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HomeAwardsAward Contender-Gavin Bouquet, Prod. Design, Sith

Award Contender-Gavin Bouquet, Prod. Design, Sith

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According to production designer Gavin Bocquet, it was a mandate of director George Lucas to keep the worlds in Revenge of the Sith firmly anchored in an Earthly reality. “George is an incredible visionary in terms of the Star Wars worlds—so I’m always bouncing off him to get the visual ideas of where to go,” Bocquet says. “And one thing that George has always been keen on doing—even from the time of Jedi and before—is basing some portion of the environments, as far as possible, on something earthly.”Hence there is a Malaysian feel to Kashyyyk, the Wookies’ home planet, and certainly something Neapolitan to the splendors of Naboo. Yet even when Earth offers no direct point of origin, Bocquet’s sets still reflect something which an audience can recognize.“The films often move so fast that there’s almost no time to establish the setting,” he says. “Often it’s just about 20 percent that’s based on an Earth location, or in the case of the fire planet Mustafar, it’s based on blast furnaces and is a sort of industrial hell. There’s an integrity in using something that’s real, that the audience latches on to. And if the storytelling is right and the characters are right, the audience doesn’t necessarily notice that they are recognizing some of those visuals.”One might be led to believe that the production designer’s job on such a movie is dominated by CG technology. But Bocquet points out that CG is not always the most cost-effective or practical solution to creating sets. “The production designer’s job is to produce the backgrounds of the films, and part of that process is deciding what to build full scale and what to simulate through some other method. If a set will be a main location, and the scene will go on for 10 minutes with a lot of physical action, building a set is usually the best way, and often cheaper.”In one instance, Lucas had the idea to make a full-scale set out of entirely green material, and overlay the detailed surfaces in post using CG. “We started planning it,” Bocquet relates, “but the complications from the CG world, of programmers trying to lay all the details and colors and fields and lighting on that green set became a sort of ridiculous exercise. It was an interesting experiment to try it, but in the end, as much as George would like to push the boundaries all the time, the reality was that we built the cockpit set for real, apart from the starscapes.”Another memorable moment on Sith was the opera scene, which Bocquet considers one of the most dramatically powerful moments in the film. Amazingly enough, Bocquet and his crew had only three days to create this setting, which Lucas requested after determining that a dialogue between Anakin and Palpatine needed a fresh location.Lucas first hired Bocquet as a draftsman on Return of the Jedi, and later took him on for the Young Indiana Jones television series. He praises Bocquet’s skill at having created period sets for that show using mostly digital technology and on a limited budget. “Over those years he became very good with this new methodology of how to get the milieu on the screen without it costing an arm and a leg,” says the director.Even after having finished the trilogy, Bocquet speaks with a sense of wonder at having had the opportunity to work on them. “I think if you’d asked me when I was on Return of the Jedi all those years ago if I’d one day be in the position I’ve been in for the last eight years, it would have seemed like another galaxy far, far away.”

Written by Henry Turner

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