5 behind-the-scenes secrets on the Prequel Trilogy costumes

From StarWars.com:

” […] All of this detail is on display in the “Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of Costume” traveling exhibit, currently at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The thoughtful displays put the costumes of the Star Wars galaxy in their best light. The outfits are displayed artfully and accompanied by information about their design and fabrication with quotes from the likes of John Mollo and Trisha Biggar. Outfits from all the eras of cinematic Star Wars are represented, with a special section devoted to Padmé Amidala’s stunning and ever-shifting wardrobe.

While browsing the exhibit, certain notes in particular jumped out. Here are eight facts we learned from Star Wars and the Power of Costume.

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1. Disguise and color go hand in hand.

Padmé stayed hidden among her handmaidens in an ombre travel gown with a deep hood. Though the silk and velvet are brightly hued, the hood allowed Padmé to remain in disguise and unnoticed by her foes. Designed by prequel trilogy costume designer Trisha Biggar, the gown was inspired by the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the nineteenth century — the costume was specifically affected by the rich colors found in those paintings.

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2. There are emblematic Easter eggs.

The Naboo royal crest appears overtly and subtly in more garments than you might have noticed on screen. You can spot it hidden in plain sight as a repeating burnout pattern in the fabric or tucked away more subtly on the queen and handmaiden gown designs. Keep your eyes glued to their costumes the  next time you watch the prequel trilogy, especially The Phantom Menace. […]

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6. Wookiees need to stay cool.

By the time several Wookiee costumes had to be crafted for Revenge of the Sith, the costume department learned a trick or two about making them more comfortable. No longer would Peter Mayhew have to swelter under pounds of yak fur without relief.

To ensure the actors wearing the heavy fur-covered suits on set kept their cool and maintained tolerable temperatures, costuming devised a cooling suit to go under the fur. The system featured tubing attached to a mesh shirt, so cold water could be circulated through to combat heat.

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7. Tassel time with no hassle.

Sly Moore’s tassel-covered cloak flowed like the surface of water anytime she moved. It’s the kind of costume you stop and notice, even more so when you learn each and every tassel was individually hand-knotted and attached to the garment.

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8. Palps needs a manicure.

Senator Palpatine probably had nice, relatively normal fingernails. He lost those when he transformed in Revenge of the Sith, instead gaining nails that appeared to be fungus-ridden and rotten. Those fingernails are part of the Power of Costume exhibit and not to be missed. They’re made from resin and paint and applied to Ian McDiarmid’s nails , but the commonplace materials don’t make them look any less sinister.”

Tunisians restore Mos Espa and Lars homestead sets to draw tourists

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From Deutsche Well: [Note: the author mistakenly believes that Mos Espa first appeared in A New Hope]

“Ong Jmel lies in the Southwest of Tunisia. To Star Wars fans, the location is better known as Mos Espa, the galaxy waystation where all the gloomy figures gather. […] It’s also where Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker – who later became Darth Vader – was born.

There’s also the small village of Matmata, where Luke Skywalker was raised by his uncle and aunt. The house in the film is actually a hotel which was constructed in such a way as to remain cool in the desert heat – namely, underground. […]

You might think that tourism here would be booming; Star Wars has millions of fans around the world, and who doesn’t enjoy slipping into a Jedi knight costume and setting foot where Luke Skywalker himself once tread?

For many years, that was the case. Then terrorism came to Tunisia and the tourists stayed home. The town of Mos Espa – a collection of buildings made of wood and papier-maché – were swallowed up by the desert sand.

Save Most Espa, a 2014 initiative by fans, collected donations in excess of $75,000 for the project, a sum handed over to the Tunisian government. Mos Espa was dug out of the sand.

Nevertheless, tourists are still staying home or preferring to stay at the sandy beaches in the North of the country instead of driving the nearly 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) to the South, where George Lucas’s desert planet makes its home and where there is enough sun to completely dry out the landscape.

Loyal fans have not given up, however. Nabil Gasmi of the regional tourism organization CDTOS is continuing work to protect the film set from being forgotten. “We have to. Everyone here in the area profits from the film set and sees it as a part of their inheritance,” he told German news agency dpa.

He dreams of turning the region into a tourist magnet – complete with convenience store, museum, film screenings and festivals. Residents should be brought on board, as many, especially the young people, are unemployed.

A delegation of Tunisian tourism managers presented their idea at the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) trade fair in Berlin in March 2017. They are especially interested in acquiring tourists from around Asia that are increasingly traveling around the globe to visit the hot spots. Why not add southwestern Tunisia to the list?

