Monday 26 June 2017

The Living Daylights, at 30

The Living Daylights, the fifteenth James Bond film in the official EON series, opened in the UK on 30th June 1987 (following its premiere on the 27th).  It was directed by John Glen (the fourth in his eventual five-film run), produced by Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson and written by Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson.  Peter Lamont was the production designer, John Richardson supervised the visual effects and John Barry wrote the score.
In Autumn 1985, as scriptwriters Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum began work on the new James Bond film, Roger Moore confirmed he wouldn’t be returning to the lead role (a lot of the criticism directed at A View To A Kill had centred around his age - he was 57 when he made it).  Producer Cubby Broccoli, his stepson and co-producer Wilson and daughter Barbara (promoted to assistant producer) therefore had to find a new Bond and also decide what direction to move the series in.

Early plans were to make a prequel.  A screenplay, going back to Bond’s roots, was written that Broccoli liked but felt wasn’t right - “no-one would be interested in a younger Bond,” he said at the time, “they wanted what they were used to, just bigger and better.”  He did, however, like the re-introduction of the Soviet assassination section SMERSH (featured prominently in the novels Casino Royale and From Russia With Love) and the concept of Smert Shpionam ('Death to Spies').  This tied in with the short story The Living Daylights (wherein Bond acts as a sniper to protect a Soviet defector), which was originally published in the first issue of The Sunday Times Magazine in February 1962.  Building around that (it forms the first 15 minutes or so of the film), Maibaum and Wilson created the rest and, in keeping with changing public opinion, made Bond less of a womaniser than he was before.  As they wrote, the search for the new Bond began in 1986.

Sam Neill was screen-tested and though he impressed Wilson, director John Glen and Barbara Broccoli, Cubby passed, keen to pursue Welsh-born Timothy Dalton.  He’d originally been considered in the 60s, when Sean Connery left though he turned down the part in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) as he thought he was too young.  He tested again before Live And Let Die (1973) and, with Roger Moore being indecisive, For Your Eyes Only (1981) and was well liked but unavailable, now in America making Brenda Starr (1989).  The next option was Pierce Brosnan, who Cubby had met on the set of For Your Eyes Only, when he joined his wife Cassandra Harris and Broccoli for lunch (she played Countess Lisl in the film).  In the meantime, Brosnan had landed the lead role in the TV series Remington Steele which, in 1986, had just been cancelled by NBC.  After a three-day screen test, Brosnan was offered the role but news of EON’s interest in the actor prompted NBC to renew the show and Brosnan, under contract, had no choice but to finish the last series (as it was, only six episodes were made before it was cancelled for good) - he was “devastated” but, as history has shown, he would get another chance further down the line.  Cubby’s wife Dana suggested trying Dalton again, as the actor had now finished filming and was available.  A fan of the novels, Dalton accepted the role after Cubby assured him the new film would take the character back to the style of the early Connery era.  The official announcement was made on 6th August 1986.
from left, Maryam D'Abo, Timothy Dalton, Caroline Bliss
Maryam D’Abo became the new Bond girl, playing Czech cellist Kara Milovy.  She had previously auditioned for Pola Ivanova in A View To A Kill (Fiona Fullerton got the part) and impressed Barbara Broccoli, who suggested she audition for the new role.  Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbe was cast as General Koskov, Joe Don Baker as Brad Whitaker (he would later appear as CIA agent Jack Wade in the Brosnan Bonds) and former dancer Andreas Wisniewski as Necros.  The KGB general set up by Koskov was originally going to be General Gogol (a recurring character through the Roger Moore-era) though Walter Gotell (who played him) was too ill to handle the major role and, instead, appears briefly at the end of the film (his last appearance in the Bond series).  A new character, Leonid Pushkin, was created and played by John Rhys-Davies.

With the new, much-younger Bond, Lois Maxwell didn’t return as Miss Moneypenny (after being in every film in the series to date), replaced by Caroline Bliss.  Desmond Llewellyn did return as Q and this was the first film since Goldfinger (1964) to have Bond’s equipment briefing take place within Q Branch.

