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

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: POSTER VILLAIN!

Boba Fett flame blasts away in this icon image used for publicity. Though the flame-thrower weapon was originally created to work, animated flames were ultimately added on to this specific image, likely by Ralph McQuarrie.

Following on from his prior and popular duties as poster photographer of selected characters linked to the 1977 release of the original Star Wars, esteemed music photographer Bob Seidemann would return to shoot images of the dangerous new villain Boba Fett for a new and very successful poster/merchandise campaign (via the Factors Inc poster company), taken at a time around, or near after, the character's memorable appearance in The Star Wars Holiday Special (Fett having appeared there in animated form, with a different colour scheme that had been conceived earlier in 1978).


Image used for Empire's merchandising posters in the US. In this shoot, Fett wears the brown gloves also worn during the Kenner figure character shoot. These would be changed by April 1979.

It's likely that another ILM staffer wore the costume for the photo shoot.


Tuesday, 30 March 2021

'STAR WARS - THE BAD BATCH' - COMING MAY 4TH, 2021 TO DISNEY+


It takes all sorts to win a war...

The successor to the beloved, critically acclaimed The Clone Wars animated series, the eagerly awaited adventures of the unusual and battle-driven clone squad known as 'The Bad Batch' looks set to be another action-packed and innovative smash hit for the channel, especially with familiar faces and environments linked to the Original and Prequel trilogy eras mixing together within its epic-looking storytelling.



Monday, 29 March 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: BIRTH OF A BOUNTY HUNTER!

The still-in-development Boba Fett costume (possibly played by an ILM-er Bruce Nicholson) ready for photography on his 1978 Kenner Action Figure character card. Note the characters unused brown layered gloves.

From a Star Wars universe point of view, Fett’s armoured outfit was intended to be worn by squads of supercommandos (also called “Super Troopers” or "Super Stromtroopers") from the Mandalore system. However, Lucas decides that Boba Fett will be the only one in the weapon laden suit appearing in Empire. The costume and pieces, all white, are created at Elstree Studios and sent to the US for camera testing and for its finished colour palette spraying/weathering. Joe Johnston created the final amount of armour and plating for the suit (drawings were finalized for the film costume in June 1978, keeping the armour symmetrical, but painting the pieces in such a way that they appeared to be scavenged from several uniforms (sadly, several distinctive painted markings created by Johnston would be removed from the helmet’s final version-for reasons of visual aesthetics). 

For believability as a battle hardened bounty hunter, Johnston found it important that the costume was realistically aged and lived in: dented, pocketed with bullet holes, and personalized with a shredded cape, braided Wookiee scalps and other trophies. 


Brian Archer works on the Boba Fett helmet, one of several, at Elstree Studios.

Key British background artist Alan Harris tries on the original all white suit at Elstree for reference photography.

Alan Harris wearing the very real and operational flame thrower!


Ben Burtt hosts the first US B/W camera test of the Boba Fett costume at George Lucas's Parkway home in Southern California.


Joe Johnston works on the Fett helmet colour scheme.

The entire Fett wardrobe pieces- note the unused 'eyebrows' on the helmet at this point.


Camera test images with an ILM crewmember.

Another ILM crewmember poses in the costume.

Amongst the items on his person are a range finding mast on the helmet, jet pack, missile launcher, wrist blasters, knee pads with rocket dart launchers on their side, extendible boot tip blades, a flame thrower gas jet on Fett’s left wrist (originally a practical working device, but Lucas decides its too dangerous (as well as being too heavy to carry)), and a cable gun - all these elements/devices add to the aura of a successful, and highly dangerous, bounty hunter. British TV and film actor Jeremy Bulloch was invited to suit-audition for the role of Fett at Elstree by his half-brother Robert Watts, working on Empire as its Associate Producer.



The Boba Costume with the helmet 'eyebrows' and original brown gloves.

George Lucas inspects the evolving costume.

The final revisions to the Boba Fett costume, supervised by Joe Johnston.

A look at the helmet used in Empire and Jedi.


Detailed look at the rocket pack- an image likely from FReturn of the Jedi.


Saturday, 27 March 2021

INSIDE 'THE ART OF STAR WARS: THE MANDALORIAN': "THIS IS THE WAY"!

Image: Christian Alzmann © & ™ 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.


We thought The Mandalorian, now airing exclusively worldwide on Disney+, would be exciting enough seeing its cool lead character Din Djarin at his bounty hunting best travelling the star system on a weekly basis searching for his prey, but the show ultimately went on to being much more than action pursuits and worlds journeying- it also delivered an unexpected and highly satisfying character arc that saw the tough and practical anti-hero ultimately becoming a guardian, friend and even father figure of sorts to the mysterious 'The Child' of the Jedi, a plot element that wildfire-captured the audiences' imaginations and hearts in ways that no one behind the scenes on the show could ever have truly anticipated, despite such terrific pre production concept art of the very special pairing, as seen here from the talented artistry of series regular visionary, Christian Alzmann

Discover and savour the conceptual and production painting worlds of this exciting televisual chapter of the Star Wars saga's all-new, groundbreaking series, a show vividly and spectacularly rendered by a truly versatile and dedicated art team, whose marvellous work is keenly charted via industry veteran and key Lucasfilm insider Phil Szostak's inside his newest, and acclaimed, franchise-related behind the scenes book: The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian, a gorgeous must-have title now available in the UK, published by Abrams.

