Welcome to the Homing Beacon Archives. The Official Newsletter of Star Wars.Com, no longer available. I have salvaged as much as I can but have only concentrated on the main part of the newsletter and not the peripheral stuff. I have used images where possible. Enjoy this blast from the past!
Thursday, August 08, 2003
Jump to Hyperspace, Jump to Sydney
You have only until this Sunday, August 10 to become a Hyperspace member and submit your entry to be eligible to win a trip to the set of Episode III in Sydney, Australia.
Along with watching the Episode III shoot unfold live on the webcam, and even participating in the creative process by choosing the color-scheme for Obi-Wan’s droid in the new movie, Hyperspace members have been living vicariously through the daily set diary of Pablo Hidalgo. “Pabawan” has been in Sydney since before the shoot began, faithfully representing fandom and sharing with us all he sees and hears.
Since the winner of the trip to the set will have the opportunity to live Pablo’s life for a day placing the webcam and writing a set diary for starwars.com, we asked Pablo to give us some insight into a typical day for him on set…
August 5, 2003
5:00 a.m. Alarm goes off.
5:30 a.m. Alarm continues to go off.
6:00 a.m. Off to work. It’s a nice day in Sydney, so I’m walking.
6:30 a.m. Arrive at Fox Studios, and head up to my office. Catch up on Stateside emails, both business and personal.
7:00 a.m. Breakfast at the catering tent. Check the Call Sheet: eight Jedi extras costume fittings listed throughout the day. Call Costume Archivist Gillian Libbert to get details. Possible Set Diary in the works.
7:30 a.m. To the set; Trade Federation Cruiser bridge is shooting today. Watch shooting of animatronic Neimoidian pilot. Take notes for potential Set Diary. Chat with Creature Shop Animatronic operators to get the specifics.
8:00 a.m. Between takes, ask if it’s okay to put the webcam on set for the Wednesday and Thursday shoot, since the shooting is moving to a webcam-accessible stage. It’s a rather major sequence being shot, so I promise to concentrate mostly on crew and off-set action. Thursday is OK, but I’m asked to hold off on Wednesday. I continue taking pictures of the set and the filming. Since I don’t know what the Set Diary is yet, I always take many more photos than I end up needing.
9:30 a.m. Take Dave Weitzberg from ILM to the Creature Shop; introduce him to the crew and show him around.
10:00 a.m. Off to costume fittings. Watch the first Jedi extra, Gervais Koffi get fitted.
10:30 a.m. Back to office. More emails. Rick McCallum drops by the office to look at some of the pictures I’ve taken. I take the opportunity to hit him up for an online chat for next week. He’s all for it, but I’ve got to coordinate with his assistant, Jacqui Louez, to fit it into his schedule.
11:00 a.m. Ghent phones from the States. One of the webcams is down. Rush off to stage to check it out. The cam’s been unplugged. Thankfully, it’s on the floor end so I don’t have to climb up into the rafters to reconnect it. Head back to office. Talk to Ghent about this week’s newsletter, which you’re reading right now. I then return a call to Anthony Daniels. He wants to do another chat this Friday. I confirm the time of the chat and when the driver should pick him up. I let Second 2nd Assistant Director Paul Sullivan schedule this.
11:30 a.m. Back on set. Talk to Colin Ware, the man underneath the Neimoidian pilot mask. Bingo. I know for sure I’ve got material for a Set Diary here.
12:00 a.m. Head to costume fitting. The next Jedi extra, Josh Canning, is being fitted. Another Set Diary is forming in my mind.
12:30 a.m. Back to office. Catch up on email.
1:00 p.m. Lunch in the catering tent. Talk publishing related news with the visiting editor from LucasBooks, Jonathan Rinzler.
2:00 p.m. Back on set. Get a phone call from Gentle Giant Studios. They tell me to turn on the webcam. Run back to computer to switch them live to cover a tour walking through their scanning area. Meanwhile, I re-dress the webcam wiring on the set construction stage to prevent it from getting disconnected again.