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The Vamps’ James McVey thinks Jar Jar Binks is ‘an interesting character’

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From StarWars.com:

“They’ve toured with the likes of Selena Gomez, Little Mix, and Taylor Swift, but now British boy band the Vamps are about to head on a world tour of their own to support the release of new album, Night & Day. StarWars.com caught up with guitarist James McVey to talk about his love of the saga, meeting Carrie Fisher (as well as Gary!), and getting emotional over Rogue One. […]

StarWars.com: You’ve been put forward to me as the biggest fan in the band — either that or you just got the short straw?

James McVey: No, it’s true! My dad watched the originals in the ’70s, so when I was growing up I watched video tapes of IV, V, and VI. I’ve grown up with it.

StarWars.com: So you must have been pretty young when The Phantom Menace came out?

James McVey: Yeah, I must have been six or seven. I do remember it coming out, but I did the originals first and I think that was the best way to get me into it.

StarWars.com: OK, I’m going to bring up a certain Sir Jar Jar of Binks here. You’re very much a fan aren’t you?

James McVey: Yeah…I just like depth to stories and I find him an interesting character. The whole Gungan city underwater is also really interesting and if it wasn’t for Jar Jar then they never would have gone down there. I think he’s a good link to another part of Star Wars that fans can get involved in.”

 

Inverse: “The Phantom Menace is a much better film than Valerian”

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From Inverse:

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is a much better, more coherent science fiction film than Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. While both films are burdened by wooden dialogue, bad acting, and fake, goofy aliens, The Phantom Menace has a bunch of mandatory cinematic assets Valerian doesn’t: a story, characters, and stakes you actually care about.

We make this comparison because, in many ways, The Phantom Menace and Valerian are the same movie. So much so, that, in fact, you could argue that Luc Besson actually ripped off George Lucas. Both feature a pair of special agents dispatched by a crooked space government to try to get to the bottom of some corruption that is actually caused by their government. Valerian and Laureline ’s investigation isn’t thematically any different than Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s. It’s just that the subtly of Palpatine’s manipulation of the senate is actually way more interesting and realistic than Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen) trying to cover up the murder of the pearl aliens who clearly escaped from the planet Pandora.

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s relationship is also more interesting and creative than Valerian and Laureline. In the latter, it’s just about some guy claiming he wants to marry someone who isn’t as keen on the idea. But, in The Phantom Menace, the partner dynamic is deeper.

Obi-Wan is more by-the-book than Qui-Gon, even though he’s younger. This smartly inverts the cliché of a young hothead who doesn’t listen to his teacher and instead puts the fussier, more conservative man in the youthful role, while the maverick uses his looser approach as a teaching tool. It’s all about whether or not someone is ready to do stuff on their own, to strike out and become independent, and what it means to be wise. […]

Functionally, Valerian is the Jar Jar Binks of his own movie. The scene in which this supposed crack agent infiltrates a marketplace in an alternate dimension plays out as slapstick comedy. Valerian bumps into people and knocks shit over. His hand is “comically” bouncing around in an alternate dimension by itself. Fans of Jar Jar must have loved this stuff: It’s exactly like when Jar Jar pisses off Sebulba in the Tatooine marketplace, only not as funny. Jar Jar was funny. […]

Points for The Phantom Menace here only because Qui-Gon Jinn gets to drop that cheesy “there’s always a bigger fish” line, which Luc Besson just wished he’d written.

In Valerian, there is literally nothing to care about. The two leads seem unrealistic, the conspiracy perpetrated by Arun Filitt is so obvious, and the pearl aliens are so generic that they they seem like set dressing. At least in The Phantom Menace the Gungans were weird and not remotely sexual. In Valerian, the pearl aliens feel like they’re market-tested to be appealing to creeps. […]

The Phantom Menace smartly had a deadly assassin named Darth Maul chasing Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon throughout the film. Sure, Arun Filitt had his killer robots in Valerian, but they didn’t really seem dangerous. The deadliness of Darth Maul is proven in the final scenes of The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon Jinn is stabbed to death. When are you worried about anyone in Valerian? Is Arun Filitt’s corruption as scary as Palpatine’s political deftness? As scary as a dude with horns in a black hood?

Even if you’d never seen a Star Wars movie, in The Phantom Menace you could recognize creative character dynamics, interesting plot developments, and stakes which made you care about the characters. Valerian lacks all of those qualities and can only compete with The Phantom Menace in the visual effects category.

But, again, The Phantom Menace wins, if only because it has lightsabers and Valerian doesn’t.”

Ahmed Best: “There are so many layers to Jar Jar that people did not look at”

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From WIRED:

“[…] So Best wasn’t prepared for the response that summer, when Jar Jar was all but declared a menace in his own right. There were accusations that the character was a throwback to racially charged stereotypes from the early 20th century (the Wall Street Journal review called Jar Jar “a Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen”). “I was shocked with the racial implications,” Best says now, “but always knew they had little to no merit.”

