By: Dominic Jones
One of the big mysteries surrounding Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens is the character Maz Kanata. All we knew up until now is that Maz is a motion capture character played by Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o. Many had speculated that the small creature seen in the centre of the new poster is Maz, which director JJ Abrams confirmed in an interview with Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly.
In the first TV spot for the film, we heard some of Maz's dialogue when she said “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes. I know your eyes.” It turns out Maz has special abilities when it comes to eyes. Not just recognizing others eyes, but also here own. Abrams told EW,
“I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do. I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.”
Abrams also revealed some very interesting details about Maz's backstory,
“Her history is that she was a pirate for a long time. She’s lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole for about a century, and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.”
While her backstory won't be fully revealed in the film, Abrams did promise that those stories would be told in other mediums down the road. Abrams said, “In the movie, you don’t learn these things, but I know that these are things that are coming out in other venues.”
One of the things that makes Maz unique is that she is a motion capture character in a film that is making a conscious effort to have practical effects. Abrams revealed he originally hoped to portray Maz as a puppet, but once the character's role was fleshed it was clear that a puppet wouldn't cut it and motion capture was the best option. They crew then made a conscious effort to make sure Maz fit in with all the practical puppets and costumes on set.
“Maz needed to look and feel and be just like one of those creatures. And given her mobility, and given the role that she played, it became clear that that was one creature where we should use the tool of CG. But the performance was all Lupita. She was there on set, and we did capture sessions afterwards as well, and I can’t say enough about working with her.”
This was Lupita's first motion capture performance, fortunately she had help from an expert in the field. Andy Serkis, who pioneered the motion capture technology as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Caesar in Planet of the Apes, plays Supreme Leader Snoke in the film (another motion capture character) and helped train Lupita in the process.
Lupita told EW,
“The biggest advice he gave me, that was so important to hold on to, is a motion-capture character you develop the same way as any other. You have to understand who the character is and what makes them who they are.”
It's nice to learn a little more about Maz. I'm fascinated by the fact that she is over 1000 years old, making her older than Yoda! I wonder what connection to the Force she might have and how that may differ from what we've seen until now. And what does she see in Rey's eyes?
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