3:00 p.m. Back to costume fittings. Take many photographs of Jedi extras Aliyah Williams and Dominique Chionchio.
4:30 p.m. Take a walkthrough of a few stages to scope out webcam placement for later in the week.
5:00 p.m. Another phone call from Gentle Giant. They’re soon to start a new scan. When Anthony comes on in his tarnished protocol droid outfit, I flip the webcam on.
5:30 p.m. Back to set, in case any late-breaking story ideas pop up.
6:30 p.m. Shooting wraps. Head back to office. Begin going through audiocassettes, reviewing quotes and notes.
7:00 p.m. Download photos from digital cameras onto computer. Organize photos. Today’s total: 82 images.
7:30 p.m. Start writing first draft of article. Review. Proof. Rewrite.
8:30 p.m. Begin formatting of article, input into publication tool, uploading of images. Review and readying of other site content for Stateside team to publish the next day.
9:00 p.m. Finish up work. Tidy up office. Head off to the movies and a bite to eat.
If you’re not already reading the Episode III Set Diary, join Hyperspace today to get in on the inside.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Multi-Dimensional Clone Wars
The advantages and impacts of computer-rendered three-dimensional animation were made clear to the public consciousness with Industrial Light & Magic’s dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and are now well-known to Star Wars fans who followed the development of Jar Jar Binks and Episode II’s digital Yoda. With Finding Nemo leading the 2003 box office, 3-D computer animation itself has even become its own popular genre.
Less widely known is that the same familiar three-dimensional modeling and animation techniques that made possible the visuals of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones have been adopted by two-dimensional animation productions as well — from the spacecraft of Lilo & Stitch to moving cityscapes in “Futurama.”
With ambitious stories to be told starting this November in the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated microseries, creator Genndy Tartakovsky decided to borrow some of the computer-generated efficiencies used in thenew Star Wars films. “If the animation is simplistic, then we’ll do it in 2-D,” Tartakovsky told Star Wars Insider. “If it’s an element that just kind of flies through the scene and doesn’t do a lot of turns, we’ll do it in 2-D. But if it’s got a lot of complicated moves, then we’ll make it 3-D.”
To make the Republic or Separatist forces flip, spin, dive and explode, Tartakovsky turned to Rough Draft Studios — an Emmy-award-winning group specializing in a seamless blend of traditional cell artwork with computer animation for such programs as “Futurama”, “Grim & Evil” and “Samurai Jack”. Using standard 3-D animation techniques, Gregg Vanzo and the Rough Draft team can compose a complex scene and iterativelychange speed, timing, trajectories and camera angles without the time and cost that would be associated with making changes to hand-drawn sequences.
When a movement is finalized, it can simply be rendered without the complex shading, texture and reflections associated with a photo-realistic animated style. The result is simple solid shading and basic black outline of the shapes. “It looks as if it’s been hand drawn and colored,” noted Tartakovsky. “They’ll look exactly the same.”
This November, starwars.com Hyperspace members will have the first online access to the Clone Wars microseries, along with member-exclusive behind-the-scenes features. Join us today for unprecedented inside access to the countdown to Clone Wars and Episode III.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Many of the elements of Episode III are harbingers of things to come in the original trilogy. The Costume Department has worked diligently to not only foreshadow future events, but also give the final Star Wars chapter its own distinct style. Though the film is the most visually diverse of the saga, spanning the largest number of locales and cultures, there will definitely be costumes that look familiar.
“There’s a link of characters between Episodes III and IV,” says Trisha Biggar, Costume Designer. “In terms of quality, there will always be a difference between how things look in Episode III and Episode IV, just because we have a great deal more time to achieve things than the people in Episode IV did. But there’s always a mind to keep the flow from III into IV, and that’s been achieved in color and feel and referring back to Episode IV for the characters who have continuity, rather than trying to copy exactly any particular costumes from Episode IV.”
