CELEBRATING FORTY GLORIOUS YEARS OF 'THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK' AT STARWARS.COM

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: COSTUME DRAMA!


In mourning for both the captured people and culture of Naboo, Queen Amidala's decoy Sabe (Keira Knightley) onscreen wears a funereal black outfit when also apprehended by the Trade Federation within the Theed Palace. However, in costume reference and publicity images showcased here (taken in 1997 and 1999), Natalie Portman would wear the costume in Padme's true guise as the Queen. In total, eleven gorgeous and iconic costumes were crated for Queen Amidala/Sabe for EPISODE I.

Natalie Portman talks EPISODE I:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ra91EqeuYA

"He (George Lucas) gave me an overview of when they'd shoot the three movies and promised me I wouldn't have to miss any school, and he pretty much offered the part to me then. They'd drawn all the queens with my features, even though I hadn't been cast yet. I remember getting excited and thinking, "Hey, that looks like me."

Natalie Portman - US Premiere magazine - June 2002

With thanks to the original Across the Stars costume reference website.






An image from a later posed session for the US Premiere film magazine of 1999. Photo by Nigel Parry.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: ESCAPING THE WATERFALL!


As their Bongo submersible heads towards a waterfall demise, Qui-Gon Jin prepares his friends escape from the vehicle, firing his grappling instrument towards a nearby pier at Theed City. One of the most famous deleted scenes from EPISODE I, filmed originally at the massive water tank facility at Pinewood Studios, London in Summer 1997, alongside a brief location shoot at the gorgeous Hever Castle.





Monday, 29 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: THE SWEET TASTE OF 'VICTORY'!


With such an army at their disposal, it wasn't going to be a long, hard battle for the Trade Federation in winning control of the peaceful world of Naboo- the spoils of war are theirs, for the time being, in this great production painting by Doug Chiang, showcasing the elite Neimoidian leaders.

Intriguingly, this art shows the original facial designs for the Neimoidians that were not used in EPISODE I- for practical filming reasons, and instead applied to EPISODE II's CGI-created flying pests on Geonosis. The idea of the Battle Droids reflecting their masters visages was held over for that film. too.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

EPISODE IX: THE NEW GUY IN CHARGE!


He's had to learn the hard way what it's like to be a leader following in the mighty shadow of the inspirational and courageous Leia Organa. Now, Poe Dameron's cemented role, following the aftermath defeat of EPISODE VIII's momentous Battle of Crait, makes him the unique star of the upcoming all-new lead-in to the eagerly-awaited finale film adventure of the sequel trilogy - The Rise of Skywalker, as Resistance Reborn (from Rebecca Roanhorse) UK debuts, via Century, this November 7th, 2019.

Taking charge on the desert world of Pasaana, in EPISODE IX.

Pre-order here:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Star-Wars-Resistance-Rebecca-Roanhorse/dp/1780899920/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=star+wars+resistance+reborn&qid=1558024458&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr0


Oscar Isaac talks about his work on VIII:
https://www.comicbookmovie.com/sci-fi/star_wars/oscar-isaac-has-some-advice-for-fans-who-didnt-like-star-wars-the-last-jedi-a163192



Saturday, 27 July 2019

ILM CLASSIC IMAGE: BRINGING POWER TO THE REBELLION!


The king of matte paintings when it came to depicting the natural environs of the ice planet Hoth, 'Wunderkid' artist Michael Pangrazio brings to life a shot of the Rebel base power generators for a view ultimately not used in The Empire Strikes Back. (Note the curved tracks towards the generators, from some kind of vehicle we ultimately never saw, or perhaps linked to the location filmed Rebel Tank.) Presumably created to make the generators objective stand out for audiences during the film's major battle sequence, a model (shown below) would instead act as a replacement shot via the telescopic sighting made by General Veers in his AT-AT Walker. Other shots of the generator were achieved by further matte paintings (superimposed onto previously shot second unit location footage) from both Pangrazio and Harrison Ellenshaw.


More on the behind the scenes location and effects filming for the Hoth scenes:
https://www.starwars.com/news/hoth-behind-the-scenes

Friday, 26 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: A VIEW TO TYRANNY...


