One of the highlights of Empire’s Big Screen this past weekend was the chance to see a little more of the Star Wars Blu-ray box set and to talk with two of the ILM crew that worked on the films as well as sit down with perhaps the longest serving ambassador for all things Star Wars, Anthony Daniels.
Dave posted the new Blu-ray set trailer which looks necessarily impressive in its new high definition coat and with the 40 hours or so of extras on the discs this, we are promised, will be the last time we’ll have to buy the films, and having seen it up and running I can am happy to say that it’ll be worth your money.
As we stand bruised but not beaten by the prequels and the special editions there are, in the Star Wars Universe right now, two future projects that hang like twin suns above the horizon: the expected 3D makeover for the entire saga and the recently announced TV Series.Time to stop staring in wonder and get some answers.
I first had the chance to sit down with ILM Digital Artist John Goodson and Visual Effects Supervisor Bill George. They told us a little about the films on the Blu-ray and in particular which of the many variations of the Original Trilogy we would see. “It’s the Special Editions, that’s what George [Lucas] wanted. If you had two films on a disc would have compressed them further. So it’s one film per disc for the maximum resolution,” George said. I asked them if they had a preference and they avoided the question with tact, leaving us in no doubt of their feelings.
Knowing they were both fans of the films I asked what it was like to go back and change the films they knew so well. John Goodson: “I worked on Episode Four and Jedi, so it was mainly the point when they go into Mos Eisley and you see these bigger cityscapes and then on Jedi George came in and said in Jabba’s palace we’re going to have this scene with a rapper so we had to get the blueprints and work out how we could cut a section out of it and fit a new room in. So working on it was interesting, having to juggle all that stuff. And I’ve seen the stuff on the Blu-ray and they used to film all of the art department meetings and on The Phantom Menace we were in this little room in Skywalker ranch, only about five of us at the beginning, and then George would come in and give opinions – some of that is on the Blu-ray. It’s like watching old home movies.”
The pair were asked what they were most impressed with in the extras, George commented, “This is the last time you’ll have to buy anything. (Until the 3D version…) Some of the stuff we saw in the trailer – the models, the maquettes – getting the chance to see all of that is great. Things that aren’t in the film but are part of the film.” Goodson agreed, “Lorne Peterson wrote a book called Sculpting the Galaxy that chronicled a lot of the minatures, but there’s everything here and you have turntables so you can see it properly You get to see all of it, so for people interested in the nuts and bolts you can fill in all kinds of stuff you’ve never seen before.”
When they were asked if they were working on the 3D conversion they told us that they had anticipated the question and had requested to see some of the work in progress footage. A request that was denied. Given that the post conversion process is fraught with danger there is a lot riding on the the success of James Cameron’s return to Titanic and when I told them that I had just walked out of the Fox panel where the had showed some of their 3D Titanic footage their eyes widened. Incidentally the footage shown was very impressive in parts, but seemed a little patchy in others – not surprising as it was unfinished but you can bet that when 2012 rolls around and Titanic 3D is unveiled there will be a number of interested parties rushing to see how Cameron has done. “If any series lends itself to 3D then Star Wars is it,” said George, with Goodson adding “This project is being overseen by John Knoll who is a stickler, and he’ll ensure it’ll be as perfect as possible. There’s too much invested in it.”
As for the TV series the pair understood they were still working on the scripts but they have no idea if ILM will be involved. Someone who has a more definite opinion on this project was the man who has been living in and around Star Wars for the last thirty five years – Anthony Daniels.
Daniels was as gracious and as talkative as his reputation suggested. He dropped in some excellent stories of the original filming such as Lucas’s minimal directing technique and that All Creatures Great and Small actor Christopher Timothy auditioned for the part of Han Solo which would have been very strange to see, but would have worked perfectly if Alan Bennett had been cast as Obi-Wan Kenobi. He talked of the construction of the character – literally and figuratively before running through the potential voices for the C3PO from the Dalek inspired staccato to the famous Brooklyn car dealer voice and revealed how close he came to being vocally replaced until wiser minds convinced George Lucas to rethink. And I can’t publish the story he told us about the moment in Attack of the Clones when C3PO finally got his hands on a gun.
On the TV series he was unsure it was going to happen anytime soon. “I don’t believe that is going to happen in my lifetime. They looked into it, and I think the parameters – the production cost would be so big and very expensive that I think it’s many years off. Now as technology goes forward, and things become quicker and easier perhaps that’ll help.”
The conversation meandered through some very interesting discussion on the roots of the character of C3PO all the way from Greek mythology and the character of Tiresias through to Shakespeare and then ending up in a galaxy far, far away. The value of escapism and the perils of nostalgia were covered and while there wasn’t too much on the actual Blu-ray set but he did tell me to show my two sons the saga in order. I’m hoping there’ll be a No Jar-Jar edit somewhere in the disc options… Oh, and his favourite character in the entire Star Wars universe? Darth Maul. Because he’s a real bastard.
Star Wars: The Complete Saga is out on Blu-ray at the 12th of September. Find out all about it right here.