Gerald Home as Tessek (Squid Head) and Mon Calamari Officer
Today we’re revisiting some classic SWNZ content, with the second in a series of Gerald Home interview articles, originally published in June 2004.
Part Two :: ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ call sheets
A call sheet is a day’s plan for a particular film unit on a particular set. Typically, these are distributed at the end of the day and refer to the next day’s timetable. They document and tie together all the scenes to be covered, the actors, stand-ins, and extras required. Listed will be equipment, prop, lighting and ancillary requirements (transport, catering). Often, you will also find schedules for related activity: still photography, documentary and interview filming, rehearsals and costume fittings. To those immediately involved, a call sheet represents the tasks of another day’s work. To the fans and audience, such an artifact can provide detailed insight into the behind-the-scenes machinations of the production in question.
Actor Gerald Home, famous amongst both Quarren and Mon Calamari communities (see previous article, Tales of the lost Calamari), shares with us a series of call sheets from some of the ‘Return of the Jedi’ scenes in which he was involved, starting with the action aboard the Rebel Headquarters Frigate, coincidentally also designated ‘Home One’…
Call Sheet no.27 :: Tuesday 16th February, 1982
Jedi Director Richard Marquand leads the first unit through the day’s filming on the Rebel Cruiser interior set. Multiple scenes are planned, with cameras rolling as soon as practicable after 8:30am. These are, of course, the sequences that take place during the attack on the Death Star. The schedule comprises three named artistes, and an ensemble of human crew filling out the background. Gerald Home and Tim Rose don their Mon Calamari clothing and accoutrements to take on the roles of an Officer and an Admiral, respectively. Dermot Crowley, as General Crix Madine, is listed simply at the time under the name ‘Nadine’. Thirty minutes is afforded between the dressing room and unit call – this is made manageable by the allocation of ‘dressers’ (costume assistants) to each actor.
All the fixtures that are a permanent part of the set are, obviously, already in place, but, depending on the requirements of the scenes, additional props, equipment and effects need to be requested, delivered and tracked. The middle section of this call sheet lists a number of such items: possible lighting effects in the direction of the rebel crew, to simulate exploding fighters outside the bridge windows; com-links, weapons and assorted hand props to keep everybody looking busy; and, although not immediately evident in the final shots, “various other Artoo units” are called for. And food, for between shooting…a hectic day, with 125 persons in all, just on this stage.
Gerald describes what it was like once things got going: “The scenes with Caroline Blakiston [Mon Mothma] (Rebel Briefing Room), took quite a while to film – there were a lot of technical elements involved and we all had to be careful to stay in the same positions. For instance, when the hologram of the Endor Moon and the Death Star appears in front of her, the lighting had to be right, our eye-lines had to be right, so that when it was added post-production, it looked like it was actually there and we were looking at it. The scenes on the Starcruiser Bridge, however – particularly the scenes detailed on call sheet 30a – were shot in a huge hurry. Consequently, I was much less aware of what was going on around me, or even who else was in those costumes. We spent longer in the masks in those scenes, though it wasn’t as hot [as the Jabba’s Palace scenes] on that set. Call sheet 27 names both myself and Dermot Crowley, but I met Dermot again recently – and neither of us remembers doing a scene together”.
One classic scene has the Mon Calamari Officer particularly frantic in the background. Gerald: “Just before Ackbar yells “It’s a trap!”, I’m the confused Mon Calamari at the back, standing, to the left of him…supposedly pressing light switches on the wall panel behind me. But, I remember what was going on in my head at the time: none of the switches were operational – they were all fake and did nothing; I was so close to the rail at the back of the set that I was in danger of falling over; I couldn’t see, and didn’t have the foggiest idea what was going on around me, just that directions were being yelled out to us to keep going…”!
Behind these scenes, other preparatory and marketing work is taking place. Peter Mayhew and Harrison Ford had a still photography session in parallel with the Starcruiser Bridge scenes. Mark Hamill had both documentary filming and lightsaber practice to fill his day, whilst Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod) was scheduled for his costume fitting.
The call sheet for the following day (Wednesday 17th February) looked exactly as it did for the 16th – on the first day the emphasis was on the wide shots, and on the 17th, the close-ups.
Call Sheet no.30a :: Friday 19th February, 1982
Yellow call sheets represent work undertaken by the second unit. The artistes returning to the same Rebel Frigate Bridge on this day were Tim Rose and Gerald Home. George Lucas himself was at the filming of these second unit scenes – in his mind’s eye he held the vision that would amalgamate the live action elements with the post-production effects, and interweave these interior shots with the rest of the battle around Endor.
During its production, ‘Return of the Jedi’ went by more than one name. We see here further evidence that all material relating to the Elstree-based cinematography bears the working title ‘Revenge of the Jedi’. Across the North Atlantic, particularly on the location shoots, such as in Yuma, Arizona, and amongst the Californian redwoods, the code-name ‘Blue Harvest’ was used (as a pretence to protect the plot, characters and effects).
Although slightly less people were involved in this unit’s shoot, we have already heard that time constraints kept the pressure on. With the masked actors under strong lights and on an elevated set, the crew and cameras moved around with a fervour in the relative darkness below. Commands and instructions would be issued from the off-stage dimness, but…”I distinctly remember asking a fellow Mon Cal at one stage, ‘Where’s the camera now?!'”, reveals Gerald. “The position of the camera was changed but we weren’t always told! I guess it was assumed that we could see such changes for ourselves, but that wasn’t always possible because of the limited visibility we had from inside our Mon Cal heads”. It is reassuring to note that both nursing and firefighting staff were on set, on stand-by (or, does it cause concern to wonder what calamities might require their services)? Fortunately for all involved, we know, with hindsight, that no disasters befell these scenes.
Despite the lesser numbers of people, catering was still important…nay, crucial. Gerald Home: “On a British set, whether it’s Film or TV, there must always be a break for Tea in the morning and afternoon. It’s probably the same in New Zealand, but not, it would seem, in America – it’s worth pointing out that Americans are very amused by this little British tradition. They don’t have it. I know Brits who work in America who have it in their contracts that there must be a break for tea and cakes about 11 am and 4 pm!! And it’s not just the actors who demand this…the crew will ‘down tools’ the moment the tea trolly arrives on set! Quite right too – we Brits couldn’t survive without our morning and afternoon tea!”
And then, with the activity amongst the Rebel Battle Fleet committed to celluloid, the Friday evening was wrapped up with a social gathering. The cast and crew could retire from their Battle of Good against Evil, to watch that of others: a special, in-house screening of ‘Dragonslayer’ (brought to life with the help of Star Wars special effects gurus Dennis Muren, Brian Johnson, Ken Ralston and Phil Tippett).
While these call sheets paint a vivid picture of what it was like during the filming of these scenes, they don’t tell us everything. Coming next…the conclusion to this trilogy of articles, in which SWNZ will be presenting incredibly rare material from 1982 that even many Star Wars experts aren’t aware of. This information will illustrate how some Mon Calamari – Battle of Endor scenes might have been…
To contact Gerald regarding possible convention or other appearances, email him at [email protected].
Stay tuned for more Calamari Adventures…
(Originally published 11 June 2004)