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Exclusief interview met Nick Kellington (Bistan in Rogue One)

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Nick Kellington

In Rogue One werd ‘space monkey’ Bistan geïntroduceerd. Een nieuwe soort alien die op Scarif verantwoordelijk was voor het neerhalen van een AT-ACT! De rol van Bistan werd gespeeld door de Britse acteur Nick Kellington.

In de promotiecampagne van Rogue One speelde Bistan een aanzienlijke rol; hij was in de ‘behind the scenes reel’ te zien, op artwork, hij stond op het podium tijdens Star Wars Celebration én er is zelfs een LEGO figuur van hem! Daar dit personage vanaf het eerste moment een enorme indruk op me maakte werd het mijn doel om de acteur achter het masker te interviewen.

Onlangs was het dan zover, waardoor ik nu het allereerste Star Wars interview van Nick kan presenteren. In dit (lange!) interview vertelt hij uitvoerig over zijn ervaringen en wordt een erg goed beeld geschetst over hoe het er achter de schermen aan toe ging.

Interview met Nick Kellington

Hi Nick, let’s start at the very beginning: How did you get into the movie business?

At school I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life but I did know that the drama classes were fun so that’s the path I followed. I studied Drama and Psychology at university after which a couple of friends and I started a street theatre company. We weren’t great but once again, it was fun.

I started going to auditions and workshops in Circus skills, Commedia dell’arte (an Italian Mask art form), Mime and Puppetry. The auditions were hit and miss but as an actor you have to develop a thick skin because that never changes. More often I found that the companies running the workshops would then hire me as a performer because they saw something in me. I learned so much “on the job” in front of live audiences. This led to more success in auditions and I started working as a jobbing actor on the stage, touring around the UK for a few years with various companies. Most of the shows were devised and involved physical theatre, clowning, dance, puppetry and mask work.

I knew nothing about the movie industry but I started going up for Creature roles on Television. I found that working in creature suits for children’s television drew upon the same skills I’d learned in theatre but also gave me new experiences working with animatronics, monitors and cameras. Most notably I play “Igglepiggle” on “In the Night Garden” and “Dipsy” on the new Teletubbies. These kids TV jobs definitely helped me move on to Feature Films.

I now work in both the movies and television as a Creature Performer and I love it. The work is hot, claustrophobic and can be painful, but it’s still fun!

In Rogue One you play the part of Bistan. Could you tell how you got this role?

The creature industry is a relatively small community. Even if you’ve never met someone, you do start to hear the same names mentioned.

At the time Episode VII was being made, I was puppeteering on a kids TV show called Strange Hill High and was about to go straight into filming the new series of Teletubbies. I’d heard rumours of a top-secret project that no one would talk about. In fact, the less information you could get about it, the more you felt it had to be the new Star Wars film. I’d put feelers out but security was really tight around the project and I simply couldn’t get seen for what turned out to be the The Force Awakens.

The following year I had a break in my schedule between filming series of Teletubbies so I asked around if anyone needed a performer for anything.

Reports in online entertainment news sites suggested that filming on Rogue One was to start soon so I figured all the roles would have been allocated to performers and I’d missed out on getting into Star Wars once again.

But out of the blue I got a phone call asking me to come to Pinewood for a meeting about an un-named project.

Not many people are expected to go for job interviews with no idea of the job they’re going for. But in acting if you get an invitation to Pinewood you just go. Pinewood is a remarkable place, it’s been at the centre of the UK movie industry for decades and it’s always exciting to be there.

When I arrived, even right up to the front door of the workshop, no one mentioned what the project was. I couldn’t believe it when, inside, there were amazing clay maquettes, costumes on stands, animatronic heads being worked on and most tellingly, R2 Units everywhere! My brain just melted! I was so happy.

It turned out that a friend, Vanessa Bastyan, who had fabricated some of the costumes for me on the TV shows I’d worked on was now running the creature workshop at Pinewood. Vanessa knew my work and she’d got me in there to meet the boss, Special Creature Effects Supervisor, Neal Scanlan.

They wanted to try me out for a “Space Monkey gunner” character they’d been working on. There was a chance this creature may have a more developed role to play and so they wanted an experienced performer inside. Fortunately for me, Bistan’s face is quite flat and the guys who were already on the crew were mainly western performers and to put it bluntly their noses were too big to fit inside his face!

I tried a face piece on and surprisingly, for something not built for me it fit. Neal seemed interested and said that it might work. I was then taken to try on the muscle under-skeleton and Bistan’s flight suit costume. At first the costume guys said I was a quite a bit shorter than what they’d wanted but, once dressed, my short legs made the creature look a bit more ape-like, also I’m actually flat footed which can sometimes make me walk a bit like a monkey anyway! Photos were taken and Neal said they’d review everything and would be in touch but could make no promises.

A few weeks later I was called back to Pinewood for the Creature Effects (CFX) “Show and Tell” day. This is when the finished creatures are presented to the film’s Director who decides if they’ll appear in the movie. It’s an important event for the team and the CFX crew would have been working really hard towards this day for months, designing and building the creatures.

