Friday, May 22, 2015

Vanity Fair Interviews John Williams & Pablo Hidalgo

By: Benjamin Hart

This month's issue of Vanity Fair Magazine featured a massive article about The Force Awakens, complete with a collection of amazing photos from the set of the film an a lengthy article by Bruce Handy. The article included interviews some of the big creative forces behind Episode VII, including director J.J. Abrams and producer, & Lucasfilm president, Kathleen Kennedy. Since the Magazine hit newsstands Vanity Fair has also been releasing online exclusive interviews Abrams, Kennedy and others. The most recent releases included Handy's chats with legendary composer John Williams, who discusses the process of scoring Episode VII so far, and Pablo Hidalgo of the Lucasfilm story group, who talks about his first Star Wars experience and how he came to work at Lucasfilm.  You can read some Highlights from both interviews below:

Bruce Handy: Now that you’re scoring your seventh Star Wars movie, do you find that you approach the series differently in terms of your creative process compared with other films or series you’ve worked on?

John Williams: Very much so. It’s all a continuation of an initial set of ideas. It’s a bit like adding paragraphs to a letter that’s been going on for a number of years. Starting with a completely new film, a story that I don’t know, characters that I haven’t met, my whole approach to writing music is completely different—trying to find an identity, trying to find melodic identifications if that’s needed for the characters, and so on. Which I do here, but here it’s an extension of something that’s been really organic and continually growing. It’s a very, very different process. That’s really the best analogy I can come up with at the moment so I’ll repeat it: it’s like adding paragraphs to a letter rather than beginning the letter again.

BH: How has it been different working with J.J. Abrams compared to working with George Lucas?

JW: It’s actually very similar. My meetings with George had to do with spotting the film, selecting areas in which music would be played, and pretty much we agreed on all that. He always left me free to write the music. And J.J.’s done the same thing. We’ve had a few preliminary meetings, and I’ve played him some music at the piano, which he seemed to like very much. His latest instruction to me was, “Just do your thing.” Which is giving me a good sense of freedom, a good free swing at the ball. I don’t know how much you know of him, but he is a delightful person. Enormously bright. I’ve been very impressed with him in meetings with a great variety of people. His generalship is assured and warm and inviting and inclusive. If I can say it, he’s a fabulous young man who’s future is so brilliant and so promising. I don’t know how old he is, but he’s a young man to me. [Abrams is 48; Williams is 83.] He’s enormously impressive.

BH: In the new score, aside from the main Star Wars theme, are you going to be reviving any of the themes from the first trilogy which were associated with Luke, Leia, and Han?

JW: There are some scenes where we do make reference to earlier thematic pieces. We haven’t done it yet, but we’re planning to do it. It’s something that I think will seem very natural and right in the moments for which we’ve chosen to do these kinds of quotes. There aren’t many of them, but there are a few that I think are important and will seem very much a part of the fabric of the piece in a positive and constructive way.

Bruce Handy: Tell me about how your job developed.

Pablo Hidalgo: I’ve been here for 15 years now, and I started off ages ago working with marketing as part of the online group that was tasked to build up as a destination for fans to find out what we were up to during the making of the prequels. And as part of the job requirement, it required all kinds of skills that you’d need as a writer, but also expertise to know about the Star Wars I.P. [intellectual property], to know about George Lucas’s own history, to know about Indiana Jones. As it happened, there just became more and more need for that specific expertise, so it just expanded beyond that. I became the kind of go-to guy for any sort of deep Star Wars mythology questions.

Now we’re at this new point in our history where we’re going to have a very production-focused future with [Lucasfilm president] Kathleen Kennedy leading the way. And if we’re going to build onto this franchise, it’s important to know what’s happened in the past, to know what’s been established, to know what George’s intentions were and stuff like that. So I just got more and more roped into this process to the point where I’m now part of Kiri Hart’s story group. Among things that I do is I offer that kind of level of deep knowledge. I’m able to give my two cents when I see something that isn’t tracking, maybe pointing out that, well, you know, that spaceship doesn’t have that capacity or these two planets are closer than the script is suggesting that they are. That kind of deep universe history.

BH: Tell me about how you got caught up in Star Wars in the first place. I assume the first movie you saw was A New Hope.

PH: Yep.

BH: Was that a transformative experience for you? How old were you?

