Oscar Isaac Teases Star Wars: The Force Awakens Secrets

5 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Flash Gordon is 35 years old and it’s STILL better than Star Wars.

Just 21/2 hours outside this ultra-modern Arab city the terrain is so alien you might as well be on another planet. LOS ANGELES – Ahead of the highly-anticipated release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, actor Mark Hamill went undercover as a stormtrooper on Hollywood Boulevard to support a charity push. “The last time anybody saw me in a stormtrooper outfit was when we rescued the princess off the Death Star,” Hamill says in the video, referring to his appearance in 1977′s “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”.People dressed as Storm troopers stand at a bar as they pose for a photograph holding cans of beer at the ‘For The Love of The Force’ Star Wars fan convention in Manchester, northern England. (Reuters/Phil Noble) Rich in mythology, symbolism and theology, the movie franchise set in a galaxy far, far away has for decades proved a treasure trove for earthbound philosophers, raising issues such as the nature of good and evil, free will and determinism, the prophecy of the chosen one, and the true nature of The Force. “‘Star Wars’ is very powerful because it helps us understand ourselves in the light and dark side of The Force.The second installment (or the fifth) in the Star Wars saga created by the numerically confused George Lucas, it has since been hailed as THE GREATEST FILM EVER RELEASED.

Star Wars original Mark Hamill has swapped his trademark Luke Skywalker light saber for the confined spaces of Stormtrooper garb to prank hundreds of unsuspecting tourists in Hollywood. If the new Star Wars film turns out to be the mega-hit critics expect, the number of people going to the movies each year will reach its highest level for more than a decade. We feel this in our lives when we have this pull of immediate gratification but a desire to achieve long term goals,” said George Backen, professor of philosophy at Adams State University in Colorado. I am talking about a film so epic, so fantastic, so wondrous, so amazing and so out-there that most people just didn’t get it, preferring to plonk themselves in front of safe Skywalker and his new green pal Yoda instead. There have been almost 140m visits to cinemas so far this year, but when the November and December figures are published admissions could reach the highest level since 2002, when there were 175.9m visits.

Released on December 5, 1980, Flash Gordon was the anti-Star Wars, all lurid reds and yellows combined with scenery-chewing so sustained its cast had to undergo daily check-ups for overbites by the on-set dentist. His line readings are equally subdued – but given the lines themselves include “I doubt if the actual security there is any greater than it was on Aquilae or Sullust, and what there is is most likely directed towards a large-scale assault”, it’d perhaps be unfair to expect him to sound like Brando in Streetcar. “How many more systems have to get blown away before you have no place to hide and are forced to fight?” he asks the 30-something actor sitting beside him. (It’s Harrison Ford, from the smash hit George Lucas film American Graffiti.) What he’s got is conviction – but a strange, contagious kind that makes those overstuffed lines feel as urgent and real to you as they seem to be to him.

That record, reached in the year the second movies of the Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings franchises were released, is actually an outlier, with the previous high set in 1971, when the world’s top-grossing film was Fiddler on the Roof. “There is an enthusiasm and optimism that has not been around for a few years,” said Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association. “Clearly some of that is dependent on a very strong slate [of films] this year, with Star Wars still to come, but we are also seeing a change in the quality and range of cinemas. The video shows Hamill stop to take on a man dressed as Skywalker in a gun versus light saber battle, before trying to buy a phone charger and board a bus. We are in a period of unprecedented investments in terms of refurbishment and expansion.” The cinema industry has gone through some dramatic ups and downs in the UK. Creator George Lucas was quoted as saying some 15 years ago that The Force embodies “a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil.” Caleb Grimes, the Virginia-based author of the “Star Wars Jesus” book and website, believes young Luke Skywalker’s initial yearning for something more in life echoes “our desire to know a personal God.” Philosophers debate whether human-like droids, such as R2-D2, are conscious or self-aware, and how could that be tested.

Even a cursory peek at the posters for Flash Gordon and the first Star Wars movie reveals that the latter has similarities with the former (I’ll delve into the comparable characters below). The Imperial Stormtroopers have long been likened to Nazi armies, and many feminists view Princess Leia’s gold metal bikini and metal-collar captivity in “Return of the Jedi” as embodying a tyrannical ideal of feminine beauty. Almost 40 years after that tape was recorded, I saw Hamill on stage in California, talking about JJ Abrams’s Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and his long-awaited return to the role that made him.

