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

Sunday, 31 January 2021

THE MANDALORIAN: CARA DUNE - REBEL SOUL!


Alderaanian by birth, and a major player for the original Rebel Alliance by the time of the Battle of Endor, spirited and formidable 'ground pounder' shock trooper Cara Dune delivered payback to the Galactic Empire for the destruction of her home and peoples. But the war is not over, as the building fractions of the surviving Empire are destined to secretly coalesce, and Dune's unique place in the next conflict is re-established in all-new ways. 

An inspired piece of casting for this next chapter of Star Wars storytelling on Disney+ television, and no stranger to physical action, be it as an American Gladiator/ martial arts superstar, or in her role as a lethal spy on the run in Steven Soderberg's all-style modern action thriller, Haywire (where she certainly made an interesting first impression on this writer), Gina Carano is a most welcome continuing presence on the gritty and exciting The Mandalorian


A firm part of The Mandalorian's main cast, in this Season Two publicity image. Series images: Lucasfilm/Disney+.


Going into physical combat mode in an early Season One episode.




A die-hard saga fan, Carano proves a lively and charismatic offscreen presence.




Saturday, 30 January 2021

THE CLONE WARS: HOSTAGE CRISIS!


War and chaos have come to the Banking Clan world of Scipio, as former senator Rush Clovis finds his life and career in tatters from the manipulations of Count Dooku, and now desperately holds his former lover Padme Amidala hostage against the newly arrived Anakin Skywalker, in this memorable and dramatic scene from the finale of the Season Six episode: Crisis of the Heart.

Friday, 29 January 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: WHO'S THAT YODA?

At Elstree, Alan Tomkins measures the potential simian inhabitant of a Yoda costume.

Following on from a chimpanzee being used successfully to bring Battlestar Galactica's electronic 'Muffit the Daggit' to life in 1978, an early idea for the creation of Yoda for Empire was to also use their own trained simian inside some kind of mask and costume. Thankfully, the idea was aborted at a very early stage- animal rights control in TV/movie-making may not have been as powerful then as it is now, but I'm sure someone would have rightfully deemed the idea very cruel and uncomfortable for the monkey.

The simian wears a mask for a test photo.


Thursday, 28 January 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE VISUAL DEVELOPMENT OF 'MINCH YODA' - PART TWO



The look of Yoda continues to evolve, as seen in these important conceptual development images by Joe Johnston, the artist attempting to further lock down the impish quality of the character. Johnston's artwork for Yoda would be provided to Marvel Comics for advanced artist use by Al Williamson in their upcoming special paperback adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back (the character appearing near miniscule on the art panels when seen next to Luke), though a later Summer Special magazine edition, with a later print run by the time of the film's release (and the unveiling of the character proper), would see the Freeborn version of Yoda officially replacing it.



One of the early Yoda designs as seen in the 1980 Marvel Comics paperback adapting Empire. This was revised to the film Yoda for the later printed full size magazine edition.


Celebrating the work of Johnston, modern SW merchandisers Gentle Giant sculptors would release this limited edition version of Yoda that would be similar to his conceptual art.


Wednesday, 27 January 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE VISUAL DEVELOPMENT OF 'MINCH YODA- PART ONE!


Created to replace Ben Kenobi, previously 'killed off' in the original Star Wars (in order to service the plot of what was then a singular film), so as to become Luke's new teacher in the ways of the Force, early illustrations saw Jedi Master 'Minch' Yoda look like a character out of the kind of children's fantasy tales like The Wizard of Oz, or the works of Hans Christian Anderson. As time went on, the character became more alien looking and frog-ish, with its eventual facial features refined by British make-up legend Stuart Freeborn in the UK, at a time perilously close to needed-for-filming at Elstree.


Tuesday, 26 January 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: UNSTABLE RELATIONSHIPS!


It's all getting a bit too cramped in the Millennium Falcon cockpit as Han Solo orders Chewbacca to plug the continually irritating Threepio into the hyperdrive systems for a computer check-up. Thankfully, once alone together, an unstable ground quake has Leia fall into Han's happily convenient arms, much to her seeming alarm and chagrin. 

"Sorry, sweetheart. Haven't got time for anything else..."

Where possible, comedy moments involving Han Solo were improvised by Ford and Irvin Kershner (the director admiring the actor and loving his creativity and keenness to try and do new types of things with the character, as well as introducing more humour. Recalled Peter Mayhew: "Kersh had his own ideas but Harrison would steam in there and say "This is the way it is". He also got a lot more backing from George in what he wanted from the character"). On set blooper-wise, look carefully at the scene where Leia says, “Captain, being held by you is quite enough to get me excited.” You’ll clearly see Harrison Ford discreetly lip- mimicking Carrie Fisher's dialogue to her!! Was this possibly a rehearsal take that got used in the final film? 

Monday, 25 January 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: INSIDE THE ASTEROID 'CAVE'


The Millennium Falcon has now secured itself deep within its asteroid cave hide-out, as seen in these great ILM model shot behind the scenes images... But for how long will they be safe?


