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

Monday, 31 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE WRONG ROOM!


Ignoring a frightfully rude protocol droid counterpart, Threepio, distracted from his friends, enters a small chamber and soon meets the wrong kind of hidden visitors to Bespin...

To not give the game away about the Stormtroopers presence on Bespin, the voice that asks who Threepio is came from an unknown actor suspiciously sounding like Frank Oz as Yoda, perhaps an unused line of his talking to Luke from the Dagobah filming...


Going all the pieces!



Alan Tomkins and friend at the Elstree workshops, alongside a full-suit Threepio that may have been used in the explosion stunt sequence.

With thanks to Chris Baker for selected imagery. 

Sunday, 30 May 2021

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'THRAWN: ASCENDANCY - GREATER GOOD'


Fresh from his unique victory against the cunning Nakardum race, led by the evil Yin the Benevolent, Senior Captain Thrawn of the Chiss Ascendancy now faces a new set of problems that will test his mettle like never before: two powerful members of the Chiss council once more working together determinedly to usurp the the talented officer's building status of power and ability; further building treachery from several command rank officers in the Expansionary Defense Fleet (motivated by the need to re-establish their family lineage within the Ascendancy), and the urgent need to unravel the mystery objectives being perpetrated against his people by a subtly dangerous new enemy, soon proving themselves as master puppeteers building their forces and plans linked to another mysterious race blessed with powerful abilities similar to those described in 'the Force'. Now more than ever, with darkness and chaos escalating, it looks like the deck of life and war cards have been heavily stacked against our distinctive but resilient tactician...

Building on the previous acclaimed book launching his new trilogy, Timothy Zahn's Thrawn: Ascendancy: Greater Good has deceits, trials and tribulations, power games and heavy duty space conflicts galore. However, unlike book one, its middle section, mostly featuring the unusual alien threat subtly manipulating the Chiss Ascendancy's power-thirsting families from the inside out, sadly felt a bit of a chore to read for this particular reviewer, despite its clear importance in setting up events coming with the series conclusion later in the year. Additionally, Thrawn is more on the sidelines this time out than I would have liked him to be - again, a necessary storytelling move by the author as he guides his dramatic personae into their needed positions on the dramatic chess board). Thankfully, a strong conclusion makes Greater Good ultimately worthwhile as a reading enterprise. From its explosive revelations, I've no doubt that Zahn will go on to deliver another accomplished and unexpectedly surprising finale for the Expanded Universe's most popular character...

AFICIONADO RATING: 'Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts'.... as the old saying goes.7.5 out of 10

Previous AFICIONADO coverage of Greater Good:

https://starwarsaficionado.blogspot.com/2021/04/out-now-thrawn-ascendancy-greater-good.html

Get the Century published UK hardback here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Star-Wars-Thrawn-Ascendancy-Greater/dp/1529101921/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=thrawn+greater+good&qid=1621872367&sr=8-1

Saturday, 29 May 2021

CLASSIC ART: POWERS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS!


The restart of the Star Wars saga post Return of the Jedi in printed fiction couldn't have gotten off to a more exciting and memorable start via the debut of Timothy Zahn's playing within George Lucas's innovative and iconic sandbox. His first trilogy of books, introducing a host of intriguing new heroes and villains, have always been reprinted to great success, most recently as part of the rebranded 'Legends' series post 2015, and deserving of great art covers, particularly so with the evocative trio created uniquely for the Brazilian territory with Heir to the Empire (now celebrating an incredible 30th Anniversary), Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.




Friday, 28 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: 'LANDO'S AIDE'!


Presumably cast by UK casting veteran Irene Lamb, popular UK film and TV actor John Hollis plays the mysterious assistant to Lando Calrissian on Bespin: Lobot. Hollis enjoyed his period working on the film at Elstree (what was to have been a mere week turning to ten during to rearranged studios, additional scenes, and reshoots), and had a good rapport off screen with the very laid back and thoughtful Billy Dee Williams.


A close-up look at the UK built mechanics of Lobot's head band.

Continuity/reference polaroid of Hollis at Elstree. Note the longer neck collar before it was revised.


