Archive for ‘Behind The Scenes’



George Lucas Appears on The Daily Show

Bonnie Burton | January 10, 2012

George Lucas appeared on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart last night to talk up Red Tails, the new action-adventure movie about the heroic Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Lucas shared the process of making the film, why he felt compelled to bring the Tuskegee Airmen’s story to the screen, and his hopes for a Red Tails sequel (and prequel!). Stewart, a self-confessed Star Wars fan, couldn’t help making comparisons to his favorite film saga – an idea Lucas seemed receptive to:

“I’m just talking about a bunch of guys, kids, who are 19-20 years old, flying the fastest prop-plane ever built, and going up against the new-fangled jets,” explained Lucas. “It’s a combat movie. Honestly…this is as close as you’ll ever get to Episode VII.”

View the George Lucas interview segment here. Red Tails will be released in US theaters on January 20, 2012. Check out the official Red Tails site here and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Lucas Remembers Star Wars Sword Master Bob Anderson

Pete Vilmur | January 9, 2012

The world lost a key contributor to the Star Wars saga last week in sword master Bob Anderson, who coordinated the lightsaber duels of Episode IV: A New Hope, and even donned Darth Vader’s armor for the high-intensity dueling with Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

The man who established how “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age” should be wielded in the Star Wars universe passed away on January 1 in West Sussex, England. He was 89.

“Bob Anderson was essential in defining what a lightsaber duel would look like,” says George Lucas. “He was the Jedi Master of the original trilogy, training the actors to duel with a new kind of weapon. In Empire and Jedi, Bob donned Darth Vader’s cape and helmet to battle Luke Skywalker in all of the amazing lightsaber battles. It was pure movie magic that Bob became Vader.”

Fortunately for Star Wars fans, Bob Anderson’s legacy will forever survive through the signature fighting styles of Jedi and Sith alike. He will be deeply missed.

Rare Empire Cast Interview Surfaces

Pete Vilmur | November 29, 2011

On the heels of the recent early Mark Hamill interview we discovered a couple weeks ago, StarWars.com contributor Bob Miller sends a heads up on another rare interview – or set of interviews – from a press junket surrounding the 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Recently posted from the archive of reporter Bobbie Wygant, this lost interview, which appears to have occurred at the 20th Century Fox Studios press event in early May, 1980, includes some rare conversations with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Dave Prowse, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, and director Irvin Kershner.

Some of the highlights include Hamill discussing his newborn son, Nathan, who he jokes might be available for the role of an “eight-year-old” Luke for the prequels (well, he got the age right, but was a generation off!). Another treat is the rare dual interview with Harrison Ford and Anthony Daniels, who we’ve rarely seen interviewed together. Dave Prowse also has some detailed information regarding the Darth Vader masks used on Star Wars and Empire, and how they are different (Vader historians take note!).

Most amusingly, though, interviewer Wygant closes with the tease that if Lucas continues with all nine chapters of his Star Wars saga, “the Force may be around until 2001!”

Check out the 13-minute video here.

Early Mark Hamill Interview Surfaces

Pete Vilmur | November 16, 2011

A rare 30-minute interview with Mark Hamill, which appears to have been taped in late 1977 just before the release of Star Wars in Britain that December, has surfaced on YouTube by poster “mhsayers.”

The interview, which is described as having been conducted at Imperial College London, seems to have been broadcast on British television in October, 1978 — although Hamill at one point mentions the film hadn’t yet released in England, likely placing the original session sometime in late 1977.

It’s very rare to find such an extended one-on-one interview with one of the key cast members from this period, which had Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford whisked from one interview to another, often spending only a few minutes with any single interviewer.

Some interesting insights are revealed here that to our knowledge have never been officially publicized — definitely worth the watch if you’ve got a half-hour to spare (and can tolerate choppy editing on black-and-white videotape!)

UPDATE: According to our favorite Star Wars bibliographer/historian Bob Miller, this session was taped December 14, 1977, based on Hamill’s mention of “Blue Peter” being taped the following day (which occurred on December 15). Miller was also able to cross-reference the host’s mention of Hamill’s percentage reported in the Evening News, which was published on December 12.