This was my first time in the full Bistan costume including the contact lenses.

Nick Kellington

Gareth Edwards en Nick/Bistan op de CFX Show & Tell day.

We were on a big sound stage with tents scattered around for us to get dressed in. Creature after creature walked past me on their way to the performance space. They were all new designs and looked so cool. Eventually it was my turn and I was led on. My eyes were streaming from the contact lenses, which are hard and quite irritating. The stunt co-ordinator joked, “There’s no need to cry.”

“I’ve just been thinking about these kittens” I replied, “I can’t help it.”

I, or at least Space Monkey, was introduced to Gareth Edwards who starts examining Bistan and directing me. I remember Gareth asking me to walk a bit less like a monkey.

Then he put a camera on a group of us to see what the creatures looked like on screen. I was sat at a table with Admiral Raddus and the other two Mon Calamari officers from Rogue One. The performers inside them were Paul Kasey (Raddus), Aiden Cook and Tim Rose. We were asked to improvise a meeting in a war room, discussing tactics etc. I remember laughing inside my costume because Tim was playing his Calamari as a hippy pacifist saying stuff like, “Hey man, I think we should all just go home. I don’t wanna fight, let’s get a beer.” Tim’s very funny and naughty but he can get away with it because he is Admiral Ackbar.

Next I was given a laser rifle and they put fans and spotlights on me as if I was looking up at helicopters right overhead. Gareth filmed loads of close ups of Bistan’s face, exploring how my eye’s looked, how the paint job on the skin reacted under light, how the hair moved in the wind and how I performed.

All the time Gareth gave me directions as if I could see or hear enemies in different places. He’d tell me I was exhausted, totally demoralized or frustrated. The camera was really tight on my face and Gareth wanted me to work with tiny head movements or just my eyes. My facial animatronics weren’t operational at the time so it was all down to me.

Then I had to run around the set with the rifle, pretending to take cover behind walls and firing at imaginary foes. It was just like playing as a child except this was for Star Wars and I was in heaven.

The day went on and there were more lighting tests and photos. I didn’t know where I was going to be taken or what I was going to be asked to do next. At one point I did a stunt assessment in costume, pretending to fight loads of stunt guys with a stick/sword. On another sound stage I did a camera test in what turned out to be a U-Wing. They positioned me at the ship’s gun and we improvised an aerial dogfight, testing both the costume and myself and also experimenting with how they might film the sequence.

At the end of an intense day, whilst I was still fully in costume, Neal came up to me, shook me by the hand and said, “Congratulations Nick. Today you carved yourself a role on this movie.”

Nobody could see it but I had a beaming smile inside Bistan’s head.

Nick Kellington

Een maskerloze Nick met een ‘beaming smile’.

What can you tell about your costume and especially the head (it must have been filled with all kinds of electronics?)

Bistan was made by some brilliantly talented people who I must to give credit to. He is an Ivan Manzella design. Sculpted by Colin Jackman. Gus Hoegan created the animatronics. Elisabet Berggren fabricated the muscle body suit. Heather McMullan was the hair artist. Henrik Svensson did the paint job. Gary Page made the space suit, which was designed by Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon.

Bistan’s an awesome creation and when you wear the whole thing you just can’t help but move in a way that isn’t you, it’s so cool.

Well actually it’s really hot! Also if you wear it for too long you get masses of pain in your back, shoulders and neck but, for me, it’s worth it for Star Wars.

Once the animatronics are turned on all you can hear are the electric servos buzzing so you’re pretty much deaf. I have an earpiece through which I can hear my puppeteer who is operating Bistan’s face and Paul Kasey the movement director. I had two puppeteers for my scenes in Rogue One, Phill Woodfine who is a really experienced operator and Matt Denton who is also one of BB-8’s inventors.

You could argue that the puppeteers who operate the creatures’ faces from outside the costumes add just as much to the character as the person wearing the suit. Performing these designs of creature is a real team effort and when you work together lots you become a tight ensemble. That makes the performance feel organic and real.

As Bistan I wore extra large chimpanzee contact lenses that are hard and uncomfortable. When I’m wearing them under light they make everything look orange and fuzzy. On a dark set all you can see are silhouettes and no detail. The sets on Rogue One were very dark.

The muscle suit worn underneath Bistan’s spacesuit is a bit like a cross between a bulletproof vest and an American footballer’s shoulderpads. It gives him the correct body shape and moves as his muscles would under his skin.

Bistan’s head is extremely close fitting too because as well as using animatronics to move the forehead, muzzle and jaw, the creature’s face is blended directly into my face with prosthetic applications and paint around my eyes.

Mechanically it was a lot to fit into such a small space but it moves so beautifully and has a great range of expressions. It’s impossible to tell where the animatronics finish and I begin.

In Bistan’s case, having a human’s eyes with the animatronic face gives the character a real soul. We filmed a “Creature Shop” featurette for the Disney Channel in the workshop and I was being operated by Patrick Comerford, who also puppeteers the Admiral Raddus face. It was interesting seeing how even up close, without any filming lights or cinema magic, the presenters were still really freaked by how realistic Bistan looked, and our performance of course.