For Obi-Wan Kenobi, his role as a Jedi pretty much defines his overall look, but there is room for subtle progression from The Phantom Menace to A New Hope. “We started in Episode I with a younger version of the costume from Episode IV. We kept that for Episode II. For Episode III, a couple of years have passed, and we changed his costume to blend into Episode IV. We changed the color of his undershirt and the color of his trousers, so he’s very slightly becoming a little more like the old Obi-Wan.”
Anakin Skywalker clearly has the most profound transition from the prequel to the original trilogy, but the evolution of his Jedi robes from Attack of the Clones to his garb in the new installment is more understated than his future look of dark armor. “We changed his cloak shape, and gave him a new slightly more Jedi-like cloak this time,” says Biggar. “We changed his colors, and we darkened them all down, hinting at what he’s going to become. Although he was quite dark brown before, there were some lighter aspects. This time, we’ve really taken shades of dark brown to give him a dark outline even though he’s still a Jedi.”
Though Senators Padmé Amidala and Bail Organa are absent from the original films, they continue to evolve Episode III, building upon their looks from the previous chapter. “In Episode I, Padmé was very formal and very ceremonial, and that became slightly relaxed for Episode II. In Episode III, we see her in a couple of business-like — but not heavily ceremonial — costumes, so generally her look is softer, and we get a chance to see her in a more relaxed state. I think even more relaxed now than she was in Episode II — softer, more feminine,” explains Biggar.
“Though we saw Bail Organa in Episode II as a Senator, George wanted him to look slightly more high tech in a way,” she says. “We ended up using more metal pieces in his costumes. He has a high-tech metal comlink, and his ceremonial Senate costume has a beautiful metal collar piece.”
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Next Steps for ILM
With the first phase of principal photography now complete on Episode III, the movie moves further into the digital world of postproduction. The artists at Industrial Light & Magic are sparing no time in tackling the thousands of effects shots required to complete this final chapter of the Star Wars saga. While a trio of ILM crew observed the shooting in Sydney, Australia, a growing team back in Northern California has already been busy working on creating digital assets required for their work.
Visual Effects Supervisors John Knoll and Pablo Helman, and Matchmove Supervisor Jason Snell depart Australia this week for ILM’s facilities. Both Knoll and Helman are scheduled to work the day after they arrive. “We’ll be supervising model development and Viewpaint right away,” says Knoll. “That’s already been going on, so there’s some catching up for us to do. George [Lucas] said he’d get us the first Yoda sequences to begin working on in a month or so.”
Animation Supervisor Rob Coleman, who spent time on the set earlier in production, is beginning to assemble a team of animators to create the wide range of major digital characters in Episode III. “Rob will start animating in October,” says Helman. “He’s got a list of who his team is going to be, but he’s not going to be putting that together until next month.”
Jason Snell will be delivering his accurate digital wireframe models of the sets that he’s made during production based on photographs and measurements taken in person. The matchmovers at ILM will begin to create virtual additions and enhancements to the tangible sets.
“The first thing I’ll do is take all the models that I’ve built and clean them up and color-code them, and submit them to the Sets/Creatures assets area,” he says. “When the plates start coming in, the matchmovers will check out the set environments that I created to be able to work with them. That first week, I’ll organize all my sets and put them into a database. The following week, I’ll be working with model makers, specifically the hard surface modelmakers who are building the set extensions to make sure they are the proper scale and will work with the models that I work with, and I’ll do that until we start getting plates.”
Thursday, October 02, 2003
Being Po Nu do
“It’s never good to fall asleep at work,” advises Episode III extra Paul Nicholson. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep, but it’s hard not to when most of the air you’re breathing is the same air that’s just been expelled from your own lungs, you can barely hear nor see and you’re not allowed to move cause you’re dead.”
