Creature Technician, Ask Aak, Passel Argente (Attack of the Clones)
Interview: January 2021
How did you get started in the movie business and was it something you always wanted to do?
I had the bug early on. From around 5 I was hooked and there was nowhere else I wanted to be more than making movies. It was an irrational passion that became an obsessive hobby and then I was doing FX for friends while I was in film school. Things just took their course after that. Eventually I was hired by local FX companies including Weta Workshop in New Zealand until I started my own company. That feels like it was all so long ago.
You worked as a creature technician on Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. How did you get this job?
I was working for a company called JMB FX back then. Jason Baird who owns the company was hired to supervise the special makeup FX for Star Wars Episode II. He brought on a few of his guys from Queensland and then the rest were local Sydney artists. All really awesome people. I put myself up in Sydney for the duration so I could go.
What were your exact tasks on this movie?
I was running foam latex, mold-making and general fabrication. Then onset I was applying Kit-Fisto’s makeup which was sculpted by Gab Facchini. Pretty much all the molds had been pre-made as we were reusing the molds from Nick Dudman’s shop who did the creatures for Episode I.
You also had the honour of playing two alien characters: Ask Aak and Passel Argente. How did that happen?
They wanted an extra to be in Ask Aak, and then someone thought it would be a good idea to have a creature tech or someone who knew the suit inside it. It made sense, I knew what I was in for. It was more uncomfortable than you can imagine but it was only for a few days and I was so young and excited. I loved every minute of it. Then, we needed to cast someone’s face to play Passel Argente. He was just going to be standing around in the background and didn’t have a lot to do. Jason Baird said, ‘You enjoyed the last one so much, you might as well play this one too?’ Of course I said yes.
What do you remember from your time working on Star Wars?
I remember everything. It was the biggest project I had worked on at the time. It was just as shooting digital was in its infancy. I remember how blown away everyone was with the new monitors. Instead of a small black and white film monitor, we were looking at our work on giant hi-def digital screens. They were able to assemble the shots as we were filming. It looked like we were watching the finished movie. New people in the industry probably couldn’t comprehend that, but back then it was a new world.
What was the funniest, weirdest or most remarkable thing that happened while working on Attack of the Clones
Most remarkable moment was getting to meet and work with my hero Christopher Lee. I was in a scene that was cut as Passel Argente and ending up having dialogue where Passel agrees to sign Dooku’s treaty. Anyway, Before we went out on set, I was in full prosthetic get up and costume. I was in the green room with Christopher and we were talking about Vincent Price, World war 2 , James Bond and his family’s connection with Australia for hours. It was just amazing and a moment I will never forget.
Were you a fan prior to Attack of the Clones? What was your first Star Wars experience?
Of course! I was there in the beginning! My mother dragged me to see Star Wars when I was barely walking, she knew I was going to love it. Apparently I was crying though because I wanted to see The Smurfs! Needless to say it changed me and continues to inspire me to this day.
You have your own FX studios (congratulations!). Can you tell something about your company, like what kind of effects you create?
My company is based here in Queensland, Australia and involves all aspect of creature and makeup fx production. Starting from Design, sculpture, manufacture and application. We are also in the infancy of creating a digital wing in conjunction with the practical effects studio.
What would be your ultimate dream project to work on?
Thats hard to say as I think I’ve achieved most of my dream projects. I’ve had a career beyond what I thought would be possible. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. I think the important thing for me now is to keep having variety. To keep stirring the pot and be forced to solve highly creative problems and to keep my hands dirty while doing it.
And what is your favorite effect ever created for a movie?
I have many but aside from Star Wars, American Werewolf in London fried my brain when I was young. I had never seen that layer of detail before. I still watch it whenever I want to be inspired, it reminds me to question whether our process is innovative enough.
Final question: how do you look back at your time working on Star Wars?
Always fondly. I had the chance to work with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. It was also a valuable lesson to me. Keep dreaming big, because anything can and will happen.