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.
Posts Tagged ‘Behind The Scenes’
About a year ago, Random House came to us with the idea of creating enhanced eBooks out of the three Making of books I’d written on the original trilogy. Odd as it may seem, a year is not a long time. When possible I made busy forays in the film archives on Skywalker Ranch, where archivist Monica Chin-Perez was invaluable in helping to dig up old reels of 16mm behind-the-scenes footage and 35mm dailies (actual scenes filmed on set by one of the main cameras and subsequently chosen to be “printed”/developed). We had the selected film digitized at Spy Post and then went through another selection period, during which I showed what I found to marketing and PR, and to experts Pablo Hidalgo and Leland Chee, for their feedback. We pretty much all agreed on what was the most interesting material.
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.
When Luke Skywalker stared out at the twin Tatooine suns at the beginning of Star Wars, he had no idea the adventure he was about to embark on, where it would take him, and what legacy he would leave behind. Little did he know he was exactly where he was supposed to be and his “first step into a larger world” was about to be taken. My name is Steve Sabellico and I work in the Business Affairs department at Lucasfilm Ltd. on productions including Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and a little film called Star Wars: Episode VII. Like Luke, my quest was triggered by an event — not the dropping off of droids for sale, but a delivery of a different sort.
Cue fanfare and “Main Title” theme…
There was a panel at a relatively small model show Saturday in the community center of my relatively small town, Petaluma, California, population 57,941. That’s not nearly as small as most semi-rural towns in wine country, but for a guy born in Philadelphia it sure is.
There were about 2,000 people who filled the center all day. The display we had at the Rancho Obi-Wan table attracted folks for the length of the show. There were babies in strollers and grizzled granddads whose lifelong hobby has been building exquisite scratch-built and model kits.
On Saturday at Star Wars Celebration Pablo Hidalgo and creature expert Tom Spina hosted a panel that focused on the aliens of the cantina seen in the original Star Wars movie. They were joined on stage by Nick Maley who was part of the UK creature team and Jon Berg who was part of the US creature team. Pablo said, “We conspired to create a panel that would be the ultimate panel that we would want to see if we were attending Celebration and I think we have come up with something special.”
With Star Wars Celebration VI officially underway, members of the 501st fully deployed throughout the Orange County Convention Center, bringing that extra little something that only fully dressed Imperial Stormtroopers, Sith Lords, and Officers can bring to the biggest Star Wars party yet! (more…)
So with the once every two-years interstellar party that is a Star Wars Celebration kicking off with fans coming from all over (the galaxy…) to Orlando, Florida, one group in particular plays a very prominent, recurring, all-volunteer role in helping to make Star Wars come to life. Among all the featured events, guests, panels, and fan-experiences, any major Star Wars fan knows they have to keep their eyes open for representatives from Lord Vader’s personal detachment of Imperial Troops: the 501st Legion.
In writing these making of Star Wars books, I’ve become more or less adept at interviewing people: actors, heads of department, producers, directors, craftspeople, visual effects supervisors, et al. I’ve had a few people determined not to say a single thing, for fear of offending someone or of letting a secret out of the bag. I’ve spoken to others where all I needed to do was to ask a single question—and then lean back and listen to the stream of consciousness.
There are two things I’ve learned: You don’t need a lot of questions to fill up your time allotment; and, two, it’s important to follow the conversation, regardless of what your questions might be. If Carrie Fisher says something interesting, but doesn’t quite complete the story—and I’ve seen this in lots of published interviews—you can’t just skip to the next question. Simple rule, but it’s important to get to the root of whatever it is they’re talking about. It helps the conversation flow and those tangents often lead to the interview equivalent of El Dorado: an emotional moment or incident heretofore unknown.
And you don’t want to ask so many questions that they get bored or you run out of time. A good interviewer will sense how things are going and tailor their questions accordingly.
In these archival projects, like Making of Jedi, I still prefer interviews done back in the day, preferably while they’re making the film. Under duress people are more honest, in general. I’d say the single most important moment of research occurred about a year ago. I was rummaging through the boxes in the Skywalker Ranch research warehouse—and stuffed on the side of one banal box was more than a hundred pages of interview done with Richard Marquand. After reading it and a little sleuthing, I’ve dated it to November 1982, a few months after principal photography wrapped.
John Philip Peecher wrote the first Making of Jedi book and, as far as I can tell, did only two long sit-down interviews: one with the director, Richard Marquand, and one with the producer, Howard Kazanjian. But when I started researching I didn’t know of the existence of either. Only thorough rummaging, examining every freaking bunch of papers, brought the documents to the light of day—and into the book! Luckily for all of us. Only a fraction of these interviews made it into the first book.
Here’s a fragment from Marquand’s, where he talks, amusingly, about Star Wars and his first meeting with George Lucas: “What I liked about STAR WARS at that point was that it was a totally believable, but absolutely all encompassing myth. It was unlike science fiction where you can always cut holes in it. Also, I just adored the way the story was told. I just loved that way George told the story as the director. If I hadn’t liked it, I would have not said I didn’t like it, but I certainly wouldn’t have told him that I liked it, which I did.”
So a big thank you to whoever stuffed these interviews into a box nearly 30 years ago. At least they weren’t thrown into the trash.
Next blog: I have no idea…
Lucasfilm executive editor J. W. Rinzler is the author of The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones. He is now writing The Making of Return of the Jedi (and really looking forward to finishing it) for a fall 2013 release. You can visit jwrinzler.com for more info.