almost-unbelievable privilege of being flown to Skywalker Ranch for a planning session (at which I mostly sat quietly, since I had just been brought on board!). Those of us working on New Jedi Order novels cooperated closely with the authors whose novels came just before or just after ours. I had the privilege of reading several New Jedi Order novels in manuscript form, so I would be able to pick up the story right where the previous authors left it. I was expected to do the same thing, and I provided manuscripts to those who came after! Kudos to Del Rey and Lucasfilm for coordinating a series with such a rapid succession of release dates.

Which existing Star Wars character you enjoyed the most writing about?

Maybe it sounds a little cliché, but I really enjoyed writing about Luke Skywalker. He was so endearingly earnest, so determined to do the right thing no matter what it cost him. So horrified to learn he was descended from evil (since I’m a Christian, this speaks loudly to me about our fallen nature and our need for redemption!). He truly loved his friends, and he gave his all to his cause. The most delightful compliment I was ever paid, regarding my Star Wars novels, came from people at Lucasfilm who told me that I “really got Luke.” Wow.

Which Star Wars character created by you is your favorite?

I liked Gaeriel. Like me, she’s a woman of faith—and she struggles with what that will mean in her life. I wasn’t allowed to let her return Luke’s affection (Tim Zahn had already created Mara Jade!), but at least I could show this earnest young man struggling with his own highest priorities. Showing each of them walk away from a potential relationship because each one felt a higher calling… that was important to me.

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?

Those of us writing the EU were always told, all along, from the very beginning (have I stressed that strongly enough?), “Only the Movies are Canon.” Sure, it was disappointing. And I hope the EU books aren’t all taken out of print, because many of them are outstanding explorations of all that Star Wars means to the fans. And fun to read, besides!

I agree. To be honest, I think the old EU is far, far superior to the new canon!

You have a degree in Christianity and the Arts and you taught a Sunday school course about The Lord of the Rings. Suppose you would do that about Star Wars…. what would you talk about?

Lord of the Rings was written by a devout Catholic who had a great deal to say about friendship, sacrifice, loss, and loyalty—from an understanding of the human metanarrative that was grounded in God’s revealing himself to one nation and then through one Man. Star Wars is grounded in a more universalist worldview, and it addressed many of the same big issues—friendship, sacrifice, loss, loyalty, etc. Although sometimes it shows characters coming up with the same answers (if there really are deep truths, we would expect that!), sometimes their answers seem quite different from the answers I think Tolkien would have shown. So, I think I would spend time talking about the differences and similarities in the way the different authors’ understanding of truth is SHOWN (another saying among writers is “show me, don’t tell me”—and this is a huge part of the power of story).

A friend of mine is a huge Bossk fan and he asked me to ask you this since you wrote Bossk’s backstory: a couple of years after you wrote Bossk’s story for Tales of Jabba’s Palace Bossk’s ship (the Hounds Tooth) was visualized. Was it the way you envisioned the ship?

I enjoyed what they did with the Hound’s Tooth. I’m such a strongly character-driven writer that while I can see my characters (and especially listen in on their conversations!) pretty easily, I find that creating the settings, including their ships, requires me to sit down and draw pictures. I love it when people take the ideas that come out in my stories and expand on them.


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars Interviews

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Exclusief interview met Dave Wolverton

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Begin jaren ’90 vond de “Star Wars literatuur renaissance” plaats. Na bijna een decennium zonder nieuwe Star Wars boeken  kwamen er diverse nieuwe titels uit die de franchise nieuw leven inbliezen. In april 1994 was de release van The Courtship of Princess Leia, geschreven door Dave Wolverton die later ook onder andere korte verhalen over Dengar, Momaw Nadon (de Hammerhead uit A New Hope) en Tessek uit Jabba’s Palace zou schrijven. Als een van de grondleggers van de Expanded Universe (welke inmiddels jammergenoeg door Disney als ‘Legends’ is gekwalificeerd) kon een interview voor deze site en mijn persoonlijke pagina StarWarsInterviews.com niet uitblijven natuurlijk!

Interview met Dave Wolverton

After Timothy Zahn’s success with the Thrawn Trilogy you were one of the first writers to write a new Star Wars book. How did you get this –in my opinion- dream job?

