Friday, 23 August 2019


As Watto goes out back with Qui-Gon Jinn and Artoo to find the hyperdrive generator, Padme discovers more about the scruffy yet highly intelligent, life-experienced young human boy who may be a slave, but is nonetheless still a person: Anakin Skywalker.

A couple of extra lines of dialogue were filmed but cut after Anakin sweetly asks Padme if she's an 'angel" from one of the Moons of Iego.

PADME: I've never heard of angels.
ANAKIN: You must be one...maybe you just don't know it.

Images from the screen test of Jake Lloyd with Natalie Portman at Skywalker Ranch.

From a specially controlled worldwide overview of over 7,000 young actors, the search for the actor to play young Anakin Skywalker was whittled down to three American talents (Jake Lloyd, Devon Michael and Michael Angarano) who'd screen test with Natalie Portman as Padme at Skywalker Ranch in early 1997. From this video tape testing, conducted by a table with a selection of junk and electronic props, the cherubic and innocent-looking Jake Lloyd, then best known for his appearance alongside superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Xmas comedy Jingle all the Way, deservedly won the coveted role and captured the hearts of Lucas and the production team.

"I first met Jake (Lloyd) when he was five, and every time I would go to Los Angeles for another casting session I'd bring Jake in again. He had all those elements that I was looking for in the character when we initially met, but he was just physically too young. But as he matured, and as I was getting closer to the date of having to decide on which actors I wanted for specific roles, it just converged. By the time I was ready, he was old enough, and it was perfect."

Robin Gurland - 1999

Jake Lloyd has fun with Robin Gurland and a Millennium Falcon toy during filming.

"It was Jake because he was extremely intelligent, intuitive and had the physical look hands down. He also had a way of saying, thinking and doing that was a little off-centre, you never quite expected what you got from him."

Robin Gurland  - Empire magazine - August 1999

Anakin had a further filmed deleted line to Padme: "You are a strange girl to me."

"Most of the first year of casting was primarily the kid, because we didn't know where we were going to go. Robin (Gurland- Casting Director) went everywhere, she went to France, Germany, England, and all over the States.

We didn't know where the kid was going to be, but we knew we were going to have to look at seven-year olds and track them until they were nine."

Rick McCallum - Empire magazine - August 1999

Robin Gurland on EPISODE I's casting:

Thursday, 22 August 2019



A disheveled boy, ANAKIN SKYWALKER, runs in from the junk yard. He is about nine years, very dirty and dressed in rags. WATTO raises a hand and ANAKIN flinches.

WATTO (subtitled to English from Hutt speak): What took you so long?

ANAKIN (subtitled to English): I was cleaning the bin like you...
WATTO: Never mind! Watch the store.

Star Wars - Episode One screenplay by George Lucas

Jake Lloyd and George Lucas go through the scene.

"I just act like myself. We're both really good at mechanics and pretty good at science. I like to build stuff and so does he. And we both like to talk. It was probably one of the best films I've done."

Jake Lloyd  - Empire magazine - August 1999

Wednesday, 21 August 2019


Junk dealer extraordinaire, Watto!

"No money. No parts. No deal."

The memorable words of the ultimate shady wheeler dealer businessman and flying nuisance egotist Watto, the only alien in town who'll have the T-49 hyperdrive generator that Qui-Gon and his party vitally need for their damaged ship. And accepting Republic credits as payment? Don't bet on it when dealing with Watto, one of the best CGI animated characters of the Prequel saga, given distinctive vocal life by British actor Andrew Secombe, a talent called to work on the film by its then casting director, Robin Gurland, after being made aware of his producing and voicing an animation series for the UK's Channel 4 TV. Secombe would spend three weeks on and off at Leavesden filming the role in mid-1997, with three weeks on location in Tunisia for outdoor scenes that either never made the final cut or were planned for but abandoned.

Art by Doug Chiang.

Two character development art pieces from Iain McCaig circa 1996.

By Iain McCaig.

Anatomic design reference by Terryl Whitlatch.

Close-ups of the ILM reference model.

