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

ARRIVING IN THE NETHERLANDS, FROM 30/9/17. BOOK NOW FOR THE ULTIMATE 'STAR WARS' EXHIBITION

Thursday, 31 May 2012

CLASSIC IMAGE: CHEWIE'S HUNGER...


Chewie's instinctive interest in food soon gets the Rebel strike team in trouble on Endor, in this light hearted scene from RETURN OF THE JEDI.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

CLASSIC IMAGE: WHAT OBSTACLES?


Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn make a spirited attack through the defensive lines of Nute Gunray's Battle Droids, in their attempt to reach and take control of the Trade Federation Cruiser Bridge, in this action-packed scene from EPISODE I.

Monday, 28 May 2012

BEHIND THE SCENES: THE FALCON'S NEW DESTINATION


Within the Rebel Hangar base interior now disassembled on the then new STAR WARS STAGE at Elstree Studios in July 1979, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK director Irvin Kershner, atop a ladder, checks the available shooting angles, and takes camera reference shots, showing the specially built Millennium Falcon prop on the in-construction landing pad at Bespin (note Production Designer Norman Reynolds occupied with work below Kershner), as the movie's arduous shooting nears its final third.

This image is part of a BBC WALES tribute to STAR WARS 35th Anniversary, and the connections that this part of Great Britain had with the Classic Trilogy film-making during the eighties. Head over to the link here for more: BBC News - In pictures: the secret links between Star Wars and Wales

Thanks to the JEDI NEWS website for the heads up on this.

STAR WARS AT 35: DELETED DROID SEARCH


Imperial Stormtroopers continue their relentless search through the Mos Eisley streets for the fugitive droids holding the Death Star plans, in this deleted scene moment recently shown on the STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA Blu-ray. Another part of this footage, featuring "Little Flash Gordon", would appear in the infamous STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL of 1978.

With thanks to Chris Baker for the image.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

HAPPY 90TH BIRTHDAY, CHRISTOPHER LEE!



Legendary TV and film star, as well as popular singer, Christopher Lee, best known to STAR WARS fans as the deceitful, dangerous and all-powerful Sith Lord and master of the lightsaber blade, Count Dooku, turns 90 today, and we wish him all the best!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'RED TAILS'


Courage has no colour. The cast of RED TAILS. All images: LUCASFILM/MOMENTUM PICTURES.


RED TAILS

Starring Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo

Directed by Anthony Hemingway

A LUCASFILM production, released in UK cinemas via MOMENTUM PICTURES, from June 6th


Reviewed by Scott Weller

Deservedly released to co-incide with the anniversary of D-day, and prior to its pristine arrival on Blu-ray and DVD, the digital theatrical release of George Lucas’s much anticipated movie about the brave African-American Tuskegee airmen of World War II- known by the moniker of their fighter craft RED TAILS-finally arrives on UK cinema screens after much will they or won’t they release the movie here speculation.

It was a long time coming, and there had already been a prior TV movie on the subject matter, starring Laurence Fishburne, which had stolen some of its eventual thunder, but George Lucas’s dream of making this feature film tribute to the heroic airmen, originally stationed in Italy and virtually ostracised and alienated through racial prejudice and bigotry from their fellow war comrades, before they were eventually able to win deserved respect and take part in the first major conflicts against the ever pushing Nazi menace, is finally here, having equally fought its own unfair Hollywood controversies in order to reach THX-certified multiplexes.

Sky Wars! The Red Tails in action!

RED TAILS proves to be an enjoyable, if hardly classic, effort from Lucas, and a film that truly showcases all the best and worst examples of the way that the modern incarnation of LUCASFILM makes movies these days.

Only partially a truly worth-while cinematic endeavour, the project seems to have lost something in its ultimate translation, notably, I felt, in its screenplay adaptation by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder, of which some of the character dialogue unleashed is both poor and often cliché ridden, coming out of the actors mouths as if they were in an equally clichéd pulp 1940’s comic book- a situation that is certainly not something intentional or deserved for an ultimately serious movie subject, yet prescient nonetheless. The project definitely has a TV feel about it, too, that jars with and hurts it at times- sections reminding me of the lightweight historical drama previously inherent within the Young Indiana Jones series (what with some of the same production team here, including producer Rick McCallum at the helm, the always likable Ben Burtt at the AVID editing machine and George Lucas as Executive Producer, a man with lots of TV producer-ship under his belt these days).

David Oyelowo gives a likable performance as pilot Joe 'Lightning' Little.

Young British actor David Oyelowo, most known to UK viewers for his series role in the popular spy drama SPOOKS (or MI5 in the US) and as a ruthless scientist industrialist in the recent acclaimed RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES re-imagining, is creditable and watchable enough as the primary hot shot lead pilot, Joe ‘Lightning’ Little, as are the rest of the younger men in the flight group, whom equally rise above the dialogue as best they can. It’s just a shame they all couldn’t have had a lot stronger story material to work with.