It came out when I was three, so I didn’t see it right out the gate, at least I don’t think so. I think I saw it during the re-release when it was paired up with The Empire Strikes Back. But the funny thing is, it came out when I was so young, and it was such an integral part of your childhood, that it’s really hard to distinguish when it was I first saw it because it was just a solid stream of Star Wars growing up. Like, even if you hadn’t seen it, it was part of the playground growing up. You had the toys. You had the storybooks. You had everything around you. So it was like, in a weird way, I don’t have this kind of lightning-bolt moment when Star Wars entered into my existence. It was just always there.

Also, I grew up in Winnipeg, Canada. And I have a feeling that this kind of mindset of just knowing all this stuff and studying just comes out of—you’ll find a lot of, for lack of a better word, obsessive hobbies coming out of any sort of setting that has winters that last six months. You’ll have people who build elaborate train sets or do a lot of detail-oriented hobbying, and so for me Star Wars just became this hobby. It was a thing that I would draw, a thing that I would do my own stories with, and when they came out with the role-playing game in the late 80s I would do that kind of stuff.

Be sure to head over to Vanity Fair's site to read the full interviews with John Williams(here) and Pablo Hidalgo(here)!



Thursday, May 21, 2015

The SWU Podcast LIVE | 21/05/15

On this episode Chris, Ben, and Dominic play catch up on some of the stories we missed during our Star Wars Celebration coverage.  They discuss the new Lucasfilm fanfare from the digital releases, speculate about the distant future of Star Wars (Sequel, Sequel trilogy and 50th anniversary movies anyone?)  They also get into the latest news including the latest from Kathleen Kennedy, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Ben Mendelsohn.  Plus James Bond as a stormtrooper, what do we expect from Hasbro at SDCC, video game updates.  All this and much more!

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Listen live Thursdays at 9pm EST on Channel 1138  


ILM Celebrates 40 Years With Special Effects Montage

By: Benjamin Hart

In 1975 George Lucas created Industrial Light & Magic with the hope of creating never before seen visual effects for his upcoming movie "Star Wars". Now, forty years later, ILM is celebrating their amazing accomplishments in Episode IV, as well as over three hundred other films they have worked on since then. Earlier this week ILM revealed a one minute long video featuring a ton of different clips from numerous films such as Star Trek, Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Avengers, Jurassic Park and, of course, the Star Wars films, including The Force Awakens. Watch it below:

Source: ILM(YouTube)


World of Color Celebrate the Upcoming Release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens


By Ciaran Duggan,

Yesterday, a video was released on YouTube detailing a recently added segment at the World of Color spectacle in Disneyland Resort California. As articulated on the Disneyland website, the World of Color is:

" Outdoor, 28 minute nighttime spectacular show. This show features projected film clips of an immense water screen in Paradise Bay at Disney California Adventure Park."

These films clips include scenes from the iconic Disney Classics and Pixar Films. However, a new iconic film sequence has been added to the show.

The new film sequence features clips from the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailers. See it here for yourself:

What do you make of the spectacle? Is this going to inspire you to travel down to California again this summer. I sure might!

Sources: Disneyland  & Inside the Magic


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Costume Designer Michael Kaplan Discusses 'The Force Awakens' With Vanity Fair

By: Benjamin Hart

Apart from the incredible photos that were recently revealed, the latest issue of Vanity Fair featured an extensive interview with the creators behind Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Along with it VF has released a series of interviews available exclusively online. One such interview is a very revealing one with Episode VII's costume designer Michael Kaplan.

First off, he talked briefly about his earlier film career, which started with the 1982 classic Blade Runner:

"I learned a lot on Blade Runner, just my love of grit and texture and things being overly aged.... I learned from Ridley [Scott] how great it is to re-use things and make new things out of things that already exist in a way, where you’re kind of not even recognizing the object that you started with. I like digging around in thrift shops and I don’t know if that’s a signature but it’s something that I’ve done a lot in my work. Or maybe it’s just the films that I’ve been on that have required that."

The conversation quickly turned to Star Wars. Here are some highlights from that discussion:

"Did you actually re-use any old Star Wars costumes? Are there like racks and racks of old stormtrooper uniforms in some warehouse up at Lucas Ranch?
We didn’t use anything, but I went up to George Lucas’s archives—huge building—and just spent a day going through sketches and looking just to get the tone of the movie, you know, in my guts and veins so that when I went to London I felt equipped and inspired, which I certainly did.

But the old stormtroopers uniforms would not be usable. Audiences of today have become so sophisticated that a lot of things you could get away with in the past, you can’t anymore. So the new uniforms are much heavier. Also, the action in the film required them to not be “VacuFormed” [like the old uniforms] as those all broke and cracked. These new ones are much more heavy-duty, but they are redesigned, too, they’re not the same stormtroopers.

