How did you get to work as a dialect/dialogue coach for this movie?
I was asked to prepare the young actors for their screen tests before we started principal photography. One thing led to another and I became the dialect coach to the cast.
You coached the two leads: John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. Can you share some of your experiences working with them on their accents?
Daisy is a Londoner and JJ Abrams wanted her and other members of the cast to be neutral, not betraying any regional sounds in their accents. John Boyega’s character Finn was to be American, so we did the preparatory work and he produced a faultless accent.
Do you know the reason the decision to have John Boyega speak with an American accent was made?
As far as I know the decision about Finn’s accent was made early on in casting.
In The Force Awakens you play the role of Major Ematt. How did you get cast for this part?
As dialect coach to the film I first met JJ Abrams in pre-production before we started principal photography. JJ asked me if I was an actor, he thought I had a look reminiscent of the Star Wars series and eventually cast me as Major Ematt.
Your character has featured in a couple of Star Wars books and has a backstory. Are you aware of these stories?
It wasn’t until we had completed filming of The Force Awakens that I heard about the stories written about Major Ematt.
You filmed scenes with people like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac… Can you tell some of your memories being on the set?
My memory of working on set with the major actors was of total professionalism. I had the benefit of working before with Harrison Ford on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and with Oscar Isaac on Robin Hood. As director, JJ Abrams created a creative atmosphere that was also fun.
I’m not sure if you can answer this, but I’ll try anyway: Are you involved as an actor and/or dialect coach with the upcoming Star Wars movies?
I am working on Star Wars VIII…
That’s great to hear! I understand you can’t get into details about this.
You have worked on a lot of movies, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy for which you created various accents. Are there differences between working on a Star Wars movie and other movies, like The Lord of the Rings for instance?
In terms of coaching the films were very similar but I think the main difference between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings is that the Rings trilogy was shot back to back with the majority of the scenes being on location whereas Star Wars was mostly in studio and with a break of many months in between.
As said, you have worked on many movies. What do you regard as the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my early career was coaching Robert Downey Jr in Chaplin for Richard Attenborough, my association with Robert has lasted for many years. Other than that I’m very lucky to do what I do and I enjoy my work tremendously.