Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Interview with... Roger Christian

I tell you what my fellow bloggers, you're in for a treat here!
I've lined up an interview with Roger Christian.
He's worked on Star Wars, Alien, and directed Underworld, and Battlefield: Earth.

When I wrote you were in for a treat, I meant it!

What was it like to work on the Star Wars 1 and 4?

The first, A New Hope was both ground breaking and really hard work. We didn’t have enough budget to make the film conventionally, so for all the Set Dressings like the interiors of the ships and the Tatooine locations I invented an entirely new cinema technique by buying up scrap airplanes, breaking them down and using the parts to make the interiors from. I hated the plastic and sterile look of Science Fiction before this, so it was a chance to make ships and weapons and props old and used and real looking for the first time. I handmade from old Stirling sub machine guns the very first gun on the film, using car weather stripping and army surplus night vision sights stuck on with super glue. I also hand made the very first laser sword like this after finding the Graflex flashguns.
I made the first R2D2 with a wood frame and plywood skin and a lamp top for his head. Then stuck in aircraft parts and carved his accessories myself. This is how we developed the movie. Was very tough as most of the crew disliked Science Fiction, and thought the movie was a children’s film and would never be seen. I grew up with myth and legend so knew what a powerful piece it was, and had the privilege to work with George Lucas developing the look of the film for four months before we started proper pre production with the crew. George’s thank you to me for standing by his side throughout the film as only four of us really did was to finance my first short film as a Director Black Angel and play it as a programme with Empire Strikes Back in Europe and Australia.

I enjoyed Underworld. There's no question here, I just wanted to thank you.

Thank you, I loved making Underworld. Larry Bishop who wrote the script is Rat Pack Joey Bishops son. He modeled the leads on Sinatra and Dean Martin. Quentin Tarantino wrote Reservoir Dogs after reading Underworld.

What was it like to direct Battlefield Earth?

Battlefield Earth was a really tough film to make as again we had far too little money for the budget, yet were determined to make an epic. I ended up making the film for about 11 million dollars and just fewer than nine million dollars for all the CGI and post. The Los Angeles Times critic still calls me delusional, as they know the movie cost 75 million dollars. It looks like that but our entire budget was 44 million dollars. Most went on Actors and Producers and above the line costs. So I think it was a remarkable achievement by the crews and talent in Montreal in Canada where we filmed it. I guess that he thinks that is a backhanded compliment to me for pulling off a film that looks that expensive. Also the miss conception just because Ron Hubbard wrote it that it has anything to do with Scientology. It doesn’t. I am not a member of the church, only John Travolta out of all the crew is. Not that it matters. it was made in a democratic country, and most crews are either Jewish or Christian and their films are never condemned because of religious beliefs. It is actually a metaphor as a story for greed and corruption in America versus the purity of natural life and simplicity with love at its heart, and I think this is an admirable philosophy. Enough people who actually saw the film responded at how much they enjoyed it, and certainly peers in the industry who I admire did also. It is a democratic country so people can think what they like and are entitled too. It’s filmed like a comic strip, a graphic novel and we were an early aspirant of this genre. Was hard but fun to make. Again inventing new techniques and finding innovative ways to pull of this epic. Steven Spielberg used my ships re clothed in a different outer look for his craft in Minority Report, a little know fact.

You're writing a book. What is it about?

My book is called Cinema Alchemist. It is actually my story about making Star Wars and Alien, Life of Brian and directing my first Short film Black Angel and Dollar Bottom which won an academy award for best dramatic film. How I was able to think outside the box and help make Star Wars as George envisioned it, a real and natural experience with sets and locations that looked like we had simply rented an old spaceship for the Millennium Falcon etc. My story was not included in the making of Star Wars though there is a picture of me in it, and it is written that I was the third person hired on Star Wars. David West Reynolds who wrote a lot of the Star War books, maintain that I have the last untold story and the missing link to much of the information still being guessed at, and that it has to be written. Also Alien as it’s the 30th anniversary this year and not much was written about the actual making of the movie.

So there you go folks. Talk about getting the inside goss, hey?
Thank you for this opportunity Roger.

What did you think of this interview? Please comment, or email me directly at mgbouw@yahoo.com.au
Until next time.

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