LUKE SKYWALKER RETURNS TO THE GALAXY, FROM DECEMBER 15TH, 2017

ARRIVING IN LONDON, FROM 18TH NOVEMBER, 2016. BOOK NOW FOR THE ULTIMATE 'STAR WARS' EXHIBITION

Saturday, 31 March 2012

ARCHIVE BLOG (2008): "STAR WARS" AND STARLOG MAGAZINE: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN!


I popped into my regular London sci-fi bookshop yesterday (Friday 19th September) to purchase my essential regular reading requirements in the world of science fiction and fantasy and noticed the latest copy of STARLOG magazine-one of my old faithful favorite magazines. On its cover was something that made my heart warm-THE CLONE WARS. Yep, I know, everyone else has in the world of science fiction magazines already done it with covers and inside features/exclusives in the last few months, but there’s always something special about STARLOG when it covers the STAR WARS universe, especially when it has it on the cover-it just makes its place in the science fiction universe a little more important and relevant. I have a huge energy rush of warm nostalgia as well, as this new cover follows a long line of marvellous STAR WARS covers from STARLOG stretching right back to the beginning- to issue seven of the title, way back in 1977 when its first cover boasted the magnificent ILM effects composited image of the TIE fighter firing on the X-wing, with lettering to it’s left proudly beaming out the words STAR WARS, and it’s inside materials providing some of the most comprehensive behind the scenes coverage of that time that you were going to get, against pretty much all full colour spreads -and with so many of the sci-fi/ horror magazines of the time not in full colour, many in black and white only, STARLOG’s wonderful printing of the films photos and artwork showed the film in a terrific visual glory the likes of which magazines like FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and HAMMER HOUSE OF HORRORS magazine just couldn’t deliver. To me, over the last thirty years, STARLOG has almost become quite synonymous with STAR WARS, and vice versa.

Some of the classic STAR WARS covers over the years...





The magazines hasn’t been without it’s difficulties over the years-it’s had it’s ups and downs as the science fiction universe, especially of film, has changed and evolved around it, circulation has dropped and several of it’s sister magazines collapsed like dead flies in the late eighties, and it has faced heavy competition from other junior upstart titles that are a bit more edgy and glossy, but STARLOG has always been one of the best magazines around covering the realms of science fiction and fantasy entertainment in all its mediums-its team of worldwide writers have an enjoyable, lively, award- winning prose-they present the facts without any bias, they present everything as it is with clarity, and they love their work-it shows in all the pages. They’ve never been too controversial, but there’s no BS, nor an overload of opinions like a lot of these modern science fiction magazines, though they haven’t been afraid to venture their opinions from time to time as well. The design of the magazine was, and still is, nicely presented-never over cluttered or dull. STARLOG remains a consistent quality publication. And when it came to coverage of the STAR WARS saga from 1977 to now, we’ve always been well served, and it has always been pretty much unbeatable. It’s behind the scenes material and exclusive interviews (with stars such as Mark Hamill, Dave Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Harrison Ford, Ralph McQuarrie and, from 1982, one of the most in depth and revealing multi part interviews with George Lucas you’ll ever get to find) have been ground breaking –as a reference work to the history of the saga’s making over the years it continues to be superb, alongside some of the rarest colour and black and white photos you can get (and backed up with some very funny comedy skits/ cartoons over the years- a tradition in the magazine that very few other magazines have pulled off anywhere near as well), almost as strong a behind the scenes resource for fans as anything produced from the official LUCASFILM archives. And, even now, it’s one of the few magazines in the world to have ever had a cover and major feature dedicated to the 1978 STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL-think what you like about the programme now, but back then, when I was an eight years old (and STARLOG was quite hard to come by in the UK shops), I was absolutely enthralled by the new images of the Cantina aliens and Bea Arthur on the front cover of issue 19 (I didn’t know who Arthur was-I didn’t care-only that it was the Cantina aliens and that it was new STAR WARS and that was all that mattered, with all the gang of heroes I loved returning) and its behind the scenes feature whetted my appetite to see it even more (we never did get to see it in Blighty, though, and any clip I see on UK TV documentaries of the recent past have always been gladly welcomed, especially in their very good picture quality after years of seeing blizzardy type VHS quality presentations). For many the HS feature was, until the advent of the internet and several excellent resources linked to the show that would arrive in the mid 90’s/ early 2000’s, one of the few magazines to provide in depth info on its making and story. After issue 18, the coverage would continue with EMPIRE and JEDI and then, in 1987, there was the amazing, and now highly sought after, STARLOG STAR WARS TENTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE, followed in Los Angeles that year by the magazines specially organised anniversary tribute convention, honoring the Saga and their special guest George Lucas-an event many remember as one of the best STAR WARS conventions ever put together.

