The Star Wars franchise is perhaps best known for its plethora of memorable characters, but part of the magic of watching the movies is getting transported to the galaxy far, far away. Over 40 years, the films have taken viewers to the deserts of Tatooine, the swamps of Dagobah, and the forests of Endor. The Last Jedi features some of the most stunning locations the saga has seen, with Ahch-To and Canto Bight standing apart from anything else in the series. It was a Herculean task to bring director Rian Johnson’s vision to life, but the incredible crew made it work and delivered something the fans have never seen.
Screen Rant got an opportunity to interview Episode VIII production designer Rick Heinrichs about how the earlier movies influenced his designs and what it was like working with Johnson.
Screen Rant: Following The Force Awakens with this one, how did the production design on Episode VII influence your work on Episode VIII?
Rick Heinrichs: That’s a good question. I think both Rick Carter and Darren Gilford on Episode VII, as well as myself on VIII, we were really trying to look back to the original trilogy for inspiration. I spent several days up at Skywalker Ranch going through all their folders of Ralph McQuarrie’s original drawings and Joe Johnston drawings – all of that. And, it was just so humbling to see the mountain of work that had been done. Now, on 7, Doug Chiang was very much involved with, I think a lot of the development of that as well. And, he’s got the DNA in him. So, really we were kind of drawing from similar sources for a lot of this, and trying to make sure that it felt organic to the series and that people were going to see familiar elements, but also that they’re gonna feel they’re in a new story and that the design was evolving. And that it felt exciting and current for them, too.
The big handoff from number 7 for us was the island of Skellig off the coast of Ireland, which is Ahch-To. Rick had found that. And it was just barely reachable for us. They went there for a couple of days when they were shooting there, and we found it likewise to be a challenge. It’s one of those places where you approach it with a boat and the boat is rising and falling eight feet at the docks and you have to sort of time your drop off – your hop off onto the deck. But I’d already seen a lot of photographs of it, and felt like I’d already been there. So, actually seeing it in person was both familiar and an awesome experience. What we did was essentially develop and evolve the look and feel of Ahch-To, both using Skellig and then a number of locations on the west coast of Ireland to augment and develop what that island was – all of the different environments. There was the Temple, the village, there’s the library tree. There’s a Caretaker village that you never see in the film, but I think you might see it on the DVD.
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