Nicholson counts himself lucky to have landed a behind-the-mask part in Episode III as Senator Po Nudo. On the off chance you are a fan of the Aqualish representative from Ando, you may be sad to hear that Po Nudo does not survive to the end of the new movie. In fact, the greatest extra acting challenge for Nicholson was the fact that Nodu’s dead body serves as set dressing for a scene that took the “living” actors over ten hours to shoot.
“I could move my head inside my mask a bit,” Nicholson recalls, “and I eventually found a way to watch the other actors while remaining dead. I only had a 1 mm diameter drill hole to look out of, so I really couldn’t see much — especially considering my four eyes had been layered in KY jelly to make them shinier. And I really needed to pee.” He downplays any physical challenges, as Nicholson is an enthusiastic Star Wars fan who moved to Sydney three years ago “just to be in Star Wars”, he claims. “It paid off. I would have paid to be in that movie.”
By day, Nicholson works as a valet at a hot Sydney restaurant where he had spotted Star Wars celebrities including Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, but getting to see them in action on-set was naturally a thrilling experience.
“Hayden swings that metal baton around really, really well,” Nicholson is pleased to report. “Ewan McGregor is a hardcore saberman as well. They exhausted themselves to make their scenes look great.” Along with the chance to witness some Episode III history-in-the-making, and gather some autographs from cast and crew in his copy of the Attack of the Clones Visual Dictionary, Nicholson will carry away one other treasured memory. “Ewan sang ‘I am the Walrus’ with me at one stage, because I kind of looked like one.”
While the Star Wars extra experience was particularly unique, Nicholson endorses the entire craft of being a movie extra. “Join an extras agency,” he advises. “Look one up in your local directory. There are always television commercials and shows being made everywhere. You can do it at any age. It’s a fun way to meet people and the food is always good.”
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Exploring the Ruins of Dantooine
Since its debut, Star Wars Galaxies has become an engaging window into that far-away galaxy for thousands of avid online gamers. Through the massively multiplayer role-playing game, a player creates a unique character in the Star Wars galaxy, and interacts with other player-characters in real-time in a vivid computer-generated 3-D environment. These characters work, play, fight, adventure and live the Star Wars life in a way never before possible.
Such a mix of characters and scenery makes for a rich source of storytelling potential. This December, Del Rey Books will publish an original novel inspired by Star Wars Galaxies.
Voronica Whitney-Robinson is the author of the book, and helping keep her tale true to the spirit and details of the online universe was Haden Blackman, Producer for Star Wars Galaxies. A fellow Star Wars-scribe, Blackman has penned a number of Star Wars comics tales and, most recently, The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels.
“Voronica certainly drove the plot, but I was involved to ensure that we were going to the planets that were most interesting in the game, and that we were interacting with in-game characters,” he says. “I helped guide her in that specific content, so that the characters in the books are doing things similar to what players would be doing.”
Obviously, the planet Dantooine figures prominently in the book, and it’s a key world in the game. Beyond settings, though, there are a number of non-player characters from the game that the heroes of the book will meet. “Nym, who is an alien pirate we developed for Star Wars: Starfighter, is in the game. Also, the characters in the book interact with Princess Leia in a similar way that players would: finding her in a Rebel base on Corellia, and getting new information and a mission from her.”
It’s even possible that some players may spot their own game contributions in the novel. “The book highlights not only the content we provided, but also things the player community has developed as well,” says Blackman. For instance, one enterprising player took advantage of the game’screature dynamics, which allow players to control creatures and command them to attack other creatures. “One player actually did that in conjunction with the opening of his own casino in the game, so when he opened, he had this big tournament that he invited everyone to,” recounts Blackman. “Voronica took that idea and ran with it, and I think it’s one of the first scenes in the book.”
Such interaction between novelist and game producer results in creative cross-pollination. Gamers who have read the novel will be familiar with certain elements that will eventually work their way back into the game. The main characters of the novel, Dusque Mistflier and Finn Darktrin, will appear in the game as non-player characters. “If you read the novel, you’ll know their back-story and their history, and that will make the missions they give you and the interactions you have with them a little more significant,” says Blackman.