Early posters promote Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard, but ultimately they're not in the film enough.

Excellent character actor Terrence Howard gives the film a solid foundation of dignity and heart where he can in key sequences, though Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr., who lit the fuse to success with the likes of his strong and memorable work in JERRY MAGUIRE, is incredulously under-used and wasted throughout as major Emanuelle Stance, smoking his pipe and popping in and out of the plot to offer advice. It’s almost as if he’s wandered onto the set from another movie!

Other British stars to look out for include ex-EASTENDERS star Robert Kazinsky as an American pilot and Oyelowo’s fellow SPOOKS actor Rupert Penry-Jones, as well as cameos from the likes of emerging TV talent like BREAKING BAD’s Bryan Cranston (recently so good in the sleeper hit DRIVE). And let’s not forget the always-grumpy looking Gerald McRaney playing, yes you guessed it, a grumpy Lieutenant General!

Best known for his work on the iconic TV series THE WIRE, director Anthony Hemingway is not yet of the stature of Spielberg or Ridley Scott in his feature film debut, but RED TAILS is competent enough fare, nicely framed in a kind of old fashioned cinema way that’s not overly flashy or over stylised. There are also a few choice scenes where you can clearly see some of Lucas’ s direction and editorial choices at work within the film, alongside some of the documentary type wide shots prevalent in the first STAR WARS and AMERICAN GRAFFITI.

Want stunning ILM effects work? You got it!

Adding to the script woes, it’s in the editing department in which the film also suffers in key parts, and rumours of the film having problems in that area, with additional re-shoots followed by further re-editing, seem credible. Moments of building drama are suddenly cut short due to selected poor creative choices, whilst certain other scenes plod on. And, despite some of the incredible flying sequences perfected by ILM (brilliant as ever!), of which certain segments are exciting and exhilarating, others seem too busy and outstay their welcome.

To its credit, though, RED TAILS does have a solid overall finale, bringing rewarding closure above what proves to be a very patchwork-like affair. Despite its noticeable faults, this film and its subject matter should never have been overlooked by Hollywood, nor should there have been any doubt about its getting a theatrical release. RED TAILS was made for the big screen and deserves to be shown and judged within that arena, even if in a limited engagement.

Caught in battle: Elijah Kelley as Samuel 'Joker' George.

For American audiences seeing RED TAILS in its release earlier in the year, I think the film would have been a lot more powerful and dramatic if it had been made years before in a different era of US film-making- the late seventies or early eighties, at a time when Lucas was also less seemingly creatively compromised than he is now by critics and audiences who basically have an axe to grind with him over the love ‘em or hate ‘em STAR WARS Prequels. A realistic and just as deserving, hopefully un-PG 13 version the Tuskegee airmen story will, I hope, eventually be made by one of those next generation of Spielberg and Scott wannabes, and I look forward to that. In the meantime, though, this version of RED TAILS, realised by a to-be-commended stubborn and determined Lucas and co., if in a less turbulent, more audience friendly way (ultimately the only scenario for him to get the film made against the backs of a disinterested Hollywood), has its heart in the right place in celebrating the Tuskegee Airmen's triumph over adversity, and is worth a few hours of your time and support at the cinema, even if its not as entirely successful as it could and should have been.


AFICIONADO RATING: 6.5 out of 10

Don't forget to check out the UK RED TAILS FACEBOOK page here: Red Tails Movie and on TWITTER at @RedTailsUk

NEW PROFIT MARGINS! HONDO OHNAKA RETURNS TO 'THE CLONE WARS'

Back to claim the universe: Hondo Ohnaka.

Fans of the Mandalorians and Darth Maul would no doubt have been thrilled by the upcoming epic action scenarios shown in the bootleg trailer for THE CLONE WARS Season Five, which did the worldwide Internet rounds last week, but I was more happy to see the return of another villain-well, more like lovable anti-hero, to the series instead: Hondo Ohnaka, that opportunistic Weequay pirate with the true flying saucer spaceship who's in it for the money and will be in service to goodies and baddies alike as long as the price is right. First introduced at the mid-point of Season One, Ohnaka and his drunk, and often brutishly bumbling, pirate-like buddies were a welcome breath of fresh air from George Lucas's imagination when they were able to capture Count Dooku, and it was great to see the characters, and their pet Kowakian monkey, return for some general baddie-ness/all-round thieving against Anakin and the gang in Lucas SEVEN SAMURAI/Kurosawa inspired episode Bounty Hunters. Heck, an in the past Hondo even managed to tame the wild side of psycho-girl Aurra Sing for a while (no mean feat!), and I loved his classic Season Two finale appearance when, accompanied by her new little pet to groom, Boba Fett, Hondo asked her, "Not mine, I take it?"


