When we caught up with Adam Savage at San Diego Comic Con, he was excited to talk about all things Star Wars. For one thing, he’s got a special Star Wars episode of MythBusters coming up. For another, though, he visited the set of The Force Awakens, and saw something really, really cool.
Minor spoilers ahead...
We were talking to Savage about practical visual effects, and the fact that a lot of film-makers (like J.J. Abrams) are returning to practical VFX. And Savage mentioned that he’s friends with Phil Tippett, the creature designer from the original Star Wars trilogy. According to Savage, Tippett was brought back into the new film by J.J. Abrams, to recreate one iconic sequence from the first movie, in particular. “I got to go watch him shoot it,” says Savage. “It was so cool—the old school technology. The oldest school technology: his animation. And it’s beautiful.”
We guessed that Savage was talking about that animated “chess” game, with the weird creatures—and apparently, we guessed right. We’ve known that that chess board would be in the new movie since June 2014, when Abrams tweeted a picture of it. But now we know there will be actual creatures romping around on the board, and that they’ll be created using old-school effects. Hopefully someone will have the sense to let the Wookiee win.
We asked Savage if he thinks 3D printing is making old-school practical VFX easier to pull off, and he responds: “3D printing is a tool like any other. Like clay for a sculptor. It does make some things more possible. We also have a generation of film-makers, like Jon Favreau and Peter Jackson and J.J. Abrams, who really appreciate and understand how those effects were used, and are really looking to put them back. And Guillermo del Toro loves putting practical effects, building sets around his actors and giving them stuff to interact with. There’s just nothing that can equate to that kind of performance.”
Savage said the Star Wars episode of MythBusters will explore why stormtroopers have such bad aim. “They’re terrible. They can’t hit a thing.” What’s the reason? “I think maybe they’ve been inbred so much that they only have one eye,” he speculates, “and like half a mouth.” They’re all tenth-generation clones of Jango Fett or something. “They’re just physical bullet-catchers, is what they are.”
Another thing he’s excited about this upcoming season: “I flew in a U2 plane. I flew to 70,000 feet, to the edge of space, to test a myth, and it’s incredible. There’s a myth that the U2 plane, the spy plane, is the most difficult of all planes to fly. And it’s pretty amazing.”