How did you tweak them?
Everything was a conversation with J.J., of course. He wanted to hold on to the uniqueness and not get too far away from the stormtroopers, keep that iconic look, but still have 30 years of difference. I mean, it would be a little odd to have the same stormtroopers this much later when Leia and Han are so much older.

What other old looks did you update?
I remembered when I saw the original movie I was a little bit confused by the warring factions, because the uniform colors kind of overlapped—both [the rebels and the Empire] had some khakis and olive, and I kind of thought, Now I’m in a position to do something about this. So I made two very, very clean-cut palettes. The Empire is in very cold blacks and grays and metallics and teal blues. The Rebels are in khakis and olives and some oranges—warmer colors. So there are very clear separations and you know who you’re looking at when you see them. Also, the lines of the costumes. The Rebels are kind of wools and natural fibers, cottons, and the Empire is very hard-lined, almost like Thierry Mugler. Very kind of edgy. The haircuts are these three-quarter parts, which were big in the 1930s, so that’s kind of recalling something from the past.

Tell me about designing for Leia and Han and Luke. They’re such iconic characters and they had such iconic looks. Do you reference what we’ve seen in the past, or not at all?
A lot of it had to do with what was right for the story and the action, but a lot of it was also, you know, people have a way of dressing. I wouldn’t really be doing my job if I thought, Hey, let’s redesign this character totally and put them in colors they’ve never worn. It just wouldn’t make any sense. But you also want new, interesting things to look at. You want enough change to be there."

Be sure to read the full interview on!

Source: Vanity Fair 


Kathleen Kennedy Interview With Vanity Fair

By: Dominic Jones

After the cover story and amazing photographs in the latest issue, Vanity Fair has been posting extended interviews with key members of the crew of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens.  Today they posted their interview with Lucasfilm president and The Force Awakens producer Kathleen Kennedy.  While nothing major was discussed Kennedy did share some thoughts on re-capturing the magic of the Star Wars as well as moving the franchise into the future.  Check out an excerpt below,

Bruce Handy: One thing that’s interesting about Star Wars is that, probably more than any other blockbuster-level franchise, it really came out of only one guy’s head. And that guy was probably as much of a control freak as any filmmaker ever could be working on that kind of scale. So how do you make a Star Wars movie without George Lucas?

Kathleen Kennedy: I think that it comes down to one key principle, which is it is extremely important to make it personal. J.J. had to make it personal. Even [writer-director] Rian Johnson, when he moves into Episode VIII, he’s going to have to make it personal. George made it personal. He just made a movie that meant something to him. And I think that's probably the biggest challenge for anybody stepping into this is that they can’t spend a lot of time thinking about what other people are going to think of the movie. They have to come at it from the point of view of, What does this mean to me and what does it have to do with me? Frankly, I don’t think great movies ever get made unless there’s some aspect of that going on between the creator and the story that’s being told. It can only become emotional [for an audience] if it’s operating on some kind of personal passion.

So that's what I've tried to encourage with each of the filmmakers is: “Don’t get too hung up. You already are a die-hard fan. You already respect George Lucas and everything he created inside Star Wars.” Many of the people coming into this franchise know 10 times more about it than I do. And that’s fantastic. Because there is this allure to what George created from a mythological standpoint. It’s not just because it’s a successful franchise—it means something to people on a really deep level. And if you fall into that category of a generation that grew up on the movies, then for those filmmakers it ends up being one of the most meaningful movies in their lives, one that influenced their careers. But now you got to say to that fanboy or that fangirl, “Where are you in all of this?” Because otherwise it is just going to become derivative. And you don’t want that.


New Photo Of Oscar Isaac In Costume On The Set Of 'The Force Awakens'


By: Benjamin Hart

Oscar Isaac is one of our favorites here at the SWU, so we always look forward to hearing from him, and of course, seeing him! A new photo of the man himself dressed as his The Force Awakens character Poe Dameron, has surfaced online. An instagram user posted the photo(above) which shows Isaac wearing an orange jumpsuit, which appears part of his X-Wing flight suit, which we've seen numerous times in trailers & photos(below). Our friends at Making Star Wars speculate that this is an alternate "casual" costume for Poe.

Nevertheless, it's awesome to get looks behind the scenes like this! We look forward to seeing Poe Dameron in action when Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th!

