Star Wars Extras Wars

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Star Wars VII began filming last week. Some shooting will take place in England at Buckinghamshire’s Pinewood Studio, where the movie will be filmed, and a good deal will be shot in Abu Dhabi. However, the film has already hit a small hitch. Fans may be worried that filming will be delayed by a disagreement about what company will supply the extras for the scenes that make Star Wars so epic.

The original cast is back, a fact that garnered press for the film. Carrie Fisher is back as Leia Organa, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.  Even the droids and Chewy are back, with Kenny Baker voicing R2, Anthony Daniels is pouring himself into a blue-screen suit to motion capture C3PO and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca. The new additions range from well-knowns like Max von Sydow and Andy Serkis of Gollum fame to up-and-comers like 22-year-old Brits Daisy Ridley and John Boyega of, well, nothing most people have heard of.

Daisy Ridley was in a short film called Blue Season which is available online. The rest of her IMDB listing reads like a British TV guide. John Boyega has been around a little bit more. In 2011 he was in the zombie movie Attack the Block and, in 2013, Half of a Yellow Sun based on the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel. 2014 has so far been Imperial Dreams, 24: Live Another Day and now Star Wars. There has been much ado about nothing when it comes to these young actors because this film could make their careers. The original movies launched a group of virtual unknowns to super stardom and it is a testament to the quality of those first films that they chose to return. The latter films made Hayden Christensen. Some might argue the magic of the original trilogy was lost without the original cast, and they’re all hard at work, so Boyega and Ridley are unlikely to suffer the diminishing returns of Episodes I-III.

While the main cast is the heart and soul of Star Wars, the series is known for its epic scenes featuring masses of actors. A recent disagreement over which company will supply the extras has fans worried that filming might be delayed. A lawsuit between Mad Dog casting and one of their former employees will be heard at the High Court. The agency is suing Eleanor McLaughlin for £250,000, claiming she quit the company then set up her own agency and tried to steal the £1,000,000 contract after they had all but signed the deal. They also claim that she raided their database for thousands of their actors that serve as extras’ information and attempted to use them to poach the Star Wars contract. It is unclear yet if this will have an impact on the film’s release date in December of 2015.

The point is that while a room full of humans is always more realistic than a room full of CGI characters, the central characters and the actors that play them are ultimately more integral to the movie. The entire main cast from the original Episodes IV through VI has returned, reunited after 31 years, an occurrence that drew a good amount of press and fan attention. The ongoing war over the extras is a minor bump external to the Star Wars team itself so it is unlikely it will seriously hinder filming, though there is a long road with plenty of hazards between now and winter 2015 and anything could happen.

Opinion by Aliya Tyus-Barnwell


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