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Exclusief interview met Nick Kellington (Snook Uccorfay)

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Twee maanden geleden sprak ik acteur Nick Kellington, die in Rogue One de rol van Bistan speelde (dit interview kun je hier lezen). Op het einde vroeg ik hem of ik hem in The Last Jedi weer zou zien waarop hij veelzeggend “who knows” antwoordde. Enkele weken geleden, een paar dagen na de release van The Last Jedi trilde mijn telefoon: ik had een bericht van Nick! Hij had me een foto gestuurd van een van de aliens die we in het casino op Canto Bight zagen met daarbij de mededeling dat dit Snook Uccorfay was, zijn personage in The Last Jedi! Uiteraard kon een tweede interview niet uitblijven… helemaal gericht op zijn The Last Jedi ervaringen!

Interview met Nick Kellington

Hi Nick, two months ago I asked you if you were in The Last Jedi. You couldn’t answer then but you can now! How did you get the specific part of your character Snook Uccorfay?

The year before we filmed The Last Jedi I had played the character of Bistan in Rogue One, so Neal Scanlan, the Special Creature Effects Supervisor, already knew me as a performer and fortunately he asked me back.

Originally I was being considered for another character on Canto Bight, the alien Dowager that is holding Space Gary (the tribute to Carrie Fisher’s dog). The idea was that there would be two performers working inside the Dowager, myself and Paul Warren who also plays Varmik in The Force Awakens. Between us we would puppeteer the Dowager’s left arm, her head and Space Gary.

Plans developed, as they often do, and somewhere along the line I was given the character of Snook Uccorfay instead. The Dowager would be puppeteered by Paul on his own which was a lucky escape for him as sometimes, when I’m working in these suits, I can radiate heat like a furnace.

At my first fitting for Snook, Neal described the character as a mixture of the British actors Terry Thomas and Brian Blessed to give me a starting point to work from. I took that to mean that Snook was a cad, a bounder and a bombastic randy bugger too! From that moment I knew that Snook Uccorfay was going to be a really fun character to play.

What can you tell about the suit?

The original concept for Snook Uccorfay was designed by Jake Lunt Davies. Some people have described Snook as mole-like. When I first saw him I thought he looked like a Space-Hippo.

I believe his hands were taken from the same mold as Unkar Plutt’s hands (Simon Pegg’s character in The Force Awakens) but they were then re-worked and given a different paint job. Upon seeing how short and stubby the fingers are, I made the decision that Snook probably couldn’t keep hold of his money and as we were in a casino he must be a terrible gambler. When performing a creature, I like to study the physical form of the creature suit for clues to imagine that character’s history or life.

Underneath Snook’s beautifully tailored tuxedo I’m wearing a body suit that gives Snook his portly shape. It is fabricated so that it strikes a balance between being light enough to wear and perform in for extended periods of time yet still strong enough to maintain the desired shape through a useful range of movement.

There is a lot of room inside Snook’s head and it’s not that tight fitting to my face, which is good. However this does come with its own drawbacks. Snook’s snout is long with animatronic servos at the end controlling the mouth and each individual nodule surrounding it. This means the headpiece very front heavy and strenuous on your neck. The forward/downward force is counter balanced by a bungee cord that runs from the top of my skullcap to the small of my back so at rest, Snook’s gaze is horizontal.

I see out of Snook’s nostrils that are quite far away from my face. Imagine having a long tube attached to your face and everything is black inside except for two very small holes at the far end of the tube. This limited vision and the audio instructions you receive on an earpiece from your facial puppeteer are pretty much all the information I have to perform and navigate my way around the set.

At this point I must give credit to the team that designed and made Snook Uccorfay. These artists, fabricators and engineers are the unsung heroes that make these creatures look as amazing as they do.

Snook’s designer was Jake Lunt Davies and his sculptor was Louis Wiltshire. The body suit fabricators were Alan Murphy, Caz Gladwin and Fiona Pollard. Hair was by Maria Cork’s Hair Department and his skin was painted by Goran Lundstrom. Giles Hannagan was the animatronics designer/engineer and Snook’s costume was by Michael Kaplan, Samantha Keeble and Gary Page.

So much care and consideration goes in to making these creatures and I am very fortunate to be given the opportunity to bring them to life.

