Last week we posted an article about the short film, Black Angel, that was attached to the release of The Empire Strikes Back in some foreign markets. Now, the blog for Cinefex (the quarterly visual effects magazine) has an interview with Roger Christian, the director of Black Angel and – most notably – the Academy Award winning set decorator from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

Highlights from the interview include:

• Meeting George Lucas and discussing how Star Wars should look:

“George arrived on one of the sets I was dressing – an old salt factory – and we talked about Star Wars. I told him I’d always imagined that spaceships would be oily, like they were always in and out of the garage being repaired. And George said, ‘That’s exactly what I want. I don’t want anything designed specifically. I want it all to look natural and real.’ So I was on Star Wars right from the very start, and George always says I was one of the only five people who stood by his side throughout.”

• Making the prototype for R2-D2:

“I hired a carpenter – Bill Harman – who’d made all the props for Monty Python. He was brilliant – you could give him anything and he’d make it work. We had no money, not even enough to buy timber, but Bill had marine plywood at home, which he bent around the frame we’d built. In an electrical store, I found an old lamp from the 1940s and fitted that on top. I carved the little moving prongs on the front, and we stuck some aeroplane bits on and got him approved.”

• Developing the weapons:

“I went to a gun hire place and got a Sterling sub-machine gun. I glued a T-strip around the barrel, put on a short magazine and stuck an old army rifle sight backwards on the top.” In a similar way, Christian retrofitted a Mauser pistol to create Han Solo’s blaster. “Then I nervously called George and said, ‘You’d better come and see what I’m doing.’ George loved them, which was the signal that he and I were on the same wavelength. He stayed with me and we made Princess Leia’s gun together. The gun hire place gave me a little back room and just let me choose guns. The whole film was kind of done like that.”

• Making the two lightsabers used in the film:

“In this old photography studio, I found a box with a Graflex inside. The Graflex was a press camera from the 1940s. You could bolt a flash on the side; it had a round chromium disc that made the flash really bright, and the handle had a red fire button. And that’s what became the laser sword. I just sat in my office with superglue, stuck a T-strip round the handle, put a D-ring on the end and stuck on bits from a pocket calculator. It was weighty and it looked beautiful. I think I made it for about £8.”

Mr. Christian also discusses working as an art director on Ridley Scott’s Alien, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. You can read the interview in its entirely over at Cinefex Blog.

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