Could you share some stories regarding the filming of your scenes?

Filming the Battle of Scarif was awesome. For Bistan we filmed it in two parts.

Firstly, in the sequence where the U-Wing glides down and drops off the marines onto the beach, Matt Denton and I were actually in the U-Wing as they flew it over the battlefield from a crane. They’d built the beach with loads of sand and palm trees on an airfield just north of London.

We were filming with a 2nd Unit camera crew out of the gunner’s door. I don’t think you can see Bistan as the U-Wing glides down as he was on the far side of the ship but it was great fun flying over the action with explosions blowing up marines and storm troopers all over the place as they ran across the beach. It was quite a spectacle from above.

Funnily, I already knew one of the marines on the U-Wing, Andy Wareham, from years back. We’d worked on In the Night Garden together when we were just starting out. So you had both Igglepiggle and Tombliboo Unn flying into the Battle of Scarif on the same ship!

Andy’s a stunt man now for loads of big Hollywood films. Actually, I’m sure Andy said that another marine on the ship was the suit performer for one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in the 90’s so there’s another mash-up for you.

The second part of the U-Wing sequence was shot on a sound stage at Pinewood. Phill Woodfine was operating me that day from just off camera.

I turned up early for rehearsals and there was a large container mounted high up on hydraulics with massive grey flats all around it. The whole construction was as tall as the sound stage and it looked quite impressive. Then they turned the flats on and wow, it looked incredible!

The flats were actually huge panels of LEDs projecting aerial landscapes of what would turn out to be Scarif and the container was a U-Wing flight simulator. It was like an amazing theme park ride and felt so real once you were on board and it was moving.

Phill and I climbed on with a small camera crew and filmed the gunning scene with Gareth Edwards directing and even operating the camera at some points. We were locked in there with explosions and sparks flying everywhere. It was pretty intense.

It’s awesome to have been involved in filming the Battle of Scarif. There aren’t that many characters in the Star Wars cinematic universe that have been shown taking down an AT-AT and now Bistan has joined those ranks. It’s kind of a badge of honour.  Ok technically, I know these were AT-ACTs but you know what I mean.

There’s a Bistan action figure and even a LEGO minifigure (I have the LEGO one myself). When did you find out you were ‘immortalized’ as toys and what was your feeling then?

With the kid’s TV characters I’ve played I’ve had quite a few toys released of me already so maybe you’d think I’d be used to it by now?

Nope! I am totally stoked about there being Bistan Star Wars toys! It’s amazing!

I have a small collection of LEGO minifigures anyway so it feels brilliant to be able to add a LEGO Bistan to the display.

I got him the day he was released with the LEGO U-Wing Fighter set and built it pretty much as soon as I got home. It looks great. I’m also loving the Bistan Pop! Vinyl Bobble-Head, that’s very cool.

I’m extra excited this year though as I believe they’re releasing a 3.75” cardboard-backed Bistan action figure which, for me, is the holy grail of Star Wars toys! It’s especially exciting if you played with the originals as a child, which I did. I have to say, in the early press photos he does look a little like the lost member of the rock band KISS but I don’t care, it’s just awesome that it exists and I will definitely be buying one, probably more!

Nick Kellington

Bistan was prominently featured on some promotional artwork and made an appearance on Star Wars Celebration London (during a panel with Neal Scanlan). Was Bistan originally supposed to have a bigger role or more scenes in the movie?

As I said earlier, I was partly brought in because there was a chance Bistan might have a bigger role to play in the film but you never know how storylines are going to develop.

I was lucky that the team who put together the “Celebration Reel” picked up on the on behind the scenes shots of me filming as Bistan in the U-Wing. Even though Bistan laughing didn’t make the final cut it’s just a cool image and it helped promote the film.

I did film more scenes on Yavin 4 but unfortunately those scenes were dropped. This isn’t unusual on big feature films. You just have to give the production the shots it wants and then hope for the best.

Fortunately Bistan, or Space Monkey as we knew him then, was particularly popular with the production crew because he looks so cool and there was always a little bit of a buzz when we were filming with him. Maybe this is also why he was asked to make an appearance at Star Wars Celebration in London. He’s definitely a crowd pleaser.

I just mentioned the fact that Bistan made an appearance at Star Wars Celebration in London. Was that you in the costume?

Yes, I was Bistan at Star Wars Celebration and I had a great time at the convention, thanks.

It was my first convention and once we’d finished our panel and interview I had the rest of the day there to enjoy myself. It was fun because I could walk around the convention and nobody recognized me whilst all the time I had this amazing secret that I was in Star Wars.

What did you think of the whole ‘convention experience’?

It was fantastic seeing so many fans enjoying Star Wars together, especially families who had all dressed up. I really enjoyed seeing how many fans were dressed as Rey. She’s a great role model. I’d be happy if my daughter is a Rey fan when she’s older.