Rub’ al Khali is the world’s largest contiguous desert, a sea of sand stretching from Oman to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (of which Abu Dhabi is the capital) to Yemen. Backen, who has seen the movies countless times, said that although the characters are not actively wrestling with philosophical concepts, the movies help explain a lot of human experience through their stories. “It’s another way that students want to express their fandom and be part of the ‘Star Wars’ universe. Looking a little paunchy and crumpled in a grey-blue shirt and loose leather jacket, with a Nineties news-anchor haircut, you probably wouldn’t place the now-64-year-old actor as a saviour of the galaxy either: if pushed, you might guess former Top Gear presenter. When he was foiled in that pursuit, he went off and made Star Wars, but not without borrowing some of the best bits from his favourite show, including the opening crawl and the ‘wipes’ between scenes.

But from the reactions of the 7,500-strong crowd in the Anaheim Convention Centre who’d given up their Saturday evenings to hear him speak, you’d have to say the Force was still with him. But just as the rise of television damaged cinemas in the 20th century, new technology including DVDs, high-definition televisions and online streaming services have posed a threat in the 21st century. You can’t fault the first few seconds of Star Wars, especially when its opening crawl gives way to a giant Star Destroyer catching up to Princess Leia’s consular ship. While filming the scenes in the swamps of Dagobah for The Empire Strikes Back, for example, Yoda’s dialogue had been fed to him through a radio earpiece that would often pick up a local pop music station – and he recalled that during one particularly heartfelt scene, the ancient Jedi master’s croaky wisdom had been suddenly replaced by More More More, a disco song by the former adult film star Andrea True.

And yet Flash Gordon tops it with its own legendary opening, a voice-over chat between two villains who look like they’re playing an Atari video game where the goal is to destroy planet Earth. He also spoke about the lunch he’d shared with Lucas and Carrie Fisher in 2013 during which Lucas had broached the subject of them both returning, along with Ford, for Episode VII. “My wife said beforehand, ‘Maybe they’re doing another film,’ and I laughed at her,” he said. “I thought he was going to ask us to do press for the 3D versions, or another box set. “I was in a state of shock…I couldn’t say yes or no. The guide finally stops our vehicle in an area of the desert known as Liwa, adjusting his head scarf before stepping out of the air conditioning and into the heat. “See this hill?” he asks, pointing off into nowhere. “Behind that is where ‘Star Wars’ was shot.

We need to be seen as very, very good value for money,” he said. “When you consider the cost of going to Legoland or London Zoo, where you will last about three hours at most, we are a fraction of the prices.” “This is a really good year, possibly a great year. The trailers have offered only one glimpse of him to date: a robotic hand resting on R2-D2’s head, while sparks from a nearby bonfire drift through the dark. So sentimental, right?” According to reports from regional papers, a “whole world” was erected in the desert and it included a “shuttle-like” spacecraft, “fast buggies” powered by jet engines, and giant craters made with explosives. In truth, the dialogue in Flash Gordon is just as monumentally bad, but the actors utter it with their tongues so far up their cheeks they need breathing apparatus to function.

And once they did settle on a location, there was the question of how to provide access — i.e. building roads where none had been before. “Our contractor said, no, you can’t build here because these are all preserved sands,” Al Kaabi says. “Luckily the head of the environment agency is a good friend. With Jurassic World, James Bond and Star Wars films launching this year, could 2015 prove to be a peak in the cinema revival? “I don’t look at this year as a peak,” Richards said. “If you look at the commitment that studios have made to film production, it is unprecedented. What Sam J Jones (who fought off competition from Kurt Russell and Arnold Schwarzenegger to land the role of Flash) might lack in acting ability, he more than makes up for with his lack of whining: there’s no moaning about going to Tosche station to pick up some power converters for him. While Skywalker comes off as a tiring teenager who thinks the world revolves around his lightsaber, Flash is a true hero, taking time out from quarterback duties at the New York Jets (not a tough gig, admittedly) to save the world.

But I’ve resisted calling him a movie star because, after seeing him that night, even with the entire arena cheering him on, I’m not entirely sure he is one. While Princess Leia shrugs at the destruction of her home planet and hooks up with the first dirty little smuggler she lays eyes on, Princess Aura actually cares about the people of Mongo, leaving a trail of men in her wake as she does so. Cast and crew from the U.S. were given detailed packets on how to survive shooting in such brutal, albeit beautiful, surrounds. “The heat was so — ahh, my God — so intense,” says actress Daisy Ridley, who plays the fighter pilot Rey, by phone. “Like sweaty and gritty, we were filthy in it.” Still, she adds, “It was amazing to start on location, everyone was together, everyone was bonding. Navy, which meant he and his six siblings (Hamill was the fourth of seven children) grew up between California, Virginia, New York and Yokohama and Yokosuka in Japan. Watching The Mickey Mouse Club after school with his brothers and sisters was a favourite activity – as was losing himself in the colour funnies that came with his father’s Sunday newspaper.