What are the big differences (if there are any) between filming a Star Wars saga film and a Star Wars spin-off movie?

There was very little difference between the experience of filming a saga film and a spin-off movie. It’s all Star Wars, whether the film has an episode number or the words, “A Star Wars Story” in the title. For me, it’s just as exciting, just as fun. You’re still surrounded by cool alien creatures, on amazing sets, creating stories about a galaxy you love. Also, no matter what the title of the film, working in these creature suits is just as claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Ha ha! That never changes.

Maybe it also felt similar because I was working with the same core Creature Effects (CFX) team. It was lovely to see so many familiar faces from Rogue One and I also got to know some of the CFX team from The Force Awakens that I had not met previously, which was cool for me as I am very much a fan of that film.

Actually, when I think about it, there was one big difference on The Last Jedi and that was getting to see Mark Hamill on set. That never happened for me on Rogue One.

We were stood around in a group, waiting for the order to get into costume when Mark Hamill just came up and started chatting to a couple of the puppeteers with us. They had already been working together in Ireland filming some of the Ahch-To sequences. Of course, everyone was very relaxed and professional but there was a small voice inside my head screaming, “HELLO LUKE SKYWALKER! YOU’RE MY HERO!” but that’s normal, right? It would be weirder if my inner-child wasn’t thinking that.

As Luke did not appear in the Canto Bight scenes I think Mark had just come down to see what was going on (although I’ve since read that he did voice one of the casino characters). Later that day I remember him walking around the set on his own whilst we were filming, no entourage or anything, just taking in the creatures, picking up and examining tiny props and seeming genuinely interested in everything. I thought that was very cool of him.

All of your scenes are in the casino on Canto Bight, with a lot of aliens… how did the filming of these scenes go?

There were indeed a lot of aliens on Canto Bight. The CFX team had been asked to create even more characters than what had appeared in Maz Kanata’s castle in The Force Awakens, which they did with incredible results.

In theory, shooting the Canto Bight sequences was the most glamorous filming experience I’d ever had. The decadent casino set could have come straight out of a Bond movie (in fact it was built on the 007 Stage at Pinewood) and we were surrounded by hundreds of immaculately dressed SA’s many of which, both male and female, looked like absolutely stunning fashion models.

However, the reality of performing inside a creature suit on Canto Bight was more like going to a high-class party and accidentally getting locked in a cupboard. You’d get flashes of colour through the keyhole and it sounded like everyone outside was having fun. Meanwhile, you were trapped in the dark and it was slowly getting hotter and hotter.

I did enjoy the experience though. This was, in part, because of working with Snook’s main facial puppeteer Patrick Comerford. He would be operating Snooks facial expressions from a vantage point off camera next to a monitor. I could hear Patrick’s voice through my earpiece and although I couldn’t speak back because there was no microphone in my creature suit, through a combination of hand signals from me and yes/no questions from him we were able to have a very basic dialogue across a busy set.

In some of the shots where I’d be traveling in between gambling tables and up and down steps, Patrick would be telling me when to turn left, turn right or stop to avoid other creature performers who were also on the move and equally as visually impaired as I was. He’d tell me when we were on camera and would perform a character voice for Snook as he remotely puppeteered my face to whisper amorous advances to a beautiful female alien named Derla Pidys whom I was accompanying (played by Latesha Wilson). All the time I would respond to his words with my physical performance.

In between takes we’d find ways of amusing ourselves. Patrick would put on different voices and make up conversations Snook would be having with an SA who just happened to be stood next to me. Sometimes he’d even sing daft songs to make me dance. I would react to him and play along physically, not only because it made us laugh and took my mind off the physical restrictions of the costume, but also I think we were subconsciously developing a shortcut to performance between us. It felt like we were getting to know each other’s rhythms and how the other performed. Patrick could experiment with different facial expressions to try on the next take and I could practice improvising movement instinctively, reacting to whatever Patrick fed me until it felt instant and natural.

On a production where you get very little rehearsal and you never know what you’re going to be asked to do next, whatever exploration time you can get is invaluable. Maybe all the other creature performers and puppeteers also do this in between takes, I don’t know, I’ve never asked, but we found it worked for us.

