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Exclusief interview met Mark Alec Rutter (First Order Stormtrooper)

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In The Force Awakens maakten we kennis met de nieuwe Stormtroopers. Één daarvan werd gespeeld door de Britse acteur Mark Alec Rutter die met zijn 53 jaar de oudste Stormtrooper in de film was! Eind januari 2016 had ik de kans hem te interviewen en hieronder kun je het (uitgebreide) resultaat lezen. In dit interview geeft Mark een zeer goed beeld van wat er op de set gebeurde en vertelt hij enkele leuke anekdotes!

Interview met Mark Alec Rutter

Mr. Rutter, my first question: What or who made you want to become an actor?

From an early age I was subjected to film by my mother and was brought up on all the Hollywood movies from musicals to Westerns. At school I always wanted to join in the plays but was so shy and it was not until I was in my late teens that I had the courage to perform. I had a very Victorian upbringing and was told that I needed to get a proper job so it was not until I was 34 that I did a two year Drama course and passed with distinction. The acting business is very hard to get into as you know, but I am fortunate enough now to pursue what I love.

How did you get cast as a Stormtrooper and resistance Soldier for The Force Awakens?

I was put up for the role by my agent and went along for the screen test and boot camp. The role of a Stormtrooper is actually quite demanding and your measurements are quite important for the suit. When I got to Pinewood Studios I was slightly dismayed that 98 % of the guys were under 25, ‘No pressure then!’  I am 53, the oldest Stormtrooper on The Force Awakens, but just got on with it and as always did my best. After two days of being tested for various different assessments , including stair walking in suit, weapon maneuvers, marching and running in formation, the 100 or so Troopers were split into three groups, A, B and C group. I had made it into a group! And later told I was to be in the core 8, which would be used for all close work on camera. I was told I looked good in the costume but it is actually very uncomfortable to wear and after a short time it becomes evident that the day is going to be tough…but we are on the set of Star Wars! Right? So man up. The part of Resistance Soldier was cast at Pinewood and by now we were all known for our reliability so it was a case of being chosen for our look and ability I guess. I feel very lucky to have got on this iconic movie.

Were you a Star Wars fan before you got cast?

No, I must admit I was not to be honest I was not blown away with Sci-fi and at the time more into Rocky and such like, it was not until the arrival of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, I was well into the whole Star Wars thing. There is nothing like it and I don’t think there ever will be anything to top Star Wars.

Marc Alec Rutter

Back to The Force Awakens: In which specific scenes can we see you as a Stormtrooper?

Well, being one of the Core 8 I was in most of the scenes. In fact being very close to camera and as with all films what you see on screen they get cut or manipulated in some way. In opening scene invading the village, coming off the landing ship and running down ramp, holding prisoners and sweeping thru village. The scene where Finn gets the blood on his helmet from his fellow trooper, I can be seen walking past behind. This was a night shoot, one of nearly two weeks’ worth of village scenes.

The scene they used for the trailer, I am seen in this. It’s a widely published photo, where troopers are all ready for attack on the village looking for Lor San Tekka in the landing craft. I remember it very well as it was amazing…I had one of those moments standing on this craft. I will always remember thinking: ‘wow, this is Star Wars Mark!’ I remember saying they would use this scene for the trailer and they did!

The scene when Finn and Poe steal the Tie fighter, I am on ground firing at the ship as it tries to break free. This was a massive scene and filmed over several days, lots of different shots and we were used for many camera angles. The scene had a lot of pyro going off and I remember the set actually catching fire for a brief second but the fire support was awesome. I am also scene here walking up 30 steps at the back of the set to the right, a very small trooper. What people don’t realize is I had to go up 30 steps for each take and then walk back down, 29 takes! During the two day boot camp we were told that they would need someone to walk up stairs and we all had to try and do this and look as natural as possible, many did not try as the steps were shallow and visibility was very poor with those helmets on. I must have done something right because I was chosen. When the day came the set was awesome and I saw the steps and remember thinking, ‘Heck’, help me through this!’ each time I passed a steam exhaust, this was one of the hardest days for me on set but all part of the job.

In the corridor scenes with Adam Driver, I am marching back and forth and in corridors while Daniel Craig was doing his mind games with Daisy Ridley.

In the scene with the landing craft where the Stormtroopers are running towards the village I run to the right. In this scene I and several others fell on hitting the sand in first couple of takes, vision was very bad and as there was a trooper right in front of us made it worse.

As I said, many scenes and many amazing memories to share, just a few here.

Besides playing a First Order Stormtrooper you’re also the resistance soldier who helps Chewbacca carry a wounded Finn off the Millennium Falcon. What can you tell about filming this scene?

This scene was filmed at RAF Greenham Common, and the weather was good. The production had a lot of trouble keeping it secret and there were many days when filming had to stop or wait because planes, helicopters, or drones were overhead trying to get a glimpse of what was going on. Some photos were leaked to the press of X-Wings and sets. Production covered X-Wings up to hide them and it was quite stressful for JJ I believe.

On one of the days JJ had his own drone up in the air with camera on board so he could view the scene from the helicopters point of view but obviously a lot less expensive. When he was happy with everything he would bring in the chopper. I remember us all watching him maneuver it and we all applauded when he did a faultless landing.