As STAR WARS continued beyond its Tenth Anniversary, to the Twentieth, and then the Thirtieth, so too would STARLOG been there to cover it as a loyal companion, right up until its eventual closure in 2009. Thank you for being so enthusiastic and celebratory to the evolving tapestry of the STAR WARS legacy…

ARCHIVE BLOG (2008): MUSINGS ON A HAPPY "LIFE DAY"!


In EMPIRE, Luke says goodbye to Chewie with a parting gesture previously seen in the infamous 1978 STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL.


George Lucas may hold his arms, his head, his entire body in shame over THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL, but I think Steve Sansweet’s pretty much official comment at JEDI –CON 2008 this year that it will never, ever, be released on DVD, especially during it’s anniversary year, because it’s so bad, was probably both a little harsh, and, on LUCASFILM’s part, a wasted opportunity for making additional revenues on the Original Trilogy-the main breadwinner for the corporation. 


Yes, there are moments where the Special can be cringe- inducingly awful- the Wookiee scenes are too long, Jefferson Starship and Dihanne Carroll!!!, musical numbers, off tangent plotting, and other factors that are too many to mention, but who would have thought LUCASFILM, despite a few measly limited edition STARWARSSHOP.COM trading cards of the animated segment, would have missed it’s marketing potential-at least at the possibility of a DVD release of said animation-which could have been successfully linked to the release of THE CLONE WARS series-imagine the ads for it if it had happened-“the cartoon that inspired THE CLONE WARS!!- I can just imagine the mighty promotional blurb!! With a little bit of extra stuff like trailers, a documentary on the animation, some decent clips from the special thrown in (there are some very good sequences), perhaps clips like Harrison Ford attacking Conan O’Brian over it a few years back, then you’ve got a nice hour length DVD release for $14.95, and a lot of people would be made happy at finally getting hold of the best copy of the animation possible, and the majority of the bootleggers out there selling it may lose revenue that could go to funding future LUCASFILM projects instead (As well as the cartoon, even Ben Burtt, as far back as early 2000, thought THS could have been released officially-stating that it could easily have been truncated down with careful editing).

Boba Fett makes a fine first appearance in the show's enduringly popular animated segment.

Away from a DVD release, I’d love to see THS adapted as a comic book or novel and taken seriously (and not too kiddie orientated like the similarly themed early STAR WARS kids adventure book A WOOKIEE HOLIDAY) – looking beyond the lunacy of my suggestion there’s some good stuff story and ideas wise that I feel could be mined for adaptation-the attempt to break the Imperial blockade to reach Kashyyyk, the siege drama with Chewie’s family, the chance to make the Wookiee planet much more like that seen in REVENGE OF THE SITH. You could have Luke and Leia coming in to help at the end, Vader could be added to the mix in a way far more interesting that that cut scene clip shown in the programme, and you could even weave the Boba Fett animated short into the adventure’s timeline somewhere. You may snigger at my thoughts, but this could be a really nifty and cool addition to the STAR WARS EXPANDED UNIVERSE, improving on what had gone before and might even give it a bit more respectability in Lucas’s eyes..

Business and pleasure in the Tatooine Cantina.
Stan Winston's developed Wookiees make their one and only debut for the special.

Let’s also not forget that, though he disowns it, Lucas came up with the original story for the Special, which begs the question, being from its creator, can it be considered cannon within the events of the STAR WARS universe and between STAR WARS and EMPIRE. Well, despite it’s kooky nature at times, the general story could well be, and I think it’s time some serious thought was given to this-there are lots of times and selected moments where you could assume it was cannon, the look and feel of it is certainly STAR WARS in places thanks to re-used props, costumes, aliens and sound effects, and let’s not forget the concept work and art done for it by Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie (the latter having thoroughly enjoyed the experience of it). And there is further continuity with Chewbacca that continues into EMPIRE (note the way Luke reaches out to Chewie in a gesture of friendship in the Rebel Hangar in the same way Han does in THS-we are assuming that this may have been improvised by Hamill on set (much to Kershner’s delight-he loved improvisation and any attempts to give our heroes more character) in reference to what he remembered for the special-or was it even in the script-either way, the fact that that moment is in EMPIRE makes THS cannon with the film series).

