WookieeLeaks: The Curious Case of Andy Serkis and Other ‘Force Awakens’ Chatter
ScreenCrush’s WookieLeaks is a weekly roundup of everything ‘Star Wars’! From ‘Episode 7,’ to the upcoming spinoffs and the TV shows, if it pertains to that long ago, far away galaxy, we’re covering it here, bringing you our expert analysis. This week, ponder who Andy Serkis is playing, learn the possible identity of Captain Phasma, and watch a special video starring Chewbacca.
Let’s Ponder Andy Serkis’ Character
No one outside of the actual ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ production knows anything about who Andy Serkis is playing in the film, but he’s already been at the center of two moments of exceptional weirdness. First, there was the whole debacle involving the identity of the voice in the first ‘Force Awakens’ trailer, which was eventually confirmed to be him. Then last week rumors swirled that he was actually playing two characters in the film, one live action and one through motion capture (which is his forte these days).
And then someone actually cornered Mr. Serkis and asked him about the latest rumors. His answer was a flat no. He is not playing two characters:
No that’s not true at all. I can say I only play one character.
Okay, that’s fair! It was a pretty wacky rumor. But surely (surely!) he could say is his one character was live action or motion capture, right? Noooope:
‘I can’t say a single thing about that. I’m sorry!’ Serkis says with a massive grin. ‘These things will all come out in the fullness of time, I promise.’
However, Serkis did go on to drop the flimsiest hint about his character and we’re going to do what we do best here at WookieeLeaks: speculate! Here’s what he had to say:
‘I have to be very careful about how I answer these questions. The character...’ he says, followed by a long pause. ‘He’s been through some stuff.’
Okay, hear us out because we have a theory that may be wrong but we can no longer ignore it.
A long while back, a rumor from a generally reliable source said that Emperor Palpatine, the Big Bad from the six previous movies, was in ‘The Force Awakens’ in some capacity. The exact nature of his role, whether he was still alive or a Force Ghost was unspecified. If this is true, think about Serkis’ gravelly, creepy voice from the trailer. Think about him saying that his character has “been through some stuff.” Think about the vague rumors of his role apparently being an overarching character for the next couple films.
Could ... could Andy Serkis be playing Palpatine? The voice sounds similar enough and with the right make-up (or digital work via mo-cap) he could easily take on the part. And you know what, we imagine being thrown down a Death Star tunnel by your protege counts as having been through “some stuff.”
But that’s crazy, right? After all, Ian McDiarmid played the role in four previous films and he’s around and working regularly. Casting Serkis to play that part doesn’t make any sense! Still, think about it. Think about it.
Say Hello to Captain Phasma (and Other Things of Interest)
Last week, we learned the names of a few new ‘Star Wars’ characters, including Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), BB-8 (himself), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver?!). We’ve now learned another name, but it arrived without as much fanfare. Someone just caught Disney registering a trademarking it alongside the other names.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Captain Phasma!
Like all ‘Star Wars’ names, it sounds pretty dopey at first, but we’ll get used to it. The most important question is who is playing this so-called-Captain Phasma? Looking over the list of new actors, one person stands out: Gwendoline Christie. The ‘Game of Thrones’ star is supposedly playing a “Chrome Trooper” in the film, a specialized Stormtrooper who is Finn’s commanding officer (and isn’t very happy that he’s gone missing). It’s a character who would definitely have a rank, so everything aligns. Until we hear differently, this is an assumption worth believing.
In slightly less interesting news, a 3D version of the trailer was screened at a Dutch Disney convention, but no one has reported if it contains any new footage. However, rumors began to swirl from that same article that the first poster for the film is expected to arrive in January, so prepare yourself accordingly.
And that brings us to one of the worst kept secrets of the entire production: the young and unknown Maisie Richardson Sellers is in the movie, casting which was initially reported (and never confirmed) in the weeks before filming began. If you’re wondering why Sellers never talked about her role in the film or why it was never actually announced, she has an answer for you: everyone is contractually obligated to keep their mouths shut. Here’s a quote from her first interview confirming her involvement in the film:
I had to sign many, many contracts. It’s very, very secret. But, everyone who’s working on it loves and respects the franchise so much, they all want to keep it a secret. We wanted to hold it tight, so it wasn’t hard for anyone. It wasn’t a forced thing; it’s our little child which we’re going to present to the world in a year.
In true ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ fashion, we literally have no idea who or what she’ll be playing in the film.
‘Star Wars Rebel’ Recruits a Saga Veteran
A lot has been going right for ‘Star Wars Rebels,’ but they’ve landed another big coup. The show has wrangled Frank Oz into returning to the role of Yoda, who he originally voiced and puppeteered in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Oz declined to voice the iconic Jedi master in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars,’ so this is a pretty big get for the show.
However, don’t expect to see a ton of Yoda. Since he’s currently going a little nutty in his isolation on Dagobah at this point in the timeline, Yoda will act as a spiritual advisor for the Force-sensitive characters on the show, speaking to them from afar. Showrunner Dave Filoni explained his reasoning:
I felt personally to keep Yoda as this disembodied thing it would confuse the audience less. I didn’t want you to think Yoda could be teleporting from planet to planet.
