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Nick Gillard Talks ROTS Game

Posted By JG on May 8, 2005


The following interview was conducted at ILM on January 14, 2004.

What are you doing here at ILM?

Nick Gillard: I?m over here at Lucasfilm working on the game for Episode III. Hopefully working out the moves and the fights to get it as real as we can to the movie.

What have you been doing so far?

This week we?ve been working on breaking down the Jedi moves. Trying to work with the system?a written system that only a few of us know. Only the actors and the stunt guys do it, so I?ve been trying to teach the animators of the game and show the specific moves?show them how wrists move, how feet move?so we can get it as close as possible to the movie.

Have you been involved in a videogame project before?

I?ve never been involved in a videogame project. It?s very new to me. In fact, I?ve only played three games, and it was, you know, knocking around with Hayden, who plays a lot. I caught up with him quick, and I?m now determined to win this game, because I?ll know more about it than he will.

What are your thoughts on what you?ve seen of the game?

I?ve only seen the renderings of characters, but they look amazing. The set?s exactly what we have in the film.

What?s your approach to working on a film project? How is it different to work on the game?

On a movie, obviously I have a script. I know the story of the movie. I know how the characters are feeling, why they?re fighting, where they?ve got to go. I think it?s going to be pretty much the same on this game. The sets are all the same. The characters are the same. I?m going to take the same approach?I?m just going to get it much more detailed because it?s much tighter than it is on the movie, and there?s so much more time with the game.

Are there any moves that didn?t make the film but did make the game?

The glory of doing the game is that there are lots of moves that don?t work on the movie. They might be too complicated, or they might be too fierce, and get rejected for the film?we can now put those into the game.

Would you say you have more freedom to draw up fights in the videogame world?

Yeah, I think that the game is going to give a whole lot of freedom because you can be so much more extreme. When we do the movie, it has to be believable. But I think with a game it should be more unbelievable.

Is there something particular you?re looking forward to seeing in the game?

Yes. I?m in the game. I?m really excited to see how I look in the game. My character in the game is larger than he is in the film?it?s only a hologram in the film. And I?m going to try my damndest to make him a character that nobody can actually beat, and you have to lure him onto something to kill him. I think he could certainly take out Anakin without any trouble at all (laughs).

Can you tell us more about the character in the movie?

I only did it providing my name could be my own name. So I have my own name backward. Which is Cin Drallig. I play an instructor, and I get killed by Anakin (laughs). Obviously in real life, I?d cream him.

Working with the videogame team, have there been any pleasant surprises?

Yeah, there?s been a huge difference between working with the videogame team as opposed to Lucasfilm. It?s that they?re all like 17 years old! (Laughs.) You can?t impress them as much. So in a way it?s been harder.

What was most important to teach the animators? What did you want to show them to make sure they create authentic fighting sequences?

Having played a few games myself, you?re playing it thinking, ?God, I wish I could do this in the game!? Or, ?I wish this button did that.? Because we?re working on this game, we?re in the position to do that. And also, in the games I?ve played, the character movement seems to be incorrect, and I know that the people here were keen on how they could fix that. So we?re working particularly on the footwork?how exactly they move. How their wrists move when they turn, that they turn the right way, that the blocks and grapples are correct. We spent a lot of time showing how Count Dooku walked, how Anakin walks now as opposed to how he walked in Episode II?which is different?and why Obi is so bouncy and jolly.

Tell us about your hands-on demonstration session for the team.

When I came, I brought three lightsabers out with me?the ones that we use on the movies, which the guys on the game got pretty excited about. I think they?ve been using, like, rolled-up bits of cardboard. Although, there?s a couple of the animators who made their own lightsaber fights, which were just amazing. I mean, I watched these guys and thought, ?You know, I could use these guys in the film.?

Which lightsabers did you bring?

I brought Anakin?s, Obi?s, and mine. And they?re all actually like the characters. They?re all different lights, different weights, different lengths. I think it was good for the guys to see that and how it?s not just a generic lightsaber. They all have their own weight. Obi?s is always much thicker than everyone else?s. Anakin?s is longer.

What else did you like about doing a videogame?

One of the things I found really exciting about the game is that it?s easy on a film?you know, you get a script and you?re going to go in a room where there?s five guys in there, and you have to kill them. But you know how to kill those guys?it?s scripted. With the game, there are all these strange little characters. A guy might just come in sweeping at your ankles. As soon as you stop him, you might get a chance to kick him, but he?ll swing around at you from the other side. If someone else comes into the room, you?ve got to deal with another guy. You might have only kicked him once?he?s still alive?so you?re always looking over your shoulder for the Sweeper Guy because you know he?s coming to cut your ankles off, and now you?re dealing with Lunging Guy. It?s way different from the movie and a great challenge. I?ve really enjoyed working on the game.

How do you look at the swordfights you design?

When I?m doing swordfights on movies, I pretty much treat it totally as a dance. The footwork is as important as the swordwork, so everything has tot stay in synch. It?s more like choreography than fight arranging.