Sunday, 24 January 2021

EPSODE IX: LEIA'S LEGACY...


Reunited on the ancient world of Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker guides Rey, despite the shock of her true parentage, back on her destiny-fuelled path as a Jedi Knight- with the help of Leia's rediscovered lightsaber, in this lovely moment from The Rise of Skywalker

Daisy Ridley talks earlier origin ideas for Rey in the Sequel trilogy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ELygTJL8Xg

More:

https://www.indiewire.com/2020/09/daisy-ridley-rey-kenobi-jj-abrams-retconned-1234585188/

Saturday, 23 January 2021

'SOLO': A MAN WITH A PLAN!


As Hollywood rumours surface indicating that some kind of series is now in the early planning stages for Han Solo and Chewbacca at Disney, let's hope that Alden Ehrenreich (seen in this early film marketing image) has an opportunity for involvement alongside the Corellian's original incarnation in Harrison Ford, having done such a prior noteworthy job in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Friday, 22 January 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: VADER UNMASKED!


A disturbed Vader, his helmet having been temporarily removed within his meditation chamber, receives news from a nervous-for-his-life Admiral Piett (Kenneth Colley) about the Falcon's hiding in the asteroid belt.

Dave Prowse played the disfigured Vader in this scene, with make-up applications provided by Stuart Freeborn and his team. Some footage from the meditation scene was shot by Irvin Kershner and possibly by Gary Kurtz too ,with his second unit, for extra pick-ups. In total, popular character actor Colley would spend a week working on the film for his scenes set on the Star Destroyer.

Norman Reynolds concept art for disfigured Vader.

Built on Stage 5, Darth Vader’s meditation chamber included a chair and spherical consoles, plus a mechanized arm that holds his helmet in place- in one memorable scene, David Prowse wears the make-up (provided by Stuart Freeborn's and his team) of the disfigured Vader before being interrupted by Admiral Piett. Kershner shoots the scene carefully, only wanting a small amount of Vader’s destroyed features being shown on screen-he wants the audiences to fill in the blanks as to how horrific the rest of the character’s injuries are. The filmed scene ends differently to the one seen on screen-when Vader says “I want that ship not excuses,” he had dialogue: “How long until you can have Skywalker and the others in the Millennium Falcon before me?” When Veers replies, “Soon, Lord Vader”, Vader then says ominously, “Yes, Admiral…soon.” It would then have cut to the filmed scene with the chamber firmly closing shut, sealing Vader back into his thoughts. 

Close in shot of the disfiguring make-up.

In the filming of the scene, Prowse, knowing his voice was being redubbed, used to make the most of any potential on-set humour, recalling to Starlog magazine in 1980: “When I was wearing the mask on the set, people had difficulty hearing me, so I used to change my dialogue. I’d take a line like, “The asteroids do not concern me, I want that ship,” and change it to, “Hemorrhoids do not concern me, I need a sh=t.” 

As filming continues, Prowse, asked if he reckons Darth Vader keeps fit, replies: “He’s single-minded. You’ve got to be strong to be evil. In any case, the Devil looks after him.” 

Concept ideas for the Vader helmet sequence.

Ralph McQuarrie ideas for the Vader helmet removal sequence

More scene images and behind the camera shots...


Camera rehearsal/lighting test with an unknown stand-in for Dave Prowse, watched by Gary Kurtz.

A crew member assists Dave Prowse and holds the Vader helmet as filming preparations are made.

Prowse as Vader in this behind the scenes shot.

The face mask is lowered as audiences see the disfigured back of Vader's head.

Alternate angle footage.




A nervous Admiral Piett (Kenneth Colley) waits outside Vader's chamber in a deleted scene moment.

Piett finally enters the chamber.


Interesting angle not seen in the film showing more detail of the head support.


UK practical effects created the rotating chair for Vader to face his officer.



Thursday, 21 January 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: CREATING DAGOBAH!

A new realm takes shape at Elstree Studios.

With the idea of location filming having been ruled out for time and practical reasons (though swamps in Florida, as well as other Latin American areas, had been prior checked out), it was decided that the newly built Star Wars Stage at Elstree would be the perfect controlled venue for creating the unusual and visually distinctive bog planet realm of Dagobah, which would not only include massive trees constructs (which could be moved and rearranged so as to be different forest areas), set decorated with huge amounts of foliage and brought-in reptiles of all shapes and sizes, but also needed a swamp lake to house an X-wing fighter prop and a small hut belonging to Yoda. This would prove a huge but rewarding challenge for Production Designer Norman Reynolds and his team, especially as the entire set had to be resistant to the various elements of rain and mud that would be thrown at it, and raised from the studio floor so as to make allowances for puppeteers to maneuver, as they started construction work in mid-Summer, 1979.

Here's a selection of shots showing Dagobah's evolving construction...






Building the pool area that will house the crash-landed X-wing.







The styrofoam-based material hut for Yoda is carved and created.