Hondo makes new (drugged) drinking buddies of Anakin and Obi-Wan in Dooku Captured.

Hondo fan tribute: Hondo Ohnaka - Discombobulate - YouTube

Glorious stuff. Can't wait to see what he gets up to next!

Weequay Wisdom: The Best Hondo Ohnaka Quotes | StarWars.com

Friday, 25 May 2012

HAPPY 35TH, 'STAR WARS'


Writer/ Director George Lucas certainly looks a glum chap on one of the Death Star sets housed within the confines of London's Elstree Studios, during the early summer of 1976. And he had good reason to be, what with his ambitious new film's malfunctioning props and robots, a crew that wouldn't work over time within a schedule with too many tea breaks, bemused actors and very few friends to rally to his cause. But by the following year, that fateful day today: May 25th, all those problems, disappointments and regrets in Lucas's psyche would be rewarded with the successful and all-defining news that the original, classic first STAR WARS (later to be EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE) would become a resounding worldwide hit-a true phenomenon- that would change his life, and ours, for the better... forever.

Happy 35th Anniversary, STAR WARS!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

CLASSIC IMAGE: 'FILMS' STARS!


I've always loved that classic image of Luke and Leia about to reprise their famous swing across, this time from atop Jabba's Sail Barge, for RETURN OF THE JEDI, exemplified here in an interesting B/W cover crop for the then June 1983 UK movie magazine FILMS ON SCREEN AND VIDEO.

AOTC AT TEN: TO SEE THROUGH THE SITH CLOUD...


A concerned Mace Windu thinks about the future of the Jedi and The Republic in one of the opening scenes of EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES: the film that finally got him out of that Jedi Council chair and hip-deep into lightsaber swinging battle!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

CLASSIC IMAGE: SPEEDER CRASH


Atop his crashed speeder, Luke Skywalker, seeing the oncoming Imperial Walker, reaches out to get some last minute equipment in this classic scene from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, filmed on location in Finse, Norway in March/April 1979. The body of Luke's friend and co-pilot, Dack, within the speeder would be a prop dummy and not actor John Morton.

UPDATE 24/8/15 

TESB's Norway filming historian Martin Dahl has kindly provided this BTS information: "I just spoke to one of the Norwegian extras connected to the shoot, who stood in for John Morton (as Dack). He got placed in the co-pilot seat during this scene as fit the costume perfectly, and a dummy would move unconvincingly when pulled back (as seen when Luke checks on him and retrieves the explosive device)." 

Thanks for the info, Martin!

Monday, 21 May 2012

CLASSIC IMAGE: LITTLE GREEN WARRIOR!


In the war zone that is now the Senate Chamber on Corsucant, Master Yoda prepares for the next round of his intense and epic lightsaber battle showdown with Emperor Palpatine, in an exciting, crowd-pleasing action scene moment from EPISODE III.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

THE LOST 'EPISODE II' PADME SCENE REVEALED?


I think I've finally found out what this missing deleted scene was from EPISODE II, which has beguiled many a fan over the last ten years (and specific behind the scenes EPISODE II crew whom I've contacted, too). If you recall the deleted scenes from the EPISODE II DVD OF 2002, there were several at the Varykino retreat/lake house on Naboo, interiors of the guest house with Anakin and Padme looking at holographic photos of her life and career in the senate and on her home world-this may have been one of those scenes shot for that but ultimately not used. It was definitely a scene filmed at Lake Como-something that Prequel Stunt Coordinator Nick Gillard confirmed to me recently- he recognised the background, but didn't actually see this being shot.

If anyone else has any more info, please get in touch. I additionally contacted Trisha Biggar a while back (no response via her agent), and Leland Chee at LUCASFILM, via his HOLOCRON name TWITTER account, last year but didn't receive any response there, either.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

BEHIND THE SCENES IMAGE: WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE...


Within the hot and confined interior of the Sail Barge interior set at ELSTREE, Carrie Fisher gets ready to film her next scene as Slave Leia to Jabba the Hutt, watched on the far right by smiling Stunt Coordinator Peter Diamond.

Friday, 18 May 2012

BACK IN BUSINESS: THE 'STAR WARS ARCHIVES'


Having undergone another design revamp/facelift, the lovely rare treasures web site area that is the STAR WARS ARCHIVES has reopened its electronic gates for fans to enjoy. Check out some lovely images (and share within their forum), behind the scenes clips and other Memory Lane gems (with more to come as the site continues to update itself) at: StarWarsArchives.com

RAY WINSTONE: EPISODE I's ALMOST BAIL...