Actually, I was approached just after Timothy Zahn finished the first book in the trilogy.  My publisher, Bantam, had a license to do 12 books with Lucasfilm and was looking for authors who were Star Wars fan, good writers, and easy to work with. So my editor called me and asked “So what do you think about Star Wars.” I began to give her a literary analysis of the story, and she said, “No, no, no—I mean, would you like to write a Star Wars book?”  Well, I was actually deep into another novel, and so I said, “I’d be interested, but I really don’t want to think about it until I get this book in, in about four weeks.” As soon as I finished the book, I sent it to my editor and she called pretty breathlessly and said, “NOW can you do one?”

I was actually much more excited than I sounded, so I began working on it quickly.

Your first Star Wars book was The Courtship of Princess Leia. What was your inspiration while writing this book, and what directions did you get from Lucasfilm?

With this book, I had watched a goofy old comedy with my wife called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers just a couple of nights before I was asked to do the novel. I always thought that it was an interesting plot, and when I heard that Leia and Han Solo had gotten married in Zahn’s book, my first thought was, “Whoa, not so fast! There have to be some fireworks for something that significant.  So I knew that I wanted to do a “romance.”  I also felt that there was a lot of humor in the Star Wars movies, but I hadn’t seen it in the novels.  I think that as a writer, when you get a job like this, you often start to feel pretty serious, and your sense of humor goes out the window.  So I wanted to have some big, fun ideas.

As far as Lucasfilm went, they were really very generous with the franchise. They let me come up with my own plot, but they just wanted to make sure that I didn’t do anything that would cast the characters in too negative of a light. So they asked me to create and submit an outline. I had to write it very fast—almost overnight—because they were in a hurry.  So I got some ideas, had a little brainstorming meeting with some of my other fannish friends, and really was able to come up with my storyline pretty quickly. Since I already knew the characters pretty well, it saved a lot of time over writing a normal novel, where you have to develop your own characters.

Posterartiest/kunstenaar Drew Struzan ontwierp twee schitterende covers voor het boek ‘The Courtship of Princess Leia’: de linker voor de hardcover uitgave en de rechter voor de paperback.

For the three ‘Tales of’ anthology books you wrote the stories about the Momaw Nadon, Tessek -which is my personal favorite- and Dengar. Did you get to choose the characters? And what made you pick exactly these characters?

In those tales, it was sort of “first come, first served” for us authors. There were a limited number of characters, and a limited number of authors.  It was kind of luck-of-the-draw.  I actually liked Momaw Nadon as a character, and so had a lot of fun. I felt as if I really lucked out. But Tessek was much harder for me to deal with. I do remember that with Dengar’s Tale, I really wanted to write about Boba Fett, but then everyone wanted him. So I took Dengar, and I ended up feeling like I really lucked out.  Sine Dengar wasn’t a huge fan favorite, I got to create his background and fill it in pretty well, and it turned into one of my favorite stories.

De drie Anthology boeken met korte verhalen. Voor elk boek schreef Dave Wolverton er één van.

Just like the other Bounty Hunters Dengar is a cult figure, a fan favorite (especially back in the 90’s). How did you approach the task of writing his story?

I had a little information from the Galaxy Guide (note: the West End Games book which described Dengar’s background) that I had to be consistent with, but I recall reading a book about that time from an ex-CIA agent, a physician who had done a lot of work studying how the human brain works. In fact, he won a Nobel Prize for his work, but he was talking about how some secret experiments were run on criminals in the 1960s, so that doctors could see if they could cure certain types of criminal behavior by removing parts of the hypothalamus.

This related quite well to Dengar, I thought, since I was dealing with a kind of sociopath.  So I wanted to bring this out in the tale, but I also wanted it to be pretty upbeat and romantic.

As I said before, I was very pleased with how that story turned out.  As a writer, sometimes when you’re working on a project, you don’t know if it will be as effective as you’d like.  For example, I never did feel as if I got Tessek’s story to be as powerful as I would like. I’m happy to hear that it worked for you.

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

Look, I’ve worked in Hollywood a bit. In fact, I was just talking to a producer who worked on the original Star Wars many years ago, and was grousing about how in Hollywood, “Nobody reads books.”  So I figured that if movies were made, the books would have to go out the window. Really, if you’ve got a hundred books on a topic, you can’t ask a screenwriter to come in and try to keep consistent with what has been done.

Of course, a second problem that you have is that so many of those books were written about older characters, and the older characters are now too old to play in those tales. Sigh.  We really need to put an end to aging!

