John Knoll Q&A: ‘Rogue One’ visual effects
“It’s a wonderful surprise,” admits visual effects supervisor John Knoll as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his Oscar nomination for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” “It’s a very competitive field,” he adds. “There’s a lot of really excellent work being done, so there’s no guarantee that even amazing work will get nominated just because of the vast volume of great work that’s being done now.” The first in a series of standalone “Star Wars” films, “Rogue One” centers on a Rebel Alliance that makes a bold move to steal plans for the Death Star, leading up to the events of “Episode VI: A New Hope” (1977).
The veteran effects artist worked on the “Star Wars” prequel films, and relished the opportunity to “depart from the stylebook” of the previous entries. At the same time, “we’ve designed something that in its nature wants to meet right up to ‘Episode IV,’ and so you don’t want to be so different from that that it feels like the films don’t go together.”
That meant using revolutionary technology to bring back deceased actor Peter Cushing, who played the villainous Grand Moff Tarkin in the original film, and a young Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). “It’s a lot like depicting a historic figure in a film,” he explains. “You try and find an actor who’s close in resemblance and build to that person, and there’s almost always some effort made to alter their appearance, whether it’s a little bit of makeup, or a lot of makeup, and in this case, we’re really doing the same thing conceptually.”
Knoll won this prize for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006), and competed for “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” (1999), “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” (2002), “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003), and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (2007). He shares this nomination with Mohen Leo, Hal T. Hickel, and Neil Corbould. They contend at the Oscars against “Deepwater Horizon,” “Doctor Strange,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.”