Principal photography began on 17th September 1986 on the Rock of Gibraltar for the pre-credits sequence.  The Land Rover was filmed on the same short stretch of road, which was MoD property and not open to the public, though it went airborne at Beachy Head in the UK.  Sky divers B. J. Worth and Jake Lombard (who’d worked on the series since Moonraker (1979)) undertook the parachute jump at Gibraltar and the C-130 Hercules used in the sequence, marked as a Royal Air Force plane, actually belonged to the Spanish Air Force - it was later used in the Afghanistan sequences with Russian markings.  Dalton made a good impression on the crew during the two weeks it took to film the sequence, eager to be as physically involved in the stunts as possible - it is often quite clearly him and not a stuntman clinging onto the Land Rover.
Filming on Gibraltar.  2nd unit director Arthur Wooster is in the blue jacket at the back, on the walkie-talkie
Production moved to Pinewood Studios on 29th September to film the fight scene, over three days, as Necros infiltrates Bladen’s Safe House before relocating to Stonor House, which provided the exteriors.  When the production moved to Vienna, in early October, a press conference was held introducing the world press to Timothy Dalton as the new Bond (and his discomfort at the attention is clear to see on the DVD documentary).  Location filming in Vienna took in the Cape Deme, the Reisenaad Big Wheel in Prater Park (as used in The Third Man (1950)) and the Musikverein concert hall.
The villains of the piece, from left - Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) and Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe)
Setting up in Tangier, Morocco in late October, Brad Whitaker’s house was a combination of the Forbes Museum of Tangier as well as his Palais Mendoub.  At the start of November, work began at Ouarzazate, Morocco, for the desert fight scenes (including an impressive foreground miniature for the bridge sequence) and the Soviet Air Base.  The model unit, under John Richardson, also filmed there alongside the first unit.  At the same time, in the US, B. J. Worth and his team were filming the aerial sequences with the C-130, including Worth and Lombard hanging on a bag at the plane’s open cargo door.
John Richardson, on location in Morocco, with the miniature C-130 Hercules
Production returned to Pinewood at the end of November and on 11th December, while filming the Q Branch scenes, there was a royal visit.  Prince Charles fired the rocket from the ghetto blaster, while in a staged photo call, Princess Diana hit him over the head with a sugar-glass bottle (an act apparently instigated by Jeroen Krabbe). The C-130 fight sequence was filmed at the studio with the actors then, in mid-January, the crew shot the Aston Martin sequences in Austria.  Filming completed on 13th February.
John Glen directs Timothy Dalton
The Living Daylights was the last Bond film to be scored by John Barry (who also makes a brief cameo, as a conductor).  Following the success with Duran Duran co-writing A View To A Kill, Barry collaborated on the title song with Pål Waaktaar of A-Ha.  The collaboration wasn’t harmonious, with the band and Barry not seeing eye-to-eye and he later described the working relationship as like “playing ping pong with four balls.”  The song, whilst not as successful as Duran Duran’s, reached number 5 in the UK charts and due to differences of opinion, the band’s preferred mix appears on their 1988 album Stay On These Roads.  However, in a 2006 interview, Waaktaar said, “I loved the stuff he added to the track, I mean it gave it this really cool string arrangement. That's when for me it started to sound like a Bond thing".

This was the first Bond film to feature a different song, If There Was A Man by The Pretenders, over the closing credits and they also contributed the song Where Has Everybody Gone, heard through Necros’ Walkman in the film.

There is a lot of classical music in the film - none of which is included on the soundtrack album - including Mozart's 40th Symphony in G minor (1st movement),  Alexander Borodin's String Quartet in D major, the finale to Act II of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Dvořák's cello concerto in B minor and Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations.
The Living Daylights premiered at the Odeon, Leicester Square on 27th June 1987 attended by the Prince and Princess Of Wales before going on general release on 30th June.  As this was the 25th anniversary year for the Bond series, a TV Special - Happy Anniversary 007 - was produced as part of the promotional campaign.

Lunchbreak on set, with Cubby Broccoli, Timothy Dalton and that bloody cello!
The villains in the film repeatedly use vehicles and packages marked with the Red Cross, which angered a number of the societies who wrote letters of protest.  The British Red Cross attempted to prosecute the filmmakers and distributors but no legal action was taken, though a disclaimer was later added to the film.

