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HomeAwardsAward Contender-David Elsey, Creature Shop, Sith

Award Contender-David Elsey, Creature Shop, Sith

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Unlike the old timers who started with the original Star Wars trilogy or worked on the new trilogy since Episode I, creature shop creative supervisor Dave Elsey came on Star Wars only for Revenge of the Sith. In fact, he’d had opportunities to work on the previous two episodes but had to pass because of prior commitments.One of those included a show called Farscape, which ironically was originally pitched as a sort of expanded version of the famed cantina sequence in the original Star Wars—the very sequence that got Elsey—then 10 years old—interested in doing special effects makeup as a profession. “You know, every fan’s memory is of the cantina scene in the first Star Wars. I know so many effects guys who got into the industry because of that scene.”So it was a genuine dream-come-true that Elsey got to recreate and in many instances subtly improve the alien makeups for his favorite film franchise. “Every fan knows what’s basically going to happen in Episode III. I knew that all the alien Jedi knights were going to have their glorious death moments, and so we set about making hero versions of them all.”Yet he never intended to upstage the earlier work. Whether he was redesigning the green-headed, goggle-eyed Neimoidians for better computer-controlled lip synch (their speech can be lip-read when the soundtrack is turned off), or creating eight Wookies including Chewbacca, Elsey stayed true to the design style of Star Wars. “We didn’t want Chewbacca to suddenly start moving his brows up and down and acting more than he did before, because that would look odd when you watched him later on in the subsequent episodes. I wanted it be a seamless as possible. The movies are going back in technology as you go forward in narrative time. So the idea was not to try to do better than the earlier makeups, but to do the best we possibly could and make it fit in with what comes later.”Other key makeups created by Elsey and his team include the withered Darth Sidious makeup worn by Ian McDiarmid, all the alien Jedis, and a fascinating alien named Tion Medon, whose bizarre lined face recalls Elsey’s early milestone creation, Pinhead, from Hellraiser.Elsey and his crew also created the makeup for a scene that diehard fans had waited years to see realized—the lava pit sequence, in which Anakin Skywalker falls to his doom, only to shortly arise as Darth Vader. To create what Elsey calls “burnt Anakin” required a full body prosthetic, false teeth, and contact lenses to show the effects of smoke and fire inhalation. “Hayden [Christensen] loved it. For the application process we did a whole bunch of tests and got it down to three hours, which wasn’t too bad, pretty comfortable for him.”Elsey is glad that in the digital age George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars still included prosthetic and mechanical effects. “The really nice thing is that there’s still a place for a good actor in a good makeup. It’s like good sets or costumes or props; these are things that actually improve the acting of the other actors and the one in the makeup as well, and they love it. Give an actor a good prop or makeup and they’ll make 10 times more out of it than you can ever imagine.”

Written by Henry Turner

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