SNEAK INTO THE SETS OF STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
~As The film premieres on 5th February on Star Movies, here is a look at how the wondrous sets of Star Wars: The Force Awakens~
A LOOK AT THE SETS OF STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Ask anyone to name their favorite Star Wars set and chances are they will say the Millennium Falcon.
“The Millennium Falcon is as much a returning character in the film as the people,” states J.J. Abrams. “There’s a very weird feeling about going back to something you know so well. It’s like saying, ‘I’m going to open this magic door and behind it is your bedroom at nine years old.’ You can walk into that bedroom and you can feel it, smell it and open the drawers in your desk and find the things you had. What would be in your desk? What would be under your bed? The feeling is that it’s yours and you know it. It must look like what you remember.”Abrams knew that the set would be scrutinized by every fan across the globe, and so it fell to art director Mark Harris and assistant art director Lydia Fry to examine every last photo and second of film footage in order to get it right. As luck would have it, Mark Harris had worked on The Empire Strikes Back and spent many weeks researching this classic craft and how it had changed and developed from A New Hope through to Jedi.
“What was interesting,” explains Fry, “is that when we studied the Falcon in the three original films, there were anomalies, such as the cockpit expanding in the second film, which clearly meant they had changed things as they went along. Maybe a door was moved or elements lost, and if they found something interesting they put it in. And thus we’ve recreated the Falcon exactly, but aged it 30 years and added different little elements that would reflect its various owners. For instance Rick and J.J. wanted more texture, which we’ve added. In A New Hope you see Artoo putting out a fire on an exposed panel where there are cables, so we added dirt and smoke going up the wall there as if it were still damaged. We’ve also added the training remote that Luke used for his Force training and his helmet. These are nice quirks for the fans.”As actor Adam Driver so perfectly puts it, “It’s pretty hard not to geek out when you walk onto the set of the Millennium Falcon.”
STARKILLER BASE AND STAR DESTROYER
Following in the footsteps of the iconic Death Star is no mean feat, but director Abrams had big ideas for Starkiller Base, home of the First Order.
“J.J. described the Starkiller Base as a hacked planet,” explains co-production designer Darren Gilford. “The Death Star was such a simplistic and beautiful design. If you just drew a circle with a dish on it and the equator line you’d know it was the Death Star. And the simplicity of design is the beauty of Star Wars. If you look at an X-wing you can see it has an X-wing. The TIE fighter is an H shape. That was the challenge of Starkiller Base; we wanted it to be as simple a design as the Death Star, so it was a quick read.” In addition to Starkiller Base, much of the action involving the First Order takes place on one of several Star Destroyers that were born out of the designs of the original Empire. The Star Destroyer hangar, an enormous set standing at 126-feet high, involved 50 drawings and took 10 months to design and build. This set includes a vast docking station for the TIE fighters that mimics a candy dispenser in that the fighters would literally pop out one by one ready to attack their enemies.Several elements from both the Starkiller Base and Star Destroyer were built at Pinewood, including corridors, the Starkiller Base Control Room and the Torture Chamber, featuring a fully operational chair made by props and 3D-printing expert James Enright and his team.
Maz’s castle is an ancient building nestled deep within a forest. It is home not only to the ancient, pint-sized alien Maz but the myriad of smugglers, small-time crooks, gamblers and societal rejects whom she takes under her wing.Both the interior and the exterior of the set were built at Pinewood. The exterior was built and then redressed as if destroyed when the castle comes under attack. This alone took two and a half months and 200 poly blocks, which were sculpted, painted, covered in dust and arranged like debris.
The interior of Maz’s castle might be familiar to many die-hard fans. As Darren Gilford explains, “The full interior was a blast as we gave it a traditional castle vibe, quite brutal, and then came back in with our Star Wars vernacular. We studied a lot of Ralph McQuarrie’s work, and you can see it in our design with the arches and the pit in the middle of the room. I’m proud that it is a Ralph McQuarrie–inspired set.”Because the castle is so old, real furniture needed to look like it was passed through time and suggest that people brought things to the castle from wherever they had been over the years. To complete the look, the set decorators used many different and unique pieces, like pilot and jump seats from ships, screens that are reproductions of 15th-century Spanish screens and spice jars from India. The long table on the set was made at the studio as was an enormous chair that the bouncer sits on.
The Resistance base is in stark contrast to the angular, manmade and cold world inhabited by the First Order. The Resistance underground base is organic, born out of necessity and inhabited by the underdog.“The Resistance base was one of the first sets on which we all agreed on the design,” says director J.J. Abrams. “The idea of the roots was something I loved so much; it reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back and the base on Hoth, which was like an encampment, a bunker in the snow. And so the idea was to try to keep this bunker alive, but instead of snow we had vines and roots intertwined with cables. This is a makeshift base—scrappier, organic, and more relatable than the architectural, linear, very cold way of the First Order.”Co-production designer Gilford says that the base “was always going to be subterranean, but we wanted a ruined temple, reclaimed by the Resistance. We didn’t want them to feel that they had too much room, like they were living too comfortably; they’re meant to be underdogs. But we were able to build a long hallway, a 260-foot linear run to shoot through the set, which gave a great sense of depth. Then the greens team hung these incredible vines. We wanted a crazy root system that we intertwined with cables as if it’s coming out through the walls.”
THE VILLAGE OF JAKKU
For many Star Wars fans, the village of Jakku will have a sense of familiarity, taking them back to the planet of Tatooine where we first met Luke Skywalker all those years ago. But whereas all other desert filming in The Force Awakens took place on location in Abu Dhabi and the dunes located south in the Empty Quarter, the filmmakers chose to build the village of Jakku back on the lot at Pinewood Studios. Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould explains why. “The village set was very different to Abu Dhabi because it is night and it involves stormtroopers with flame throwers literally going through the village and setting everything alight. So there were very practical and also safety reasons why we chose to build the set back at Pinewood. We literally ran pipes throughout the village and set everything alight using two liquid propane tankers.”
As we continue to delve into this imaginative world, Star Movies will be celebrating the newest film with the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at 1pm and 9pm on Star Movies, Star Movies HD and Star Movies Select HD on 5th February!