The film was generally well received critically, mostly for bringing back a sense of realism and espionage to the series, though some - such as Roger Ebert - commented on the lack of humour.  It took $11.1m in its opening weekend in the US (more than doubling the take of The Lost Boys, released on the same day) and went on to gross $191.2m worldwide.

I like the film a lot - Dalton made a good Bond, they cut back on the one-liners (the funniest moment is where Kara is desperate to retrieve her cello but Bond is adamant they don’t have time - we then cut to him waiting for her) and the action is more vicious and dynamic.  Having said that, there is the whole cello case sequence which apparently took three days to shoot - John Glen came up with it and only convinced the others by sitting in a cello case himself to prove it would work.  I still don’t think it does.

The Living Daylights proved to be the last Bond film to use an original Ian Fleming title until Casino Royale (another reboot) was released in 2006.
At the premiere of The Living Daylights, from left - Maryam d'Abo, Timothy Dalton, Barbara Broccoli, Cubby Broccoli, Dana Broccoli and John Glen

Inside The Living Daylights (DVD documentary)

Monday 19 June 2017

Things We Leave Behind

I'm pleased to announce that my second collection, Things We Leave Behind, will be published by Dark Minds Press and launched (alongside Laura Mauro's excellent novella Naming The Bones) at Edge-Lit in Derby on Saturday 15th July.
cover art by Neil Williams (Mr Stix is there on the back cover)
This second volume of short stories (following Strange Tales, which was originally published in 2003) features eighteen tales spanning the length of my published career to date (the earliest here, All The Rage, appeared in 1999).

It's been a pleasure working with Anthony Watson & Ross Warren at Dark Minds on this (I approached them back in 2016 to see if they'd be interested and was nicely surprised that they were), though Ross continually mocks my two-spaces-after-the-full-stop technique.  Searching through my back catalogue was fun, the editing process was interesting (re-reading a story that's seventeen years old and having to resist the urge to re-write it all is hard) and the cover (with art by Neil Williams) is perfect (and it's good to see Mr Stix make an appearance).  To top it off, Johnny Mains offered to write the introduction and that was the icing on the cake.

Where I've blogged about the stories before, the link will take you to that post.

first published in Unhinged Magazine Issue 4, 1999

first published in The Fourth Book of Terror Tales, 2010

first published in Hauntings, 2004

first published in AltDead, 2011

first published in Ill at Ease, 2011

first published in Shoes, Ships and Cadavers: Tales from North Londonshire, 2010

first published in Fogbound from Five, 2012

first published in Darker Minds, 2012

first published in Hauntings, 2012

first published by Spectral Press (Chapbook #7), 2012

first published in Ill at Ease 2, 2013

original to this collection

first published in Urban Occult, 2013

first published in For the Night is Dark, 2013

first published in Anatomy of Death, 2013

first published in Darkest Minds, 2015

first published in The Grimorium Verum: Volume 3, 2015

original to this collection

"Mark and I have an uncomplicated friendship. We met through Facebook, both probably crowing over ratty old paperbacks, which we both have an affinity for, and met for the first time at Alt-Fiction, Leicester 2012. We had a beer or three, had a great chat, and became firm friends. We always talk guessed it…old ratty paperbacks. I love it when life is simple and you don’t need to talk about anything else except which author wrote what book about bubonic maggots eating spleens from a cabal of cannibal nuns…"
- Johnny Mains, from his introduction

With a range of stories, from quiet horror to gleefully gruesome, I'm very pleased with the collection and I hope - if you take a chance on it - that you are too.

The book will be available as both paperback and ebook editions.

Monday 12 June 2017

A Literary Festival and me...