On the day of the Falcon scene I turned up and was sent straight into makeup, so knew it was going to be a special day, and it was. The AD said to me: ‘ remember me when you’re famous!’, I remember laughing. This specific scene where I help Chewie carry Finn off the Millennium Falcon was considerably longer than what you see. Initially I run up to Chewie from camera left and help him down the ramp to a sort of first aid wagon. The camera pans round and I turn to camera, -face clearly seen- and then we were filmed travelling away through the crowd who had turned up to see the arrival of Han Solo off the falcon.

Poe (Oscar Isaac) was on the wagon and they drive off slowly with me running alongside holding Finn on the back. I had a trouble keeping a straight face as Poe was making fun of Finn and cracking jokes, it made a hot day much more fun.

Can you share more of your memories regarding the time you worked on The Force Awakens?

I have many amazing memories from this particular film, so many days on different sets, some nights, and many days in studios. Some in the rain and some in extreme heat but here are just two or three for now.

What people do not necessarily know about big major Studios it that other stuff is going on in other sets and films and many actors are massive fans of Star Wars and the actors themselves have families.

On one of the days I was standing in for Harrison Ford. It was in fact the scene where he and his son Kylo Ren are walking on the bridge just before Solo gets struck down and I was just relaxing there off set with a coffee and someone walked in and stood beside me. It was Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and he just wanted to have a look and say hi I guess, he turned to me and said hi, I returned the compliment and he walked off and had a chat with JJ, all part of filming I guess.

Another great day was actually the scene where all the troopers turn to see the planet explode. This was a really long day, 13 hours in costume I believe and such a scorcher. Troopers were passing out from heat and sweat constantly running down our backs into our boots, so glamorous! Continuous running day so no break for dinner as such. Anyway the day had come to an end and we were tired, waiting for the word,” wrap” but an AD came over to us troopers and said: ‘I need two troopers’, one guy said ok and the next made up an excuse that his helmet was missing, so I said: ‘OK, I’m in’. We were taken out past set and behind an easy-up, and there waiting and looking was Mark Hamill himself, with his wife and two children. We walked up and he approached me and said: ‘Hi, pleased to meet you, I would shake your hand but you’re carrying a gun and helmet’, I instantly replied with: ‘I can put the helmet down’, smiled and introduced myself.  We were photographed with Mr. Hamill, me to his left pointing my gun at him and he is looking at me. I guess this was just a personal photograph but it might come out somewhere later. Again he was very humble and thanked me for my time, true gent. Great day for me.

And finally for me, for now was the day when we got to set and the trooper costumes had been cleaned and polished. We were told that Annie Leibovitz (editor’s note: a very famous photographer who did a Star Wars photoshoot for Vanity Fair) was here to photograph us, wow, this was awesome. We were taken down to ‘The Paddock’ area of rough ground at back of Pinewood Studio where many outdoor scenes are done. Here we posed with Gwendoline Christie in full silver suit! I stood directly behind her right with a red captain flash on my shoulder…this photo has yet to emerge.

Then we were asked to pose in the mud for more photos, there were only about 5, 6 troopers used for this shoot which was to be used for the magazine Vanity Fair, she is a total perfectionist and people were running about after her every whim. She was not happy with the suits being so clean, and we were all splashed with mud to give the shots more realism. Much to the disgust of the costume department, who would have to clean them all off again.

Finally a great group shot with crew, great day.

Marc Alec Rutter

I bet strange or funny things have happened during the making of the movie.

One of the strange days was the day when Harrison Ford had the accident (editor’s note: he broke his leg on the set), I had in fact just got to set that day only to be told to go home…at this point no one knew what had happened and it was not till I got home that I found out about his accident. I won’t go into it any more as it’s not my place but the whole set was shut down. That was an easy short day. On return to set I had decided to get him a get well card with Darth Vader on the front, I got several troopers to sign it and wrote, “Get well soon, from the enemy”. I  hope it made him chuckle.

You mentioned JJ Abrams earlier in this interview. What do you think of him as a director?

JJ is very calm and focused on what he wants, on the rare occasion that he does speak he commands the set and speaks with a controlled voice that only comes from experience. Most of the time the producer Tommy Harper runs the show to be honest and JJ is there behind the screens making sure everything is the way he wants. Tommy is a well-loved character on set and could always be heard shouting, “Energy Energy”, with every take, with his broad Scottish accent. The main impression I got from JJ is that he was honored to be directing The Force Awakens and loved every minute of it.

Besides acting you’ve also worked as a voiceover. Which of these two do you prefer?

Yes, I have been heavily involved in two voiceover projects, which not only had me doing voiceover but also on location in Finland in winter and summer. I was involved in production also but I have to say acting is what I love; becoming someone else for the day has its appeal.

Last question: what do you regard as the highlight of your career?

Well I have done a lot in my life but I have to say that being involved in something as awesome as Star Wars has to be right at the top of the list of achievements.

Thank you for this interview! You surely had a lot of interesting things to say!

Met dank aan Rick van Sci-Fi signers united!SCiFiSignersMeer interviews vind je (behalve op StarWarsAwakens.nl) op Star Wars Interviews!

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.


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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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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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