You created the witches of Dathomir, which are still part of the canon. The witches have made many appearances in books and the Clone Wars TV series and have a story arc which involves Darth Maul. What do you think of the fact that something you created all these years ago turned into something way bigger in the Star Wars universe?

Oh, of course I felt honored to see so many of my creations used in games and television. Seriously, the reason I developed them was to help future writers have a fun world/characters to play with and expand the Star Wars universe. I’d love to keep on doing that kind of thing, but right now I’m doing it with my own universe.

Which existing Star Wars character you enjoyed the most writing about?

You know, I really loved working with Leia.  I felt that we needed to have some stronger women in the Star Wars universe, and she really was the only major female character. I created the planet Dathomir with the idea that it could be sort of a breeding ground for strong female characters, and so I would love to make one of the “Witches of Dathomir” into a main character. I do feel like we have got some great new characters now.

Which Star Wars character created by you is your favorite?

Hmmm . . . that’s a good question.  I think that with Momaw Nadon, I really got to go in and develop him in a way that made him feel that he was more “mine” than anyone else’s. I liked the idea that even though he was in this outlaw bar in the film, he was really a very gentle soul. Something about his personality just speaks to me.

But at the same time, I really liked Teneniel Djo in Courtship, and I hoped that she might serve as a model for other powerful female Force users.

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

After the book came out, one bookseller wrote and told me that Carrie Fisher came in and bought the book, which had a painting of her in a nice white dress. Carrie mentioned that she had to have it because “my cleavage never looked that good in real life.”

Yeah, that sounds like classic Carrie Fisher! Thanks for your time and I hope people who haven’t read Courtship or the Anthology books will pick up a copy after reading this interview!


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

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Exclusief interview met Jake Lunt Davies (creature concept designer)

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Sinds hij in 2013 werd aangenomen als Creature Concept Designer is de brit Jake Lunt Davies verantwoordelijk geweest voor diverse nieuwe ontwerpen die in The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi én Solo te zien zijn: zo zijn BB-8, Pao, Vober Dand, Rey’s speeder, de Porgs, PZ-4CO en Ello Asty allemaal van zijn hand.

Speciaal voor deze site en mijn eigen site (StarWarsInterviews.com) deed Jake een interview waarin hij zeer uitvoerig ingaat op de grote vraag waarom er zo weinig bestaande aliens lijken terug te keren én uitleg geeft hoe diverse van zijn creaties zijn ontstaan. Dit, en nog veel meer, lees je allemaal in onderstaand interview.

Interview met Jake Lunt Davies

A long time ago… something inspired you to become a designer. I’d like to hear how it al started.

Since I was a child I’ve been drawing – I’d draw cars, spaceships and creatures. I was torn between wanting to be a car designer or movie production designer when I grew up. With films I’d always been fascinated by how they were made, what went on behind the scenes. I loved the special effects, the models and matte paintings. I loved the concept of the perfect artifice that was contained within the frame and that there was all this other stuff going on just out of sight. And with sci-fi films you had this freedom to create whatever you wanted – as a kid I remember designing my own new versions of spaceships and creatures for imaginary future Star Wars movies beyond Return of the Jedi. If I’d only known how things would work out one day!

How did you get involved with Star Wars and start designing all these creatures and droids for the movies?

I’d worked with Neal Scanlan on and off from 2000 to maybe 2005 doing design work. Our careers diverged after that – I was focusing more on work in commercials, storyboarding, design and subsequently some directing and I think Neal was doing more prosthetics and SMUFX. By the summer of 2013 I don’t think I’d been in touch with Neal for five years when he phoned me out of the blue to tell me he’d got Star Wars and was looking get some concept designers on the team.

Concept art: Chewbacca & Porgs © Jake Lunt Davies

Your biggest hit is without a doubt the Porgs. Fans love them and they’re also a commercial success. Could you tell something about the whole creative process of the creation of these creatures?

