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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

STAR WARS AT 35: CELEBRATING THE CANTINA CREATURES

A terrific rare pic from the official STARWARS.COM Facebook site showing Rick Baker and his 1977 creatures crew (including Phil Tippett and Jon Berg) with the various monster masks used in Cantina alien pick-up photography.

The final sequence may not have ultimately pleased George Lucas, but cinemagoers were delighted nonetheless with all the weird and wonderful alien creatures and humanoids that populaced the Cantina in Mos Eisley spaceport, of which Obi-Wan and Luke popped into to secure the services of a freighter pilot.


At the recent CELEBRATION VI convention in Florida a few months back, one of its true highlights was a look behind the scenes of the classic sequence and its visual creations, celebrating the work done by the brilliant UK and US teams back in 1976 and 1977. Ian Trussler attended the popular and entertaining event and sends us this excellent report on some of the great facts unearthed...




Celebration VI - Behind the Scenes of the Cantina
Hosted by Pablo Hidalgo
Co-host and Panelist - Tom Spina
Panelists - Nick Maley (UK Creature Shop) & Jon Berg (US ILM Effects Crew)
Inside the UK Cantina filming of 1976 at ELSTREE STUDIOS.
Pondo Baba and Dr. Evazan fall foul of Obi-Wan's lightsaber.
On the floor, watched by Kabe (Rusty Goffe or Gilda Cohen?) and the Snitch (Peter Diamond).
Closer in on Kabe and the Snitch as they watch on...

The talk was basically split into four sections in the following order: Nick discussed the UK Cantina shoot, then Jon Berg talked about the US reshoots and inserts. Then a general discussion was held on the Holiday Special Cantina sequence and finally Tom Spina talked about his Superbowl VW commercial that recreated the Cantina.
There was a wealth of information and a vast number of stills shown, many of which were rare and never previously scene.
Some video footage was also shown, including a never before shown test reel. (Read on)
Below I have attempted to group the info from both original shoots.
The UK dummy version of Greedo is readied for his death.
John Stears (full beard) and colleague prepare the dummy Greedo with an explosive charge.
Han Solo prepares to blast Greedo (played by Paul Blake). In the days when Han shot first!
Greedo gets blasted!
Nick Maley -UK shoot
Pam Rose gets made-up as Leesub Sirln by Graham Freeborn...
..and gets to show a little leg in a pause between on-set filming!
A costume test shot of space pilot Bo Shek.
The rodent-like Reegesk (Sadie Edon) poses for a costume test pic.

Nick talked a lot about the fact that the real unsung hero of the UK shoot was Graham Freeborn. Graham was responsible for more than three-quarters of all the UK creatures, in terms of creation and design. Charlie Parker molded all the UK creatures. Nick created the prosthetic for Dannik Jerriko (Ugly Smoker) and this was his first ever on-screen prosthetic. Nick also made the original Walrusman fin hands. He did the foam latex skins for Yoda and the Ugnaughts on ESB. The horns on Greedo were modeled by Graham Freeborn and Nick glued all the warts on the head. There was a lot of recycling going on in both shoots. The hands for Kabe and Reegesk were reused Ape hands from Stanley Kubrick's 2001. The Spacepilot who introduces Chewbacca to Obi-Wan- Bo Shek-wears a costume that was reused from a film called First Men on the Moon, as was Bossk's yellow attire in ESB. (See pics)
Rare shot of the Praying Mantis creature.

Chris Tucker built the Praying Mantis creature, which was operated by Jack Purvis from underneath the creatures skirt, using strings and wires.
Snaggletooth was actually named by Kay Freeborn; she walked into the creature shop one day, saw the mask and said, "that's a real Snaggletooth", and the name stuck.
In the ESB workshop with Stuart Freeborn and team.

In the picture of Suart Freeborn and his team with Yoda from ESB, the names are as follows from left to right: Graham Freeborn, Kay Freeborn, Stuart Freeborn, Bob Keen, Man Waving is Brian the cleaner who was not involved in the film in anyway but somehow got in the pic, Barbara Ritchie, unknown as Nick couldn’t remember her name, Nick Maley & Dave Barclay.
Wendy Midener got sick on ESB and this led to Dave Barclay being more involved with assisting the performing of Yoda.
Nick confirmed that there was never any UK cantina and that it was realised later in post-production by Rick Baker, Phil Tippett, Jon Berg and company…
Jon Berg - US shoot
Two of the great Bith players having musical fun in the Cantina.

Jon confirmed that he played the following creatures: Hammerhead (along with assistance from Phil Tippett), Duros, Cantina Band Member and also the Ghostface creature (Elis Helrot).
The Hammerhead mask and hands in a reference image.
One of the Duros takes a blue milk break in filming alongside the Cyclops.

The Duros costume's spacesuit was reused from Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
The "devil man" mask (Labria) was originally made for an abandoned John Landis project called Schlock. The Cyclops mask (Myo) was also made for another film and then redone by Rick Baker for Star Wars.
A new Cantina alien has emerged- the cowled Braconner Bakiska (slightly obscured behind Brainiac).

Rob Bottin made the Brainiac mask and the costume was a reused one from a B/W Republic movie serial called Spy Smasher.
Jon recalled with great fondness the huge input Laine Liska had to the US Cantina shoot and was visibly moved when describing what a lovely man he was. Liska created and played Muftak, a Cantina band member and the Anvil headed man.
When filming the Cantina Band, so they could get their movements right in terms of the tempo and pace, they played the song Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman on the set. Link to song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2S1I_ien6A
During the talk from Jon Berg they showed the very rare test footage of Walrus Man’s death scene. Pictures of the decapitation scene had previously surfaced via Lorne Peterson's detailed book Sculpting a Galaxy but this was film test footage showing not just the very gory and bloodied head but also that it was designed to twitch as if the nerve endings were still active. It was great to see but understandable why it was deemed too much for the actual movie.
Nick also spoke here about how they filmed reaction to the death of Dr Evazan and Walrusman by Kabe and Peter Diamond's snitch character. (See pics above in Maley section)
Many of our Cantina alien favourites pop up in the 1978 Holiday Special (note orange jacketed Pondo Baba near the Bith band without his mask on!).

A discussion followed as stills from the Holiday Special were shown, and Rick Baker’s work was talked about. Footage was also shown of a US Halloween TV show that used some of Baker’s masks that were in SW and also stills were shown of the Richard Pryor sketch that used the Cantina Creatures. Permission was refused to actually show the video footage itself for some reason.
Finally, Tom Spina talked about his commercial and the tight timeframe his team had to remake the creatures and film it. 

Check out AFICIONADO's previous Cantina features here: STAR WARS AFICIONADO MAGAZINE: CANTINA ALIENS
Star Wars Behind-The-Scenes Images Dissect The Mos Eisley Cantina Sequence | Giant Freakin RobotGiant Freakin Robot

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