Filming on Canto Bight was tough at times too. Often we’d get shots quickly but due to some complex camera moves and the sheer number of performers on set, at other times you’d have to do quite a few takes. I remember being in the middle of a crowd scene for about two hours one time with a broken bungee cord. This meant that Snook’s head constantly wanted to drop forward. After two hours my neck was in agony but until we got the all clear from the First AD, my dresser couldn’t come on set to fix it or give me water or blow fresh air in to my costume with a fan. You just had to keep going. That was a long day, but even then, with Patrick, I remember we laughed a lot.

How would you describe the way Rian Johnson directed this movie?

Unfortunately I was not directed by Rian Johnson personally so I cannot answer this from first-hand experience. Although, I did get to watch him work from a far and he seemed not only incredibly thoughtful and engrossed but also really happy on set.

If you’re asking me from a more general perspective about the movie, I think Rian should not only be commended for the story he told but also how he told that story.

May we edge into spoiler-ish territory here? Surely no one will have found their way to this interview without having seen The Last Jedi already. I will try to keep my points vague just in case but if you’ve watched the movie, you’ll know what I’m referring to.

I loved the Rashomon film reference, the re-telling of a specific event depending on a characters perspective in time. It’s quite meta in how it refers to the influence of Akira Kurosawa’s films on the Original Trilogy. It’s brilliant because it works effectively as a plot device within the film and also draws upon the history of cinema and signposts where, in part, this wonderful space opera we enjoy came from. It shows us that Rian’s direction is rich and multi-layered.

Also, at another point towards the end of the film, and I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, Rian chooses to play with the audience in a way I can’t remember being done before in a Star Wars movie. We are used to being “in on the joke” whenever a Jedi uses their powers but this was the first time I’d ever felt that I, an audience member, had been mind tricked and I loved it! For the more observant there are clues as to what is really going on but I’ll admit, on my first viewing of the film I was totally duped.

These are just a couple of examples of how Rian took what we already know about the Star Wars universe and re-focused our view of how these stories can be told. The Last Jedi is jam packed with surprises, which is no mean feat considering we’ve been following these stories for around 40 years. It gives me hope for the stories yet to be told. In short, I would describe the way Rian Johnson directed this movie as bold and beautiful.

There were two main characters on the casino set; Finn and Rose, and there was also a cameo of well-known actor Justin Theroux as the Master Codebreaker. Did you get to interact with one of them or did you see them perform ‘live’?

When John Boyega first came onto set, I (or Snook) did almost walk into him. I turned to find a brown jacket right in front of Snook’s nostrils. I looked up and there was Finn. He’s taller than I imagined (or maybe I’m just shorter than I think). I was quite surprised because I wasn’t expecting to see him so all I did was give him a little wave. Yeah, ice cool, I know.

In the film, when Finn and Rose enter the casino Snook is gambling on the table directly behind them. I couldn’t see what they were doing as I was trying to wrangle my props and interact with the characters next to me but later on I did get to watch John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran perform live. They looked like they were having a whale of a time. They had such great chemistry on set.

I didn’t see Justin Theroux but I did have one other encounter I’d like to share. I was told this later by CFX stalwarts Tim Rose and Phill Woodfine. I was in Snook at the time and so couldn’t see what was going on around me.

Phill was puppeteering my/Snook’s face and we were working with another creature Pemmin Brunce, the casino’s bouncer. Pemmin was being played by the actor Cavin Cornwall and being puppeteered by Mark Jefferis. Although we were deep in the crowd, between the four of us we had quickly devised a sequence where a slightly drunken Snook had offended Pemmin who then proceeded to man handle Snook towards the exit.

Cavin was totally blind in his suit but with audio guidance from our puppeteers, we made it look as if Pemmin was carrying Snook by the scruff of his neck across the casino with Snook’s little legs thrashing around underneath him. Apparently it looked very funny. Now Anthony Daniels was also on set that day, not in costume but working instead as a movement consultant for the many Protocol Droid performers in the casino. Tim Rose, who was puppeteering next to Phill called Anthony Daniels over to watch what we were all doing for a while.

“That’s fantastic!” said Anthony Daniels, “Does the director know you’re doing this? I must let him know.” And off he went.