Yes, they have been somewhat commercially popular haven’t they? But as much as their presence might be seen to be a cynical marketing ploy purely to sell toys, they were never originally created to be that. Skellig Michael, the location for Ahch-To, is a UNESCO protected site and wildlife preserve…and quite liberally covered in puffins, either dotted about in the background or flying around the cliffs. Physically removing them was impossible and digital removal would have been a lot of work, so I think Rian decided to look at how he could work with this by introducing our own indigenous species. The idea was that we’d have these ‘throwaway’ background creatures crop up in various shots that would validate the real puffins you see in the wide landscapes of the island. Rian also saw that they might then be able to provide small moments of levity to the scenes on Ahch-To such as the Porgs investigating the discarded lightsaber or annoying Chewie in the Falcon’s cockpit. The brief was that the size of the creatures would obviously have to be in the region of a puffin and might want to have some similarly striking markings as they have on their beaks. I drew a few a pages of sketches – lots of little ideas looking at different aquatic and avian sources, such as otters, beavers, seals and seabirds. I probably got the essential Porg shape somewhere within these first few attempts. There’s an ethos of simplicity in the design of Star Wars that we try to adhere to (and maybe sub-consciously do anyway) – a clean recognisable silhouette, a shape that any child can draw and you’d know what it is meant to be. I’d been looking at seals, puffins and pug dogs, sketching these little ovoid shapes with big eyes sat right at the top of their heads and funny down-turned mouths that gave them a sort of sad yet neutral face. And it was these that Rian was drawn to.

The best droid design in the new movies is in my opinion PZ-4CO. To me, it looks like an Egyptian Anubis head inspired design. Since 2015 I’ve been wondering if that is where you got the inspiration from?

I suppose there is some Anubis-like quality to her design – the long face and the suggestion of ears. But I’m afraid it wasn’t an influence. I’d been playing with the idea that there could be C-3P0 type protocol droids that wasn’t necessarily human and would be used to specifically interact with another alien species. So I was drawing a lot of aliens and extrapolating a droid design out of them. Somewhere deep in vast amounts of artwork that have never been seen are some alien designs that share a look with PZ-4CO. Also, we did tweak the costume design for The Last Jedi – on The Force Awakens the neck ended up being bit too long compared with the original design so on The Last Jedi we got the opportunity to reduce it.

Concept art: PZ-4CO © Jake Lunt Davies

My favorite alien you created is Pao! What can you tell about the creation of him?

Pao started off as a wild looking tribesman for an abandoned scene in The Force Awakens. With a huge mouth and tiny eyes lost deep in angry wrinkles framed by a long mass of wild hair, he was only semi-clad in something like a grass skirt with tattoos covering his blue skin and clutching two or three throwing spears. There was going to be a scene in Rogue One with a tribe too and I represented the design again. That scene was also abandoned but Gareth really liked the core look of this alien – basically the big mouth – and he asked if I could redevelop him into a rebel fighter. So I tried to keep the silhouette of the long hair that the original design had by replacing it with a hat and havelock (neck flap) and giving him a more rebel like outfit, topped off with a long rifle. On a practical level, how we worked the performer Derek Arnold into the head is pretty cool. Pao’s mouth interior extends back around Derek’s face and cheeks so that when Pao’s mouth is wide open you are actually looking right back into Derek’s open mouth. The only way Derek can see is through slits hidden in the ridges of the roof of Pao’s mouth – so when the mouth is shut, Derek is blind and totally reliant on radio communication from the puppeteer operating Pao’s face.

Concept art: PAO © Jake Lunt Davies

The new movies feature a lot of great aliens. Still, a lot of fans wonder why so many new creations are in the movies instead of a more balanced mix of new and old, existing aliens. Do you know the reason for this?

