Anthony Phelan (Lama Su)

Anthony Phelan
Lama Su (Attack of the Clones)
Interview: August 2010

How did you get started in the movie business?

I have been working as a professional actor for 30 years, so it was a natural progression I suppose.

How did you get the part of Lama Su in Episode II? Did you have to audition for instance?

The role of Lama Su came to me, fortunately, as I was doing a stage play for the Sydney Theatre Company. The casting Director for Attack of the Clones was in the audience one evening and heard my voice, and left the theatre convinced that mine was the voice for Lama Su. She only needed to convince George and I was in. I had no formal audition, only to record part of the script for George to listen to, and the rest is history, as they say.

When did you find out that the character you were going to voice was a long, pale, thin alien called Lama Su?

I arrived at Fox studios in Sydney for my first ‘meet and greet’ with casting and creatives and was shown part of a story board of my scenes. There he was, the luminous, thin Lama Su. I must say I was impressed with the artists impression and became excited about the prospect of creating a new character voice, and daunted at the same time with the prospect of creating a ‘sound’ that suited Lama Su, a Prime Minister.

How did you come up with Lama Su’s voice? Were you influenced by certain existing people for instance?

I suppose I was influenced by the fact that Lama Su was the Prime Minister of Kamino and needed a sound of authority, and intelligence. He also appeared calm and confident. He needed to impress Obi-Wan Kenobi after all. I wanted something unique. No other voice influenced my creation.

Can you share some experiences regarding the days you worked on Episode II. How did your days look?

The most interesting, and I suppose challenging aspect of my days on set was having to work with a ‘blue screen’. Having no eye line points of reference except crosses on a wall was a new experience for me. Ewan however had a different, and I suspect, amusing time in that he had to refer his eye line to a life size cut out of Lama Su’s head positioned atop mine. Kaminoans are tall of course. He became amused at one stage realizing he had not actually looked into MY eyes. We both had a laugh at the ludicrous nature of it once that actor to actor contact had been made. We had many memorable conversations about literature and the theatre. He generously found time in his busy shooting schedule to come and see the theatre production I was in at the time. A very generous human being, and actor.

Was George Lucas present at the recording sessions?

George was present and was constantly coming out from behind his monitor to suggest moves. I was in awe of course, and needless to say nervous.

Did any strange, weird or remarkable things happen during your recording sessions?

I suppose the remarkable thing for me was being there to be part of Star Wars history in the making. Of course being in the presence of George Lucas and Ewan McGregor gave a great feeling of accomplishment.

When you joined the cast of Episode II the Star Wars movies were the most successful movies ever. Had you seen the movies? And what did you think of them? Also, did it influence your decision to join the Star Wars cast?

I shall never forget seeing the first film Star Wars in the seventies. I nestled into my cinema seat with a tub of ice cream close to the screen, and right from the opening scenes was hooked, and have been ever since. I only dreamed of what it must be like to act in one of these films, never did I imagine being part of that great saga one day. You can only imagine my delight when I was cast for Attack of the Clones.

In which way(s) was voice acting different than physical acting? Is it easier, harder or can’t they be compared? And what do you prefer yourself? Acting or voice acting?

You are forming and creating ‘character’ whether it be with the voice or with voice and body. I always like to picture in my mind the character behind the voice. You need to ‘see’ the person before you put the music of the voice to the physicality. Having said that I suppose ‘voice acting’ is more of a challenge. The character you are ‘voicing’ can sometimes change in the short period of time you have to create him. I like both of these acting experiences, they both have there challenges and rewards. I would like to one day voice an animated film. Now that would be a delight.

What do you regard as the highlight of your career so far?

It is very difficult for me to zero in on one highlight in my career. There have been many memorable experiences. Most of my work throughout my 30 year career has been for the stage. There hasn’t been as much film exposure as I would like, so I relish it when it presents itself.

What are you doing right now? Can you tell something about your current projects?

At the moment I am waiting to begin rehearsal for the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Anton Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya, which will also star Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving.

Final question: how do you look back at the fact that you are part of the ‘Star Wars Universe’?

To be part of the ‘Star Wars Universe’ fills me with great pride and a sense of achievement. Lama Su is out there in the ether and he has my voice and my body movements. To be part of that illustrious film acting history is a feeling one finds difficult to describe, only to say it feels awesome!