He also hints at another element from the novels making an appearance. “In the novel, I suggested that she put in a mutant version of a creature we have in the game, and we’re actually going to take that idea and run with it. We’ll introduce that creature — the mutant version of it — in the game.”
Star Wars Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine comes out in December from Del Rey Books.
Thursday, November 03, 2003
The Clone Wars begin on November 7, as the epic micro-series debuts both on the Cartoon Network and online at starwars.com. The animated shorts are heavy on action, and the familiar characters and hardware of the Star Wars galaxy had to undergo streamlining and design modifications for the demands of hand-drawn animation. This meant simplifying the designs to their very essence, yet still retaining their recognizable qualities.
This challenging task fell to Art Director Paul Rudish who, under the direction of Genndy Tartakovsky, came up with the truly distinct look of Star Wars: Clone Wars.
“Early on, in preproduction, I kind of got bogged down with a little too much reference and trying too hard to get things looking like the films,” says Rudish. “Genndy came in and slapped my wrist and said, ‘Okay, put your books away. You’re getting bogged down. Now draw your impressions of the characters. Let’s try to draw how you think the characters feel, as opposed to trying to draw them exactly like the actors.”
The three main characters of the prequel trilogy — Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala — each provided their own challenges, but Rudish says Kenobi proved to be the easiest.
“Obi-Wan is the chivalrous knight,” he explains. “The King Arthur-thing kind of comes across real easy on that guy.” Though Kenobi starts the micro-series sporting the same robes and hair as seen in Episode II, as he journeys to Muunilinst to take on the bounty hunter Durge, he dons a suit of plastoid armor to do battle atop a speeder bike. “We gave him some extra brown robes on top to keep his Jedi-ness, but he’s got to have his safety gear when he gets on his speeder bike,” says Rudish. He adds with a smile, “We have to promote proper bike safety.”
Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One, proved to be one of the most difficult. “He’s got a weird mix in that he needs to be somehow brooding and dark, and still be a cute Tiger Beat boy. How do you try to keep him youthful and yet make sure he has a good scowl all the time?”
In exploring the character, Rudish says the more he based his art on Hayden Christensen’s features, the more difficult he found bringing out the dark side. “They always came out looking kind of pretty, so we eventuallysteered away from specific caricatures and just tried to tweak him a little more. In retrospect, I think some of the elements in the line work in his face is more like Vader’s mask. It’s in the shape of his nose, and the square jaw and triangular mouth kind of shapes. I didn’t really think I did this on purpose, necessarily, but looking back at there, I think maybe I subconsciously tried to Vader-ify a little bit.”
The Clone Wars micro-series is divided into two sets of ten episodes each. In the first ten, Padmé has what amounts to a small cameo — she’s more heavily featured in the second set. “As far as Padmé, [Model Designer] Lynne Naylor-Reccardi helped out a lot. The two of us went back and forth with drawings of her, and kind of distilled it down to various elements. Basically, she’s pretty much… cute. She doesn’t have a funny nose or anything you can really latch onto to caricaturize. So, we went with cute girl. ‘Let’s make her eyes bigger!'”
Of the redesigned heroes, Rudish can easily recall who his favorites are. “Once I got to doing layouts of Artoo and Threepio, that really turned into lots of flashbacks of being seven, and drawing my favorite droids as a kid,” he says. Though the droid designs are new, Rudish recalled watching the earliest incarnations of Star Wars animation when he was young.
“I was certainly into it when those shows were on TV — I used to watch ‘Droids’ and ‘Ewoks.’ I didn’t specifically refer to these things, but they’re definitely engrained in my mind,” he says. “I was blown away by ‘The Holiday Special.’ It was when I was seven, and had been jonesing for any kind of Star Wars you could get at that point. When that came out, I thought, ‘oh, that is so cool!’ Then I tried to run upstairs after the show was over, and tried to draw the comic book of the entire [animated] cartoon that I had just seen. I tried to remember it, and I got about eight panels into it, and crapped out. Luke crashlanding his Y-wing into the ocean… that’s about as far as I got.”