I hear this question a lot and it is something that actually does get considered on all the movies we’ve worked on. Firstly, thanks for the appreciation for what we have contributed to the new movies! I think people forget that with the Original Trilogy, there wasn’t actually that much continuity of alien species from one movie to the next – off the top of my head the only one I can think of was Greedo in A New Hope and a Rodian dancer cropping up in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi. The Prequels were better in that respect and you did get to see more Twi’leks and Rodians; and Rebels has continued brilliantly by having loads of Rodians and Ithorians as background characters. The thing is with these though is that they have had a certain ‘luxury’ of being digital or animated so adding a bunch of alien extras doesn’t have the logistical implications shooting practical does. For every creature we create it requires a suit performer, a puppeteer if it needs an animatronic face, an animatronic designer to build the mech, a fabricated alien body suit, a costume tailored for that shape plus all the sculpting, moulding, paint and hair to make it a reality. So the director really needs to want that alien in his film from the outset. And you also have to put yourself in the place of the director. Imagine you were given the chance to direct a Star Wars film…wouldn’t you want to use the opportunity to make the film your own; to introduce some cool new aliens? Anyway, as I said before, having ‘legacy’ aliens is something that has actually been considered for each film but unfortunately many have fallen by the wayside (along with many, many of our new designs!) during the production process with scenes being cut before the shoot and after filming in the edit. A few that did make it were the Mon Calamari in The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi; the Hassk that appeared in a Ralph McQuarrie Cantina concept were made for Maz’s Castle in The Force Awakens; and Twi’leks and Ponda Baba were made for Rogue One. We’ve also tried to create some continuity with the new species in the new films and you do see some recurring faces. One species in particular is the Abednedo, most notably the pilots Ello Asty and C’ai Threnalli. When I was working on The Force Awakens, I really wanted there to be at least another species that could have the ubiquity of humans in the SW universe. JJ had responded quite well to an early Abednedo sketch and I decided to draw a multitude of different versions – as scavengers, townspeople, bar patrons, pilots, etc. and bombard him with them at every presentation. And it worked – you can see them on Jakku, as a senator on Coruscant, Slowen Lo on Canto Bight and the aforementioned pilots. Anyway, I hope that what you can take from all this is that the inclusion of aliens from the previous movies is not something that is being ignored and that hopefully the balance will be redressed in the future!

You were heavily involved in the creation of BB-8. Christian Alzman did some designs but it was you who eventually realized the final model. What kind of ‘typical Jake Lunt Davies touches’ did you add to this droid?

Yes, BB-8 was the sum of a lot of peoples input – from the initial sketch by JJ, through Christian’s development and my final design. And even that was born out of the development of the puppet under Neal Scanlan’s supervision. As our team worked out how the puppet would be made, move and be operated, we tried out various different pattern structures on the ball of the body. The combination of the core arrangement of the six panels, their size in relation to the overall sphere and their offset positioning to the axle on which the ball rotates all worked together to maintain a texture to the body as BB-8 rolled – i.e. the pattern was bold enough not to just blur into nothing – and create the impression of an omni directional movement. As far as the details go, I don’t think I was trying to add any of my personal touches to the design. I was very focused on trying to make BB-8 feel as Star Wars as possible, that he would feel like a believable progression of an astromech droid design. When I came on board he had a much more anthropomorphic face, with two eye lenses and the suggestion of a mouth. I pushed to lose the mouth and make the lens arrangement more asymmetric, with a focus to being mainly on the single eye. Christian had already set the tone for the use of orange colour accents on the head and I continued to carry this over into the body with the rings on each panel, designing individual arrangements of tech within each one. All in all I feel the final design of BB-8 succeeds in fitting completely with the Star Wars aesthetic.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while working on the new Star Wars movies?

Well I suppose the thing is that we are designing not just for a movie but for this bigger thing that is Star Wars. Knowing we are contributing to something that means so much to so many people on so many different levels, that our designs can live on beyond the moment of the movie and have to stand up to scrutiny and analysis can sometimes be an added factor to the process.

© Jake Lunt Davies

If you could redo an alien, character or vehicle from the original trilogy or the prequels… which specific one would you choose?

As I discussed earlier in regards to the inclusion of classic designs in the new movies, we did look at some and some did get made. For example we remade the 2-1B, the medical droid from ESB, for Rogue One and there were elements of the original that were a bit rough and ready or inconsistent that had to be worked on. So while he looks the same at a glance, he’s got a tighter design around the eyes and fresh detailing on the shoulder joints. You never saw his feet in the movie and researching them threw up various different versions – as far as I was concerned, my take on his feet was what I knew from the action figure I had as a kid. So that’s the look we went with in the end. Otherwise this is quite a tough question to answer. I’m not sure there’s anything in particular I feel the need to redesign – they are what they are. But I suppose if there’s one detail I’ve never been happy with its the back of Luke’s landspeeder – its great all round until you get to the point where the side jet pods sweep into the back and they are just a bit clunky, lacking in detail and out of keeping with the rest of the vehicle.

Of all the things you’ve created for Star Wars, what do you regard as your best work and biggest achievement?

I think I’m pretty pleased with the success of BB-8, Rey’s Speeder and the Porgs…if I can say three things.

Several new Star Wars projects have been announced: a trilogy created by Rian Johnson, a TV series, new movies written by Benioff and Weiss… I guess you won’t be without any Star Wars related work for the next few years?

Who can say – it would be great to continue contributing to the Galaxy.

And we appreciate your work… thanks for the interview!


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

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