Being at one with the Bespin computer systems, almost like an android, it is decided by Irvin Kershner to cut Lobot's meagre amount of lines and make the character a mute, making him more interesting by Lando's side. Originally known just as 'Lando's Aide' in the script, the name 'Lobot' is shortened from Lobotomised, a clever reference linked to the character with the unusual computer interactive device attached around the back of his head.

Filming a brief scene in Han and Leia's apartment awaiting Lando's instructions- the set would be given new lighting to look different.



Thursday, 27 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: COSTUMING LANDO!

Early John Mollo costume design ideas for Lando.

Of all the male characters in the original Star Wars universe, Lando Calrissian had to be one of the most flamboyant and fun to create wardrobes for. Academy Award-winning British costume designer John Mollo created the final simple but effective look for the Baron Administrator that was both practical for long shooting days and also visually be both dashing and subtly heroic (Billy Dee Williams, always an ultra smart man, particularly loving the cape he'd wear with his Empire introduction).



Wednesday, 26 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THE MAN OF CLOUD CITY!

Posed publicity image taken circa April/May 1979.

"Well there's an awful lot of Billy Dee in Lando. I'm a pretty charming guy. I don't take myself seriously, and I think that's a good thing." 

"I don't remember any real discussions about how to interpret Lando. They let me go. They trusted my interpretation. There were other concerns they had - all the technological stuff, the blue screen. So it seemed to me they left it to the actors to develop the characters. All the actors had personalities that really worked for what they were trying to convey."

Billy Dee Williams - Star Wars Insider magazine - 2010 





Tuesday, 25 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THREEPIO AT BESPIN...


Put out that he receives less the warm reception from a distracted Lando Calrissian than was given to his human masters, See-Threepio is nonetheless impressed by the new colony that they've arrived in...

Clowning around, but Anthony Daniels still has to remind cast and crew that there is a person inside Threepio.

With the ever-fun Carrie Fisher.



Behind the scenes, Anthony Daniels was worried that Threepio was being seen as too much of an irritant in the lead-up to the film's finale as Irvin Kershner added him to scenes that worked well in generating humour but ultimately left the character with very little to do. Fortunately, the happy presence of Carrie Fisher would be a bonus during the long hours of filming.

There's little time for small talk with near android-like Lobot (John Hollis). A brief deleted scene or most likely a specially posed image on set?

Discussing droid motivations with Irvin Kershner.

Catching-up with the others on the landing platform.


Monday, 24 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: WELCOME TO SANCTUARY!


With the enthusiasm of their generous new host in Lando Calrissian, it seems like our fugitive heroes have evaded the Empire, at least until their eventual rendezvous with the Rebel fleet. Entering the expansive Bespin interior, Threepio soon struggles to catch up with the party, however...

Blackened area to be replaced with a matte painting, though the finished film still shows some of the Hoth background area behind the landing struts!


A moment of humour not seen in the finished movie.


Sunday, 23 May 2021

THE INDIANA JONES 4-MOVIE COLLECTION - COMING SOON ON 4K ULTRA HD!


Ready to blast out from your home entertainment systems with more action, adventure and fun than ever before, the original four box office smash Indiana Jones adventures from the dream team of Harrison Ford/George Lucas/Steven Spielberg come to the UK this summer, finally in uncut 4K HD and with all the great special features you ever wanted!

Whip-crack away to all the details...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1HXEAdsJu8



Official press release info:




Saturday, 22 May 2021

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'THE HEART OF THE JEDI'

Art by Paul Shipper.

Luke Skywalker's past, present and future collide as he must face his ultimate destiny as both a Jedi and a vital member of the fledgling New Republic. But such a tumultuous and important series of events for the former Tatooine farm boy couldn't have come at a worse juncture, just as the Imperial Senate sues for peace with their former enemies and an evil Empire captain threatens to destroy the hard work that such a potential union could bring to the galaxy, of which the death of 'the last Jedi' is amongst his top priorities. 

Set after the events of Return of the Jedi and before the original Thrawn Trilogy of Timothy Zahn, I finally got around to online reading Kenneth C. Flint's 'lost' Star Wars novel, originally to have been published back in the then re-invigorated franchise's publishing reign of 1993 - The Heart of the Jedi, and found it a great read, coming to my attention at a highly refreshing time (in 2021) when today's fiction publishing schedule linked to the saga has become less enjoyable, less innocent and less adventuresome. Yes, Heart is very much an adventure of its time (before the prequels) and (near) place in the Del Rey publishing canon - it's a shame that bad luck saw this book, part of a planned trilogy, resigned to limbo - but the overall story flows well at a brisk, page-turning pace, our iconic heroes are well represented, and there's lots of solid action set pieces and continuity celebrations (plus some fun in-jokes to the Indiana Jones saga too!). 

