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

Friday, 31 July 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: FOUND!


"Nice of you guys to drop by!"

The snowstorm is over and our heroes have survived the long night, with rescue truly on the way, in this great angle mixing live-action and model filming. It's unknown whether Harrison Ford played Solo in this shot with the main unit, or if a stand-in wore the costume for later second unit filming, whilst Ford returned to the UK...

Frames from the Norway filming. From the collection of Stefan Bruin.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE SNOWSPEEDERS SEARCH!

Rogue Two's Snowspeeder is part of the dawn search for Han and Luke on Hoth.

Cometh the morning, and a patrol of four Rebel Snowspeeders peels off to begin their high-altitude, scanners-primed search for Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, of which one of the pilots, Rogue Two -Zev Senesca (Christopher Malcolm), has picked something up...

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One of the incredible ILM matte paintings used for the Snowspeeder search sequence.

Location aerial footage for background composite use for the Snowspeeders. Image via Stefan Bruin.

Image: via Stefan Bruin.

Another location shot. Image via Stefan Bruin.

Here's a visual guide to the development of the Snowspeeders from concept art to practical model reality...






Three concept pieces by Joe Johnston




The Snowspeeder takes final form before model and prop construction.

ILM's Steve Gawley at work on the model.

Steve Gawley at work on the Snowspeeder models at ILM.

Early effects model optical composite test image. The shot was one of several sent out for merchandisers/artists reference, especially notable in the Marvel comic adaptations, of which the Snowspeeders had no colouring.

Another early composite test used for vehicle reference.



Numerous ILM blue screen model filming.






Wednesday, 29 July 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: OF SMELLS AND SURVIVAL!


His loyal Tauntaun may have collapsed and died in the snow, but the creature's internal body heat can keep the delirious Luke alive for a short period whilst Han gets the small but sturdy shelter built for a long night...

The idea for this scene presumably came to Lucas after reading about the history of the American West. It was later seen in the hit Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant, where his character did a similar survival trick with a horse to stay alive...




Harrison Ford and a crew member clown around with the Luke dummy on location.


Han uses Luke's lightsaber to cut open the Tauntaun- The close-up shot of it cutting open the creature's belly would be handled later as an insert in post production.




The opening of the Tauntaun's guts would be handled later in production by ILM, using a combination of exotic food stuffs, intestines and meat produce.

The Tauntaun close ups would filmed outside the Finse 1222 ski resort.



Tuesday, 28 July 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: TO SAVE A SKYWALKER!


At last, Han discovers the near frozen form of Luke and is quick to initiate rescue procedures despite the intense cold winds and snow attacking both of them, in another memorable scene filmed during equally intense real life weather at Finse, a location which was temporarily cut off from the outside world due to an avalanche and proved a global news headline-maker for the film's opening period of photography back in Spring 1979.








Monday, 27 July 2020

ROGUE ONE: THE FIRST REBELS!


An unlikley band of heroes, led by a young woman whose formidable spirit, courage under fire, and bonds of family loyalty inspires them on a daring mission against the Empire, beyond anything attempted previously by the fledgling Rebel Alliance. They are the heroes, they are the beating dramatic heart, of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as captured in this great commercial sale art by Joe Corroney.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

EPISODE VII: THE FINN FACTOR!


The Stormtrooper who became a hero, and a hero who got to wield the legendary lightsaber of none other than the mythical Luke Skywalker! Finn, no longer FN-2187, was the ultimate story distraction, in the best way, during The Force Awakens key publicity/marketing, cleverly deflecting us away from the crucial reveal by film's end that it would instead be Rey who'd become the custodian of the Jedi weapon with the next films of the sequel trilogy. Interestingly, by the time of The Rise of Skywalker, Finn has a welcome touch of Force ability about him, emotionally registering the near death of Rey whilst she defeats the Emperor.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE RETURN OF OBI-WAN KENOBI!

Shielding his eyes from blue screen glare, Sir Alec Guinness confers with Irvin Kershner on his return as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Though he'd been sounded out after filming of the original Star Wars in 1976 about returning to the role of the netherworld vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi for a potential sequel, of which Sir Alec Guinness seemed happy to do, getting the venerable and distinguished British actor actually back proved difficult by 1979. Despite assurances and the usual contract/profit negotiations, things weren't truly set in stone for the elder statesman Jedi's return until September 1979, when Guinness filmed his brief scenes for The Empire Strikes Back in a single successful day at Elstree Studios (and superimposed next to Yoda in the finished film sequence on Dagobah- the actor having never met his alien co-star 'in the flesh' until insert filming on Return of the Jedi). Though suffering uncomfortably from a mild eye irritation at the time (shielding his face from blue screen lighting from time to time), Guinness enjoyed meeting George Lucas and catching-up with his former, still enthusiastic young co-star Mark Hamill.



Friday, 24 July 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: A MESSAGE FROM OBI-WAN!

Two ILM storyboards for the return of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Luke Skywalker is potentially on the brink of death in the snow blizzards of Hoth, but his senses in the Force are quickly awakened by the ghost-like apparition of his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, delivering a mysterious instruction to the boy- to go to the Dagobah system and begin Jedi training from the mysterious Yoda!




Thursday, 23 July 2020

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: 'CLOSE THE DOORS...'

Bad news ahead for a waiting, worried Princess...

The night draws in and Leia's worries grow for the men in her life out on the Hoth surface. Threepio and Artoo have so far detected no signs of life outside. Rebel officer Major Derlin and his Lt. assistant inform Leia that nothing can now be done until the morning, when the adapted Snowspeeders can finally begin search and rescue operations. The shield doors to that part of Echo Base must be closed- a moment which brings emotional pain and angry despondency from Chewbacca...


Several shots of a worried Leia



Leia gets less than positive news from Threepio.


Major Derlin (John Ratzenberger) and Cal Alder (Jack McKenzie).

An angry Wookiee cries out for his friend as the shield door closes.

With principal photography on the Echo Base hangar at Elstree now commenced, the programme makers of the new UK BBC TV series The Risk Business, on which the relationship between UK/US film-making is to be examined with their launch programme (to be aired in April 1980), are present for the next few days to capture the sequence being shot and have access to the cast and crew for interviews and see the impressive sets. Michael Rod is the main presenter for the programme.

No strangers to sci-fi/fantasy, John Ratzenberger, playing Major Derlin (his voice semi-dubbed in the film) then living and working in the UK before US stardom with classic sitcom Cheers!, would appear in the likes of popular children's adventures like Warlords of Atlantis and Arabian Adventure, as well as the original two back-to-back made Superman films starring Christopher Reeve. Playing officer Cal Alder (a name given in the Expanded Universe post film release), Jack McKenzie's TV sci-fi credits would include two early episodes of Space: 1999 and, a short time after filming TESB, a third season episode of Blake's 7.


In between filming, Carrie fisher's hair gets some maintenance Sylvia Croft, as captured in the BBC's The Risk Business documentary. 

Peter Mayhew in a break between filming, alongside the remote controlled Artoo on set.


Kay Freeborn gives the Wookiee hair line some assistance.

Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels in rehearsal.


Major Derlin (John Ratznberger).

Ratzenberger and Mayhew clown around on set.

Jack MacKenzie as Rebel Deck Lt. Cal Alder.