 And then there’s Boba Fett, an official character introduced in THS before returning in the flesh for EMPIRE. This appearance, promoted in THS as being the next villain in STAR WARS II makes THS more legitimate-though any type of THS/STAR WARS cannon continuity relating to him is now damaged circa 1997 onwards- with Fett being in THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL, how come Solo didn’t remember him earlier in Docking Bay 94-as seen in THE STAR WARS TRILOGY SPECIAL EDITION?). 


Mark Hamill on the small hangar bay set with the remote controlled Artoo Detoo.
Princess Leia and Threepio wonder whats happened to the Millennium Falcon.

So, what you think of this debate (or debacle?) on STAR WARS cannon is up to you–me, I’m ready to accept it as part of the live action, and Expanded Universe, STAR WARS in more, but also different, ways than SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE (though, with my love of that first EU book, that is one very healthy debate that can be saved for another time..)-but I hope it gets you thinking more about THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL. And if it’s not going to be released, the worst you can do to celebrate it’s Thirtieth is slip it into your DVD/VHS player and enjoy it for both its good times, and its very bad ones!!!

That finale scene with our Star Warriors!

Celebrate the appearances of our heroes in sequences that are mostly okay for them, revel in Carrie’s singing, have a laugh at the sheer bananas of so much of it. Above all, celebrate a happy life day!!!


Original TV GUIDE ad for the 1978 special.

NOTE: The entire animated segment of THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL was eventually released on Blu-ray in 20122. Thank you, George Lucas and co.


UPDATE 1/7/2012: A dedicated fan has transferred a test clip onto HD. I think the results are pretty good, personally, though they show the low budget sets! Clip: Star Wars: Holiday Special (1978) in 1080p HD! - (Test) - YouTube

ARCHIVE BLOG (2008): WHEN "BIG AL" MET DAVE!



Trawling through the YOU TUBE universe I found this surprising little gem of a clip featuring the late, great Sir Alec Guinness. Promoting his then recent book in the early eighties, Sir Alec, who, in his life, gave very few interviews, actually appeared on THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN! To find that he had appeared on the show surprised and intrigued me-I’m so used to serious interviews with the late actor, and in this clip he seemed to have a lot of fun anecdote wise with a seemingly equally enthused Letterman-for a change the king of US chat seemed to have actually have read the actors autobiographical book being promoted-most of the time you can see that he is just winging it to the sometimes annoyance of his guests!!

Though he doesn’t talk about STAR WARS, anything involving Sir Alec is always worth watching.

Head over to YOU TUBE at: www.youtube.com/watch    

ARCHIVE BLOG (2008): 'STAR'-DUST MEMORIES!



It’s not very often these days that rare STAR WARS interviews with the original cast and crew appear online, so its terrific to let you guys know about, via DIGITALFREAKNYC at ORIGINAL TRILOGY.COM, some excellent clips that have surfaced on YOUTUBE recently. The first couple are from a Miami TV station (WTVJ) programme called MONTAGE that did interviews with the main three cast in 1977 (Fisher-young and lovely-bright and smart, Hamill-still very much the totally friendly, accessible and innocent pup like Luke was, and Harrison Ford, again like Han and very much the enthusiastic, but smart-arse smuggler type-but in the cool way that we liked him for), and in May 24th 1980 for EMPIRE (this, though, feels like a less fun affair and a bit different in tone-with Ford and Hamill, out of the main cast interviews, a bit more serious and, despite their friendliness and the Hope/Crosby comedy routine, do I detect the first stirrings of rivalry between them? Billy Dee is equally subdued but still thrilled with EMPIRE as a finished film, and Carrie is starting to show the wry and funny wit, humour and sarcasm that she’d be famous for later. Anthony Daniels is yet to be the convention guest to be afraid of and Irvin Kershner appears briefly almost like a Zen-type Yoda figure!). The interviewer, who does both segments, may be far more serious than he should be, and at times I felt a little patronising, especially to Carrie in 1977, but they are great nostalgic clips that’ll make you young again.

The third is an anniversary piece linked to the Saga’s Tenth Anniversary in 1987 (at least you guys in the US celebrated-we in the UK pretty much had nothing!!) and talks with all three main stars reflecting about what they felt about the films, as well as a terrific clip interview with Sir Alec Guinness-he may tell the same story about how he was involved in the film, but the final moments when he shows his enthusiasm for STAR WARS are priceless-if only he could have have remained as happy to have been associated with it in later life.

Enjoy, before they are eventually removed by spoil-sport copyright trackers!