Ray Winstone as British triple agent "Mac" George Michale in INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. Image: LUCASFILM/PARAMOUNT.


Fans of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL will remember British actor Ray Winstone as Indy's war-time friend turned baddie in the movie, Mac, but what you might not know is that the popular tough guy British actor was also considered for a role in EPISODE I-that of Princess Leia's adopted father Bail Organa (eventually played by Adrian Dunbar before the part was changed and Organa became the then excised Bail Antilles instead)- when Casting Director Robin Gurland began her 1996/1997 worldwide hunt for actors in the first of the new Prequel films. Unfortunately, Winstone's first meeting with George Lucas didn't go very well, as the actor told the UK lad's magazine FHM in it's October 1999 issue:

FHM: You met with George Lucas for a role in THE PHANTOM MENACE. What happened?


WINSTONE: I met him in a hotel in the West End. I was up for the Princess's stepfather or something. I'd been out the night before, while he'd obviously got jet-lag because all he did was yawn. When I walked in he obviously knew I wasn't right for the part, but instead of saying "Nice to meet you, Ray" and making small-talk, he never looked at me. So I told him, "Why don't we both have a 15-minute sleep and then I'll f++k off." Then again, that sort of film would bore the arse off me-all that blue-screen work."

Hopefully, when Lucas and Winstone next met for Indy IV, things were a lot better between the pair!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'STAR WARS: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL GUIDE' REVISED AND EXPANDED 2012 EDITION

A history of light and darkness, of good and evil, is wonderfully revealed in the new updated edition of STAR WARS: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL GUIDE from DORLING KINDERSLEY.


STAR WARS: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL GUIDE

(UPDATED AND EXPANDED 2012 EDITION)


By Ryder Windham


Published by DORLING KINDERSLEY BOOKS



Reviewed by Scott Weller


Just in time for Classic and Prequel Trilogy Celebrations (the original STAR WARS 35th Anniversary and EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES 10th), as well as the now landmark 5th Year set down by the triumphant hit animated series THE CLONE WARS from this September, writing adventurer Ryder Windham's excellent and esential THE ULTIMATE VISUAL GUIDE from 2005 gets a welcome re-release from DORLING KINDERSLEY books, fully updated and expanded for 2012, and truly chock-a-block full of the history of the saga both on and off screen.


Launched from 2008 onwards, THE CLONE WARS gets some fine coverage in the new edition...
As does the events of THE FORCE UNLEASHED.
More on Obi-Wan Kenobi's self-exiled life on Tatooine, as well as other planetary characters, is revealed. Art by Jerry Vanderstelt.

As the story, once described as belonging to "a boy, a girl and a universe", continues to evolve in its enduring mythos of wondrous imagination, memorable characters and stirring adventure, so too does the accompanying visual guide as, eight years on from its original release (of which an awful LOT has happened/emerged from the hallowed grounds of LUCASFILM and SKYWALKER RANCH since it's original publication!), this well-deserved update has a terrific and colourful new section on THE CLONE WARS series (the book even has an enthusiastic new launch foreword from Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano herself, aka the lovely and telented voice actress Ashley Eckstein) and looks at all the key moments, characters, battles, technology and drama of every story arc from it's first four seasons within a lovely visual feast that makes the most of the series pioneering animation and visual style (leading up to the return of the dreaded, once deceased, Darth Maul), but noticably not covering the separate, and no less enjoyable, Genndy Tartakovsky animated series events leading up to the live-action EPISODE III in either edition. Is there a long-term reason for this? Will the eventual final season of THE CLONE WARS be doing its own particular replacement lead-in to what had previously been established in 2005?). The Lucas made series 24 page section also includes some notable books and comics tie-ins, too, accompanied by a behind the scenes spread look at the making of the hit series and the talented cast and crew that bring it to life. Linked to the Classic Trilogy events both live-action and multi-media, there's also a new spread on the malevolent Dark Times period between movies EPISODE III and IV, in which our pariah hero Obi-Wan Kenobi spent nearly twenty years in isolation on the hauntingly beautiful desert world of Tatooine, the cataclysmic events of Dark Jedi servant/secret weapon "Starkiller" and THE FORCE UNLEASHED, and a look at the legacy decades after and beyond the original saga with the adventures of Cade Skywalker against an Empire now reborn and even more all-powerful. As if all that wasn't enough to further satisfy, there's also more-a lot more- dedicated space on the merchandise empire that is now a firm part of the STAR WARS legacy which fans old and new will wallow deeply in nostalgia to, a welcome look at the classic KENNER figures that helped create the toy craze from the seventies onwards into the huge conglomarate it is now with HASBRO- the modern guardians of the sacred flame, and a quirky and noteworthy look at some of the zany, old/new and beautifully specialised novelty SW items and mass appeal technology that have emerged to span four decades.