What’s great about Frank, by keeping the voice very present and active, you do feel that it’s a watchfulness and that he’s speaking to you from afar. And I didn’t want anyone to think that he had left Dagobah. It was on the outer rim of what we do, but I think we were able to pull it off.
We couldn’t agree more. Yoda has always been more effective as a wise voice of wisdom and his transformation into an action hero over the prequels diluted him. This is the best way to maintain his mystique.
Remember how everyone thought Kylo Ren’s new lightsaber was weird? Well, it turns out that Ezra’s new laser sword on ‘Star Wars Rebels’ is no slouch in the weirdness department, either. Yes, that is a lightsaber with a built in blaster.
Oh, and a special “featurette” on ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ played on Disney XD and we assure you that you are not the target audience for it. Unless you’re eight years old. And if you are eight years old, why are you reading this?
‘Star Wars’ Gets Talked Up and Talked Down
Mark Hamill, who has every reason in the world to feel bitter and annoyed by ‘Star Wars’ in general, has been a genuinely positive ray of sunshine when it comes to the new movie. Between his personal enthusiasm and his kind words for the new cast, he’s become the saga’s biggest cheerleader and he’s not stopping yet. In his latest interview, Hamill discussed a number of things that should interest you, but he started with the most important thing: his beard.
That is what I call my contractually obligated beard. Listen: I think they look fine on other people. It’s just not me. I mean, I never got used to it. But face foliage is almost a part of the costume. And it does bring a gravitas, perhaps unearned, but nevertheless, it makes a statement that they wanted to make, and I’m more than happy to oblige them.
From there, he went on to explain why it’s totally okay that he’s not in the first trailer. As always, he’s self-deprecating about himself and his role in the series. We just want to hang out with this guy:
This is about the new generation of characters; I think that’s the most important thing. It’s the opening act of a whole new approach to the storytelling. So I never thought that the stories would be – first of all, I never thought I’d be involved in it again, period. And then when George [Lucas] said that they wanted to do more, I rightly assumed that it wouldn’t be our story, because we had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This must be our offspring and the current generation, with us there lending the kind of support that Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness did in the original. So no, that didn’t surprise me. And I mean, I’m one of those people where I just think, ‘Keep me out of it. I’ll ruin it, I’m sure!’ [Laughs] I’ll show up and just ruin the whole thing.
Naturally, he found time to talk about grumpy ol’ Harrison Ford:
Well, you know, he was someone that was unpredictable. I hadn’t seen him in years; I didn’t know what his feelings were. I know he’s sometimes grown impatient with people that don’t want to focus on what he’s doing currently and want to go stroll down memory lane. God knows, I’m used to that sort of thing. But who knew? And for him to jump back in so enthusiastically, I was delighted. It’s a wonderful character. Everybody loves Han Solo.
Most importantly, he addressed J.J. Abrams’ desire to use as many practical effects as possible. He then revealed that BB-8 isn’t digital! She (because it’s apparently a she) is an actual device that actually existed on set and allowed actors to actually interact with it. That’s crazy. We almost don’t believe him:
They never cease to amaze me with what they’re able to come up with, you know? I said, “How are you ever gonna top R2-D2, the most adorable droid in movie history?” And then they have this new one. I can’t even tell you his name, but you saw it in the trailer. And when they were demonstrating how they did this thing, live on set — because it’s not CGI, that’s a live prop — I was just amazed. They let me play around with it. [Laughs] I was running it all around at the creature shop up in Pinewood. I’m telling you, it’s an absolute delight. And not having thought that I’d ever go back there, to go back into that world, is just–I get the chills. It’s just so much fun.
Enough with that positivity! Let’s get negative! In a recent article about the late, great director Mike Nichols, ‘Star Wars’ veteran Natalie Portman explained how the prequels almost killed her career and that Nichols helped resurrect it:
‘Star Wars’ had come out ... and everyone thought I was a horrible actress. I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me. Mike wrote a letter to Anthony Minghella and said, ‘Put her in ‘Cold Mountain,’ I vouch for her.’ And then Anthony passed me on to Tom Tykwer, who passed me on to the Wachowskis.
And then a few years after ‘Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,’ she had an Oscar. Not a bad comeback, but we totally get it: We probably wouldn’t want to cast many of the actors from the prequel trilogy, either.
Let’s end this on a more positive and far stranger note. Director Jason Reitman regularly hosts live readings of scripts by all-star casts and for his latest show, he selected ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ The cast is a hell of a thing:
- Aaron Paul as Luke Skywalker
- J.K. Simmons as Darth Vader
- Ellen Page as Han Solo
- Jessica Alba as Princess Leia
- Dennis Haysbert as Lando Calrissian
- Kevin Pollack as Yoda
- Stephen Merchant as C-3PO
Yep, Han and Leia are both women. That’s just as cool as J.K. Simmons (who is so incredibly menacing in ‘Whiplash’) playing the most iconic movie villain of all time.
Chewbacca Says Thanks
As you may recall, J.J. Abrams started a charity drive to raise money for UNICEF and ‘Star Wars’ fans answered his call. Now that they’ve raised over $5 million, Abrams has released a special thank-you video, which features a cameo from a certain Wookiee.