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Sunday, 10 May 2015

BEHIND THE SCENES: BLOCKADE RUNNER BATTLERS!

Getting ready to film on the Rebel Starfighter corridor set- Elstree Studios, July 1976. Image: Ann Skinner/BFI.

July 1976. Its a desperate time for the Rebel Alliance against the Empire, and its also a desperate time for writer/director George Lucas in his quest to get THE STAR WARS studio filming competed before a confidence-lacking 20th CENTURY FOX pull the plug out from under him. Three units are now hard at work filming on the discreet lime/white coloured sets hastily created by John Barry and his design department (the main unit headed by Lucas, the second by Gary Kurtz, and a third by Robert Watts), for the movie's exciting opener: the Empire piercing the once security of the captured Rebel Blockade Runner, valiantly held 'till the end by its brave soldiers.

Filming the moment where a wounded Stormtrooper is tended to before the arrival of Darth Vader. Image: Ann Skinner/BFI.
A platoon of Stormtroopers follow Vader through the ship's corridors- a scene cut down in the finished movie.
Imperial Stormtroopers fight on in an extended but ultimately deleted scene.
An unseen angle from the battle. Image: STAR WARS ARCHIVES website.

Script Supervisor and continuity guru Ann Skinner took numerous Polaroids for the filming of sequences set on the Blockade Runner (originally known as the "Rebel Starfighter" in the shooting scripts) which sadly never made it to the BFI's exhibition of her work last year. One colour image showed Threepio entangled in wires (a scene rearranged in post production to later in the film, now set on the Falcon), specifically bearing a hand written confirmation of its original scene number as "Scene 2", there were also two more colour Polaroids showing smoky corridors with Rebel soldiers waiting for action, a B/W shot of Artoo solo in the sub corridor, and 3 B/W Polaroids looking down to a floor angle showing the dead body of Captain Antilles (Peter Geddis) - one without his helmet on and in a different position to the other two shots (presumably a rehearsal). One great B/W Polaroid confirms that additional deleted scene establishing material was indeed shot beyond what was seen on screen, especially linked to Scene 11 in the script- an eerie, smoky corridor image showing 3 dead Rebel Soldiers unattended in the corridor distance and one further left foreground, before we see Vader confronting Leia.

Vader watches Rebel soldiers rounded up by Stormtroopers. One of numerous establishing moments that didn't make the final cut.
A wiring nightmare for Threepio! Ann Skinner's so far unseen Polaroid was similar to this image.
In an alternate take, the Princess is felled by a stun beam. Leia's skirt would be lower down in the on-screen scene. Image: Ann Skinner/BFI.

According to Skinner's underlined red notes, ILM was originally to have provided the smouldering hole blasted into the side of the ship which Leia is then marched into by the Stormtoopers. Additionally, in the Lifepod Bay, Skinner ILM underlines an explosion "sending dust and debris into the corridor- flames licking at Threepio"- a shot that was ultimately done practically, and differently, at Elstree.

Ann Skinner's costume notes (handwritten) for one of the Imperial Officers: "Black soft peaked hat, black uniform, blue pen tack in breast pocket, black belt, 4 blue buttons in left breast, gun in brown holster on left hip, black gloves (gauntlets on), small box either side of belt buckle-oblong downwards."

With thanks to Ann Skinner and the BFI Special Collections.

More on the Blockade Runner behind the scenes filming: 

STAR WARS AFICIONADO WEBSITE: BEHIND THE SCENES: DEAD MAN TALKING!
STAR WARS AFICIONADO WEBSITE: BEHIND THE SCENES: "MY ONLY HOPE"!

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