One of the books new spreads on the singular (so far) THE CLONE WARS movie from 2008.
Another new spread on the diverse array of Bounty Hunters appearing in the new animated series.

If you haven't already gotten hold of this release, now is the perfect time to sit (or should that be Sith?) back and clutch this enjoyably weighty tone, and discover, or re-discover, the wonderful, epic scope in all-things that is STAR WARS.

The essential purchase for STAR WARS fans of all ages, with its exhaustive research, exemplary picture selections (encompassing all media)/specialist photography, and its lovely and easy to follow overall design, the newly updated and expanded ULTIMATE VISUAL GUIDE fully justifies my 10 out of 10 rating for it, IMO.

NOW AVAILABLE IN EBOOK: TIM DRY'S 'CONTINUUM'


One of the fine and talented people to have brought the weird and wonderful aliens of Jabba's Palace and the Rebel Alliance to mask and costumed life in 1983's RETURN OF THE JEDI (notably as the Whiphid J'Quille and one of Admiral Ackbar's Mon Calamari bridge officers) was actor, musician and all-round racounteur Tim Dry, who's also added a further string to his bow in the last few years as an author, recently updating his intriguing and often very witty autobiography covering his varied work and career: CONTINUUM: THE STAR WARS PHENOMENON AS EXPERIENCED FROM INSIDE, which includes a funny look at all things STAR WARS, other film and sci-fi he's been involved in (like eighties ALIEN horror wannabe XTRO and the early 2000's TV fantasy series THE 10TH KINGDOM) and the fun and perils of general worldwide sci-fi convention travelling.

Now available as an ebook-at a worthwhile $3.99- from ibookstore, Sony, kobobooks, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble, if you're a big fan of RETURN OF THE JEDI and the behind the scenes of the Classic STAR WARS TRILOGY it's a great and informative read, with ten pages of colour photos and a fun foreword from legendary producer Robert Watts.

Here's our original review of the first edition: CONTINUUM- BY TIM DRY

Head over to Tim's website for more info at: TIM DRY - HOME or his FACEBOOK page at: Tim Dry


CLASSIC IMAGE: THE JOURNEY BEGINS...


Young Anakin Skywalker follows his new father figure, Qui-Gon Jinn, as he prepares to undertake his greatest adventure yet- to become a member of the legendary order of Jedi Knights, in this classic moment filmed on location in Tunisia for EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE.

EXTRA-TERROR-ESTRIAL! 'PROMETHEUS' IS LANDING

Guardian or destroyer? The legacy of the mysterious and totally alien Space Jockey will be revealed in PROMETHEUS. Images: FOX

In the original 1979 ALIEN, director Ridley Scott had us firmly believing that "In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream" when he unleashed the terrifying xenomorph creature-the true stuff of nightmares, from a frighteningly unknown but clearly technologically superior alien civilisation- onto the mostly doomed human crew of the commercial towing spaceship Nostromo. Now, thirty-three years later, hopes are high that the talented visualist's kinda-prequel to his chest bursting film baby will send the world successful ALIEN franchise into a whole new and equally populist direction with the intriguingly titled PROMETHEUS, a long-time in the making project that will surely answer past questions about the mysterious species and its origins that have scared the hell out of us for so long, as well as advance on and bring all-new terror and futurist spectacle to the popular horror/sci-fi legend.

Inside a chamber of secrets...and horror.
As the android David, Michael Fassbender discovers and samples alien technology.
Giants Amongst Us! The strange and deadly organic universe created by Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger returns in PROMETHEUS.
International poster for the movie.

All will be revealed in UK cinemas from June 1st. Early sneak peek footage of the film, which stars Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Guy Pearce, shown to executives at FOX last month  all proved very promising. And if they're happy, we'll probably be even happier. Prepare for surprises, and a white knuckle drop into 3D wonder, suspense and across the board fear!

Check out some recent online material here:

New Prometheus Viral Video Featuring Noomi Rapace! - ComingSoon.net
Prometheus International Trailer - UK - YouTube
Prometheus - Creation Featurette - YouTube
Prometheus - Origins Featurette - YouTube
TRAILER: 'Prometheus' Extended Trailer, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender Iconic Discovery - YouTube
Prometheus - Clip - 'Prometheus Has Landed' - YouTube
Prometheus International Launch Trailer - YouTube

Writer John Spaihts talks about the new film to LATINO REVIEW: ‘Prometheus’ Scribe John Spaihts Talks About The Film And Working With Ridley Scott | Latino-Review.com

Writer Damon Lindelof talks ALIEN and PROMETHEUS: latino-review.com by Mobify

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

CELEBRATING THE 'ATTACK'...

Terrific art by Matt Busch for EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES.