Despite Queen Amidala's strong words of defiance against the Trade Federation, their legions of droids and weaponry cannot ultimately be repelled. She watches helplessly as her city of Theed succumbs to the enemy in this beautiful scene shot on location at Caserta Palace, Italy in 1997, with some likely ILM visual additions in post production.

Reference image taken of Natalie Portman as Amidala at Caserta Palace, Italy in 1997.

Two of the key Queen Amidala images used for marketing.

"It's very similar (to working on a more realistic drama) but obviously very different. On something like Star Wars, you can find inspiration from any culture, any time period - there are absolutely no limitations. You can use anything from anywhere, and that's fantastic!"

Tricia Biggar - Star Wars Insider magazine - May 2004

EPISODE ONE's costume design:
https://www.starwars.com/video/costume-drama


Thursday, 25 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: INVASION ROAD!


Their transport ships landed and cargos disembarked, thousands of Trade Federation Battle Droids and legion air swarming Droid Fighters now travel across the Naboo plains- their destination for invasion and control: the city of Theed!

Of computer-generating believable, dynamic characters: "The challenge, always, is to bring a performance out of those digital characters. For instance, George (Lucas) came up with this great idea of having the droids react like pigeons. They kind of flock together, and they're not too smart - which eventually causes their downfall."

Dennis Muren - The Making of STAR WARS: EPISODE I book - 1999

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: A CHARMING 'BONGO' RIDE!


It's all just too much for hapless Jar Jar Binks to cope with as he and the Jedi negotiate the dangerous sea depths of Naboo's infamous 'planet core'- an ambitious sequence and a first for a Star Wars movie with EPISODE I's early-on underwater setting- bringing challenges and puzzles that effects supervisor Dennis Muren and his team would enjoy solving through models and CGI.

Preparing the scene with stand-ins Silas Carson, Jerome Blake and John Fensom.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: DANGERS OF THE DEEP!


Travelling through Naboo's planet core is full of dangers, as Qui-Gon Jinn's Gungan 'Bongo' sub is chased by the big-tongued Opee Sea Killer creature, in this terrific production art by Doug Chiang for EPISODE I.

More on the saga's diverse creatures:
https://www.starwars.com/news/designing-star-wars-monsters

Monday, 22 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: SYMBIONT OBSERVATIONS!

Addressing the Gungan council.

Though treated with polite respect, the Jedi are unable to convince the Gungan people, led by the suspicious Boss Nass, to help their human co-inhabitants above surface. Jar Jar Binks remains in trouble from a prior incident, but having owed a life debt, alongside some friendly 'persuasion' from Qui-Gon Jinn, will also travel with the Jedi back to Theed.

The notion of symbiosis between lifeforms large and small in the story is introduced here. This was a concept that clearly interested Lucas when scripting EPISODE I, part of an overall fascination he's always had in the natural world and anthropology since his U.S.C. days. The idea of an underwater civilisation in the saga was an idea originally thought of by Lucas in 1977, in the very early development of The Empire Strikes Back.

Introducing Boss Nass.

"He's got a deep sense of humour, a hero but very menacing. He's greatly respected by the Jedi. But be careful, you don't want to fool with him."

"In this huge studio with klaxons going off, George (Lucas) silenced hundreds of people and then put his face four inches from mine and quietly explained my character eye-to-eye. For me time stood still."

Brian Blessed on becoming Boss Nass - Empire magazine - August 1999

"Brian Blessed brought so much to the character, we hardly needed other references for Boss Nass."

Rob Coleman (Animation Director) - The Making of Star Wars Episode One book - 1999

Ready to depart Otoh Gunga.

"I don't think Ewan had ever seen a blue screen in his life, and Liam (Neeson) certainly hadn't, nor Natalie (Portman)."

Rick McCallum - Empire magazine - 1999

"The first couple of weeks it was very difficult to get into that way of working (against blue screen with things that weren't there). Sometimes you'd be rehearsing with an actor and sometimes not. You'd see a model of what the creature you're doing the scene with will be like - and then everything is taken away."