The first Earls Barton Literary Festival, organised by Carolyn Palot-Watts, ran over this past weekend, the 10th and 11th of June and thanks to my good friend Sue Moorcroft, I was asked to participate - chuffed to be invited to my first ever Lit Fest, I readily agreed.
Reading from The Mill - picture by Sue
My talk, which began at 2.15, was called “How can you write what you know when you write horror?”.  At the time I suggested it, some months beforehand, I thought it was broad enough that I could think of something smart to say and, late last week, I finally figured out what that was going to be.  That didn’t help my nerves - and nor did the fact that I had all morning on Sunday to worry about it.  Using my novella The Mill as the basis, I worked through the idea of how using real life - elements of my own and locations that are local to me - within my horror story grounded the supernatural elements and made them seem (hopefully) more believeable.
We - Alison, Dude and myself - arrived at the home of my event co-ordinator Mary Brown on time, we introduced ourselves and she took us up to the venue, the Parish Church Halls.  I was settled in the main area, a largish room with a small stage and Dude helped me figure out where I'd best be sat.  Mary & I chatted and she told me, in anticipation of our meeting, she'd read The Factory and, while it wasn't her normal thing, had enjoyed it (which was nice).  Even so, nerves started to eat at me, not just that I’d forget everything and spend the whole hour staring at my notes thinking “what the hell does that mean?” (assuming I could read my own hand-writing) but also that nobody would turn up.  Thankfully, they did.
Taken by Alison, this shows Sue taking the picture of me at the top of the post.  My co-ordinator, Mary, is sitting on the edge of the stage
At 2.15, Mary did her ‘house keeping’ duties (toilets are here, emergency exit is there, books are for sale on that table) and I set off.  I was lucky enough to have a decent sized audience, luckier still that they listened attentively (especially to my readings) and as the time wore on, my confidence grew and I even threw in some funny bits (which got laughs).  My timing of the speech was a bit off - I finished about thirty minutes into my scheduled hour - but there were some great questions and I loved them, especially since they allowed me to go off on tangents (which, if you've talked to me in real life, you'll know I tend to enjoy doing).  A question about the genre community got me talking about FantasyCon (I think the Grand Hotel in Scarborough gets more gothic every time I describe it) and I also managed to tell the story of the time I stood up at the book launch for Tourniquet Heart and read my short Up For Anything (and the disgusted groan that elicited from Paul Finch).  All too soon, it was 3.15 (I finished off the session with my Portugese ghost story, which you can read here) and that was it - people came up to thank me and chat, I sold and signed some books, Dude came and sat on the stage to help me and my paying audience seemed happy, which was wonderful.

We then retired to the Swan pub (where my writing group meets) with Neil & Donna Bond, for a chat and a drink and it was the perfect way to finish.

I wrote an afterword to The Mill, which you can read here.

Sue's event, held in the Methodist Church on Saturday morning, was a fascinating talk entitled "my route to number one".
The programme, featuring me and Sue.  I didn't grow up in Rushden...
It was a terrific afternoon and, for all my nerves, as soon as I finished I wanted to do it again.  Well done to Carolyn and her team and I hope this proves to be the first of many literary festivals in Earls Barton!

Monday 5 June 2017

Star Wars At 40 (part 6) - Production Design

For the sixth entry in my Star Wars At 40 celebrations thread, I thought I'd look at the design work which not only elevated the film but also shifted the way sci-fi would look forever afterwards...
The Millennium Falcon, showing off the design work on the hull
Until the 1970s, most sci-fi films tended to see the future as looking pristine, a trend that was bucked by Silent Running (1972) and Dark Star (1974).  Going into Star Wars, George Lucas wanted everything to look like it worked and had done so for a long time, introducing a 'used future' concept where rebel ships looked secondhand, well-used and beaten up against the clean designs of the Imperial ships.

“The Star Wars future was not showroom shiny but dented and rusty, as if it had hard use on the back roads on innumerable galaxies. Lucas told an interviewer during production in England that the Apollo capsules may have looked brand new when they soared away, but it was clear when they returned that the interior was littered with candy wrappers, empty Tang cans, and other trash, just like the family station wagon.”
 - Charles Champlin - George Lucas: The Creative Impulse

Whilst previous films had hardware that looked as if it had been built at the same time, Lucas wanted a “a future with a past”.  He told John Barry, his production designer, that the Millennium Falcon should look like a ship from 2001 “that had aged two hundred years”.