Happy Tenth Anniversary today to STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES, the film that gave us the important romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, the rise of the Dark Side, the Battle of Geonosis and the start of the infamous Clone Wars. Oh, and let's not forget the first appearances of Count Dooku, Jango and Boba Fett, the Kaminoans, Geonosians, lots more Jedi, and last, but certainly not least, the ultimate kick-ass event: the first lightsaber duel for Yoda!

The terrific first teaser trailer for the movie: Star Wars Attack Of The Clones Teaser 1 HD - YouTube

BEHIND THE SCENES: LAUGHTER IN THE HOLD!


I'm sure many people are already aware of this since my recent week's hiatus from all things AFICIONADO, but the UK DAILY MAIL newspaper website had a great web feature on the upcoming CELEBRATION VI event and  J.W. Rinzler's previous MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK book, with some lovely behind the scenes pics from EPISODEs IV, V and VI accompanying it-obviously shots the author wasn't able to include inside the book at the time. Check them all out here here: Empire Strikes Backstage: Intimate pictures of cast and crew during filming of 1980 Star Wars movie | Mail Online

With thanks to Veronica Weller and Ian Trussler for the heads-up on this.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'THE ELSTREE EMPIRE DAY' - 5TH MAY 2012

Ralph McQuarrie's stunning "Vader in Flames" logo is once more adapted, this time for the cover of the KURTZ/JOINER ARCHIVE's unique one day convention: THE ELSTREE EMPIRE DAY.

A warm and nostalgic feeling resonated in my heart as I walked onto the relatively small but impressive sound stage number 7 of the iconic Elstree Studios, London yesterday-my first ever visit to a film studio- for the highly enjoyable Jason Joiner/Gary Kurtz organised, and first of its kind, THE ELSTREE EMPIRE DAY one-day convention, held at the legendary factory of dreams which brought George Lucas's original and ever stunning Classic Trilogy to cinematic life from 1976 to 1982. It's impressive spectres of the iconic past linger in the mind, and I could well imaging a kitchen bound Aunt Beru pouring some blue milk there, or Sir Alec Guinness and Dave Prowse locked in lightsaber duel preparations back in the day when filming began on the unknown quantity that was the original STAR WARS, and long before it became EPISODE IV.

The legendary ELSTREE STUDIOS exterior as it looks today. Event images: Scott Weller.
Welcome to STAR WARS Elstree Studios Stage 7.
Inide Stage 7 for EMPIRE DAY.
A few choice autograph sellers and, in the middle, the signee era which got a little cramped at times!
The joint banner leading into the archive area. Photo taking on pane of death!

EMPIRE DAY was a fine celebration of the past and enduring glories of the saga and the studio-with a great selection of guests -many first time behind the scenes British signers- that delighted the die-hard STAR WARS fans that had flocked worldwide to the event, an excellent gallery of rare props, costumes and monster masks (including a Rebel Blockade runner solider, Greedo mask, baby Ewok from ROTJ, a part from one of Luke's Landspeeder's and one of his lightsabers, a Snaggletooth head, one of Han Solo's flight chairs from the Falcon (literally built around an old fighter plane ejector seat!), memorabilia and art from the KURTZ/JOINER archive, so much of which I'd never seen before from STAR WARS and EMPIRE, and a lot that certainly not been included in the recent Rinzler Making of books (including an impressive early sketch of Darth Vader's prototype TIE fighter, actors contracts (Carrie Fisher booked for four STAR WARS films) and correspondence from Kurtz/Lucas to key players like Alec Guinness, Fisher, Harrison Ford, Jack Purvis, and Peter Cushing (whose genuine affection and enjoyment for STAR WARS clearly showed in his beautifully written correspondence to Kurtz/Lucas, along with his legendary Imperial carpet slippers finally being displayed!) and London FOX boss Peter Beale from 1975/76 (where location filming in Rwanda and Central Africa were discussed as potential jungle planet settings, as well as Greece, Turkey and Iran as possibles for Tatooine. Beale also recommends Wally Veevers and legendary BOND talent Derek Meddings to Kurtz as potential names for UK special effects technicians, whilst later giving advice for location filming in Tunisia), early hand written story notes (including a hand written final script page from EMPIRE given as a gift to Kurtz on his birthday by Lucas), Dagobah wrap party invites (including an hilarious end of filming party invitation from Carrie Fisher, then staying in a rented house in London, which basically tells people not to come to her home, and that, if they did, one invite was eligible for 600 people!), and storyboards from EMPIRE (some from the famed Ivor Beddoes), though the KURTZ/JOINER website's aforementioned Ralph McQuarrie tribute was sadly quite small, and consisted of some behind the scenes correspondence only. Accompanying all this great material-which we sadly weren't allowed to take pictures of- were some lovely unused poster concepts for the first STAR WARS (the Tom Jung Imagine campaign), rare images from the Guatemala filming for Yavin and some nice B/W photos shot by Kurtz of our beloved actors on set from 1976 and 1979.