Ewan McGregor - Online interview - 1999

Sunday, 21 July 2019

CLASSIC INDY: JUST HANGIN' AROUND!


Vogel and his German tank may have gone over one of the mighty cliffs at Alexandretta, but our Indy is still hanging on in there in this deleted moment that would have explained how he once more cheated death, and also seeing in one of the franchise's greatest comedy moments, during the exciting events of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.


Indy makes a miraculous reappearance in a genuine comedy gold moment.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

CLASSIC ART: COMES A GALAXY...


The sweeping magic of the original Star Wars, in all its landmark facets of characters and technologies, is once more beautifully encapsulated in this lovely art from Japanese artist Noriyoshi Ohrai.

Friday, 19 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: A SWIM TO OTOH GUNGA!


A new and unique underwater civilisation awaits our Jedi heroes, following their Naboo native friend Jar Jar Binks to the deep depths of temporary safety within his bubble environment home of Otoh Gunga. A memorable visual moment from EPISODE I, accompanied by equally memorable music from John Williams.


"Otoh Gunga was hard to envision because it was a totally alien world. But even so, George always emphasised that the designs, no matter how alien or outlandish, had to be based on reality. In order for the audience to relate to them, they had to have some tie to our culture and history. The danger in designing an alien society- for which we inventing a history and culture- was that it would be too fanciful and too unreal. Art nouveau has a very distinctive and organic look; and once I had that idea to lock onto, the city became much simpler to design."

Doug Chiang- The Making of EPISODE I book - 1999



Thursday, 18 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: LIGHTSABER DAY!

The big moment has arrived for Ewan McGregor, watched by Nick Gillard and Ty Teiger.

"So we walked down there (to the prop room), and then the props guy came out with this big wooden box... Now I romanticise this meeting, I must warn you... but I remember it was this big wooden box, with padlocks on it, which he unlocked. He said, "Are you ready?" And I said, "Yeah." He opened it up and there was like 9 or 10 different lightsaber handles. It was like going to buy a Ferrari and trying to choose which model you like!"

"There were all different shapes (of lightsabers). I mean, if you look in the film you'll see that Liam Neeson's lightsaber handle is different shaped than mine. I, however, got the first choice, and I got the sexier one!"

Ewan McGregor - Entertainment Tonight web interview - May 1999



"It was an extraordinary kind of moment. I lost myself in it. I got to choose my own lightsaber. It's a sexy one, of course."

Ewan McGregor - Empire magazine - August 1999



Wednesday, 17 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: YOUR WEAPON FOR LIFE!


Having rescued him from pursuant Battle Droids, Qui-Gon Jinn mildly scolds his Padawan learner Obi-Wan Kenobi for not looking after his protective Jedi weapon, its power temporarily unresponsive after swamp water submergence. An early deleted scene and interesting character moment on Naboo which, surprisingly, has not so far been released on DVD or Blu-ray.

This scene would be echoed between Master Kenobi and his own apprentice Anakin Skywalker ten years later, during events of EPISODE II- "This weapon is your life!"

"George was always keen to say that this was a character (Obi-Wan) in development. Because a lot of the time I'd just be behind Liam here, or here... And George would say, "Now listen, this is a character in development, so by the time we get to the second movie..." And I always knew that was the case. But the way he described it was that he was an apprentice Jedi Knight, but he was very straight, very "by the book," and was frustrated by his master, who bent the rules."

Ewan McGregor - Entertainment Tonight TV/Internet interview - 1999

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

HAPPY UK TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY TO 'EPISODE ONE'!

The saga begins today, twenty years ago, for expectant UK fans...

"When I made The Phantom Menace, I knew that I was basically not going down the commercial route that everyone expected. I knew that I was doing it with a nine-year old kid, and everybody said, 'You can't do that. It's got to have Jedi fighting and all this kind of thing everybody wants to see.' I knew I was doing it without the cast from the other films, and everyone was saying, 'You've got to work Harrison Ford into it somehow.' I said, 'It's a Prequel. How can I do that?' And if I'd been doing it in Hollywood they would have done all their market research and said, 'This is the kind of movie you've got to make.' I'm more interested in the story than in whether or not the the film is a commercial success. That made everybody in marketing very nervous, but they did the best (they could.) Since we have to finance the advertising of our films, they do their best to get the tie-ins and do all kinds of things to make sure the film doesn't fail."