“George wants to make it look like it’s shot on location on your average everyday Death Star or Mos Eisley Spaceport or local cantina,” Barry told American Cinematographer magazine in 1977.
The design team, 1976 - from left: Roger Christian, Leslie Dilley, John Barry, Bill Welch, Norman Reynolds
After a recommendation from Production designer Elliot Scott, George Lucas travelled to the Mexico set of Lucky Lady (1975), which was written by his friends Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz (who also did a polish on the Star Wars script).  There, he met Production designer John Barry and set dresser Roger Christian and was so taken by the sets that he offered them both a job.  "He looked at the set and couldn’t believe it wasn’t real,” Christian told Esquire magazine in interview.  Once finalised, the design department was made up of Production designer John Barry, Art Directors Norman Reynolds and Leslie Dilley and Set Decorator Roger Christian.  Norman Reynolds defined the job roles in an interview with the BBC.

“The Production designer," he said, "comes up with the ideas for the sets and does some of the drawings and sketches. The director will have some ideas of his own, as was the case with George Lucas, who had some of his people in the U.S. come up with some sketches as well. The final execution of the sets is the responsibility of the production designer.  The art director...helps execute the designs because sometimes the designer has to travel to see the various locations. [An Art Director is basically] the production designer's right-hand man.”
John Barry (left) and George Lucas examine photographs from location scouting expeditions
The designers started work on the film before it had been approved by 20th Century Fox, with Lucas covering expenses from his American Graffiti (1973) earnings.  For four months, the team worked in a studio in Kensal Rise, London, trying to figure out how to make the film and since the project had so little money (the eventual design budget would be $200k), Barry directed his team to use as many ‘found’ objects as they could.
Blueprints - from top left clockwise - Blockade runner corridor, R2-S2, Millennium Falcon cockpit and landing gear
At the time, some thirty years after World War 2, old Rolls-Royce aircraft engines were obsolete and being sent to scrapyards.  "Nobody wanted it,” Christian said in interview.  “They sold it by weight, I could buy almost an entire plane for £50 so I went around Britain buying up scrap aircraft, jet engines — all sorts of stuff. Out of that we did most of the set dressing.”

The added advantage was that the aircraft parts not only saved time and money, they added great complexity to the designs.  “We bought thousands of pounds worth of aircraft junk and took it to pieces,” said production designer John Barry in interview.  “You can imagine the complexity of drawing that would have to go into making those very complex sculpted forms. But when you just take apart a jet engine, you get wonderful things.”

“I taught the guys how to break [them] down,” said Christian, “and we made bins of different objects. They learned how to identify things that might look good on set.”

Working closely with Ralph McQuarrie, Barry embraced the idea his environments needed to look like real places and infused his work with striking architectural designs, focussing on function rather than creating elaborate, futuristic looking structures.  In total, 30 sets were produced for the film and the production took over all nine of the soundstages at Elstree Studios, whilst the massive Yavin-4 hangar set was built at Shepperton Studios (the exterior for which was filmed at Cardington Sheds in Bedfordshire).

For Tatooine, Barry used the environment as his design.  Since the summer heat is so intense in Tunisia, the locals live in caves cut into the sides of huge pits and Barry took advantage of this, using the Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata as the Lars homestead.  It therefore felt real because it was real and he repeated the process with Ben Kenobi’s dwelling.
Set dressing in a real location - the Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, Tunisia
He also apparently enjoyed working on the Death Star as it suited his preferred minimalist style, allowing him to create environments of power that were appropriately cold and stark.  Taking inspiration from an aircraft carrier, the walls were painted matte grey and inset with grid patterns to help light the set.  The black floors were highly polished and allowed Gil Taylor, the director of photography, to “pull back and make the spaces feel expansive without compromising their functional intent as hallways.”
Three views of the Death Star corridors
The Cantina was imagined as a combination of a Casablanca bar and a turn-of-the-century chemistry set.  Barry said, at the time, “All the bar equipment in the cantina, those are all the combustion chambers from jet engines, which we sprayed with a metallic gold process and put light in the bubbles and all the rest. But they have an interest, because somebody’s worked over it and some intelligence has gone into them, so they are far more interesting than anything you could have made from scratch in the time available.”
A key part of the design aesthetic were what George Lucas called ‘greeblies’, which are basically items of fine detailing to make a surface - of a prop, set or costume - appear more complex and therefore more visually interesting.  They also add a sense of scale to models (ILM described them as “guts on the outside”), hence the Millennium Falcon and Star Destroyers are covered with them.  There is a possibly apocryphal tale that Tunisian customs asked what part of C3PO’s costume (listed as ‘assorted greebles’) was.  They were told “Something that looks cool but doesn’t actually do anything.”
Top - John Barry sketch of the Millennium Falcon
Bottom - the set, including a lot of greeblies
The Millennium Falcon was one of the most challenging sets to design and decorate, but benefited greatly from the scrap greeblies as once-pristine walls and doorframes were covered with pipes and parts, giving the ship a functional, well-used look.
top - Han Solo (Harrison Ford) - and bottom - Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) - in the Falcon gun turrets
(note how 'busy' but perfectly functional the walls look)