The majority of the complaints focused on the character’s child-like klutziness and cluelessness. Older Star Wars fans were the harshest, offended by the presence of a high-pitched, high-energy, floppy-eared amphibian in what they considered a grownup galaxy. “I had death threats through the internet,” Best says. “I had people come to me and say, ‘You destroyed my childhood.’ That’s difficult for a 25-year-old to hear.”

But as Best’s friend Seth Green notes, the Star Wars lovers who rejected Jar Jar’s kid-pleasing shenanigans weren’t the character’s target audience in the first place. “When Episode One came out, it was after many years of no Star Wars,” says Green, a co-creator of Robot Chickenand a longtime Star Wars aficionado. “Fans who were young kids when the original trilogy came out were now adults with kids of their own, and they were trying to compare this new film to feelings accumulated over their entire lives of loving and re-watching the original trilogy…Obviously, adults wouldn’t like Jar Jar. But Ahmed didn’t deserve any scorn.”

Because Best was online and connected to the greater Star Wars fan community, he couldn’t avoid the blowback. Two of the forces that had shaped his creative life—the fandom of Star Wars and the freedom of the web—had been turned against him, and the abuse he endured was a sign of how the internet, even in the pre-Twitter era, could both personalize and dehumanize a pop-culture figure all at once.

“There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of pain, there was a lot of shit I had to deal with,” Best says. He takes a break from his meal, and leans back in his seat. “Everybody else went on. Everybody else worked. Everybody else was accepted by the zeitgeist.” […]

While at school [at American Film Institute], he focused on figuring out how and why viewers forge emotional connections with the performers in front of them. It was around this time he also started thinking again about Jar Jar: Why didn’t this seemingly innocuous character—the result of so much devotion and time from Best, not to mention dozens of others—work with audience members?

“There is a heart to Jar Jar that people don’t really get,” Best says. “He is the most loyal character in Star Wars ever. As Qui-Gon and Jar Jar are walking through the forest, he says, ‘I owe you a life debt.’” But that sincere moment is soon eclipsed. “The jokes take over, and the slapstick takes over, and the physical comedy takes over,” he says. Ultimately, Best settled on the same answer some Phantom fans did nearly 20 years ago: “He was a little bit on the nose.”

In recent years, the Phantom Menace fans who adored Jar Jar when they were kids have attempted to redefine his legacy, at least online. There are numerous “In Defense of Jar Jar Binks” essays, not to mention an extensive (and sincere) [Jar Jar Binks Appreciation Threadon the long-running site TheForce.net. But the character’s most substantive stab at pop-culture rehab was a fan theory that first appeared on Reddit in October 2015, which quickly circulated around the web. It posited that Jar Jar Binks was secretly a Force-trained Sith who’d been quietly assisting Senator Palpatine in his rise to power (evidence includes: Jar Jar’s Jedi-like gesticulations, his inexplicable combat acumen, the fact that he and Palpatine share a home planet).

Whether or not his character was actually a secret insurrectionist doesn’t really matter; what does matter is that, years after Menace’s release, people are finally starting to take Jar Jar Binks seriously—much to Best’s delight. “There are so many layers to Jar Jar that people did not look at,” Best says, “because everyone was ready to be angry.””

 

Ahmed Best has good memories of shooting The Phantom Menace: “We laughed all day long”

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From WIRED:

“By the spring of 1996, Best had earned a lead role in [Stomp]’s San Francisco company. One night, Lucasfilm casting director Robin Gurland wound up in the audience, trying to find someone who could play a new kind of film character—one that would be rendered digitally on-screen, but drawn from an actor’s performance. The search was taking forever. “Jar Jar was one of the last roles we cast,” Gurland says. “I was looking for someone who could really sell the physical aspect of the character, but who also had the acting chops to give it a literal voice—and it’s very difficult to find that in one performer.”

Best didn’t know Gurland was watching the performance, which was probably a good thing. That night, an out-of-town Stomper was visiting the city, so Best was relegated to a supporting role, leaving him fuming. “I turned into an asshole that night,” Best says. “I thought, ‘If you think you can out-anything on me onstage, you got another fucking thing coming, and I’m going to prove it.’ And I did. Had I been a little bit older, I would’ve handled that a little bit more gracefully.”

But Best’s show-offy turn wound up winning over Gurland. “I couldn’t take my eyes off him,” she says. “There’s an unknown quality that true performers have—the ability to relate to an audience and to come across as if they’re directing their performance to you specifically.” She eventually invited him to Skywalker Ranch, where Best was squeezed into a tight-fitting motion-capture suit and asked to move about. (When Lucas himself eventually showed up, Best broke into what was once described as a “break-dance glide.”) Not long afterward, he was summoned overseas to begin his work as Jar Jar. His Star Wars saga had begun.