STAR WARS:


EMPIRE:


ANNIVERSARY:


ARCHIVE BLOG: SILAS CARSON AT THE F.A.C.T.S. CONVENTION - GHENT, BELGIUM; 11/10/2008

A man of many faces: Silas Carson. Image: Ian Trussler.


By Ian Trussler


The F.A.C.T.S. Convention in Belgium has been running for several years now and gets a wide selection of guests. This year their only Star Wars actor was Silas Carson, a man who has done very few conventions and is a rare signer.

I decided to make the long day trip with the sole intention of meeting Silas, someone whom I had wanted to add to my collection for a long time.

I was not disappointed; Silas was very friendly and more than happy to talk about his career and time on the Prequels. We had a few chats over the course of the day and here is the info I gathered.

To clarify, Silas Carson played the following characters:

Ki- Adi Mundi - Episodes I, II and III
Nute Gunray - Episodes I, II and III
Lott Dod - Episode I
Jedi Cruiser Pilot - Episode I

Silas is the only member of his family that is in the acting business, nobody before him or since has joined the profession. His exotic looks come from his mother who is Indian and father who is Anglo-Irish. Many casting directors mistake him for Moroccan or Middle Eastern and he has been offered many roles in that vain.

Silas as Nute Gunray in EPISODE I.

During Episode I he spent the vast majority of his time playing the part of Nute Gunray, which he described as being very difficult and at times a bit of a nightmare. He told me the animatronic head they used required an off screen operator to attempt to radio control the mouth to lip synch with the dialogue he spoke on set. The mechanics would frequently break down causing delays and frustration. Silas provided the voice for both Nute Gunray and Ki- Adi Mundi. He only played the costumed body of Lott Dod as the voice was done by Toby Longworth. Silas doesn't like to lay any claim to the role of Lott Dod as he didn't do the voice and doesn't sign pictures of that character.

The accent for the voice of Nute Gunray was in fact based on that of Thailand and not Japan as many people mistakenly think. George Lucas had actors from Thailand record the lines of dialogue and then gave the tapes to Silas to mimic. For Ki- Adi Mundi he just used is own voice but made it a bit more stilted. All of the dialogue for Nute Gunray was re-recorded after filming as the on set sound was very poor through the mask.

Silas feels that the fact he provided the voices for his characters had a major part in him being retained for the second and third episodes, unlike Jerome Blake who did not return for Episode II and only did one very small pick up scene as Mas Amedda in Episode III.

Silas as Jedi Ki-Adi Mundi in EPISODE II.

On Episode II, the situation was reversed and he spent more time as Ki- Adi Mundi than Nute Gunray, mainly due to the extensive fight sequence.

With the exception of the Droid Control Ship sequence, Silas doesn't recall any other major scenes of his being deleted. As with all movies little bits here and there get trimmed from scenes but most of what he filmed was used for the whole saga. He was amazed when I told him the deleted Droid Control Ship sequence had been shown on the STARWARS.COM website, he had no idea.

On Episode III he split his time equally between Nute and Ki- Adi as both characters had fairly small amounts of screen time. Episode III is the film Silas enjoyed making the most as it was basically a three month paid vacation in Australia. The production kept extending his schedule yet didn't use him for any extra scenes. Another reason he enjoyed this film was that by this time they had created a brand new Nute Gunray mask which was more comfortable and reliable. For Episode III he recorded all his dialogue before filming and the tracks were used to programme the lip synch on the Gunray mask, making filming quicker and easier.

Although he hasn't been approached, Silas would love to be involved in either of the Star Wars TV shows. He has in fact done a lot of voice work for TV and recently has spent a lot of time voicing many different aliens on Doctor Who.

A sad end for Ki-Adi during the fatal ORDER 66 sequences of EPISODE III.

He enjoyed being part of the Star Wars universe very much, however he didn't particularly make any lasting friendships on the production. He has occasionally run into people at conventions but much of his filming experience was a fairly lonely one with large amounts of time in make up or hidden behind a mask.

He is currently working on a new British TV cop show called "Barclay" and last week auditioned for a part on Holby City, which, if he gets, will see him reunited with his old Episode I co-hort, Hugh Quarshie.

Silas is happy to do conventions and feels that when you do, you should always be positive and friendly to your fans. He disagrees very much with the actors that go to conventions and complain or moan about how they feel they were not treated right or not paid enough and the like.

I have to say that personally, Silas was one of the nicest actors I have ever met in the many years of convention going. He is up there with the likes of Jeremy Bulloch and Dermot Crowley-my other favourite signers.

Many thanks to Silas for being so pleasant to talk to and sharing his memories with me.