The Rogue One Celebration Reel was due to be released that weekend and Bistan’s appearance was an extra surprise for fans as the panel was titled, “The Creatures, Droids and Aliens of Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016”. It’s still available on YouTube and anyone who is interested in how creatures are made for the movies should watch it.

The audience was one of the largest I’d ever performed to and Bistan got a great reception. Matt Denton was operating me again and he suggested that I pick up Warwick’s Ewok to have a look. When I threw it back to Warwick I didn’t know it was going to hit him! I did apologise afterwards but Warwick was totally cool about it.

Nick Kellington

Warwick Davis (links) kijkt toe terwijl Nick als Bistan tijdens Star Wars Celebration het publiek vermaakt.

What was the first time you saw a Star Wars movie and were you a fan before you got cast?

I’ve been watching Star Wars and playing with the toys for as long as I can remember and I do love it.

As a child I had a Star Wars spin-off storybook about the Millennium Falcon with an audio cassette tape narrated by C-3P0 which I played to death. R2-D2 would bleep every time you had to turn the page.

I had a few action figures of which the Hoth Wampa and Gamorrean Guard were my favourites.

On a family holiday in Swanage, sometime around 1984, I was allowed to buy one book in a seafront bookshop to read whilst we were away. I chose, “STAN LEE presents THE MARVEL COMICS ILLUSTRATED VERSION OF STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI” (In Full Colour) for £1.25 in paperback which I still have on my shelf at home.

Even now in my forties I secretly covet my friend Nik’s original Rancor Monster whenever I see it. I’m not a fan that knows every last detail about Star Wars but it was always a big part of my childhood.

Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s in the UK, it seemed that every public holiday they would show either Episode IV: A New Hope, Indiana Jones or one of the Superman movies on television, all three during the longer Christmas or Easter breaks.

I didn’t have Star Wars on VHS and there was no On Demand channels so it felt really special whenever the public holidays came round because I’d be home with my family and that’s when I’d get to see Star Wars.

Even though I accept that Empire is technically the best film of the original trilogy, A New Hope is still the most special to me perhaps because it’s been with me the longest. Actually, I love all three of them, you don’t have to choose!

My eldest brother took me to see Return of the Jedi at the cinema when it was first released. I must have been 7 or 8 by then. Apparently when we came out of the cinema I said, “When I’m big I want to be in Star Wars!” at least that’s what my brother tells me.

So thinking back to your first question, perhaps I did always know what I wanted to do with my life. It would just take 30 years or so to achieve it. Yes, I was definitely a fan before playing Bistan and I still am now.

I always enjoy the funny, remarkable and weird stories about the things that happened on the set. Do you have any?

My first day on a Star Wars set was at Yavin 4. Turning up, I wasn’t sure whether it would be mostly green screen or not. I was amazed to find that they’d built the entire Rebel Base on Yavin 4 in a giant aircraft hanger big enough to fly airships into. I think it’s one of the biggest buildings in the UK and at one point they’d built an entire block of Gotham City in there to film the Batman movies. Weirdly enough I also found out later that my dad had taken his RAF basic training there when he was doing his National Service as a young man.

Anyway the new Yavin 4 was amazing, like walking into a childhood dream. They had re-imagined everything perfectly. The set design, all the SAs in retro costumes, even the analogue displays on computer monitors and little flashing lights, all perfect.

Best of all, there was a huge X-Wing right in the middle of the hanger. It was beautiful. I probably shouldn’t have but I walked straight up to the X-Wing and placed both hands on it, enjoying the moment saying to myself, “It’s real! It’s real!” If I had been in my normal clothes someone might have stopped me but as I was dressed as Bistan it was more like, “Ok . . . erm. Just let the monkey do what he wants.”

On another day back at Pinewood we were filming the War Room scene where Jyn Erso is attempting to persuade the rebels to go to Scarif, I was there with Matt Denton operating me.

We were all waiting for something technical to be sorted with cameras and they allowed me to remove Bistan’s head so I could have a breather. I still had my contact lenses in and as I’ve mentioned, I can mostly only see silhouettes.

I heard a voice from the person stood right next to me, “Hey Nick.”

I turned and leaned in to see whom it was to find I was stood right next to Gareth Edwards. He was clothed in an army jacket. Everyone on the Yavin 4 set, cast and crew, seemed to be dressed in either a flight suit or an army jacket. This meant that to me everyone’s silhouettes looked fairly similar so I simply didn’t know he was there until he spoke.

“Oh! Hi Gareth.” I replied.

I asked him how it was all going. He asked me what it was like in the costume and told me he liked the character. Everything was cool.

In fact, for me, everything was amazing! You see, probably every time I’d spoken to Gareth previously I was usually in the Bistan head and/or there was lots of work to do. Generally Gareth would need to shout instructions or speak to me via my operator’s microphone because I can’t hear anyone. Equally I would need to shout back from inside Bistan’s head for my voice not to be muffled. It wasn’t a dynamic conducive to small talk.

So, unusually, there we were, just chatting. Like normal guys . . . except I’m literally a performing monkey and Gareth Edwards is the director of a Star Wars movie!

