We would like to note that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available digitally now, and available in stores on March 31, 2020. For phone based interviews we try to present the conversation replies as close to verbatim as possible.
A staple I do in all interviews in order to start things off is to ask that you tell us a bit about yourself and the connection you have to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?
Eunice: My name Eunice Huthart, I’m from Liverpool. I am a stunt coordinator, so I help design and shoot the action. I got involved in The Rise of Skywalker as a stunt coordinator which was absolutely a dream come true.
When I was a kid we would watch the movies and then go act out all the action scenes and the fights ourselves. It was a dream come true to do it and I had an ambition during the film to make sure I was paying homage.
I understand you were the Stunts Coordinator for the film, for those unfamiliar with the role could you tell us a bit about what the job entails and an element of that role you particularly enjoy performing?
Eunice: On a film particularly like Star Wars; we did do a lot of stunts, but a lot of the fight scenes between the actors is so character driven. So one of the important factors that we wanted to hold onto during our action scenes was to make sure that the emotions of the characters was coming through on everything. What we would do, was with these stages way before we even shoot it. We would conceptually talk about what we want from the characters.
We would be there with the director, sometimes with the actors. We would talk about what the most important things to hold onto from the characters were, what we want to gain from it. Where the vulnerabilities lie. Then we would go off rehearsing it; choreographing it, setting it. Sometimes that process can take three months. Sometimes where you go back and forth that can take up to twelve weeks.
Then when we’re planning technical, we’ll start teaching the actors it. So the process and all of that, that’s just the acting side of it. Then we want to rehearse when there’s explosions, or when there’s someone killed. When Stormtroopers are being attacked. When the red troopers and the Stormtroopers fight all the Rebels in the end.
The choreography of all that entails with the way the explosions and SFX and costumes and the art department with the construction of the sets alone. It’s not sort of just rocking up on set and shooting great action. Sort of in-depth rehearsals and the conceptual design of it all is all done maybe six to nine months prior to it all.
There’s a lot of physicality present in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, could you tell us a bit about the training and or preparation that was required for this film?
Eunice: One of the important things that we wanted, was that both characters particularly Rey and Kylo Ren. Is that it was very clear that it was progression from eight to nine. In the time it took from the moment we last saw both characters last in eight and then when we see both characters in nine. The journey of Kylo Ren in particular, that journey we wanted to see such a violence, when we see him. Then slowly his character’s arc comes around, then when he becomes quite vulnerable at the end.
So with that alone we wanted to enhance the physicality. Adam Driver went to New York way before we would even shoot or even rehearse the film. We’d have a meeting with Adam to make sure that the training, if he went harder more to get to taller stunts even. Something totally different. The muscle groups he worked with his trainer, he worked on different muscle groups so that there would be something totally different about his stance. Also to change the physicality between both of them we made the weapons very light in mind. The weight of the weapon they were using was a lot lighter than in seven and eight.
Then straight away it made them look like they were moving the weapon a lot faster. It’s such a simple nuance, bit it enhanced their ability fighting. We did enormous work on Daisy, to make it a lot lighter. Wanted it to be lighter but more grounded if that makes sense. To move more graceful. If you watch middle distance runners, they have a great light grace about them. That’s one of the things we wanted from Rey. This sort of enhancement, and ability to move. It sounds a little bit boring to talk about but it was really interesting when we were trying to create that. We worked on that a solid six months before we even started working, they took that very seriously. Great.
The scenes involving lightsabers are typically the most loved from fans of the films. Could you pick a lightsaber focused scene from the movie and sort of go through the setup of it from your perspective?
Eunice: We have different sizes of lightsabers. A very short one, a medium and then a long one. The long one was designed for more of a static pose. When they were fighting we would use the medium size lightsaber. We made them quite light, but we had different versions because sometimes we’d be throwing it, the lightsaber. Sometimes we’d be using it to block. So different stances for different sabers.
One of the things, we wanted the lightsaber to really feel like it was a lightsaber. It’s light, made of light, it’s a saber. One of the things I disliked about seven and eight, I felt the weapon was too heavy, I felt like a lot of the time the actors were using two hands on the weapon. I felt like they were using a heavy sword, as opposed to a lightsaber. So that was one of the things we wanted, was it to be lighter. The actors to always be moving it, spinning it in the hands a lot and stuff like that.
When we were doing particularly the pier fight. We wanted both of their abilities to have progressed. In the pier fight when Rey and Kylo Ren are fighting. We wanted to combine the Jedi power as well as the lightsbaer power. We would spring the saber at them and they would use a power move to grab it. That’s where we wanted the lightsaber to have weight on it. That’s where we changed it. That sort of nuance we used for the fight, make that fight look pretty different, we were proud of that fight.
Was there a stunt in the film that turned out to be more difficult to setup and execute than anticipated?
Eunice: Not really, the way we rehearse we just shot everything so technical. For example if we were just to do a bit of light work. Let’s say when Rey, when she flipped over Ren’s ship and sliced the axle of it. That bit we rehearsed it in a studio in a stage, and then we rehearsed it outside with the machinery that we were gonna use on the day.
Because we were in Jordan, and we were shooting in the desert. We were going to use cranes, then we practice it with sand so we know the runoff was applicable. Take off and everything things like that. When we did come to shoot that, we had executed and rehearsed it so well that it was just a formality to shoot it. It was pretty much like that with all the stunts that we did. Everything was rehearsed so technically that shooting was always a formality really.
You’re working with actors to a degree for the stunts, did anyone surprise you in any way during the training and or execution of their scenes?
Eunice: Daisy, she’s phenomenal. You could show Daisy a video of a fight and she would remember the choreography. Normally, you’re given a fight that was a forty-five second fight with say sixty moves. We were essentially teaching that three to four days even before the actor is even doing it, the choreography.
Coming out thinking of the character and the choreography comes very natural. Daisy was doing it in an hour; it was ridiculous, it was absolutely ridiculous. It was like she got a perfect memory for chorography, she was absolutely brilliant.
What stunt did you feel was the most interesting, or unique within The Rise of Skywalker to work on
Eunice: It’s very hard nowadays to do something different. There were a few things we did with these stunts. With Stormtroopers getting exploded, and they hit the ground. Because we have jet troopers, one of the gags we did was when a jet trooper hits the ground. He is killed, the hit to the ground kills him. His jetpack is still firing a little bit.
It was all real, the trooper came down and then it was combined with digitals effects where he was a trooper and hits the ground along the sand, then the jetpack keeps firing a little bit. It was a little gag, it was quite interesting when we were doing that. It was such a throwaway gag really. I never heard anybody talking about it, that was a really nice gag to play around with, that one.
Lastly I would like to leave a spot for you to say something or go over anything I might have missed during the interview?
Eunice: No, the questions have been so varied. I’m a little mind blown by a lot of the questions that people have found stuff that I wouldn’t have even thought of. Maybe one of the most common things is just, to work on a Star Wars; the franchise, and how long that franchise has run.
It was just brilliant, it just was an honor to be a part of it really. That was great. JJ Abrams is just amazing, like his creativity. We were very lucky with the actors, they worked so hard and did the movie proud. I can’t really think of anything else.
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