|RISE OF SKYWALKERSKYWALKERSTAR WARSFAVORITE|
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...
You may recognize Kara Hayward from Wes Anderson’s 2012 film “Moonrise Kingdom,” where she charmed as one half of the film’s star-crossed couple, Suzy Bishop. Since making her debut with one of the best filmmakers of the day, Hayward has kept the pedigree of her collaborators similarly high, landing roles in films by Kenneth Lonergan, Jim Jarmusch, and Jordan Peele. Now, she once again steps into the lead to lend her talents to Martha Stephens’ latest feature “To the Stars,” which was a crowd favorite at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and recently debuted an absorbing first trailer.
The synopsis from Sundance reads: “In a God fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma, bespectacled and reclusive teen Iris endures the booze-induced antics of her mother and daily doses of bullying from her classmates. She finds solace in Maggie, the charismatic and enigmatic new girl at school, who hones in on Iris's untapped potential and coaxes her out of her shell. When Maggie's mysterious past can no longer be suppressed, the tiny community is thrown into a state of panic, leaving Maggie to take potentially drastic measures and inciting Iris to stand up for her friend and herself. Director Martha Stephens infuses the film with elements of the western genre to tell a deeper story, about women as outsiders in a time and place of repression and intolerance.”
“To the Stars” is the third solo feature from Stephens, whose previous micro-budget movies, “Passenger Pigeons” 2010 and “Pilgrim Song” 2012, both premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. In 2014, she worked with longtime friend Aaaron Katz “Gemini” to co-write and co-direct “Land Ho!,” which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics and won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Shannon Bradley-Colleary wrote the script.
Originally premiering in black and white, the trailer offers a glimpse at the 1960s small town setting in glorious vintage hues. It also teases performances by the impressive supporting cast, which includes Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Shea Whigham, Malin Akerman, and Tony Hale.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release “To the Stars” on VOD on April 24. Check out the engaging first trailer below.