Gary Kurtz gives fine Q and A!

Respected producer Gary Kurtz later gave a fine Q and A session with the audience about the making of the first two STAR WARS films, how the famous Italian CINECITTA studios almost became the first filming home to STAR WARS in 1975/76 but was abandoned because the facility didn't have adequate enough soundproofing (with Peter Beale at London's FOX office recommending that Kurtz re-evaluate the then closed ELSTREE STUDIOS as a potential filming venue instead), the REVENGE OF THE JEDI that never happened (and "the other" Skywalker sister that wasn't Leia), the race to get the original films effects by ILM finished (with planned shots being graded on a scale of A to D, the A's being priority shots whilst the D's would be abandoned), remembering the talents of the recently lost to us Irvin Kershner and Ralph McQuarrie, as well as the vital contributions made to the first movie by UK production designer John Barry (who, originally, was one of three possible candidates for the position in 1975, but soon impressed Lucas and Kurtz with his skills and enthusiasm), hilariously revealed how perfectionist film legend Stanley Kubrick accused him of ruining THE SHINING when he wasn't able to complete one scene to his satisfaction (the infamous overhead look down by Jack (Jack Nicholson) into the Maze moment) after weeks of shooting (having been finally pulled off a stage so that EMPIRE could continue shooting!), showed a 50/50 reaction to the recent Blu-ray releases of the Classic Trilogy that he has so far sampled (revealing that some of the grainy aspects to them is because of new interpositives having to be done for the previous 1997 SPECIAL EDITIONS when the restored sequences couldn't be resurrected from damaged negatives, and that he was unhappy with some of the colour balancing), remains unimpressed with CGI being added to the Classic Trilogy (Kurtz reminded us that Mos Eisley was supposed to be a backwater location (why the Djerba location in Tunisia was originally chosen) and not a city) though he doesn't mind its being subtly used in films, citing MASTER AND COMMANDER as a successful example, plus welcome fan re-confirmation that Han Solo always shot first in the original script and that was the way it was shot-a preemptive strike against the Rodian. Interestingly, the producer is looking forward to seeing what the new STAR WARS: UNDERWORLD TV series will be like if it ever gets made, and hopes that the scripting will be of a worthy standard, mentioning the huge resources of the Expanded Universe that could be mined for it.

An overhead banner for the event.
Autographs in motion. Fans meets the UK film industry's finest!

Beyond Kurtz, other talks that I saw included one with selected members of STAR WARS and EMPIRE's camera team (camera operator Ronnie Taylor, clapper loader Jamie Harcort, 2nd Unit Camera Operator Geoff Glover and focus puller Peter Taylor (son of famed Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor). All new to the STAR WARS memorabilia/signing world, they enthusiastically talked about their work on the first fils (which, to them, was just another job that was occasionally bizarre but good fun) and beyond STAR WARS (Ronnie Taylor being immensely proud of his work on Richard Attenborough's GANDHI). None of them at the time realised it would be so successful- Jamie Harcourt humorously recalled reading about its US success in a small clipping on a 1977 front cover of the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper whilst on location filming in Afghanistan for a Peter Brooke movie), whilst Peter Taylor revealed working with his father on the first film, and re-iterated that the off-screen spat between his movie experienced dad and the then young film director Lucas has apparently been taken way out of proportion in the media over the years. Ending the day Kenny Baker, Artoo Detoo forever,  and resident Jawa Rusty Goffe brought proceedings to a close with a warm and celebratory fan cheery note.

Father and son team Gilbert and Peter Taylor with the STAR WARS camera team on location in Tunisia in 1976. Image: KURTZ/JOINER ARCHIVE.
Jamie Harcourt prepares the clapper for the Detention Block scene of STAR WARS. Image: KURTZ/JOINER ARCHIVE.
Toby Lofthouse far right with his team on the Threepio costumes. Image: KURTZ/JOINER ARCHIVE.
At work by the Millennium Falcon in 1976: 2nd Unit Camera Operator Geoff Glover.
Patrick Ginter as an Imperial Officer, poses with Dave Prowse as Darth Vader, for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Image: LUCASFILM.
Colin Skeaping in Luke fatigues with Bob Anderson as Vader during the climactic lightsaber duel filming of EMPIRE. Image: KURTZ/JOINER ARCHIVE.
A hairy moment for Colin Skeaping filming in Norway for EMPIRE. Imaage: STAR WARS ARCHIVES (FACEBOOK)
The famous scene from EMPIRE as devised and performed by Skeaping at Elstree.