Then Gareth said, “You know, we should get you a cameo.”

“Wow. Thanks. That’d be awesome.” I replied.

Out of nowhere a behind-the-scenes camera crew sees us talking and starts interviewing Gareth about Space Monkey and the moment is lost. Suddenly we’re ready to film again and so I have to put the head back on and obviously Gareth becomes really busy and I don’t meet him again that day.

Shortly after, production would be moving on to film the Jedha sequences out on the back lot. This would have been the ideal chance for my cameo but Bistan wasn’t on Jedha so I wasn’t called in for those days and it never happened. Gutted!

I’m sure Gareth had a million things to think about and, understandably, I was not high on the list. For the rest of my time at Pinewood I was always up to my neck in Space Monkey either in a crowd or filming my single shots on the U-Wing. I guess my cameo just wasn’t meant to be. With playing Bistan already, maybe I was being a bit greedy.

Nick Kellington

How do you look back on the whole Star Wars experience?

Recalling events for this interview does make me think, “Wow, that really all happened. That’s part of my life now. That’s just crazy.”

I totally love being a part of Star Wars. The filming of Rogue One and having the opportunity to contribute even a small bit of myself to that universe was so rewarding personally and professionally. Also, being surrounded by so many lovely, talented people whose work you respect was just one of the best experiences. My time there will always be special to me.

My last question: will we see you again in The Last Jedi or another upcoming Star Wars movie?

Who knows? Since Rogue One I’ve been back at Pinewood but on what? I cannot say. Plus I’ve learned that until you see a film in the cinema you never know if you’re going to make the final cut.

Also, technically, you will never see me because I work in creature suits for a living. Perhaps I might get my cameo one day, you can dream.


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

Star Wars Interviews

Geboren toen de opnames van A New Hope van start gingen. George Lucas cultist en aanhanger van Legends (1976-2012). Voormalig assistent van Anthony Daniels. Auteur van de 'Star Wars Interviews' boekenreeks waarvoor hij 175+ 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 Alan Austen (Stormtrooper & Bespin Guard)

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Brits acteur Alan Austen speelde maar liefst drie rollen in The Empire Strikes Back. Stormtrooper (op bovenstaande foto is hij de trooper rechts van Carrie Fisher), Bespin Guard én (de handen van) Han Solo. Speciaal voor StarWarsInterviews deed hij onderstaand interview, wat volgens traditie ook hier te lezen valt.

Interview met Alan Austen

How did you get cast as a Stormtrooper and as the double of Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back?

I joined Central Castings and The Film Artistes Association in early 1979. Being cast as a stormtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back was all down to luck for me. I was the correct height and age. I was already on set playing a Hoth rebel when I was asked to try on the stormtrooper costume. I fitted and I was able to walk around in it, so I was cast. Doubling for Harrison came about after the production team realized that they needed some filler shots of Han Solo. Harrison had already gone back to the U.S.A. so I was asked to double for Han Solo.

I read that in The Empire Strikes Back there are some close-up shots of Han Solo’s hands where they’re not Harrison Ford’s hands but yours. In which scenes can we see you as Solo?

Yes, my hands doubled for Harrison’s in several scenes. Due to the editing, it’s very difficult to tell them apart. I remember that I had to push buttons and flick switches.

Had you seen the first Star Wars movie before you got cast?

No, I had never seen the first Star Wars movie. Of course, now I have seen it several times and never tire of watching it. That goes for all of the original trilogy movies.

What do you recall of the shooting of your scenes?

So much stands out. Of course the Cloud City shoot out is vivid in my memory and also the carbon chamber scenes. The main thing was being able to run and hit marks whilst wearing a storm trooper helmet.

Alan Austen (zittend rechts van John Hollis die Lobot speelde) op de carbon freeze set

What would you regard as your best memory from The Empire Strikes Back?

I only did one Star Wars movie. So many cherished moments from The Empire Strikes Back. The lifelong friendships that I made, the laughs and fun that we had on and off set. A great conversation that I had with Billy Dee Williams. The fun moments with Carrie!

What did you talk about with Williams and what were those fun moments?

The conversation with Billy was him giving me advice about acting and working on movies. No personal stuff. Carrie was just constant fun always laughing and joking. No more to say other than that.

You have been in the convention circuit for some years now. What do you like the most about being a guest and what is the most remarkable or craziest thing that happened at a show?

Yes, I love doing the conventions, they are most enjoyable. A stand out moment was at a convention in The Netherlands when two stormtrooper cosplayers danced together in their costumes. This was videoed on someone’s phone and then watched by eight Star Wars actors on the flight home.

Besides Star Wars you have been in several movies including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon, James Bond: Octopussy. What do you regard as the highlight of your career?

The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark are the highlights. Later on I worked in British tv drama but nothing ever lived up to those two movies.

The Empire Strikes Back is not only considered to be the best of all the Star Wars movies by many fans. Actually, it is even considered to be one of the best movies overall. How does it feel to have been a part of this?