Source: Instagram
Via: Making Star Wars


Brad Bird Explains Why He Turned Down Directing 'The Force Awakens'

By: Benjamin Hart

Back before we knew J.J. Abrams would be directing Star Wars Episode VII:  The Force Awakens, many names were discussed as possible contenders to helm the film. One of those names was Brad Bird, who is know for directing Pixar's The Incredibles(2004) and Ratatouille(2007), as well as The Iron Giant(1999) and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol(2011), among others. In an interview with Yahoo! Movies to promote his newest film Tomorrowland, which is due out in theaters this Friday, Bird revealed that he had indeed been offered the job of directing the seventh installment of the Star Wars saga, but turned it down. "It absolutely was [a tough decision], I'm a huge Star Wars fan," Bird explained. “But there was no way to do that film without junking [Tomorrowland], and we had already gotten George Clooney involved and I was excited about this film. I understand they had to get [The Force Awakens] made, and they would’ve had to push it in order for me to do it."

And when asked if he would be interesting in taking over for Josh Trank on the second Anthology film, Bird said, “Right now I’m writing Incredibles 2, so I’ve got my hands full.”

You can watch the full interview below:

With Brad Bird continuing to work with Disney on films like Tomorrowland, it does leave the door open for him to return to direct a future Star Wars film. With at least one hitting theaters each year for the foreseeable future, he should have plenty of opportunities going forward. What type of Star Wars film would you like to see him direct? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or in Club SWU on Facebook!

Source: Yahoo! Movies
Via: The Bearded Trio


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Clone Wars Strikes Back | Episode 33

On this episode, Dominic and Ciaran are joined by Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, James Arnold Taylor to discuss some of Obi-Wan's greatest moments on the series and the legacy of The Clone Wars, plus some great behind the scenes stories.  Then Dominic and Ciaran break down the Darth Maul/Death Watch arc from Season Five!  They delve into Sidious' motivations, Maul's weakness for family, and the tragic death of Duchess Satine.  Plus Bo Katan, Obi-Wan, and rapid aging on Mandalore.  All this and much more!

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George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, Yoda, and BB-8 featured on the Cover of Wired

By: Dominic Jones

The June issue of Wired Magazine features multiple key figures in Star Wars' past, present, and future on the cover.  The issue will feature a story about the history of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and the cover features many people who have helped innovate ILM and used it to it's potential.  This includes founder and Star Wars creator George Lucas, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams, Episode VIII director Rian Johnson, Master Yoda, and star of The Force Awakens BB-8.   Check it out below,

I have to say, it's really cool to see so many people who are key to Star Wars' success (past and future) together.

Also featured on the cover are Steven Spielberg, Michael bay, Ron Howard, Guillermo De Toro, Lynwen Brennan,  Gore Verbinski, Colin Treverrow, and Duncan Jones (as well as The Hulk, Iron Man, E.T., Davy Jones, and a few others).


Rumor: Third 'The Force Awakens' Trailer to be Released With Pixar's 'Inside Out'

By: Dominic Jones

Could the third trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens be coming sooner than expected?  New reports suggest that a new trailer for the upcoming film was shown during a "Mommy Blogger" event hosted by Disney during which the upcoming Pixar film Inside Out was screened.  The report initiated with Bryan Dean on twitter, whose wife attended the meeting.  He tweeted out the following,
He also quickly pointed out that the fact that they showed the trailer at this meeting does not mean that it will be shown with Inside Out (though it would be natural to assume it would).  Inside Out hits theaters on June 19th.

I'll be honest, I'd be quite surprised if the trailer does hit with this movie.  I wasn't expecting anything new to be shown until D23 in August (or SDCC in July at the absolute earliest).  That being said, the fact that a third trailer exists would explain why there were multiple reports that didn't quite add up about the second trailer.  Don't get me wrong I'm excited to see more, just surprised it would be so soon.

As always this is just a rumor until confirmed or denied by Lucasfilm or Disney.


Rumor: Behind the Scenes Footage Leaked from 'The Force Awakens' Set

By: Dominic Jones

It appears someone has posted a short video that appears to be from the set of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  The video seems to be taken from the set during the filming of a scene, and we will likely the version of this that was actually shot with the professional cameras and from the correct angles in the shot.  The video only shows one take of one scene and isn't very spoiler-y (especially when compared to some of the other, non-video stuff that has leaked).  As always, there is a chance this may be false, but if you are trying to avoid all The Force Awakens spoilers then stop reading now.   This is you SPOILER ALERT!  If you do choose to watch it, please be respectful of those who don't want to be spoiled.
Here it is,

The video shows three First Order Stormtroopers standing in what appears to be some sort of Imperial base.  Then something to the right of the screen explodes and one of the troopers goes flying.  As I said above, it's a very short video.  Furious Fanboys suggest that this scene may have something to do with the sequence in the trailer involving a TIE fighter (which we believe is piloted by Poe and Finn) shooting on stormtroopers in a hangar (see below)

As always, this is just a rumor until confirmed or denied by Lucasfilm or Disney.