Other guests at the events included the usual favourites like the one and only physical embodiment of Darth Vader, Dave Prowse, who, like Baker, looked sprightly and in good spirits, as well as a rarely signing appearance by stuntman Colin Skeaping (who showed pride in his devised and filmed stunt work where he goes through the window as Luke in the finale duel of EMPIRE, and recalled the risky moment when he could have been seriously injured/killed on location as Luke in Norway, when, in fighter pilot gear, he had to drop down from a helicopter onto an area that wasn't originally planned for-luckily timing his jump to land on a patch of snow rather than a rocky area), Ronnie Taylor recalled the challenges and complexities of getting used to large scale blue screens work on the original STAR WARS, whilst Peter Taylor and Jamie Harcourt enjoyed the new experience of meeting the fans. Classic Trilogy prop supervisor and Anthony Daniels C-3PO wardrobe supervisor Toby Lofthouse proved a delight, enthusiastically sharing his immense memories of the Classic Trilogy and bringing along a rare book of images (polaroids and photos) from his prized behind the scenes career working on classic film and TV shows like THE SAINT, THE AVENGERS and the original STAR WARS TRILOGY - some of his polaroids taken during filming on REVENGE OF THE JEDI in Yuma, Arizona and the Californian Redwoods show a fine off-set camaraderie, with Harrison Ford (who Lofthouse liked enormously, whom he went fishing with in some JEDI location filming downtime) and co. that was wonderful to see. Continuing the STAR WARS tradition, Lofthouse and Daniels reunited two years ago in the UK for the CURRY's TV advert featuring the droids at play in one of their electrical stores.

Filming for STAR WARS on Stage 7 in April 1976 included... (images from KURTZ/JOINER ARCHIVE)
The deleted scene of Beru Lars in the kitchen...
Luke and Ben discussing the future...
The first appearance of the lightsaber...
And the infamous Anchorhead interior, though the day's filming call sheet only lists the actor playing Windy as "1 Man" crowd extra, but also lists Jack Purvis as a background droid, too (presumably outside the window). 
Lucas and Peter Diamond watch Sir Alec Guinness and Dave Prowse fight/choreograph with mock lightsabers on Stage 7 in 1976. With thanks to Chris Baker.

Other contributing guest included the amiable John Morton (who played Dak and Boba Fett (for one Bespin scene) in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), specialist painter Ron Punter (who wowed lining-up fans by discussing his work on the original Darth Vader mask and costume), convention first timer Michael Ford (who also brought his OSCARS to look at!), the legendary set decorator who worked on RAIDERS with Production Designer Norman Reynolds (who sadly had to pull out of EMPIRE DAY at the last minute), Yavin medal ceremony bearer/ extra Nick Joseph, Rebel fighter pilot Victor Galluci (in the famous Massassi Temple Rebel War Room pilots face on scene), and Patrick Ginter (Vader's right hand man in the "Bring my shuttle" moment of EMPIRE), who revealed how generous Irvin Kershner was in helping him, a then relatively inexperienced performer, have posture/perform in the sequence. Showing an all-round passion for the UK movie industry he was involved in for years, Ginter would also play numerous Stormtroopers in EMPIRE in the Bespin scenes, be a double for second unit work, was an Imperial Star Destroyer officer and a hand double for Luke Skywalker in a scene requiring the character putting on fighter pilot gloves. For two weeks prior to his EMPIRE shooting, Ginter was also a costume test model for various wardrobe being created, adapted and cut by the legendary BERMANS costumers in London, which would be supervised throughout by George Lucas, a rare treat for the actor/extra, and which lead to him being given the role of the Imperial officer with Vader in the film (according to the EMPIRE DAY website notes, Ginter worked across both STAR WARS and EMPIRE, so some of his behind the scenes memories may have blurred into one over the passage of time). In other first film anecdotes, old favourite Rusty Goffe revealed that he was one of the early testees inside the 1975/1976 in-development first prototype shells (wooden and metal) for Artoo Deeto, alongside Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis.

A Stormtrooper guards the event.
The classic behind the scenes EMPIRE image located within one of the main entrance halls at Elstree.

Despite a torturous few hours getting autographs within the middle of the relatively confined studio area, in an overall system which at first confused myself and many of the attending fans I spoke to (and clashing with previously given info, presumably poorly worded, on the SHOWMASTERS and EMPIRE DAY forums/FACEBOOK pages), THE ELSTREE EMPIRE DAY, with its final rare items auction, the chance to indulge in some STAR WARS KINECT game playing, and meeting fans old and new (as well as catching up with AFICIONADO friends/ regular contributors Chris Baker and Ian Trussler), was, overall, a distinguished triumph from start to finish for the KURTZ/JOINER team, of which a second event is apparently planned for 2013.