He was a bear of a man. Big men — gaffers and grips — worked for him and did so with the greatest of affection. Broad and full were his shoulders, carried high, pushed tight against the neck. With his barrel-chest, he squeezed his words through the back of his throat and nostrils, as is the manner of those suburban London lads that communicates controlled authority, experienced professionalism. In tributes after he died in 2005 at the age of 74, he was lauded as the finest and most respected first assistant director in the world. Around the time he AD’d Return of the Jedi, he reckoned he had done 478 films. In a previous post, I characterized him as a great who orchestrated symphonies out of chaos. This time, I’m going as far as to say that David Tomblin was the greatest first assistant ever.
Archive for ‘Behind The Scenes’
I had experienced true convergence. The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of my obsessions. Star Wars was coming to Disneyland. I was in high school and completely consumed by all things Disney and George Lucas when I first heard about Star Tours, a new Star Wars-themed attraction slated to open at Disneyland in January of 1987. Disney’s fabled Imagineers would be joining creative forces with the Maker himself to finally give the residents of our mundane galaxy the chance to blast off with R2-D2 and launch our own assault on the Death Star? I thought my head was about to explode just like that doomed battle station. No pun intended, but how could the stars have aligned so perfectly?
Last month, I claimed that World War II impacted more elements of Star Wars than any other single influence. This month, I set out to prove it by studying the galaxy’s most famous spacecraft: the Millennium Falcon. Nearly every aspect of this famous ship shares a connection to the war: from the cockpit to the engines, the Second World War helped build everyone’s favorite bucket of bolts.
I’m a fan of old-school war movies and it’s pretty clear that George Lucas is, too. For me, Battle of the Bulge, directed by Ken Annikan is a movie that I hadn’t seen prior to the recommendation of Dave Filoni, the supervising director on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. During one of the many times I harassed Filoni about movies they were watching behind the scenes of The Clone Wars to inspire themselves and the show, he told me that this was a big one I needed to watch and he wasn’t kidding.
I never pass up an opportunity to ask people whose work I idolize about Star Wars. And I recently had the chance to speak to Art Spiegelman about his art, the Pulitzer Prize he won for his anthropomorphic tale of the holocaust, Maus, and the rest of his career. He has a show of his work going on in New York at the Jewish Museum, though it contains nothing from the Star Wars saga.
Spiegelman worked at the Topps card company for a long time (he even came up with the idea of Garbage Pail Kids) and I thought he might have an interesting take on Star Wars, since Topps produced my favorite collectible from the ’70s, the Star Wars bubblegum trading cards.
The Dam Busters is a 1955 British film set in World War II. It tells the daring true story of an Royal Air Force raid to destroy a trio of German dams, deep in enemy territory.
Conventional weapons simply wouldn’t do the job, so scientists had to develop a new way of delivering a bomb: skipping it across the water so it would wedge up against the dam. In order to hit the target, the pilots had to fly exactly 60 feet from the surface of the water and every bomber in the mission had to drop their bomb at exactly the same spot.
The Star Wars Holiday Special celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. The show aired in the US on November 17, 1978, on CBS for the first and only time. The 97-minute special would also air in other countries. It’s safe to assume that it probably wasn’t what most fans had expected it to be. It featured Leia singing lyrics to the Star Wars Main Theme, it featured Luke who apparently hadn’t visited a Sullustan Barber (and with a lot of make-up), and it showed a bunch of strange (musical) intermezzo’s that were more than awkward. Since its initial release, there hasn’t been much love and appraisal for the Holiday Special. Therefore it has never been officially released on any medium by Lucasfilm.
Today sees the release of J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Return of the Jedi, an epic tome chronicling the years of hard work that went into the last film in the original Star Wars trilogy. Rinzler, executive editor at Lucasfilm, had unprecedented access to the source materials, concept art, and handwritten notes in the Lucasfilm Archives, and his extensive research shines through in the pages of this book.
Nothing like killing two birds with one stone: Joe Johnston drew this concept sketch to go with early drafts of Revenge of the Jedi. But it also illustrates something from the very first draft of Star Wars, which George wrote back in 1974. In the “Revenge” scripts, Princess Leia has various run-ins with some vaguely described “Imperial trackers,” who are also causing problems with the Ewoks and Yussem. Given that Johnston has added forearm guards and a head mask, it’s possible that George Lucas had already envisioned these Imperials seated on rocket bikes (later, speeder bikes). They also had “T-bombs” and a garland of (Ewok? Yussem?) teeth.