In the summer of 2014, Pace’s Business Development Manager, Scott Richardson, was forwarded an email by a friend inviting amputees to join a TV and film casting agency.
As a leg amputee, following a serious motorcycle accident in 2000, Scott decided to enrol. Within a week he was contacted by the agency offering him some work. As he explains,
“They asked if I could attend Pinewood Studios the following week, but were unable to say what it was about.”
So a curious Scott arrived at the Hertfordshire studios, where he was asked to sign various confidentiality forms and had his camera phone disabled with security stickers. He was then lead
into an Aladdin’s cave of creativity. As he recalls, “The room was full of weird and wonderful creatures, being sculpted by a team of experts. As I was lead through to be measured for my costume, we walked passed a life-size R2D2 and Darth Vader. Although nobody was allowed to mention the film by name, you didn’t need to be a genius to realise what it was!”
Several appointments followed, including having a full head cast, an alginate copy of his remaining leg and costume fittings. Scott also provided the special effects team with his water activity prosthesis (minus the foot) who transformed it into a futuristic peg leg to compliment his incredible costume.
Following some coaching with the film’s creature movement choreographer, Scott learnt to walk on the newly created prosthesis and the character began to evolve.
The Creature Effects team did not hold back with the creation of the character’s head, incorporating a host radio controlled animatronics which spectacularly brought it to life.
In a creature line up, director JJ Abrams was really taken by the character and wanted it to feature more prominently in the forthcoming scene. Incredibly this elevated Scott’s involvement from a background extra to a dialogue part, interacting with lead character John Boyega !
Filming took place on two of the hottest days of the year, as Scott recalls, “It was sweltering in just the costume, so the prosthetic head was only put on at the last moment.” He added, “It was quite time consuming to remove it. So instead, in between takes, the crew directed a leaf blower through the mouth to provide some much welcomed cooling.”
For a later scene, Scott was asked if he could negotiate stairs in his costume. As he recounts, “I had virtually no vision, except for the slits in the nostrils, but I said that I’d give it a go. I mean, you don’t say no to Star Wars do you?!”
In preparation, Scott paced out his steps before blindly approaching the stairs, explaining “There were a few shaky takes, but I managed to not fall over, just! Which was a relief!”
Eighteen months later, now the film has been released, Scott was able to reflect upon his involvement in arguably the world’s largest movie franchise, “It was an incredible experience. The professionalism and attention to detail by everyone involved was unbelievable.” Adding, “It was a privilege to be a part of it. Not many people can say they are in Star Wars, it’s certainly something to tell the grandchildren in the future!”