AFICIONADO launch feature on the book:

https://starwarsaficionado.blogspot.com/2021/02/available-now-art-of-star-wars.html



Get the book here:

The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Season One) written by Phil Szostak, foreword by Doug Chiang (Abrams, £30)

Friday, 26 March 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE DANGEROUS LONER...

Joe Johnston's gunslinger-esque Boba Fett concept art featuring the later discarded helmet 'eyebrows' idea.


As is well known in franchise history, the soon iconic, totally enigmatic, totally dangerous bounty hunter Boba Fett's early genesis came via Ralph McQuarrie's drawing board, worked on as a minor character - a helmeted figure with a single slit eye and a potential Stormtrooper (aka 'Super Trooper'/ 'Super Stormtrooper') variation, created to look like “he’d been through Hell!” The striking illustration quickly caught George Lucas's eye and imagination, ultimately leading to Fett's metamorphosing into the Star Wars equivalent of a 'spaghetti western' type bounty hunter figure, another of 'the man with no name' types pioneered onscreen in that genre by movie star legend Clint Eastwood, though a more lethal opponent in his capture missions. Though Fett indeed moved to being a forefront character for Star Wars II, he'd first be showcased via the memorable animated segment of 1978's The Star Wars Holiday Special, albeit with a largely different costume paint scheme than the one he'd ultimately wear on film by 1980.  


A very Samurai Warrior-esque idea from Ralph McQuarrie, almost Darth Vader-ish. One of two McQuarrie art pieces presented here from late 1977 onwards.


George Lucas's instinct for incorporating an enigmatic new villain, who'd been in prior regular employ for Darth Vader, for The Empire Strikes Back (their relationship established within the cartoon segment of the Holiday Special) soon proved a shrewd one, not only within the growing storytelling/character interactions of the saga itself but also as a great way to keep the merchandising and promotional elements of the new franchise fresh and lucrative in the gap between films.

After Ralph McQuarrie's work, the mystery but formidable skillsets of Fett would be refined further by an equally enthused Joe Johnston, resulting in a great deal of time and later expense being spent by ILM with the final locked-in creation of his costume, which would then be turned over to the technicians at Elstree UK for its original basic construction. From there it was then re-dispatched back to ILM, where the basic all-white helmet, suit and appliance (of which several back-ups had also been built) would undergo further refinements, as well as an applied new 'used universe' paint scheme, right up to principal photography for the character by April, 1979. 

Here is a selection of conceptual images from 1977-78 of Fett from his primary visual creator, Joe Johnston, showcasing Fett's lethal abilities...





Graphic designs for the helmet by Joe Johnston. The bottom right idea made it onto the helmet in early costume reference paintwork tests.





Thursday, 25 March 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD!


Despite the serious nature of the scene and its important revelations about the Skywalker lineage, Mark Hamill still finds time to clown around for the on set photographers during filming of 'the cave' sequence. Though Graham Freeborn's face cast of Hamill had been filmed, it was barely seen on screen for a second or two, with the production team deciding to go with a more straight forward effect of filming Hamill's own face through the mask, the actor underneath the set, for the main reveal.


Hamill happily undergoes a face mask appliance session with Graham Freeborn at Elstree.



A half body cast of Hamill was also created for filming, but seemingly unused?


The ultimately unconvincing head as seen on film. Only the barest moment of it is seen before the use of Hamill's face in the mask.


Wednesday, 24 March 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: VADER DEFEATED?

 


A vengeance-fuelled Luke Skywalker successfully defeats Vader despite his inexperience duelling with a lightsaber. And as the lifeless body of the decapitated dark lord crumples to the floor, his rolling head soon reveals a shocking truth to the boy!

Stuntman Bob Anderson in the costume during the filming of the scene.

Substituting the headless dummy that will collapse on cue.

A light weight dummy Vader constructed by costumes and the on set practical effects department would be propped up and ready to detonate, lose its head and collapse once thrashed by Mark Hamill's swinging lightsaber.


One of the Vader helmets is rolled on the floor to camera, whilst a dummy one explodes to show its shocking face underneath it.

A group of set visitors (merchandise liaisons and public guests) witnessed the filming of this sequence, which soon lead to an apparent leak to a UK national newspaper that was trying to spoil the film's plot, saying, through witness assumption, that Luke would vanquish Vader for the upcoming sequel.
 

Ivor Beddoes storyboard of Vader's helmet opened up (rather than exploding) to reveal Luke's own face underneath.


Tuesday, 23 March 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: LUKE TAKES HIS REVENGE!


In a moment played with supernatural fury, Luke, clearly acting in deep-centred revenge for the death of his father and Obi-Wan Kenobi, takes on the figure of Darth Vader in lightsaber combat. But all is not what it seems. In post production editing, George Lucas had the sequence slowed down to give it further eerie atmosphere (whilst composer John Williams would also later bring-in a rare hint of electronic music to add to the strangeness of the conflict), having liked a similar duelling sequence heightened by that technique in his friend Roger Christian's sword and sorcery short film, Black Angel, a well received first production from the former set decorator that would show alongside Empire in key British cinemas during its original release. 





A selection of behind the scenes images on the small corner set build at Elstree, featuring Bob Anderson within a specially adapted Vader costume that gave him more freedom of physicality of movement and better helmet sight for duelling against Mark Hamill.








Bob Anderson in an adapted Darth Vader costume.