Before he could read, he’d pore over silent strips like Henry and The Little King, while the black-and-white Adventures of Superman TV series, starring George Reeves, introduced him to the pleasures of superheroism. (He remains a keen comic-book reader and collector: as for the Disney connection, he named his firstborn son Nathan Elias after the famous Walter Elias, AKA Walt.) As a child, he harboured dreams of cartooning but the drama club at his English-speaking high school in Yokosuka made him think again. Like all the nastiest villains, he doesn’t give a crap about anybody but himself – even his own daughter isn’t off limits for a spot of state torture. Running through sand is really difficult.” These desert scenes were originally slated to be shot in Jordan, another Arab country that’s a short flight from Abu Dhabi.

Imax, which shows films on large screens, enjoyed its best ever weekend of sales when Spectre opened and it is opening 130 new screens this year around the world. One of his first acting jobs was at a Renaissance Faire, performing six skits a day, arresting Robin Hood one minute and being cured of a broken leg by St. Situated off a winding road in the middle of towering sand dunes, the resort is also constructed like a set from another place and time, its stonewalls, turrets and gurgling fountains an oasis. There is no such confusion with Klytus, who, if anything, is even meaner than Ming the Merciless, and gets the gruesome, eye-popping demise he deserves. His first bit-part was on The Bill Cosby Show in 1970, playing a member of a high-school poetry club, while his first regular gig came two years later, as a lovestruck teen on the ABC soap opera General Hospital.

But “Star Wars” might have never come here if it weren’t for an aggressive push by Abu Dhabi over the last decade to establish the emirate as a media and film hub in the Arab world. He also provided the voice of Sean, the diminutive “leader of the Knights of Stardust”, in Ralph Bakshi’s delirious counterculture fantasy animation, Wizards, and would later reminisce about the notoriously gruff Bakshi grunting at him in the recording booth: “You call that a f_____’ pixie?” It was in 1975 that Hamill’s friend Robert Englund – who would go on to play the dream-stalking serial killer Freddie Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street – who tipped him off about a promising-sounding audition. Okay, so Prince Barin got his costume for a Robin Hood-themed wedding, but at least he didn’t borrow it from a dishevelled snooker player à la Han Solo. The film authority is enticing Hollywood productions with healthy rebates to shoot here and a technologically advanced infrastructure (something many of the neighboring countries lack).

Lucas was looking for new faces for a long-gestating sci-fi fantasy adventure, that was then-titled The Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller. Its more recent successes have been “Furious 7,” “The Bourne Legacy” and “Deliver Us From Evil.” The only requirement is that these productions — including “Star Wars” — hire a small percentage of local interns so they can receive training on the job. Katt, meanwhile, got the not-insignificant consolation prize of playing Tommy Ross, the pig-blood-slathered prom date of one Carrie White in De Palma’s own next film.

On the day the film opened, Lucas called Hamill and asked if he felt famous yet: when he said no, Lucas said in that case he should come to the studio and re-record some dialogue for the monaural prints (the original release was mixed in stereo). On January 11 1977, a little over five months before the film’s release, Hamill was driving his new BMW along a freeway in Southern California, fast – while listening to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, of all things.

No doubt that slump was quickened by an advertising campaign – Hamill in his Luke Skywalker costume, with the tagline “And the Force continues…on Broadway!” – that might kindly be described as poorly targeted. A second assault – taking over the title role in Amadeus from Tim Curry, for a nine-month run in 1983 – was significantly more successful, and Hamill spent most of the remainder of the 1980s on stage. But apparently a fretful executive producer told Forman and his casting directors: “I don’t want Luke Skywalker in this film.” And that, more or less, has been Hollywood’s mantra ever since. Animation were so impressed by Hamill’s reading of the character – “I saw the laugh as a musical instrument,” he once told an interviewer, “that it had colours depending on his mood” – that they had him re-record all seven of the episodes Curry had already completed. He was a climate change professor in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman, a lightsaber-wielding bad guy called Cocknocker in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and popped up in the current superhero series The Flash as The Trickster, a villain he’d previously played in the 1990 Flash live-action show and the 2000s Justice League cartoon. (The writers even gave him an “I am your father” line, for old time’s sake.) For him, however, Episode VII is filmmaking on another scale.

It’s easy to forget that the original Star Wars trilogy were seat-of-the-pants productions: Hamill once (very generously) compared the gulf between them and Lucas’s more recent prequels to that between “a garage band” and “a philharmonic”.

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