Do you think about the characters involved when choreographing a fight scene?

When we started on Phantom Menace, I set out certain styles and, particularly, faults for characters. Once you know the line of them, you know why they?re going to do something. You know why they?re going to behave a certain way, what?s going to make them angry or not angry. It?s very easy to just knock through a fight. If you know the script and you know why they?re there?where they?re going, why they?re going there?it makes the whole thing much easier.

Do you take into account the use of sound and special effects when you?re looking to do a scene or sequence?

I have tapes that I get from Ben Burtt of lightsaber noises. The sound effects and the lighting effects can help you a great deal?you know what?s going on. You know there are explosions or flashes of light. It makes it a whole lot easier.

How was it to work with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen? Especially on such a long and arduous fight?

The fight with Anakin and Obi-Wan at the end is an incredibly long fight?I think it?ll be the longest fight in cinema history. It was fantastic to work on. I had Hayden for maybe seven weeks of rehearsal. I tried to keep Hayden and Ewan apart for a long time. I would fight them against doubles, and I kept it right until the very end before they went against each other. And even then I think the two of them weren?t too keen on that?you know, they wanted to almost save it for when we were shooting. Because it?s so emotional.

What do you expect to see from this game when it comes to this sequence?

I expect it to be exactly the same. The moves are going to be the same. The emotion is going to be the same. You should know you?re playing as either of them?it?s going to be that different. They certainly won?t be making the same moves. They both have very different moves and very different emotions.

How would you say Obi-Wan evolves as a swordsman from Episode I to Episode III?

Obi-Wan has gone up one level from Episode I to Episode III, but it?s a huge jump from one level to another. It?s not just about a style of fighting?it?s mental as well. Anakin has gone up probably four levels from Episode II to Episode III. So he?s gone beyond Obi-Wan, but he hasn?t gone beyond him mentally.

How has Anakin?s style changed?

Anakin?s style has changed completely between Episode II and Episode III. He now no longer cares. He knows he?s unbeatable. He?s far more dangerous than anybody in the universe.

If you could arrange a fight scene between any two Star Wars characters, who would they be?

The fight I?d really like to see would be Boba Fett versus Anakin.

What?s been your favorite fight sequence from Episodes I through III?

Without question, it?s Obi-Wan versus Anakin in Episode III. One was the master, one was the pupil. One has replaced the other one, technically. Obi knows that Anakin is better than him, but because he taught him, he knows emotionally how he?s going to behave. I took it on as like a fight between a husband and wife. It sounds silly, but Obi doesn?t want to kill him. Obi has got to try and withstand this onslaught?this huge onslaught that?s going to cover like a mile and be 10 minutes long, which is an enormous amount of time for a fight. So I took it as Obi trying to take this onslaught continuously and hoping that Anakin was going to eventually, you know, get over it and calm down. That doesn?t happen.

How do you choreograph things taking into account, say, Hayden?s height advantage?

Height doesn?t matter. It doesn?t matter at all. I just work on what they have. Their faults, mostly. So I?ve always had a fault for both of them.

What?s Anakin?s particular fault?

Anakin has the least of them all, but his would be being on a slope.

How about Obi-Wan?

Obi?s is his aggression. If he has a downfall that?s it.

What was the most difficult fight sequence in any Star Wars movie?

The first one, because it had been so long since the last movie?I may have been a bit flippant. I liked the fight with Obi-Wan and Darth Maul, but some seven years on, it?s evolved so much. I?ve taken it so much more seriously. I understand it much better, so once I got to Obi-Wan versus Anakin, I really let it rip. But also keep it so true. On The Phantom Menace, it?s the first time we?ve seen them fight that well. But by this last one, I think we had it in the bag?everybody knew how they should be. Everybody knew how it should look. There?s so much pressure as well, because millions of fans also know how it should look, and you?ve got to try to stay true for them too.

When you first receive the script, how do you choreograph what you see on the page to what we finally see on the screen?

Usually in the script there?s nothing at all. It just says, you know, ?vicious fight,? and so I just ask George how long he wants it. And then get the drawings of the sets and stuff, and go from there.

Is it hard to come up with something that?s new and fresh?

Not for me because this has such a history. You know you can just go with it?you can take it to another level every time.

Do you draw inspiration for your choreography from things other than other fight scenes?

The only thing I draw them from would be real stuff, like I watch a lot of real footage of things. And if I see something I can borrow. I?d never take it from another film. I?d always hope they?d take it from us.

What are you most excited to see in the final cut of Episode III?

I?m just excited about the whole film. I really am just like everybody else?I just can?t wait to see it!

How did you become interested in swordplay?

I was in the circus when I was a child, and I went from that into medieval jousting. I was like 16 when I started there. I learned all medieval weapons, and I sort of became interested in it, and so throughout my career, I?ve just picked up more and more reference.

Have you ever been mugged?

There was once in New York, which was a dreadful mistake. And once in Brighton, which was two of them making a dreadful mistake.

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