I am very honored to be a part of The Empire Strikes Back. However, I realize that I was and am very lucky. I am fully aware that it was a question of right place right time. I just hope that I lived up to the opportunity! I think I did.


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews

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Interviews

Exclusief interview met John Mogridge (Snowspeeder pilot)

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Vechten tegen de Imperials op Hoth, Han Solo naar de Carbon freeze leiden én The Emperor onthalen op de Death Star. Brits acteur John Mogridge deed het allemaal. In The Empire Strikes Back is hij namelijk te zien als Snowspeeder piloot en Stormtrooper terwijl hij in Return of the Jedi een Death Star Gunner speelde.

Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed John Mogridge het volgende interview waarin hij terugblikt op zijn Star Wars tijd. Zoals gebruikelijk is het interview ook hier te lezen: op StarWarsAwakens.nl!

Interview met John Mogridge

How did you started your career in the movie business?

I joined the F.A.A. (Film Artistes Association) and the Central casting agency in November 1978. The Empire Strikes Back was my second film. You got work by phoning the agents and asking if there were any work “Calls”. They’d say Empire Strikes Back, Elstree studios, 8AM. That’s how I got my first day on The Empire Strikes Back. That was March 1979.

Can you tell how you got cast as a Snowspeeder pilot and snowtrooper for The Empire Strikes Back?

I arrived on my first day and the 2nd assistant director, Steve Lanning, gave me my daily salary voucher (we call it a Chit) with the title “Rebel” on it. I was a rebel for a while. Then they wanted snowspeeder pilots and he gave me that job. I did that until the end of May or the beginning of June. Then I was given the Snowtrooper role. That was only for a short time and finished my on and off run on The Empire Strikes Back as a stormtrooper in the carbon freezing chamber and Bespin cloud city scenes.

John Mogridge en Alan Austen als de twee Stormtroopers die Han naar de Carbon freeze begeleiden.

Three years later I got the call for Revenge of the Jedi as it was called at the time. I only played an Imperial gunner on that film in the Emperor’s arrival scene.

Did you see the first Star Wars movie before you got cast? What did you think of it?

I took my brother to see the original Star Wars film and really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to get the autographs of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Dave Prowse for him when I worked on The Empire Strikes Back.

You’re one of the Snowspeeder pilots in the scene where Carrie Fisher gives the pilots instructions. What are the other scenes in which we can see you?

Some memorable scenes. The carbon freezing chamber seemed very high and a bit sinister compared to the bright and shiny cloud city set. I did a lot of filming with the second unit being directed by John Barry. Sadly, he was taken ill one day and died the next. A lot of people were upset by that. He was a nice man.

What do you recall of the shooting of your scenes?

A funny scene… there’s a picture on the internet where a snowtrooper is seen falling over as they enter Hoth. I was on that scene. I tripped but didn’t fall and it seems so did many others. It didn’t get in the film. Irvin Kershner took a long time to build a scene and the photo of me in the briefing scene standing around looking bored took ages to set up. He did do a great job.

John Modgride (recht van regisseur Irvin Kershner) op de Echo Base set.

Your Rebel pilot character got a name many years ago: Habeer Zignian. When and how did you find out and what was your reaction?

My character having been given a name was a complete and pleasant surprise. Although I only found out in 2018.

What is the best memory you have regarding Star Wars in general?

I am really proud to have been a very minor part in a great series of films. It changed my life. I met and I’m still in contact with so many friends like Alan Austen, Peter Ross, Chris Parsons (editor’s note: all three men played various parts in the original trilogy) and so many more who I wouldn’t have known without Facebook and the world wide family of Star Wars fans.


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Exclusief interview met Bruce Logan (ILM)

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Vraag een willekeurige Star Wars fan wie in A New Hope de Death Star vernietigde en de kans is groter dan een Gorax dat het antwoord Luke Skywalker is. Fout! Het was namelijk ILM’er Bruce Logan die verantwoordelijk was voor het letterlijk opblazen van het Death Star model in 1976. Dit was slechts een van de vele special effects waar Logan voor verantwoordelijk was in A New Hope.

Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed Bruce Logan het volgende interview waarin hij terugblikt op eind jaren 70; de begintijd van Star Wars. Zoals gebruikelijk is het interview ook hier te lezen: op StarWarsAwakens.nl!

Interview met Bruce Logan

In the mid 70’s you joined ILM to work on Star Wars. How did you get this job?

I had met with George and Gary at the beginning of the production when they were interviewing visual effects people. George got back from shooting the live action in England, and because the signature (very hi-tech at the time) motion control effects system was being constructed not a frame of film had been shot. Panicked, he called me up to head up a second unit effects unit to shoot puppeteers in black suits “flying” miniature spaceships on black rods. Not surprisingly this did not work out very well. So my unit moved on to do some of the signature explosions in the show.

Why didn’t you return to work on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?

After Star Wars came out, George moved ILM north to San Rafael to avoid Hollywood and all the “rules” that when with it. Half of ILM moved with him and the other half stayed in the same building and broke off to form Apogee (editor’s note: a VFX company).

What do you recall of your meetings with George Lucas?