Whilst C3PO was originally sculpted by Liz Moore and finished by Brian Muir (as I wrote about here), Roger Christian supervised the construction of R2-D2 working from designs by Ralph McQuarrie and Norman Reynolds.
left - George Lucas with the Roger Christian, Leslie Dilley & Bill Harman prototype R2-D2
right - George Lucas and John Barry (far right) measure up the R2 legs for Kenny Baker (centre)
Christian and Les Dilley hired a carpenter called Bill Harman who’d built props for Monty Python - "he was brilliant - you could give him anything and he’d make it work.”  The body was made of marine plywood, bent around a frame they’d built with an old 1940s lamp fitted on top; Christian carved prongs for the front and more aircraft greeblies were attached.  After tests with 3ft 8” actor Kenny Baker, the design was approved and R2-D2 was built for the production by Norank (Tony Dyson of The White Horse Toy Company built them for The Empire Strikes Back, thanks to Millennium Falcon Notes for the correction)

Even so, creating the droids went to the wire and Reynolds has since admitted to finishing C3PO’s hands the night before shooting began in Tunisia.  “We had the glove part of it and metal tips for the fingers, but it needed to be made to look authentic.  Adding those little 'greeblies' made it all finally came together.”

Top - Anakin's lightsaber, as given to Luke
Bottom - Obi-Wan's lightsaber
The iconic Star Wars weapon is, of course, the lightsaber.  Whilst a huge part of the appeal was the sound (by Ben Burtt, subject of a future blog-post), they looked fantastic too and were put together by Roger Christian, based on designs by Ralph McQuarrie.  Several mock-ups were rejected and, under pressure to have the props ready for Tunisia, Christian visited a camera-shop the production used and asked if they had any spare parts.  Directed to some old dusty boxes, he found “several Graflex flashgun handles. They were perfect, heavy, and had a red button for firing the flash.  I just sat in my office with superglue, stuck a T-strip round the handle, put a D-ring on the end and stuck on bits from a pocket calculator. It was weighty and it looked beautiful. I think I made it for about £8."  The lightsaber emitter at the top of the sword was another greebly, a balance pipe from a Derwent engine.

Top - Han Solo's blaster (prop)
Bottom - the original Mauser gun
George Lucas had a specific idea for the style of the Star Wars blasters and said in interview, before the film was completed, “I’m trying to make props that don’t stand out. I’m trying to make everything look very natural, a casual almost I’ve-seen-this-before look.”  What he didn't want was something that resembled the Buck Rogers style of ray-gun.  Roger Christian suggested adapting real guns, since they’d look used and natural.  “We could afford to do it that way, plus they worked, you could fire them and get the  recoil on-set, and not have the actors going, 'Beep beep'.”

“We went to one of the big weapon-hire companies that had endless rows of arms and armour," John Barry said.  "George, Roger Christian, and I got together a lot on those things. Rather than have your slick streamlined ray guns, we took actual World War II machine guns and cannibalized one into another.”

Han Solo’s iconic blaster, for example, started life as an antique broom-handled Mauser pistol.  Christian fitted it with a rifle telescopic sight, a custom mount and modified the barrel with a flash hider from a German M-81 machine gun.  Greeblies were added to the magazine block and the base to make it look more complex.

Christian wrote a 'memoir', Cinema Alchemist, which details his work on Star Wars and it's very informative and in-depth.  My review of the book can be found here.