George Lucas - BBC News Online interview - 1999



Key plot points selling the film in the US TV campaign of May 1999.

"The fans expectations had gotten way high and they wanted a film that was going to change their lives and be the Second Coming. You know I can't do that. It's just a movie. And I can't say, now I gotta market it to a whole different audience. I tell the story. I knew if I'd made Anakin a fifteen year old instead of nine, then it would have been more marketable. But that isn't the story. It is important that he be young, that he be at an age where leaving his mother is more of a drama than it would have been at fifteen. So you just have to do what's right for the movie, not what's right for the market."

"I'm very sorry they don't like it. They should go back and see The Matrix or something."

George Lucas - Empire Magazine - September 1999

A pre-release group publicity image outtake.

US TV TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg8LcsGbd2E

"I love the fact that kids can go and see it. It's the first film I've made that kids could or would want to see."

Ewan McGregor - Heat magazine - 1999

"It (the film) has an unembarrassed idealism that I liked. It's not ashamed of idealism. Ewan is so cute; he's a total heartthrob. It's also very beautiful, with all the costumes and images. And I play a strong female character. I'm the one everyone works for and takes orders from. I'm in control!"

Natalie Portman - Online interview - 1999

"It's a rollicking great story told very inventively and creatively. I also think that these Star Wars films offer a return to old fashioned values and the ethics of loyalty and truth, integrity and humility. People may not intellectually grasp that but they intuitively feel that they need to see these types of stories that make a complex world easier to comprehend."

Liam Neeson - Empire magazine - August 1999

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: FIRST IMPRESSIONS LAST!


Having stowaway debarked his own Trade Federation ship, newly arrived in the Naboo forest, Qui-Gon Jinn is soon caught in the frightened animal herd caused by the advancing enemy technology. An event that will lead him into an unusual encounter with a lone exiled Gungan, Jar Jar Binks!

Storyboard of Qui-Gon and Jar Jar's close encounter!



"When George and I first started talking about this, he told me to check out Buster Keaton films. His son spoke like Jar Jar at that age, four or five. And George wanted the character to have this child-like innocence."

Ahmed Best - Premiere magazine - June 2002


Early animatic of Jar Jar's original introduction.

His 'mornin munchen' scene was ultimately never developed to full CGI.

"The ability to speak does not indicate intelligence. Now get out of here."

"I wanted to be Jar Jar Binks, I thought I could bring a certain quality to that part, but I guess I just didn't seem funky enough."

Liam Neeson - Online interview - 1999

Monday, 15 July 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: A 'VERY ODD' GUNGAN!

Jar Jar Binks. Hesa back!

"George (Lucas ) made a movie for kids. That was always the idea, and they love it. What hasn't really been explored in all of this is how serious I am about the character. Some people look at Jar Jar as this novelty act, that he's there just to get a laugh. That's just disrespectful to George, to me and to everybody involved in the film. Jar Jar was probably one of the most complicated characters ever to be created in movie history. It was the first time somebody had said, "I'm going to do a completely digitally animated character which looks like and is voice by a live-action actor." That's not easy to do. A lot of work was put into him and a great deal of respect was paid to the character's creation."

Ahmed Best - STARLOG magazine interview (1999)

Early character art from Doug Chiang.

Character studies for Jar Jar by Iain McCaig from 1996.

More character studies.

Ahmed Best talks Jar Jar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoGHuGW6yo4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNYK5lhAzvg


A selection of character maquettes for Jar Jar, as displayed at the STAR WARS IDENTITIES exhibition. Image: Chris Baker.

Jar Jar character introduction TV spot (1999):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG93Ek0Mzr4&list=PLw8ep6cYzDhoQfQavCbfLMa-oyambJX_X&index=7