ON AN EARLY morning in 1997, Best stood in a hut in the middle of a wide stretch of desert in Tunisia, getting tucked into part of his Jar Jar outfit. Crew members were hovering about, and the heat was promising to once again break the three-digit barrier, but Best was calmly, quietly nuh-nuh-nuh-ing a familiar tune: The Star Wars theme. Like millions of other Star Wars devotees in the mid- to late-’90s, Best couldn’t suppress his excitement for The Phantom Menace. […]

And Best retains the character’s elastic physicality and jumpy eagerness throughout the movie, despite being yoked with a still-in-the-works technology and disguised under layers of digital makeup. “I did my job,” he says. “I was believable enough for you to believe that this character existed. George said do a thing, I did a thing, you know what I mean? The fact that you hate Jar Jar—I still did the job.”

Best had seen the original movies countless times as a kid, so getting the role of Jar Jar made him the luckiest Star Wars fan in the world—which may be why he approached the role with Sith-like seriousness. In a recent episode of the movie-obsessed podcast I Was There Too, Best outlined some of the obstacles involved in going Gungan: There was that time he quietly endured a costume fitting right after a flight attendant spilled scalding hot tea on his lap, worried he’d lose the role if he spoke up. And there was the strange backstage encounter with Lucas and Michael Jackson, who’d lobbied the director for the part of Jar Jar—only to find out Best had landed it instead.

Mostly, though, Best’s memories of making The Phantom Menace are good ones: “We laughed all day long,” he says. In the behind-the-scenes doc The Beginning: Making ‘Episode 1’, you can see Best strutting playfully around the set, a fake Jar Jar visage on his head, as he prepares to film some early screen tests. (You can also spot Lucas, in a purple dad shirt, awkwardly demonstrating the character’s loping walk.) At the time of Phantom’s release, Jar Jar was promoted as a technological marvel, one that had been brought to life by ILM’s innovative motion-capture techniques and digital advances. But without Best, the character’s loose-limbed, goof-typhoon persona would likely never have translated to screen. “George and I watched Buster Keaton movies together, and talked about him,” Best says. “Some of the Jar Jar scenes are direct Buster Keaton scenes.””

George Lucas predicted in 1999 that Jar Jar would be seen in a new way 20 years later

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From WIRED:

“THE CALL FROM George Lucas came in the summer of 1999, while Ahmed Best was out for a walk in New York City’s Washington Square Park. It was like a lifeline. At that moment, the then-25-year-old actor and musician was on screens across the world, starring in one of the biggest movies of the year, if not the decade: Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace. Thanks to pre-emptively ecstatic press leading up to the film’s release, Best’s face had been everywhere, grinning widely from the covers of Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, and even landing a corner flap on the front of Time magazine. But because he’d always been in character as Jar Jar Binks, his CGI-assisted alter ego, Best’s fellow parkgoers likely didn’t recognize him that day. Which means they couldn’t have known they were in the presence of the most hated-upon alien in the galaxy.

For the previous few weeks, Jar Jar and Best had been the twin villains of the internet, with Best’s performance eliciting all sorts of ire-ridden accusations: that Jar Jar was a kiddie-pleasing drag who was wesa– and mesa-ing his way through a grown-up movie; that he’d been crassly concocted by George Lucas solely to sell more toys; that he was a bafoonish, borderline-racist caricature. These days, such pop-culture controversies are usually snuffed out within a few weeks and swiftly replaced with more up-to-date outrages. But the Jar Jar jeremiad lasted for years. A site called JarJarMustDie.com was launched before the film’s release, and numerous fan forums emanated a loud, shared anti-Gungan din. Best’s creation was so toxic that a Jar Jar gag wound up being jammed at the last minute into that year’s South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, and in 2000 a Star Wars fan released a homemade version of Menace—dubbed The Phantom Edit—that pared down some of Binks’ antics.

By the time Lucas called, Best was stuck in a cruel limbo that few actors experience—a state of being infamous and anonymous, all at once. “It’s really difficult to articulate the feeling,” Best says now. “You feel like a success and a failure at the exact same time. I was staring at the end of my career before it started.”

Throughout the controversy, Best had largely remained quiet. But Lucas wanted to talk. “George said, ‘This happened with the Ewoks. It happened with Chewbacca. It happened with Lando Calrissian,’” Best recalled. “He was used to this. He knew what was going to happen.”

Twenty years from now, Lucas said, things were going to be very different, and people were going to see this character in a new way. Best just needed to focus on the future. […]

One of Best’s dream guests [for his podcast], he says, is Lucas himself. The two occasionally still talk, though Best says he’s closer to Menace costars Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor. “I’d like to have the definitive Jar Jar episode with him,” Best says. “I would really want to know how he saw that this type of filmmaking was going to be pretty ubiquitous. And I’d want to ask him why he went there.””