When asking for more character information, EPISODE I's Animation Director Rob Coleman was originally told by George Lucas that Watto was a native of Tatooine, though this was later changed in the film, and by the time of The Clone Wars animated series, instead becoming a part of the Toydarian race. For EPISODE I the character was to have worn a hat but this extra piece of animation was abandoned until Watto's cameo return appearance with EPISODE II.

"Watto proved a different challenge because of his design-he's got that huge belly! I remember some people at ILM saying because of his wing ratio he'd never fly. I happen to be watching one of the science and nature channels and there as a documentary on bumble bees and a scientist said, "Actually, the wing to body ratio is quite confusing, because technically they shouldn't be able to fly." I went back in and said, "The bumble bee has wings that are too small, so Watto's got wings that are too small. And by the way, his belly's filled with helium!"

Rob Coleman- Star Wars Insider magazine - 2010

The clay reference model of Watto comes to life at ILM.

"The general brief was for an Italian sounding second-hand car salesman. Apart from that I was left almost completely alone, except for the odd direction of "faster" or "slower". George (Lucas) is a man of few words."

Andrew Secombe  - Star Wars Aficionado Magazine interview (conducted with Ian Trussler) - 2006

Wattoo calls in his young 'helper' to front of shop duties.

On set scene positioning for later ILM CGI reference - Leavesden, 1997.

Andrew Secombe on set providing the voice and body reference to Watto, and wearing the character's hat discarded until EPISODE II.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019


Our small band of heroes enter into the unusual and unpredictable world of Tatooine's Mos Espa, a street set specially built on location fifteen miles away from Tozeur, Tunisia (a triumph from Production Designer Gavin Bocquet, his UK team (supervised by Ben Scott), and the sterling efforts of local construction talent), and one that's still around today (thanks to worldwide fan efforts that have helped maintain it). With a myriad of locals dressed and masked as varying background aliens, the exploration scenes would be lens captured in the midst of incredible and physically trying temperatures (reaching on one day up to 132 degrees!), affecting both people and equipment, during two schedule-packed weeks in the Summer of 1997.

"I could have built all of Tunisia on the backlot in England but there is a look, there is a smell, and there is an adventure for us shooting in the desert. And then you have to achieve that quality of light, the extras, the wear and tear of the costumes. And that heat... Even if you don't feel that heat when you see it, it's still a question of being there, of being a part of it. Just the experience of going there is still worth all the effort, both in economic and creative terms."

Rick McCallum - Total Film magazine - August 1999

"None of those sets had tops. We knew what we needed. But if George decided, at the last minute, that he wanted to tilt up more, we'd just slap up bluescreen so ILM could fill in the sets digitally."

Rick McCallum - The Making of EPISODE I book - 1999

Shooting on a day off, Warwick Davis has another fun cameo as a strange Mos Espa vagabond.

"It was very hot! Just very hot! A trench was dug around the shooting location in Tunisia. It was several feet deep, and was dug to keep all of the desert creepy crawlies away from our camp. Snake catchers were employed to patrol the area and make safe any locations. The cast had tents as dressing rooms, it reminded me of 'Lawrence of Arabia', the only difference being that Lawrence didn't have air conditioning in his tent!"

Warwick Davis - TheForce.Net online interview - 1999

"As difficult as it was (filming in the heat of the location), Tunisia was the place that brought back the most memories for me. It looks like Tatooine- it must be Star Wars!"

George Lucas - 1997

A special posed image taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair magazine's world-exclusive coverage of EPISODE I in 1999.

Jira's fruit stand stall.

Out of storage from the Lucasfilm Archive, Luke's Landspeeder from the original Star Wars would be painted green and used for background scenes.

The street set from behind.

"The trick was to have the extras rehearse their scenes without their heads on. When we were ready to shoot the scene, we'd put the heads on and keep the extras under an umbrella, with plenty of water available, until the cameras started rolling. If an extra started to feel uncomfortable, we'd just stop shooting." 

Nick Dudman - The Making of EPISODE I book - 1999

Certain street scenes would be enhanced with digital additions from ILM.

Monday, 19 August 2019


The company he keeps! Grand Admiral Thrawn's alien birthright comes to the fore in the all-new Thrawn - Treason. Promotional art by Two Dots Design. 

