BB-8 Originally Spoke Written Dialogue in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

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Lucasfilm

If you stuck around through the Star Wars: The Force Awakens credits (perhaps waiting in vain for a post-credits scene), you may have noticed that both Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz were credited as “BB-8 Voice Consultants” for the film. Hader spoke about his involvement only briefly saying, “JJ f–-ing around with this sound effects app on his iPad that was attached to a talk box operated by me.” Now Schwartz has spoken about his contributions revealing that he was originally reciting written dialogue.

Schwartz participated in an AMA on Reddit and of course the BB-8 question came up. We knew from what Hader had said that they were making sounds that were manipulated by sound engineers, but what we didn’t know was that they were actually speaking written dialogue for BB-8 in response to Rey and Finn. We’ll let Schwartz explain the process.

So, I was lucky enough that when JJ Abrams was making the new Star Wars film, he came home on a little break and he said, “Hey I have this new droid called BB-8, and I want him to have personality. You know, everybody loves R2-D2, but I want to put him in situations where he can feel warmth, and he can be funny, and he can do all these things.” Because he had these big scenes with Rey - and I can talk about it all finally - all these big scenes with Daisy Ridley’s character, and John Boyega’s character, and so the process was at the beginning. We wrote real dialogue for him.

So, there’s recordings of me overseeing this. JJ would show me scenes, and I would say real dialogue as BB-8 in response to whatever Rey or people were saying. And then, the goal was to give that to LucasFilms and they would turn them into beeps and boops. So they tried it, and when it came back, I feel like it felt like… you can feel like it was a human being turned into beeps and boops. So then they gave me a synthesizer, and this great sound guy named Robby Stambler - when we were in the room for hours, I would call us “The Beautiful Boys,” because we both looked terrible. Nah, he’s a great guy. But Robby Stambler, amazing sound guy, and we did this thing where I would take this microphone that was hooked into a computer, and I’d literally try to do the beeps and boops.

First, we tried it with words, and it didn’t work. And then I tried to do the beeps and boops. And in the end, we did a bunch and bunch of scenes, and I was very fortunate and got to see the movie beforehand, and all this stuff and really work with it. I don’t know how much of those are in it, but I was told by the editors that all the dialogue that I did for the film was used while they edited. So, if Rey, Daisy Ridley’s character, is having a scene with BB-8, they would edit with my dialogue in there to know when to cut to back and stuff like that. And I was so excited, because I don’t know how much percent of my actual voice is in there, hopefully there is some, but I know that all the editors were so kind to me in saying that it really helped with the way they edit, and the cadence.

What the dialogue was is unclear. The official script that was made available to awards voters late last year just includes lines like “BB-8 ENTERS FRANTIC, BEEPS” with no indication of what was actually being said. It will be interesting if video of any of these sessions will make their way onto the Star Wars: The Force Awakens DVD and Blu-ray when it is released.

Neither Hader nor Schwartz seem very convinced that much of their voices made it into the film, but it sounds like it gave the editors the template to recreate the sounds using with the synthesizers. What Schwartz didn’t say is whether or not he’ll be asked to return for Star Wars: Episode 8, or if Rian Johnson will just be using a different process.

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