I don’t know if word did get to Rian Johnson and obviously our improvised scene didn’t make it into the film but that doesn’t matter to me. For that brief period, I was in a creature suit, on a Star Wars film set, entertaining C-3PO who, through the Original Trilogy, had partly inspired me into becoming a creature performer and eventually working in Star Wars myself. There’s something cyclical about that and it makes me smile.

The Last Jedi is without a doubt the most talked about Star Wars movie ever. While a lot of fans love it… there are also negative reactions to the story, more then there have ever been, especially online. What is your own opinion about the movie?

I loved The Last Jedi. It sounds corny but I was thrilled, I was moved and I was entertained. It makes me happy to watch it and I am proud to have been part of making it.

The risks Rian Johnson took worked for me but I can understand that they might not have worked for everyone and that’s ok too.

It has been pointed out that The Empire Strikes Back also received a lot of criticism when it was first released and look at how beloved that movie is now. I think it will be really interesting to see how The Last Jedi is regarded in, say, five years time perhaps, once the dust has settled.

One comment that has stuck with me as a result of all the heated debates about The Last Jedi is from stand-up comedian and Star Wars podcaster Steele Saunders. He tweeted,

“Love a Star Wars film like a child. Hate a Star Wars film like an adult.”

I like that because I think the sentiment goes way beyond Star Wars.

You did an interview for the website last year… now you’re doing it again because you were in The Last Jedi… will you do it again later this year when Solo: A Star Wars Story is released AND in 2020 after Episode IX? I think you know what I mean with this…

If I’m lucky enough to appear in another Star Wars film, I’d love to do another interview. My wife’s eyes start to glaze over if I talk about Star Wars for more than five hours at a time so I have to get my geekiness out somehow!


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. Voormalig assistent van Anthony Daniels. Auteur van de 'Star Wars Interviews' boekenreeks waarvoor hij 180+ cast en crewleden interviewde. Trots op zijn vermeldingen in de credits van de boeken The Making of Return of the Jedi, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor, The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook, The Star Wars Archives en Star Wars Icons: Han Solo.

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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Dominic Pace (Bounty Hunter)

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Na lang wachten was het dinsdag dan zover: de eerste aflevering van The Mandalorian, de allereerste live-action Star Wars TV serie ooit. En hoe kun je zoiets beter vieren dan met een exclusief interview met een van de castleden?

Afgelopen april kwam ik in contact met Dominic Pace die in deze serie de rol van een bounty hunter vertolkt. Dominic is al decennia lang een enorme fan met een dito collectie. Hij kon destijds nog maar weinig zeggen over de serie maar we spraken af om er in november op terug te komen, wat ook gebeurde. 

Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed hij het volgende interview wat zoals gebruikelijk iook hier te lezen is.

Interview met Dominic Pace

You’re a pretty big Star Wars fan and you have a pretty big collection as well. How and when did you become a fan?

Before I could even spell. My first playset was the Cantina Playset. I had the original 12 figures. My mother got me that magnetic alphabet board and I remember the first word I put together on there was ‘Jawa.’

(image credit Dominic Pace)

The dream of every fan is to actually be in Star Wars. How did you get cast for The Mandalorian?

I am blue collar actor. I have been very fortunate to land numerous Guest Stars and Co Stars on television, however I never turn down work of any kind. In order to survive in this business as an actor, you have to accept flexible jobs of all kinds. I was invited in for a simple makeup test for a major Hollywood Special Effects Company, Legacy Effects. It was there that I met Brian Sipe, one of the leading makeup artists within their company. There was no discussion of any future work or what the project was. I had previous prosthetic experience before (Van Helsing, Bright, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). I was calm and professional for the entire 6 hours of application. Brian and I got to know each other. At the end I handed him my business card telling him I’d love to work on whatever project he was doing. It did not cross my mind one bit that it was Star Wars as Star Wars has always been filmed overseas for the most part. I received a phone call two weeks later to report for a project code named, Huckleberry. I did not realize it was a Star Wars project until I was invited into a wardrobe room. I quickly noticed some of the sample wardrobe photos on the wall. Any Star Wars fan would’ve been able to have connected the dots at that point. What added to the shock and excitement was that I was lead into another room with a clothing rack. It had my name on one section of the rack with the words ‘Bounty Hunter’ next to it. I was at a loss for words and just tried to stay calm.