Thursday, November 12, 2003
Clone Wars: Hearing Voices
The Star Wars: Clone Wars micro-series has started, and is currently running on The Cartoon Network and starwars.com Hyperspace. To provide the voices of the classic characters are a group of talented voice actors who, in most cases, have played these characters before.
If Anakin sounds familiar, particularly to video gamers, it’s by design. Mat Lucas is the voice of the Chosen One in the micro-series. He previously played Anakin in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars video game from LucasArts, available for the GameCube, Xbox and PlayStation 2.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is played by James Arnold Taylor, whose vocal talents can be heard in many video games and animated works. He provided numerous voices for The Animatrix short films, was the voice of Pippin in the video game release of The Fellowship of the Ring, and has provided guest voices in such Cartoon Network programs as “Powerpuff Girls” and “Johnny Bravo”
Providing the elegant vocal tones of the evil Count Dooku is Corey Burton. Burton previously played Dooku in several LucasArts video games, including Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. He can be heard in many Disney projects, and fans of ’80s animation will remember Burton as the voice of Xamot, one of the evil Crimson Guard Commanders on “G.I. Joe,” and as the Decepticon Shockwave and the human tag-along Spike in “The Transformers.”
Tom Kane does the voiceof Yoda. He had previously played the ancient Jedi Master in Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing, and Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles. He has also performed for many other LucasArts titles, dating back to providing the voice of Leebo the droid in Shadows of the Empire. Cartoon Network viewers can hear him regularly as Professor Utonium, the creator and guardian of the Powerpuff Girls.
Nick Jameson is another LucasArts veteran. For the micro-series, he plays Palpatine, a role he previously voiced in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance, Star Wars: Rebel Assault II — The Hidden Empire and Star Wars: TIE Fighter. Fans of Kyle Katarn should note that Jameson first provided the voice for that character in the original Dark Forces game.
Though Padmé Amidala and the deadly Asajj Ventress don’t have much in common, they are both voiced by singer Grey DeLisle. DeLisle also played Padmé in such video games as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing, and Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles. She provided the voice of Padmé’s daughter, Princess Leia, in Star Wars: Force Commander. She plays a variety of characters for various Cartoon Network projects, and is the new voice of Daphne on various “Scooby Doo” specials.
For the role of C-3PO, Cartoon Network went straight to the original source. Anthony Daniels provided the voice of the classic protocol droid character, just as he did for the original Droids animated series in the mid-1980s.
Thursday, November 26, 2003
The Cut of Episode III
At the Main House of Skywalker Ranch, Episode III is currently taking shape in its earliest iterations. Though the principal photography shot this past summer in Australia has already been pieced together into a chronological “assembly” of the movie, this does not represent the first cut. An assembly is more of a blueprint for future edits, and a starting point for George Lucas to further refine the film.
“We’re breaking down the first 25 minutes, which we need to have from George locked by January 5th, so that we just keep moving,” describes Producer Rick McCallum.
Each day Ben Burtt and Roger Barton, the editors of Episode III, continue cutting away, finding the best takes, and piecing together continuous action and scenes to tell the story.
“What happens is that George comes in about 8 a.m, answers his mail, and works with Ben from 9 to 12:30,” McCallum says, describing the typical working day. “Ben’s doing all the action sequences and cutting together the animatics for those, like the opening space battle, and two other sequences that are the primary things he has to work on. Roger is doing the drama, and George works with him from 2:30 until 6.”
Barton and Burtt are also identifying the missing pieces of the puzzle. With so much of the movie yet to be developed as visual effects, there is much that is missing. The editors have the tools needed to temporarily fill in the gaps. Next to Burtt’s AVID workstation is a microphone. Into this, he records placeholder dialogue for digital characters or principal actor dialogue that has been changed.