I found George to be very organized, the man knew exactly what he wanted but not always how to get it. He gave me marching orders and then left me alone to figure out how to do it. I’m not sure that I even watched dailies with him as my unit was at another location across town. He must have liked what he saw because our unit moved to bigger and bigger stages and we shot bigger and bigger explosions.

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

As I was not part of the main unit, I did very little work on Valjean. However, as I was friends with almost everyone there and because they had a full machine shop, I spent many weeks there with my full race Mini Cooper machining parts and fabricating equipment. So, I got to experience the entire production process without really being involved.

Which shots/scenes were you responsible for? And are there good anecdotes you can share regarding creating them?

My claim to fame is that I blew up the Death Star. When I think back to the first day of our unit, I remember Joe Viskocil, our powder genius who constructed all the miniature bombs, I realize we were just a bunch of unsupervised kids running the orphanage. Joe came in the first morning and there was a huge explosion and a cloud of smoke coming out of the little room on wheels that was used to load film. Luckily there was only a loss of hair and a rash on Joe’s arms. It was an interesting way to start. But it never really got any better as the explosions got bigger and better, I remember running around the stage wiping burning napalm from my arms after one of our larger explosions. Later, looking at pictures of our shoot, I see that our only fire protection was a single hand held fire extinguishers. Ahh! simpler days.

What was the hardest effect to create while working on A New Hope?

Although I was not involved, I would say the Landspeeder was one of the hardest. In a non-CG world getting rid of the wheels putting in heat ripples and suspending it in shot where we didn’t see the whole craft.

However, the construction and first extensive use of motion control is obviously the most significant innovation of the movie.

Which effect from A New Hope are you most proud of?

Blowing up the Death Star, who wouldn’t be?

© Bruce Logan

Today CGI has largely taken over and there are less practical effects. Is this –in your opinion- a good or a bad thing?

My favorite Visual Effects are when they based on live-action elements and then enhanced with CG. Whether based on miniature or full scale live-action, I like the organic feel of these kind of shots. Shot which are entirely CG still have an uncanny valley feel to them, even with the unbelievable advances in CG effects.

I read that you knew about Joseph Campbell before work on Star Wars started and you were happy George Lucas got a spiritual message out. Do you think that’s something modern Star Wars lacks after George left in 2012?

I think the Joseph Campbell influence fell away almost immediately. Any discussion of the “Force” became more about superhero (Jedi) powers and less about an elemental interconnectedness of all beings and all things. But the whole franchise is based on “A New Hope” and as such this philosophy unavoidably underlies everything. Thanks Joseph.

My final question: You blew up the Death Star, not Luke Skywalker. I guess you should have gotten that medal?

Yes. But what I don’t talk about so much is that, I also blew up Alderaan. I guess all that loss of innocent life, cancels out any medal I might be entitled to for the Death Star.


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Exclusief interview met Katie Purvis

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Katie Purvis behoort tot een select groepje acteurs die op zéér jonge leeftijd al in de Original Trilogy te zien waren: in 1982 was ze pas 15 jaar toen ze geselecteerd werd om een Ewok te spelen in Return of the Jedi. Ondanks haar leeftijd was ze al behoorlijk bekend met de Star Wars familie aangezien haar vader Jack Purvis in A New Hope (hoofd Jawa) en The Empire Strikes Back (Ugnaught) te zien was en al jaren een duo vormde met Kenny “R2-D2” Baker.

Speciaal voor StarWarsInterviews.com en StarWarsAwakens.nl deed Katie het volgende interview waarin ze terugkijkt naar begin jaren 80, ingaat op de impact van haar vaders carrière, treurt om een mislukte ontmoeting met Harrison Ford én een unieke anekdote heeft over een zieke Ewok!

Interview met Katie Purvis

How did you get started in the movie business?

My dad Jack Purvis was working on Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits movie where he played Wally, one of the six Bandits. One summer’s day he took me with him to the film set when they were filming the iconic Titanic scene. The story goes one of the little guys, Tiny Ross, had broken his arm when he fell whilst on horseback in a previously filmed scene, so Terry asked my dad if I would suit up and be Tinys stand-in for the shoot. So I was taken to costume and make up and transformed from a 14-year-old schoolgirl into Vermin the Time Bandit. That was how I got started in the film business!

And how did you get cast for Return of the Jedi?

Again, I consider myself very privileged in how I got cast in Return of the Jedi. This was due to my dad already having been in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. My dad’s agent asked me if I would be interested in being on the movie to play a teddy bear character a few months before. They were looking for around 50 short people to play Ewoks! As I was only 15 years old, I had to speak to my school to ask permission. At the time, I was taking my Mock O Levels exams, so I did have a bit of study leave during the filming days. So the production gave me a schedule and together with my head teacher we worked my exams around that. This meant I would be filming for two days and then sitting in an exam hall the next! Needless to say this made it very hard to excel at academics, when all I could think about was what was going on in the Ewok Village!

What do you recall of the filming of your scenes for the Return of the Jedi?