In The Mandalorian you play the bounty hunter Gekko. How did you get this specific part assigned? And what kind of character is Gekko?

Gekko is just the nickname and not official by Disney. Makeup artist Brian Sipe was working on some sort of GreenPeace Convention a few years prior. He did this extensive prosthetic on this model. The model had these two humps on their head with a very distinct makeup design similar to a Gecko. The model was holding a Gecko in her hand. Brian gave me the same mold, but altered the head bumps to horns. The paint design stayed the same. It is a one of a kind Bounty Hunter and species in the Star Wars universe as of now. I am 100% certain no one has been established with this look except me due to the origin of the model outside Star Wars. I was personally given this role as it was the most extensive makeup. Brian appreciated my attitude and patience so he gave me the most elaborate design for my two episodes.

Het Gekko model, met op het hoofd een… gekko. (image credit Dominic Pace)

You wear heavy makeup and prosthetics. Can you share your experiences getting dressed up as Gekko?

Normally this would be a tedious process as the entire character took about two hours each morning to prepare. I’m sure every Star Wars would agree that it would be an absolute joy to watch your detailed Star Wars character come to life each day. Richard A. Porra was the costume designer. Richard gave me a bandolier, forearm guards sewn into my dark blue robe, along with a face mask which really made the character. Initially I almost had a bare face. I was being rushed to set and I could’ve left the mask behind as they had trouble finding it on day 1. I really wanted that mask and reminded Richard that the initial screen test had the mask. It truly makes the character as it makes my Bounty Hunter more mysterious.

How did the shooting of your scenes go?

Though it was priceless enough to have been at least featured in the Cantina, what Star Wars fan wouldn’t want their own bit of action? It was an exciting time, but a stressful time, as I wanted to make sure my character was established. As the performer, you do not have a say in this. The director and producers either want you in their shot, or they don’t. It’s never your choice. The first week was amazing in that, the first day I arrived on set, standing in the cantina with his arms folded was none other than George Lucas. At this level, you cannot approach the stars or producers unless they acknowledge you or initiate. I mention that because as much as any fan would love to approach Lucas, you are just there for a job. Regardless, it was such an honor to be in his universe that day with him present.

The cantina scenes were finished after the first week. The first assistant director asked about 20 featured cantina aliens and Bounty Hunters to stay behind as the director Deborah Chow wanted to have us all line up. I had no idea what the lineup was for, but in general, it was mostly likely that they had to make a cut for the following week. Not everyone was going to be chosen for the following week. They cut half of us, and luckily I was chosen. Making that cut solidified my Star Wars immortality. Not only did it lock my place in the universe in focus, but also I fulfilled my dream of being in a Star Wars action sequence.

As an Italian American, I was always inspired by the Rocky series growing up. Carl Weathers was an essential part of the Rocky success. It was such an honor to be alongside Weathers whose had such a legendary career. My adrenaline was pumping so hard during this one scene, and being alongside Carl made it that much more special.

The overall experience was simply priceless. However an entire year of not being able to say anything, along with waiting to see if you made it into the shots was stressful in a good way.

You just mentioned George Lucas. Did you meet him?

I did not meet him that day as I always have a tremendous respect for the head producers and director. When you have a $100 million budget on the clock, unfortunately it’s not a meet and greet time. However simply being in his universe as one of his characters was an honor enough. I had the privilege of meeting him years prior at a charity event, but not on set.

Dominic Pace & George Lucas (image credit Dominic Pace)

Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?

The Gekko like bumps looked like breasts on my head. I brought it up to Brian during the initial makeup and costume test and thankfully he changed my head to horns. That would’ve been funny and embarrassing at the same time.

What is the best memory you have regarding The Mandalorian?

Getting to choose my own blaster. I think every Star Wars fan would love to choose their own lightsaber or blaster. Having that honor from the prop master was absolutely priceless. I picked the biggest blaster they had and I hope they make it out of a figure someday.

Final question: What is your ‘dream Star Wars project’?

Being a one of a kind Bounty Hunter in Season 1 of The Mandalorian.


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews

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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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Interviews

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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