The two editors also have their disposal a tool called iViz. This computer graphics package allows the creation of quick-and-dirty low-resolution digital stand-ins to previsualize the characters that ILM will eventually create to populate the scene. “You load in your models, and you have a virtual camera you can actually move around. It helps George plan out a shot in real time,” says McCallum.
In between his sessions with both editors, Lucas heads upstairs to the Animatics Department. In the film industry, animatics are generally regarded as a pre-production function, but the malleable nature of digital filmmaking has blurred the lines between pre and postproduction. Previsualization Supervisor Dan Gregoire’s group of artists are designing the motion of entirely synthetic shots, plugging in low-resolution versions of digital elements into plate photography, and pre-planning live action sequences to be shot in later rounds of additional photography
There are entire sequences that were not shot during principal photography in Australia, but are instead reserved for shooting planned for next year. These rounds of production are also for “re-shoots,” additions, inserts or modifications of sequences that add and/or replace what was shot this past summer.
“In March, we’ll most probably go to London, since it’ll be easier for scheduling. I’d like to able to isolate the Wookiee shoot, and do that in Australia at a later date, so that I don’t have to bring everybody from Australia over to London,” says McCallum.
“It’s going really well,” adds McCallum. “I’m really pleased. Hopefully, by Christmas we’ll really see the film for the first time.”
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Ep III Novel: First Steps
October 1st was already was a significant date on author Matthew Stover’s calendar, but this year had an added surprise. “Shelly Shapiro [from Del Rey Books] actually called me on my anniversary, October 1st, to find out if I was interested in writing the Episode III book. Which I responded, of course, I’m interested!”
Stover joins the ranks of such bestselling authors as R.A. Salvatore and Terry Brooks in adapting a Star Wars screenplay into a novel. What makes the prequel adaptations notably different from the novelizations of the original trilogy is the opportunity to expand on the stories. The novels for Episode IV, V, and VI do not tread far what’s seen on screen. The prequel tales, conversely,include several original scenes created specifically to expand and enrich the film’s story.
As he gears up to write the adaptation, Stover has already read the Episode III script and has positive words to share. “I’ve never done an adaptation before, so I don’t know what kind of pitfalls may be awaiting me, but on this end, so far, it looks like it’s going to be a great experience. From having read the script, it looks to me like the story is so strong, I don’t really anticipate a lot of difficulty.”
Though this is his first adaptation, Stover has already penned two Star Wars novels. His first was Traitor, a standalone paperback in the epic New Jedi Order series notable for its unconventional storytelling techniques and controversial examinations of the Force. The second book, Shatterpoint, was a hardcover novel focusing on Mace Windu’s return to his homeworld during the Clone Wars. It too was unique for a Star Wars novel in its gritty depiction of the horrors of war.
“Shatterpoint gave me an opportunity to do a lot of research,” says Stover. “Doing that novel in particular made me feel very comfortable in the Star Wars universe. Traitor was a very specialized piece of work. It was a very, very specific incident in The New Jedi Order. Pretty much all of the heavy lifting had been done for me already in the previous books. Traitor was an extraordinary opportunity to write a book where I didn’t have to do any backstory at all, because that was all done for me.”
Both books touch on the dark side of the Force and offer the inner thoughts and perspectives of prominent Jedi characters. These qualities are expected in the Episode III adaptation. “I think that Lucasfilm and Del Rey feel I have a certain insight into the dark side. That is, after all, what I was writing about in both of my previous Star Wars books,” says Stover. “Also, this is going to be action packed, and I think they like the way I do my action scenes.”
Early in 2004, Stover will travel to Skywalker Ranch to meet with George Lucas, who is currently busy overseeing the editing of the first cut of the film. “The next step for me now is meeting with Mr. Lucas and finding out the things that he wants to emphasize about the story, and the tone that he wants it to take,” he says. “I have some ideas of what I would like to do, but of course, all final decisions are entirely up to him.”