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Interview with 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Special Effects Supervisor Chris Corbould

Star Wars: The Last Jedi behind the scenes onset

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI special effects supervisor Chris Corbould reveals to CineMovie which two visual effects were the trickiest. Listen to the interview below.

Chris Corbould Star Wars Last Jedi SFXSpecial effects supervisor Chris Corbould is the person responsible for the practical effects on set. The London native was recently nominated along with his team for an Academy Award award for STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. Although they lost to BLADE RUNNER 2049, Corbould tells CineMovie he felt honored to be part of the group. Chris has also received four Oscar nominations for THE DARK KNIGHT, INCEPTION, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and winning for INCEPTION. He also has 10 time BAFTA nominee with two wins for INCEPTION and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

On the STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI home release, which is now available on Digital HD, 4K, Blu-ray and DVD, we'll be able to see Chris Corbould and his team's handy work in the documentary on the bonus features. And it's literally all hands on deck when it comes to visual effects. The award-winning effects supervisor explains the two most difficult effects.

Director Rian Johnson knew exactly what he wanted and it was up to the special effects team to bring his vision to life. The burning tree with Yoda and Luke Skywalker was both Corbould's favorite and most tricky effect.

“Working with Rian, he has a very clear idea in his own mind what he wants to see on screen. And that was particularly apparent with the burning tree. He didn’t wanted it to look like a tree bursting into flames. He wanted it to be hit by this thunder bolt, really start the burn quite slowly and build up in intensity as Yoda and Luke have their conversation. So that was fun.”

Creating the red dust and explosions on the rebellion outpost on Crait was no easy feat either. Johnson didn't merely want red dust flying in the air . He wanted deep, red crystals, says Corbould. They experimented with different compounds like red ice cubes, red ice/rubber or anything that looked red they threw up in the air to see if Rian liked it. They settled on a third party company who created 50 tons of paper granules. The paper granules were place in a steel tub and filled it up with water and blew it up in the air for the explosions.

They only had one chance to set off the red explosions in the scene where the rebels are in the trenches on the snow-filled set. They tested ten to fifteen times with safety parameters set. On the day of the shoot, they had one take to get it right.

“One minute the set was white, next it was all red including all the actors, says THE LAST JEDI VFX supervisor who adds if they didn't get it right, it would've been a different story. “It would’ve been a big cleanup. It probably would’ve been a weeks cleanup. We had to get that one right.”  

Star WarsVIII scene

As part of the special effects team, the crew is also responsible in building part of the imaginary ships like the cockpit under the bombers or the 10 ton shuttle craft that that flies into the rebel hideaway on Crait. Corbould says they test out all the equipment and moving parts during the 6 months of pre-production which included rotating and swiveling upside down with the actor. Luckily there were no mechanical failures on set, according to the supervisor.

To be part of a special effects team, an engineering background is necessary since that's a large portion of what they do. Metal fabrication, hyraulics, nematics and computer control are just part of the knowledge needed to create practical special effects.

On the home release for THE LAST JEDI, you can go behind the scenes on STAR WARS EPISODE VIII to see what Chris Corbould and his team do.

"It's the first time I’ve ever been involved in a proper documentary where they feel the nuts and bolts of the crew, how they achieve things behind the scenes. I’m really interested in looking at that.”

When asked if he will return to the STAR WARS universe for Episode VIII directed by J.J. Abrams, Corbould says he will be sitting out the last movie in the new trilogy. He may, however, work on the next James Bond film, making it his twelve film he's worked on in the series.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is now available on Digital HD, 4K, Blu-ray and DVD.

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