We've experienced his unique past (first as a spy for his mysterious Outer Regions based race, exploring the realms of the Old Republic on a mission that would ultimately see him teamed with the legendary Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker; followed years later by his 'discovery' and adoption as an Imperial officer with the birth of the Galactic Empire), as well as his present (becoming one of the Emperor's most efficient tactical and strategic geniuses, soon loathed and feared by xenophobe rivals, in charge of an important, game-changing new development in TIE fighter adaptation). Now, discover the ultimate Expanded Universe fan favourite Grand Admiral Thrawn's destiny in the lead-up to the event of Star Wars Rebels history-making fourth season finale, of which the former member of the Chiss Ascendancy finds himself caught in a clash of loyalties to both his own secretive kind and the controlling Empire for whom he has sworn himself to defend.Timothy Zahn's impressive, best-selling Thrawn Trilogy comes to a complex and exciting close: Thrawn - Treason, out now in UK large format paperback, courtesy of Century.

The Emperor is back, and more manipulative than ever.

Here's the publicity blurb:

“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.

Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.

As Thrawn works to secure his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with a dire warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s mastery of strategy must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or fealty to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.

Book excerpts:

Timothy Zahn interview:

Get the book here:


Knowing the potential dangers involved in their search for a new Hyperspace generator, Qui-Gon Jinn and R2-D2 head for the nearby space port of Mos Espa, soon followed by Captain Panaka and Padme Amidala, the latter joining the Jedi in his search, on behalf of the Queen. In a filmed but deleted line, Padme tells a wary Qui-Gon that she's trained in defensive arts.

This was a scene shot on location in Tunisia, 1997, for EPISODE I: the production team and George Lucas returning to that country for the first time since 1976. The full Naboo spaceship would not be built on the site, added onto the filmed shots via model shop work, later at ILM. Only the main ramp, held on a scaffold, was practically constructed on location, matching the prior designed model details at ILM.

Jar Jar was obviously in this scene but added on later in post production. An additional insert shot of the Gungan unhappy with the sun was filmed with Ahmed Best and Liam Neeson during a later batch of principal photography, completed on the backlot at Leavesden Studios.

The exterior ramp would be a life saver for the location filming in Tunisia, after a freak storm wrecked the Mos Espa outdoor set, though Lucas himself ultimately considered the event a good omen for the film - a similar flooding event having happened in March 1976, on the original Star Wars. With some rescheduling, barely little time was lost in the filming schedule as scenes would instead be allocated to the unaffected ramp/scaffold.

George Lucas poses with the scaffold set in the background.

Sunday, 18 August 2019


'Lifting rocks' - two words Rey early on naively believed to be associated with the power of the Force, yet soon a fact when she has to liberate her trapped friends on Crait via her near fully developed skills, during an ironic and memorable finale scene to The Last Jedi.


Now arrived on Tatooine, and as Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts an analysis of the damaged hyperdrive, Qui-Gon Jinn, with trusty Artoo Detoo following close behind, enters the Naboo Royal cruiser's hold exit ramp, having just convinced a sceptical and unwilling Jar Jar Binks to accompany him to the nearby dwellings of Mos Espa- so as to make their overall presence as strangers less obvious. A scene ultimately deleted for pace reasons.

Saturday, 17 August 2019


The Empire has arrived to shatter the secret, peaceful existence she once shared with her mama and papa on the cold but liveable world of Lah'mu. Now, young Jyn Erso runs for her life, away from dark pursuers, to a potential lonely existence, during this memorable moment filmed in Iceland for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.


The hyperdrive damaged Naboo Royal Cruiser touches down on the outskirts of Tatooine's Mos Espa city. A new adventure awaits our heroes as they search for replacement hyperdrive- a search within a hostile wilderness, with an also hostile populace of sorts.

In the wilderness, and in the company of a Bantha colony, as seen in the first EPISODE I trailer of 1998.

A classy effects shot containing model miniatures, miniature background and an exterior plate shot in Tunisia in 1997.

The model as seen on the roof of the ILM building in 1998.

The main ramp would also be built as a scaffold set at Tunisia for live action filming matched with the model.