The whole 2-week experience was so exciting for me a teenager. I had already met Mark Hamill back in 1976 whilst my dad was working on A New Hope, as he had been to our house for tea, when my dad Jack and his partner Kenny Baker had been working in Cabaret in the evening after a day’s shooting. Dad brought Mark home before taking him out with them to watch their show. Mark was really kind to my brothers and I.
So when I met him again on Return of the Jedi it was just like meeting one of my dad’s friends. I didn’t really get introduced to the other cast members, as it can be really busy on set and my dad being so humble didn’t want to disturb them as he said they would be preparing for their scenes. This was a little disappointing as I had had a schoolgirl crush on Mr. Ford. First day on set my dad and I were standing in our Ewok costumes feeling all fat and furry when Harrison came past and greeted my dad! I was so nervous as I thought finally I am going to get the chance to meet my hero! Unfortunately not to be. Dad and Harrison had a chat and to my dismay my dad didn’t even introduce me and Harrison walked off into his position to begin the day’s scene! I won’t tell you how I expressed my disappointment to my dad about him being responsible for me not meeting my schoolgirl crush!

Did any strange, remarkable or funny things happen on the set?

I’m sure it’s well documented that the Ewok costumes were very uncomfortable and made you very hot and the eyes kept misting up. Kenny Bakers wife, Eileen, when I informed her that I was feeling unwell one afternoon, assisted by lifting her arm up and shouting ‘CUT’ when I told her “I think I’m going to be sick!”
At once the makeup lady rushed onto set and ripped my Ewok head off allowing me to upchuck my lunch! All I remember hearing was the guy from the Electric department shouting “Don’t be sick in my electric box!”

Return of the Jedi was directed by Richard Marquand, while George Lucas produced it. How were both men to work with?

Being young I didn’t really appreciate the fact that I was working alongside such greats as Richard Marquand and George Lucas, again because my dad been there from the start in 1976 so there was a great camaraderie amongst them all. To be honest I was so nervous I just did as I was asked. I think I speak for most of us who played Ewoks, it was the first time we’d met so many other Little People and all been together, so that was more exciting than working with these iconic film directors! It’s only now that I realize how blessed I was to have been part of those movies! And so wish I had taken photos and got autographs.

After Star Wars you starred in some of my favorite 80’s movies: Labyrinth, Willow and Legend. What fond memories do you have of those productions?

I loved working on the films that followed, Legend, Labyrinth and Willow, although Labyrinth was my favorite. Again for me it was about coming of age, I was now 18 and had past my driving test, although I didn’t have my own car My mum let me borrow hers. It was a red mini, which I felt so cool driving! This meant no longer did I have to drive to the studios with my dad, after all how uncool was that! We filmed Labyrinth in the summer months so we had a holding area just outside the Stage where the set had been built. There everyone would hang out, make up people, props and costume, actors and puppeteers! It was great time to be 18 and driving your mums Red Mini! I felt so grown up having just left school!

Your father Jack Purvis has played a lot of parts in the original trilogy, including popular characters like Teebo, the lead Jawa and an Ugnaught. How do look back at his Star Wars legacy?

Star Wars has been part of my family’s life since I was 10 years old. Even now I only have to hear the Star Wars music and I not only get goose bumps but I immediately am taken back in time to so many parts of my life growing up. From school summer fetes that my dad and Kenny Baker opened as guest celebrities The Minitones in the late 70’s to summer shows in Torquay where Jack and Kenny were appearing and where the showgirls would perform a show stopping number with lightsabers to the Star Wars theme tune whilst a prop R2 would spin around. My brothers and I would be watching from the wings most nights. Inevitably one of the showgirls’ lightsabers would break in two as she thrust it too hard and ended up missing someone in the audience. The crowd used love this part of the show, I suppose because Star Wars meant so much to everyone. I know it changed Kenny and Jacks lives, and ours too as our families were able to move to bigger houses in nicer areas. They became well respected as not just musical cabaret act but actors from a successful movie. The movie opened up other opportunities for them that they may never have had had it not been for their small roles in that low budget movie.

What would you regard as your best memory of all the movies you were in. Is there a special moment you’ll cherish forever?

I have been to places I never would have got to go to, had it not been for Star Wars and the love of the Star Wars community.

What are you doing these days? Are you still in the acting business?

Nowadays I no longer act as unfortunately as a result of back surgery I can no longer walk unaided. However, I have three children who would love to appear in any future Star Wars movies, so if there is any casting agents out there reading this were waiting to hear! That would make them the third generation of Purvis family to appear in the franchise. They have already been told by Mr. Mark Hamill himself, to call him Grampa!
So nowadays I am honored to be asked to appear at conventions and related Sci-Fi events.
The Star Wars community, along with some awesome people and actors have helped raise money for many charity events, which I am humbled to say has changed people’s lives. I can truly say I have met some very kind and warm-hearted people, whom I never would have met had it not been for Star Wars and its legacy.
And this is what is so incredible about the Star Wars Story!

Met grote dank aan Casper Fijlstra voor het mogelijk maken van dit interview!


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