“The eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.”
Special Effects Makeup – commonly referred to as prosthetic makeup or FX prosthesis – uses prosthetic sculpting, molding and casting mediums and highly sought after artistic technique to create cutting-edge cosmetic effects.
Experts have said it more than a few times that the Star Wars film franchise has completely reformed the special effects industry not just once, but twice! With the third Star Wars Trilogy making way to the silver screen, there is no doubt that the trek franchise will change the industry yet again.
It all started in 1977, when a screenwriter named George Lucas composed a space sci-fi, fantasy, action script, which we refer to today as Star Wars. Lucas imagined Star Wars to depict a futuristic environment, unlike anything the industry had ever seen before. He envisioned his characters as bizarre yet brilliant beings. He foresaw a screen filled with intense space battles and marvelous metal spaceships migrating through space. However, at the time, the vision that Lucas had in mind for his work would involve technology that just wasn’t available. However, to say that computer-generated imagery, or CGI, was “at its early stages” would be an exaggeration. With his vision in mind, Lucas inspiringly constructed Skyriver (the galaxy far, far away) on his own.
As a co-producer of the film, Lucas, handpicked John Dykstra to work on the special effects of the original Star Wars. In past interviews Dykstra recalls the many days spent in the studio, with his closest friends, designing and constructing the range of characters and robots from scratch. In an interview with Den of Geek Dykstra recalls “…we kind of walked into an empty warehouse and sat on the floor and went ‘How are we going to do this?’” Dykstra goes on, explaining the Lucas “took an incredible risk by listening to what myself and my collaborators had to say with regard to how to do this because we were inventing this stuff from scratch. We have a basic toolkit now, in the form of a computer, and so much of it now is programming.”
In production, Dykstra and Lucas used exceptionally detailed miniature characters in addition to the then top-of-the-line animations and revolutionary computer-controlled motion photography system, which created special effects (which, by the way, that still look crisp today)! The film was the first big-budget blockbuster that relied solely on handmade robots, genuine action scenes, and legitimate explosions. Lucas’s desire to produce Star Wars the way he once imagined altered the special effects arena for light-years to come.
It is undoubtful that any shortcuts were taken in creating the groundbreaking special effects in the blockbuster; however it is said that there are a few characters in particular whose creation involved much a stupendously larger effort than others.
It is said that Anthony Daniels knew he wanted the robotic role after just a single look at artist Ralph McQuarrie’s painting of C-3PO. Needless to say, aniels didn’t quite know what he was getting himself into. In his interview for Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, a documentary, Daniels recalls, the costume penetrating and ripping his foot open when the leg of the costume suddenly split.
Remember, at the time of filming the first trilogy, CGI was only few advancements beyond a pipe dream. Which meant that in order to bring the scene up to par with Lucas’s expectations, the team brought in Mardji, 25-year-young Asian elephant.
While in Death Valley for her on-screen debut in the Tusken Raider scenes, she had her very own team of costume designers who designed her custom, one-of-a-kind Bantha costume. The crew jokes as they describe Mardji as the diva of the cast, when they recall her removing her costume without warning in the middle of filming. For those wondering, Mardji can be visited at her home at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.