At the 1978 Oscars - from left:
John Barry, Norma Reynolds, Greer Garson &
Henry Winkler (presenters),
Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian
In my opinion, George Lucas chose his collaborators well, none more so than the design team and the little kid version of me loved what they did, accepting the look readily.  By taking ‘found’ items and adding detail, they created a world that was realistic, lived-in and something altogether different that, crucially, hasn’t aged the film at all - it looks as fresh now as it did 40 years ago.

The design team of John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley and Roger Christian shared the 1978 Academy Award for Best Art Direction.  You can read John Barry's speech here.

Harrison Ford on the Millennium Falcon set

John Barry was born in 1935 and trained as an architect, entering the film business as a draughtsman on Cleopatra (1963), while his first film as production designer was Kelly’s Heroes (1970).  Stanley Kubrick offered him a job on his never-completed film Napoleon then hired him again for A Clockwork Orange (1971).  Whilst working on Lucky Lady (1975) he was approached to work on Star Wars and, following that success and his work on  Superman (1978) and Superman 2 (1980), he was offered his own film, Saturn 3 to direct.  Unfortunately, he fell out with the star Kirk Douglas and was sacked, replaced by Stanley Donen.  Lucas hired him as second-unit director on The Empire Strikes Back but on 31st May 1979, two weeks into filming, he collapsed on-set and died at 2am on 1st June from meningitis.

Norman Reynolds was born on 26th March 1935 and began his career as an assistant Art director on Battle Of Britain (1969), before becoming Art director on The Little Prince (1974).  He performed the same role on Star Wars, Superman (1978) and Superman 2 (1980) before moving on to Production designer with The Empire Strikes Back (1980).  He stayed with Lucasfilm for Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and Return Of The Jedi (1983) and retired after making Bicentennial Man (1999).  He also directed two episodes of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories - The Pumpkin Competition (1986) and Gather Ye Acorns (1986) - and was 2nd unit director on The Exorcist III (1990) and Alive (1993).

He won two Academy Awards - Best Art Direction 1978 for Star Wars and Best Art Direction 1982 for Raiders of the Lost Ark (shared with Leslie Dilley and Michael D. Ford), as well as being nominated for four more.
He won one BAFTA - Best Production Design 1982 for Raiders of the Lost Ark (shared with Leslie Dilley and Michael D. Ford), as well as being nominated for one more.

Leslie Dilley was born on 11th January 1941 and started his career as Art director on The Three Musketeers (1973).  He worked with John Barry on Lucky Lady (1975), which led to him becoming Art director on Star Wars and Superman (1978).  He was Art director on The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981), An American Werewolf In London (1981), moved up to Production designer with Bad Medicine (1985) and still works in the industry.

He won two Academy Awards - Best Art Direction 1978 for Star Wars and Best Art Direction 1982 for Raiders of the Lost Ark (shared with Norman Reynolds and Michael D. Ford), as well as being nominated for three more.
He won one BAFTA - Best Production Design 1982 for Raiders of the Lost Ark (shared with Norman Reynolds and Michael D. Ford)

Roger Christian was born on 25th February 1944 and worked in the art department on Oliver! (1968).  After working with John Barry on Lucky Lady (1975) he became set decorator for Star Wars and worked as Art director for Alien (1979) and Life Of Brian (1979).  He moved into directing with the short Black Angel (1980), under the mentorship of George Lucas and still directs.  He also served as 2nd unit director for Return Of The Jedi (1983) and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999).

He won one Academy Award - Best Art Direction 1978 for Star Wars and was nominated for another.  His second short film, The Dollar Bottom (1981) was nominated for a BAFTA.

Esquire magazine
Laurel & Wolf Spotlight on John Barry
Den Of Geek
Skywalking, by Dale Pollock
George Lucas: The Creative Impulse, by Charles Champlin
Star Wars Modern blog
Star Wars insider interview with Norman Reynolds
Star Wars: The Blueprints, JW Rinzler
Cinema Alchemist, by Roger Christian

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, which was released in the US on 25th May though it didn't hit the UK until 29th January 1978 (following a 27th December release in London).  I was lucky enough to see it in early 1978 and it remains my favourite film to this day.

To mark the anniversary, I'll be running a year-long blog thread about the film with new entries posted on the first Monday of each month.

May The Force Be With You!

Find all the entries in the thread here