When most people think of the Millennium Falcon they think of a smart-ass Corellian smuggler, a 200 year old Wookie or the odds of navigating an asteroid field.
Some may even wonder, “What the hell is an Aluminum Falcon?”
For me and my pal John, The Falcon is synonymous with Lorne Peterson. As chief model maker for Industrial Light and Magic, Peterson was responsible for, literally, sculpting our childhood. His career has spanned the history of the Star Wars saga; from the not-so-distant era when animation was a physical act of patience and will, to the modern era of digital renderings and computerized scenery. This weekend, Lorne Peterson enjoyed his first visit to Disney’s Star Wars Weekends. In an all-too-brief interview with event host Jeremy (Boba Fett) Bulloch, Peterson recounted details of his career, helping to build a galaxy far, far away.
“I was first hired to build the Death Star,” recounted Peterson. “It was a job no one else wanted because you had to spend so much time working on your knees.”
The immense surface structure, featured during the climactic battle scenes of Episode IV, concealed many details which were barely noticeable onscreen and was built in the studio parking lot. The surface of the Death Star would be dwarfed, some thirty years later, by the surface of Mustafar; the volcanic planet featured in the climactic battle at the end of Episode III.
“It all had to be carved from styrofoam, and we spent days cutting away at it.” To give perspective on the size, Peterson looked about the sound stage where the interview was being conducted. “You could maybe fit three or four Mustafars in here,” he estimated.
The shortest turnaround on a piece was the Imperial probot in Episode V. “They needed the model, it was about nine-feet high, for location shots in Norway,” he recalled. “We only had a few days to get it done because it had to be shipped out to the set.”
Peterson’s favorite projects were the Millennium Falcon and Boba Fett’s ship Slave I. “They were very distinctive… and some of the most interesting (space ship) designs in the films.” When his interview was finished, Peterson took a seat (Tonight Show style) on a second couch to make way for the next interview subject, Matt Wood. After he sat down, he could be seen looking toward a Millennium Falcon toy, placed on the set for decoration. As cool as it was to listen to him speak, I’d love to know what he was on his mind as he sat, pondering the design that sat in the table in front of him.
Though Peterson’s Star Wars Weekends interview was fun, it pales in comparison to the interview John did with him at Celebration III in Indianapolis. More than 5 years have passed since that day. I stood, off to one side, snapping photos of Peterson as he and John spoke. It remains one of my favorite Star Wars experiences.
John’s interview printed as part of a feature we produced for the Orlando Sentinel – check that out here.
A follow up printed in FilmFax magazine and our website project Fieldsedge.com – check both out here.