Source: YouTube
Via: Furious Fanboys


Hasbro Star Wars Panel at SDCC Announced

By: Dominic Jones

Good news for Star Wars action figure collectors!  The date and time for the Hasbro Star Wars panel at San Diego Comic Con was announced earlier today.  The panel will take place Friday July 10th at 12pm PST in room 7AB.  The announcement was made via the official Hasbro account this morning.
Could this panel be our first look at action figures from Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens?  Hasbro did not show any at New York Toy Fair in February or Star Wars Celebration in April (though there was a tease at the Hasbro booth if you knew what to look for).  This was due largely to the film being so far out and Hasbro and Lucasfilm wanting to hold back on some of the reveals and wanting the figures to be as close to ready as possible before the reveal.  The fact that Hasbro will have a panel at SDCC, after not having one at Celebration leads me to believe that they are finally ready to drop something big!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Lawrence Kasdan Confirms No Lando in 'The Force Awakens', Hints at Future for the Character

By: Dominic Jones

Ever since the original cast announcement for Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, fans have been wondering why Billy Dee Williams was not included as Lando, and if we'd be seeing him in the film.  The Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan recently spoke with Vanity Fair and the Lando question was raised.  Unfortunately Kasdan did confirm that Lando won't be in the film, but he suggested that there was more Lando stories in the future.  Kasdan said,

"Right now, there’s no Lando Calrissian in this movie. But Lando I don’t think is finished in any way, shape, or form."

Many have speculated that Lando may appear in Episode VIII, mimicking how Lando was introduced in the second film of the Original trilogy, by waiting until the second film of the sequel trilogy to bring Lando back.   It definitely sounds like that's a possibility, but keep in mind Kasdan is over seeing a lot more in Star Wars than just The Force Awakens and he could be referring to Lando's recent appearance in the Season One episode of Star Wars Rebels, "Idiot's Array."  And it has also been confirmed that Lando will be returning in Season Two of Rebels, so Kasdan could be referring to that.


Ben Medelsohn Dodges 'Rogue One' Questions

Image via:
By: Dominic Jones

Rumors have been swirling around for several weeks now that Ben Medelsohn has been cast as the villain in the first Star Wars Anthology film, Rogue One.  While many people are pretty certain that Mendelsohn is in, don't expect the actor to confirm anything.  Spin Off Online caught up with Mendelsohn during the Tribeca film festival and asked him about the film.  Here's what he had to say,

Now, I’m sure you’re getting asked about this left and right, but you’re rumored for “Star Wars: Rogue One.”

What’s it called?

“Star Wars: Rogue One.”

Rogue? R-O-G-U-E one?

Yeah, “one” as in the number.

But “rogue” as in a rogue element?

I guess?

I’m just unsure as to all of that stuff, but yes. I’ve heard of these rumors. What delightful rumors they are. I’d be pretty happy if that rumor came to fruition but I can in truth say there is no definitiveness to that rumor. No definitiveness.

Was “Star Wars” something you grew up with?

Yup! Loved it. Loved that.

You know George Lucas is here, at this festival, right now?


Yeah, he’s doing a talk today. Actually, it’s going on right now.

Oh, my God. I’m having a big — that got me like a little nerd, like my film nerd, like — yeah, “Star Wars” is a big deal to me. It was a really big deal for me.

Have you seen the trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”? It just came out yesterday.

No, but I’ve heard that it’s [incredible] … But I’ve got to tell you the people who told me about it were having fanboy meltdowns, like wanted to cry. But I’m pretty excited about, I’m a fan.

And of course because of the casting niche you tend to dominate, people assume you’re going to be a bad guy in “Rogue One.” Do you have any thoughts on that?

As I’ve said, I can tell you in all honesty, I’ve not read any scripts. I’ve been offered nothing. So, they are thrilling rumors and few will be happier than me if they come to pass.

Now, bear in mind that even though this interview is being posted now, it was conducted a month ago at the Tribeca Film Festival. In the time since the interview and the latest reports that have Mendelsohn as part of the cast, a lot could have gone on behind the scenes and Mendelsohn could have signed on for the part.  That's just speculation on my part.  Nothing is official until Lucasfilm or Disney confirms it.

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