Snagging a Piece of Special Effects History

Pete Vilmur | November 1, 2011

Ever since 1980, when the second issue of an industry magazine called Cinefex gave extensive coverage to the making of The Empire Strikes Back‘s special effects, I’ve pretty much been an fx geek. Setting up models against a blue screen — state of the art for the special effects industry in the ’70s and ’80s — the artists at Industrial Light & Magic would create the X-wing run down the Death Star trench, the snowspeeder attack against the AT-ATs, and the speederbike chase through the Endor forest, to name a few. These set-ups would include the models, the pylons propping them up, stage lights, the blue screen, and of course the camera — items that recently became available in an auction staged out of the old ILM facility in San Rafael, California.

Naturally, as an effects junkie and a resident of the Bay Area, this was destined to be a red-letter day.

Large crate from the ILM stage containing blue screen material

Because ILM has gone almost exclusively digital in the last decade or so, it shed off its modeling division a few years ago, with the new owners inheriting much of the old studio supplies that had served ILM for so long. But with the new studio recently disbanding, all the old lights, cameras, editing tables and booms — not to mention tables, desks, and even the contents of their drawers — were going to the auction block. With hundreds of lots available — several of which were literally room-fuls of stuff — there was a lot to scrutinize.

Pouring over scores of photos depicting the tools that created some of the most memorable effects shots in history, I’d marked about ten items of interest, two of which I and a colleague were ultimately able to win. I didn’t get everything I’d hoped to, but was glad to be able to take home a little piece of history in the end.

Below is a selection of some of the more interesting pieces of last week’s auction, at least interesting to those with a bent for analog-era special effects. To check out the entire list of lots (which are now closed), go here (Note: the photos below are a combination of our on-site photos and those posted by the auction house).

The “Vista Cruiser” motion control head used for Return of the Jedi
(more…)

Drew Struzan Doc Panel at NYCC

Pete Vilmur | September 29, 2011

Drew Struzan, the artist responsible for many of the iconic poster images used throughout the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie sagas, will soon be featured in an upcoming documentary which examines his life, craft and expansive portfolio of film posters.

To celebrate the near completion of Drew: The Man Behind The Poster, a portion of the documentary feature film will screen at the New York Comic Con on October 15, 2011. The presentation will be followed by a discussion with the film’s creators and special guests from the documentary itself, and audience members will be given a limited edition Drew Struzan poster (while supplies last)!

The NYCC screening will take place October 15th at 9pm at the Jacob Javitz Center, Room 1A24.

Drew: The Man Behind The Poster delves into some of Struzan’s most memorable works, including the Back To The Future, Indiana Jones and Star Wars film series, as well as The Thing, Harry Potter, E.T., along with much of the original artwork for the early Muppet films. Stories are told via an impressive lineup of Hollywood talents, including exclusive interviews with, among many others, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont, Michael J. Fox, Alice Cooper, Michael Uslan, Thomas Jane, Sam Witwer, Bob Gale, Leonard Maltin, Carroll Spinney, Greg Hildebrant, Steven Spielberg and, of course, Drew Struzan.

The full feature, which is expected to be completed next month, will premiere at a film festival this coming year.

Read more about Drew: The Man Behind The Poster at the official New York Comic Con website or visit the official movie website.

Western Action Figures Tip Their Hat to Star Wars

Pete Vilmur | January 18, 2011

Star Wars undoubtedly owes the Western gunslinger for helping to shape the characters that populate its universe (see Five Westerns Every Star Wars Fan Should See) — a debt that artist figure customizer Sillof has paid in spades.

A recent update to Sillof’s Workshop includes five entries to his “West Wars” series of custom figures, which marries the Star Wars universe with the design sensibilities of the Old West. From the site:

West Wars is a line of custom figures that continues my experiment of breaking down Star Wars many elements and emphasizing them individually. The original trilogy, especially A New Hope, were influenced by westerns. The dusty small frontier towns, the seedy cantina, the quick draw shootouts, etc. This line is intended to be fully western with no other elements. For further authenticity all the names are actual combinations of historical lawmen and outlaws of the American West.

