Dennis Pellegrom runs StarWarsInterviews.com
and has over one hundred and fifty plus Star Wars interviews under his belt and posted for your reading pleasure. His most recent is with Brian Herring, one of the puppeteers that brought BB-8 to life. Here's is a brief snippet - read the full story here
Hi Brian! What or who inspired you to work in the movie business?
I grew up in the theatre. My mother worked in wardrobe and I was always around shows as a kid. I wanted to be an actor and did a lot of community theatre then went into the business when I was about 18.
How did you get one of the best jobs in the galaxy: puppeteering BB-8.
I had been working as a puppeteer since joining a UK satire show called Spitting Image in 1993. Jobbing about for the BBC, The Jim Henson Company, ITV, commercials and a few movies. I’d worked on Ridley Scott’s Prometheus for Neal Scanlan, who won an Oscar for Babe and we’d got on well.
I had randomly called him about something else I was working on and after a couple of minutes chatting it came out that he was heading up the CFX department for the new Star Wars film. From there he hired me as the Puppeteer Consultant.
My job was to find performers, work with the designers and fabricators to find ways of getting people into strange yet performable positions within creature suits and make sure they could actually perform while they were in there.
I would also liaise between the CFX, Art and Construction departments to ensure the puppetry requirements were met for each scene and I also had to put an R&D team together to start developing some of the new creatures as quickly as possible. We started in August of 2013 working on early versions of the Happabore and the Luggabeast.
While that was going on designs for a little round droid called ‘Snow Globe’ started coming through from Christian Alzman at ILM. Jake Lunt Davies eventually realised the design that everyone now knows as BB-8.
At this point Josh Lee was working on ways to bring that design to life. JJ wanted a practical character on set and Josh came up with the idea of a puppet version. I did some early character studies with a 12 inch version and from there BB-8 became 7 different versions on screen. There’s a great panel online with Josh and Matt Denton at Celebration where they talk about the different droids.
During that process Josh was joined by Matt and Giles Hannagan and I roped in Dave Chapman to perform with me. It took months of R&D which culminated in a show and tell for JJ and Kathleen Kennedy in around March of 2014. Quite possibly the most stressful day of my life. It could have all gone digital in an instant. However, when JJ saw the character come to life in front of him he was over the moon. He then said something to me along the lines of “I love how you’re puppeteering it. Go read the script, you’re in the movie!”
When was your first encounter with the Star Wars phenomenon and what did you think of it?
I was 7 in ‘77. My Dad took me to see Star Wars, no episode number, no subtitle back then that I recall, and it blew my mind like everyone else. I was THAT kid. I had the curtains, the bed sheets, all the toys, which I still have, comics, the lot.
I even had a school report when I was about 9 that said something along the lines of;
“Brian’s obsession with Star Wars will lead him nowhere and he should concentrate on his academic work”.
It was a massive influence on me. The story, the myths and legends it was based on. I even knew the names of the effects guys. We only really had a few dedicated movie magazines, those fold-out poster magazines and the special collector’s editions back then. Little articles with behind the scenes pictures which were our only real access to that world unless they showed the Making of Star Wars at Christmas. This was all before video recorders too. If you missed it, you’d missed it!. I devoured that stuff. I recently cleared my loft and discovered so much of it. #HezzasLoft if you want to see some of what I found.