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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Phil Hodges (X-Wing piloot – The Force Awakens)

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Phil Hodges

In The Force Awakens maakten we kennis met een nieuwe generatie X-Wing piloten. Een van deze piloten werd gespeeld door acteur Phil Hodges, die -vanwege zijn werkzaamheden bij War History Online- veel kennis van oorlogen heeft (wat handig is als je in een film met ‘Wars’ in de titel speelt).

Begin juni kon ik Phil interviewen over Star Wars, oorlog en de overeenkomsten!

Interview met Phil Hodges

Mr. Hodges, welcome at StarWarsAwakens! Let’s start at the very beginning: how did you get started in the movie business?

Originally I was into a hobby called re-enacting, or living history as it’s now known. Its basically portraying a period in time, usually based around a war or conflict and wearing the relevant period clothes or uniforms. I’d always been interested in World War II since I was a small boy so I used to portray either British or German soldiers of that period. From there I was asked if I wanted to be in a documentary about D-Day. It was for the BBC and it was quite a big programme so that’s how I got spotted as it were.

And then you were ‘suddenly’ in a movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens as an X-Wing pilot. How did the casting process go?

I was quite lucky in as much as I was kind of tipped off about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was filming another World War II documentary at Shepperton Film studios here in the UK for an American TV channel when someone approached one of the producers of the documentary and asked about us guys in uniform. I think it was the whole wearing the boots and helmet thing. I’m not certain but I’m guessing the two knew each other or had worked together before as they were quite chatty. The upshot was about seven of us were asked if we’d be interested in working on another production. I was the only one who said yes! Of course Star Wars was never mentioned by name at that stage.

In which scenes can we see you?

Well I don’t really have any ‘to camera’ scenes as such but I’m the guy flying the closest X-Wing across the water in the trailer and I get to blow up a TIE Fighter in the same battle in the film. I’m also running around in the background at the rebel base which was filmed at Greenham Common.

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What do you remember of the filming of your scenes?

It was a bit of blur because you’re just so nervous the whole time. You remember incidents after the event but during filming your concentrating so much on not messing up you’re kind of in auto pilot…no pun intended. You want to give a good a performance as possible even if it’s only for 2 seconds. The other guys on The Force Awakens whom I’ve met since all pretty much say the same thing. No one wanted to be the guy or girl who messes up. When you’re on a set like Star Wars you realize just how much money is being spent every minute of the day. Just looking at the crew numbers is mind blowing. That said, everyone I met was really helpful and decent. You do have to be aware though you’re working! It’s VERY easy to get distracted on set…especially with the props!

Are there funny stories can you share regarding your time on the set of Star Wars?

I remember someone having a costume malfunction on the set whilst they were running in a scene. I think it was a gun belt or a preserver strap or something that had come undone. Anyway I remember them tripping and watching them fall in slow motion. It just needs an onomatopoeia and it would have been perfect. I thought it was very funny and laughed but everyone else was serious and just looked at me. It was like being in a school assembly or church and trying to stifle a giggle. The more you hold it in the worse it becomes.

What is the best or most precious memory you have regarding The Force Awakens?

Probably taking my children to see the movie at the cinema. It was such a big build up and they were so excited. Although I didn’t get the big onscreen moment everyone prays for they were still deeply impressed by it all. That’s very close to my heart. Also since the movie release attending SciFi Cons here in the UK has been excellent. Meeting up with the guys like Greg Grunberg who plays X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley again was just great. He’s such a great guy and really down to earth. Also the fans I’ve met since the film was released have been great. I mean WHAT a set of followers Star Wars has.

Will you be appearing in Rogue One or Episode VIII?

I won’t be in  Rogue One because obviously there is a timescale to the events and I’ve already appeared as an X -Wing Pilot in  The Force Awakens so this would contradict the storyline. As for Episode VIII we’ll just have to wait and see!

PH

2 generaties X-Wing piloten: vlnr: Mike Quinn (Nien Nunb), Jessica Henwick (Jessika Pava), Denis Lawson (Wedge Antilles), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley), Phil Hodges, Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter) en Jack Klaff (John D. Branon)

Something completely different: you write articles and book reviews for War History Online. Can you tell more about this?

War History Online is the largest online web magazine of its kind. It tells the history of conflicts and wars past and present and brings to light new information, views and opinions on such subjects. It is something I’ve been involved in for some time now and enjoy immensely. I read military books on a variety of subjects and basically review the book for all to see. I also write the occasional article too but I have to admit I haven’t for a while because of work commitments….. Sorry guys!

Its run by a small dedicated band of merry men whom I am VERY proud to call my friends.

Besides writing about wars you have acted in various war movies, including Fury with Brad Pitt. What do you find so fascinating about wars?

I don’t think its a fascination more an interest, I hate people who glorify war and I hate people who dismiss war as a casual act. War is war. It is total and for most part it is both needless and futile. Are we ever going to be a world at peace? No of course not! War is in our blood and DNA unfortunately but it is something that needs to be controlled. That said there have been wars since the age of dawn and I believe the only way to put an ease to this is by educating others and teaching people about past wars and the reasons behind them.

Since you know quite a bit about real wars; what do you think about the way wars are depicted in the Star Wars movies?

Hahaha. That’s a tricky one Dennis!

War from a Hollywood perspective is action and glamour, a sure-fire box office smash. Star Wars is a little different form say Fury as Star Wars is pure fantasy. That said we have all the ingredients of a war movie. We have the good guys and the bad guys, the rebels and the dark side, we have dogfights in the air, of which I’m guilty, and we have blasters and explosions and of course lightsabers. I Think the way JJ directed The Force Awakens fight scenes was totally gripping and dare I say it?….fairly realistic. It’s war in space. A Sci-Fi movie, yet still people are killed and wounded but obviously Star Wars doesn’t focus on that too much as its not what the film is about. Star Wars is the ultimate ‘Good versus Evil’ parody. You could read things into the weapons and uniforms used but I choose not to. It is a film and I personally choose not to listen to political views on a space movie as good as Star Wars.

I fully agree with that. That’s a great answer. Any final words?

A BIG shout out to Thommo, Izzy, Nade, Stanners, James and LTFC Ginge.

May The Force be with you ALL.

SWIsmallbannerStar Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

Special thanks to Sci-Fi signers united!SCiFiSigners

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.


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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.


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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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