We’re still a few weeks away from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hitting theaters, but at least two fans have already seen it early. As caught by Entertainment Weekly, Disney granted a private, advance screening to a man from England, who is not expected to live until the film’s December 20 release date, and his son.
The screening was set up after Rowans Hospice, where the patient resides, sent out a request over social media, hoping it would be picked up by the right people. It was: Mark Hamill tweeted it out, and soon enough permission was granted. Disney honcho Bob Iger tweeted out news of the screening, which was held in the patient’s room, while Rowans Hospice, located in Hampshire, sent out an image of the happy viewers, with well-wishers in costume.
On Wednesday we threw a Star Wars themed party for the patient and his family. We were joined by Stormtroopers, wookies and droids and a brilliant time was had by all pic.twitter.com/SDAoUDIsXq
— Rowans Hospice @RowansHospice November 29, 2019
The patient gushed about the experience in a statement. “I just want to say the biggest thank you to everyone that has helped to make this happen. During what is just a horrible situation to be in, you have helped to make some wonderful memories and bring some joy to my family,” the patient wrote. “I am a huge Star Wars fan and what I am going through is completely dire. Then to top it all, I thought I wasn’t going to see the film I have been waiting to see since 1977! I still can’t believe it. The only way I can describe this to you is to say that this must be what it feels like to be told you have won a million pounds!”
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...