|STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKERTHE RISE OF SKYWALKERRISE OF SKYWALKERJ.J. ABRAMSHIGHLIGHTSSKYWALKERHIGHLIGHTSTAR WARS|
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...
Quarantined viewers tuned into Saturday’s all-day, virtual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Summit were treated to a special surprise in the evening when filmmaker and TV titan J.J. Abrams crashed the party as the surprise special guest. He arrived just after his fellow “Star Wars” scribe Tony Gilroy “Rogue One” and the upcoming Cassian Andor series finished his conversation about the craft of screenwriting.
Abrams’ Q&A touched on a range of topics, from the origins of 2015’s “The Force Awakens” to scaling “the mountain,” as he called it, of writing a screenplay, and to the Golden Age of television happening now. It’s an era Abrams helped to launch with his ABC mystery series “Lost.” “I know my role in that. I’m not talking as if I had nothing to do with this,” he said.
“It’s the Golden Age of television, as they call it, even though I don’t know what television really is anymore,” Abrams said. “That’s because huge chances are being taken. Talent that might not have gotten the chance otherwise suddenly have the opportunity. For me, when I watch a show like ‘Atlanta,’ which takes the most spectacular risks in point of view, in genre, structure, and character […] every story has been told, it’s kind of all been done before,” remarking that the FX series tells its stories in unique ways.
Abrams also praised the Emmy-winning Prime Video series “Fleabag,” created by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
“You see ‘Fleabag’ and you’re like, well, yes, the fourth wall has been broken [before], but not like that,” he said, referring to the protagonist’s tendency to face the camera and address the audience. “Yes, there have been amazing love stories, and stories of family, but not like that. What I love is the thing that makes you feel like, ‘Oh my god, this is so amazingly specific.'”
Abrams pivoted to discussing Hollywood’s place in a moment dominated by streaming content with originality that far exceeds what’s being reproduced on the big screen. “Hollywood used to be a place where something would happen, there’d be a movie where people would see it and think ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Here’s my answer to that,’ or ‘here’s my version,'” he said.
“Hollywood has become a place where, for the most part, studios say, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Let’s do that literally again.’ And that’s OK, and I think that will continue, but I really hope that all the writers who are here and others in the guild are as excited as I am about this new opportunity with streaming platforms. How many different stories are going to be...
Following Netflix’s docu-series Tiger King instant rise to viral fame, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister saw an opportunity to close the 20-year-old cold case surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Carole Baskin‘s husband Jack “Don” Lewis. The couple were prominently featured on the show, which gave Chronister hope that the renewed attention on Baskin and Lewis might jar some memories, so he tweeted out a request for new leads that could finally put the case to bed.
While Chronister’s request worked and his department has received a steady barrage of tips, not all of them have been helpful. In a surprisingly lengthy interview with Vulture, the Florida sheriff shoots down theories, sheds light on the “complicated” lives of the show’s subjects, and most importantly, he drills down on a key point that makes Lewis’ disappearance seem very suspicious:
And then there’s the will. I know that was a big point of contention: that the will was forged. Certainly, like you and everyone else, I am suspect of the will. I’ve never heard, in my 52 years of life or in my 28 years in law enforcement, of anyone creating a will that stated “if I’m missing, or kidnapped, please leave the bulk of my wealth to this individual.” So a lot of that was suspect. And then we had someone who worked for Carole who said, “Yes, I witnessed all the signatures.”
And then, later on, she recanted her statement.
As Chronister further explains, there are two things about the will that are huge red flags: Lewis’ kids were written out of it, and it specifically predicts going missing or being kidnapped. “I’ve heard of wealthy people wanting to get away or disappear,” Chronister said. “But I’ve never heard of one disappearing and not taking their money with them. Who can forecast that they might disappear?”
When it comes to the new leads that have become coming in, Chronister notes that, so far, none of the tips have been viable. In fact, most of them are just people who watched Tiger King and formed their own theories from the documentary, but Chronister is still encouraging his detectives to hear them out:
I’ve told my detectives not to get upset, because someone may call and cause us to look at this case from a different lens, and maybe that will help us solve the case. I certainly don’t discount it. But you saw the documentary, where everyone believed that he was buried under the septic tank. Well, that septic tank wasn’t put in until years after his disappearance. That was a dead end. There something about the meat grinders, and people asked, “Why didn’t you get DNA from the meat grinders?” Well, the meat grinders where removed. They stopped using them weeks before his disappearance. But people watching the documentary don’t know a lot of the information we’ve already investigated.