Head on over and have a look-see (via Super Punch)

Another 1978 “Father” Spoiler Discovered

Pete Vilmur | January 11, 2011

As an addendum to our original post about the “Vader is Luke’s father” spoiler appearing in the April 1978 issue of Little Shoppe of Horrors, Star Wars author Ryder Windham recently sent us a heads-up on another instance of this spoiler showing up in early 1978:

“Earlier today, I found myself perusing the first issue of Future magazine, cover date April 1978,” says Windham. “The issue has a ‘Databank’ feature for ‘News Items from the World of the Present’ on pages 6-7, and includes this entry for Star Wars…”

“In the realm of the Wars, George Lucas has approached all of the original film’s principals, including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Dave Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker. Noted SF author Leigh Brackett has been approached with the task of writing the screenplay for the big-budgeted sequel. One of the key elements in the second script may be the origin of the Dark Lord, Darth Vader. One version of his life being considered for the forthcoming production will reveal a young, handsome Darth turning rogue Jedi, killing Luke Skywalker’s father and being pushed into a pool of molten lava by avenging angel Ben Kenobi. Darth is so badly scarred that he dons his black armor forever. It serves as a combination exoskeleton and walking iron lung. The second version portrays Darth as being, in reality, Luke Skywalker’s father. After a psychological trauma, Luke’s father succumbs to the darker nature of The Force and allows all that is good within him to die. And rising from the ashes of his soul is Darth, the arch-foe of all that is righteous. Whatever Vader’s fate in the as-yet-embryonic script, the film began pre-production in London in January.”

The first scenario mentioned – the one where Vader is pushed into molten lava by Kenobi – was likely lifted from a Rolling Stone interview with George Lucas in 1977. The source for the second scenario – the father one – is uncertain, unless the reporter was within earshot of Prowse’s comments recorded at the October 1977 Horror Elite Convention (and referenced in our original post).

In any case, that cat was out of the bag by April ’78, although it fortunately didn’t get picked up by the mainstream media, allowing the Dark Lord’s identity — as Kenobi says — to remain safely anonymous until 1980.

Rare “Holiday Special” Backstage Photo Found

Pete Vilmur | January 4, 2011

AP Photo by George Brich

As someone always on the lookout for rare old Star Wars photos, I was pleased to discover Forbes.com’s Geek Beat columnist David M. Ewalt had unearthed a cool old gem from the vaguely-documented “Star Wars Holiday Special” of 1978, which we actually lent a bit of coverage to a couple years ago.

Articles from Nov 17, 1978

While researching a couple of those pieces, I came across a rare Associated Press image of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in photocopied articles from 1978, but couldn’t locate the original in Lucasfilm’s expansive Image Archives (apparently, wire photos were not automatically sent to LFL for approval and/or cataloging). Enter Ewalt’s Geek Beat column, which appears to have located the original shot of Ford and Fisher in a rare backstage moment captured by AP photographer George Brich.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall to hear what Ford is sharing with Fisher before their next Holiday Special take…

Marooned in Space!

Pete Vilmur | November 30, 2010

Replica Prop Forum recently posted a pretty cool find that sheds light on a little-known corner of Star Wars behind-the-scenes history. According to a post by “GKvfx”, A New Hope’s TIE fighters once donned maroon paint, at least in some recently unearthed test shots revealed in the post. The find is further bolstered by supporting images of the TIE pod in The Making of Star Wars book by J.W. Rinzler, also cited in the post.

It’s unclear if the paint scheme was abandoned for practical or aesthetic reasons, but the thought could send shudders down the spine of color-scheme snobs —

Fuchsia paint and chartreuse lasers? Puhleeeeze.

Be sure to check the second page for some rare test shots of the TIEs’ ion engines too.