All in all, it's worth your reading time. Discover it here:

http://www.starwarstimeline.net/The%20Heart%20of%20the%20Jedi.htm


Friday, 21 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: THAT 'OLD SMOOTHIE'!


Making the most of their new star name arrival in Billy Dee Williams and wanting to heighten the romantic tension aspects that Lando brings to the developing relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia, Empire's production team had fun bringing the three actors together for this specially posed publicity image which would have the Bespin landing platform location superimposed behind them.

Thursday, 20 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: FRIENDS REUNITED


Lando's charm offensive seems to work on the Cloud City newcomers, of which Han, in particular, is glad that there are no hard feelings between them after their last encounter...



"You old smoothie..."



Wednesday, 19 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: ENTER THE BARON!



Definitely living up to his reputation as an 'old smoothie', Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian seems to be charm and happiness personified by the time he's finally reunited with Han Solo at Bespin's Cloud City, and especially charmed and enchanted by the arrival of the mysterious 'Leia'.

Behind the scenes images and alternate footage.




All friends now, the past long forgotten...


One of numerous posed images of Billy Dee Williams and Harrison Ford taken at the landing platform set by an assemblage of on-set photographers.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

AN 'EMPIRE' AT 40: HERE COMES THE RECEPTION COMMITTEE


Disembarking the Falcon to a quiet and eerie atmosphere, Han Solo and his party are wary at the reception committee now arrived to welcome them to Cloud City, led by the Baron Administrator himself, Lando Calrissian...

Establishing storyboard showing Lando making his approach to the newcomers.

In order to make up time on the delayed filming schedule (and before Harrison Ford has to return to the US), it is decided, whilst set building is still going on for the Dagobah swamp, that a portion of the Star Wars Stage will be used to create the Bespin Cloud City landing platform 327, with a small area of set (including a long walkway/ entrance area), built around the existing Millennium Falcon, with a huge black backing/blue screen area erected mostly behind it (to be replaced later in the year with a matte painting/model background which will be added in post production). To give the scene further outdoor believability, the stage doors are opened to let in natural light. For several close in shots, with Lando talking to Han and his group, only the bottom half of the Falcon prop is shown (as it was beginning to be dismantled due to Dagobah filming schedule needs), with stills photographer Keith Hamshere, not wanting to give the game away about the set, having to be very careful in his publicity photography taken of the scenes involving the main characters in front of the ship. For the later scenes, showing Leia and her party escaping Bespin, in a firefight with Imperials, the Falcon’s underside would be fitted with pyrotechnics that were detonated during the action (the laser blasts hitting the hull being added on in post production).

Lando, with Lobot and his security aides in an unseen angle shown in an earlier film trailer.

Classic image taken between on set filming scenes.

The landing platform built around the Millennium Falcon prop- note the sky panorama behind its landing struts, and the remains of a Hoth Echo Base background.


A wary Solo goes out to meet his old buddy.





Ford enjoys a little dance clowning on set.

Hamill and Ford have fun with Eric Idle at the star's house during Empire's London filming, whilst Idle was in Tunisia filming Life of Brian.

On the DVD commentary for Empire, Carrie Fisher relates that during some of the London filming, she stayed at a house rented from Monty Python star/comedian/writer Eric Idle. Idle and the Pythons were filming Life of Brian at the time, then on location in Tunisia. Upon return Idle held a small party, including Fisher, his friend Harrison Ford and the Rolling Stones, of which he served them a potent liquor (which the Pythons had been distributing to extras on their film, to help boost morale) referred to as "Tunisian Table Cleaner". They all resultantly stayed up most of the night drinking and having fun. The first scenes shot the next day at Elstree were their characters arrival at Cloud City, which the actress says helps explain why she and Ford were so happy in those behind the scenes footage. Idle is said to be pleased that he had a small hand in how the finished film turned out!

Ralph McQuarrie works on the establishing exterior matte painting at ILM.