Tag Archives: Lucasfilm

David Prowse, Underated Actor, Stunts

 

You may not recognize the name, but you would definitely recognize his alter ego.  He plays Darth Vader.  You may say, “Hayden Christensen played Darth Vader…” No, he played Anakin Skywalker.  You may say, “I thought James Earl Jones” played Darth Vader. Again, no.  David Prowse actually played Darth Vader in all the Star Wars films.  In the first one, he wasn’t told that his voice would later be dubbed, so he even memorized and performed all of Darth Vader’s dialogue from underneath his mask.  It was only after the film was done, that George Lucas decided that Darth Vader needed a much grander voice and so he hired James Earl Jones to re-dub all of Vader’s dialogue.david

Prowse was the one that had to practice all the fight scenes with Mark Hamill and Alec Guinness and spend hours upon hours in the hot costume, acting like the sith lord.  To me, Darth Vader wouldn’t be anywhere as menacing as he is without the imposing prescence, authoritative walk, heavy, strong and powerful gestures and movements of David Prowse.  You can’t just put someone in that costume and get the same effect.  David was/is fantastic.

There’s been a perpetual rift between Prowse and George Lucas over the years.  My suspicion is that it started when Prowse was first cast as Darth Vader and given the assumption that he would be the voice as well and after Star Wars became a hit, Prowse wanted to do more to be associated with the role than Lucas was comfortable with.  Lucas hinted that he would be seen and heard finally in Return of the Jedi, during Darth’s death scene, but that scene was ultimately given to Sebastian Shaw.  This could have simply been done because Lucas wanted another accent in the scene than what Prowse could provide but could also have been because over the course of the 3 films Prowse accidentally dropped spoilers to the press at different times, which angered Lucas.  George Lucas went so far as to prevent David Prowse from attending Star Wars Fan Conventions in 2010, and no reason from Lucas was ever given.dav

Anyway you slice it, it’s a shame as the character and ultimate bad guy in the universe will forever be a jigsaw picture developed and created by a group of effective movie professionals.  David Prowse, Sebastian Shaw, George Lucas, James Earl Jones, Bob Anderson (Stuntman Stand-In), Jake Lloyd, Ben Burtt and Hayden Christensen can all claim some participation in creating the legacy of such a fantastic character.

I was saddened to hear that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, never made a profit, which must have been made for over a billion dollars, as David Prowse has gone on record to say that he has never seen any of his profit points for that movie.  “I get these occasional letters from Lucasfilm saying that we regret to inform you that as Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) has never gone into profit, we’ve got nothing to send you.” davidprowse-2-397x600

Well, here’s hoping you get some credit and profit from that movie some day, David.

Things to look up on IMDB:

  • David Prowse
  • Star Wars
  • George Lucas
  • LucasFilm

Harrison Ford: promising carpenter’s career cut short

Harrison Ford was at a crossroads.  He could continue to be a craftsman, and build decks for the rich and famous, or he could throw that all away and aspire to be an actor.

He chose the latter.  Or rather, it chose him.

As has been widely accounted, the story of Harrison Ford’s meteoric rise to stardom came from a serendipitous event.  He was doing a masterful job fitting a door for Francis Ford Coppola at his American Zoetrope studio, when Coppola saw that his co-founder, George Lucas, needed someone to read lines to the actors auditioning for a campy space opera called Star Wars.  Lucas remembered Ford from their time on the set of Lucas’ previous film American Graffiti.  He also remembered the brash Ford asking for $15 more per week above the $485 Lucas offered him for his role in said film.  Ford told him that it made up for the money he would lose by not doing carpentry work.

Harrison Ford, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.
Harrison Ford, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.

That story has been told already.

Little do many know, however, what a craftsman Ford really was.  Ford took to carpentry to salvage a fixer-upper he bought in the Hollywood Hills.  Just like acting, he had no previous training.  That said, he was no slouch with a hammer and nails.  His first carpentry job was to build a recording studio for Sergio Mendes.  He admittedly had problems.  He once said that he was standing on Mendes’ roof with a textbook in his hand.  Luckily, he didn’t hurt himself.  He also made a sun deck for Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H, Back To School), and cabinets and furniture for Richard Dreyfus, John Gregory Dunne and Valerie Harper.

It wasn’t until the release of Star Wars that Ford finally hung up the tool belt.  That was a banner day for woodworkers everywhere.


John Lasseter: a return to glory

2006

John Lasseter is a Disney success story very much like the movies that he oversees. If you don’t know who John Lasseter is, he’s been the one behind every major Disney animated movie since 2006.  Before that, he was the creative force behind Pixar.  He is now the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

He was also fired from Disney.

A visionary, he began his career at Disney working behind the wheel of a Jungle Cruiser at Disneyland when he was a student at CalArts in the 70’s.

He was the second student enrolled at the CalArts character animation program, created and taught by longtime Disney animators. While at school, he produced 2 animated shorts, both of which won him the student Academy Award for Animation.

Those shorts caught the eye of Disney animation. When he graduated in 1979, he got a job at Disney as an animator beating out over 10,000 applicants.  After they completed the work on 101 Dalmations, Lasseter thought there might be more ways to add new dimension to animation, a longtime dream of Walt Disney himself.

He was turned on to computer generated imagery (CGI), seeing some of the first sequences of the lightcycle in the original Tron.  He knew that CGI would be that new dimension he was searching for.

Unfortunately, those in charge of Walt Disney Feature Animation didn’t like that idea too much. So, after Lasseter completed a test project of Where The Wild Things Are, he was fired from Disney.

Lasseter, unfettered, connected with the folks over at Lucasfilm. They had a little division called Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group.  They worked on a revolutionary short film called The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. that would change animation forever as Lasseter, who only wanted to use CGI for the backgrounds, ended up using CGI for the characters as well.

In 1984, George Lucas was forced to sell his fledgling division, now named Pixar Computer Graphics, to fund a financially crippling divorce (don’t worry about George, I hear he’s doing okay these days). Steve Jobs (Mr. Apple) became the majority shareholder of the newly spun-off Pixar.  Over a period of ten years, the company’s identity changed from a computer company that did animation on the side, to a computer animation studio, with Lasseter overseeing all of their projects.

You may have heard of some of their films: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

Fast-forward to 2006. Disney animated movies haven’t had a great run for several years.  They had been getting beat at the box office time after time with their traditional hand-drawn animated films versus the new CGI-based films.  In 2004, Disney attempted talks with Pixar about a new distribution pact, but tensions ran high, and talks broke off.

A groundswell of activity from former Disney execs (started by Roy E. Disney, Walt Disney’s nephew), called “SaveDisney” forced then-CEO Michael Eisner out, and put Bob Iger in place. Iger wasted no time as the new CEO, he promptly resumed broken talks with Steve Jobs, and on January 24, 2006 Disney announced they would acquire Pixar for $7.4 Billion.

On January 25, 2006, John Lasseter returned to Disney on his white horse, and to much heralded fanfare by his new employees and Disney fans everywhere.

Fade out.