Friday, 30 March 2012

CLASSIC IMAGE: DROID-BASHING!


Crashing into the hangar deck of the Invisible Hand Separatist cruiser, Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker make quick destructive work of a legion of enemy Battle Droids in this super angle shot from the opening sequence of EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

GOODBYE, BILL WESTON...

AFICIONADO chief Scott Weller with the late Bill Weston at the 2008 LONDON FILM AND COMIC CON.

The sad news has come in that legendary JAMES BOND/Classic STAR WARS stuntman Bill Weston has died. I was fortunate enough to have met him in 2008 and he was a very friendly and charming man, much liked by his fellow stuntmen and by the community within the film and TV medium.

I'll always remember Bill for his excellent stunt work in the James Bond film THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, for the exciting fight scene his butler/agent character had with baddie Necros in Timothy Dalton's first (of two) films as Bond. He also appeared in the original STAR WARS as a Stormtrooper in the Blockade Runner battle scenes, and in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK as a Nazi soldier in the infamous and classic Tunisia filmed truck chase...

Bill Weston was one of the deadly Imperial Stormtroopers in the opening scenes of STAR WARS.

He will be much missed. Our condolences go out to Bill's family and friends in this sad time...

STAR WARS AT 35: KRIEG DER STERNE!


The basic but enjoyable cover of the first MARVEL comics issue of the 1978 German STAR WARS comic KRIEG DER STERNE. Strangely, Luke Skywalker only appears in the top corner (like in the US MARVEL comics), whilst the Millennium Falcon (looking a lot like the one John Berkey drew for his famous Death Star space battle poster, accompanying the 1977 John Williams FOX album) seems to be firing on a Rebel X-wing.

Ah, those were the fun old days, before established continuity engulfed everything!


With thanks to the COMIC HUNTERS website for the image. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

BEHIND THE SCENES: UNWELCOME WEEQUAY!


One of the braided, fearsome Weequay warriors to challenge Luke Skywalker in the exciting Sail Barge battle above the Great Pit of Carkoon in RETURN OF THE JEDI poses for a few intriguing costume reference photos for LUCASFILM whilst on location in Yuma, Arizona during April 1982. Since ROTJ, the alien race have made several welcome re-appearances in THE CLONE WARS animated series.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

CLASSIC IMAGE: ENEMIES-TO-BE!


Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson pose as Jedi's Anakin Skywalker and Mace Windu, soon to clash laser swords and ideologies in this posed promotional/costume reference image for EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH from 2003 at the FOX STUDIOS, Australia. As an important side-note, the lightsaber fighting stance posed promotional images taken for the film were choreographed by Stunt co-ordinator Nick Gillard himself.

With thanks to Ian Trussler for the image.

Monday, 26 March 2012

ARCHIVE BLOG: BACK TO BASICS

UK movie poster art for the (so far) one and only THE CLONE WARS movie. Image: LUCASFILM/WARNER BROTHERS.

Well, the new CLONE WARS trailer officially aired in the US and on STARWARS.COM this weekend (Summer 2008)-though I'm sure many readers probably saw it when it was leaked from Poland several weeks ago. And it's a terrific trailer, too, packed with action and imagination. My favourite moments are still the Anakin on a Stap, and Ahsoka deflecting laser blasts with her lightsaber whilst atop of an AT-AT as it's going uphill into battle. It's also nice to have the story confirmed, which, in an effective saga binding nod to events in JEDI, sees the return of Jabba the Hutt and his den of vice (great to see the Niktos back as well!!). Additonally, there was other great new stuff on display-the Clone Tropers in action, Asajj Ventress once more fighting Obi-Wan Kenobi, a small bit of Artoo and Threepio, Sam Jackson as Mace Windu (yes, I was right. It WAS Sam the Man!!) and a return to the wonderous vistas that only a STAR WARS film can evoke-no other film or TV series does planets and empires the way STAR WARS uniquely does.


Also launched with the trailer was the theatrical poster proper, and I really like it's simplicity. It's a return to the past, and very reminscent, to me anyway, of the first STAR WARS art poster done by Howard Chaykin back in 1976/77. It's dynamic and exciting, and I love the Republic Destroyers almost blasting outwards above our four Jedi heroes. You may think I'm wrong to say this, but I also like the fact that this film doesn't have an EPISODE number in it's title- like the orignal first STAR WARS it has a unique one off look to it (though, whether that really will be the case is unknown-if it takes off at the box office, I can't believe there won't be more CLONES WARS animated films).

August isn't too far off, people.... 


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