Natalie Portman & Liam Neeson’s Schedules Forced Star Wars To Replace Them With Sticks

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Written By Sedoso Feb

Quarshie had been acting for over 20 years when he landed the role of Captain Panaka in George Lucas’s feverishly anticipated “Star Wars” prequel, but he hadn’t done any CG-heavy films prior to this (the shot-quickly-and-cheaply “Wing Commander,” which came out two months before “The Phantom Menace,” doesn’t count). So the notion of playing a scene opposite a character to be created later was new to him.

In the days before performance capture, this was accomplished by having flesh-and-blood actors talk to a stick with a tennis ball affixed where the creature’s head would be. So, in theory, there was nothing new about Quarshie’s challenge when he came back to do reshoots by himself. But as he explained in issue 212 of Star Wars Insider, he wasn’t acting opposite a CG-alien. He was interacting with an unavailable-at-the-time Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman. Per Quarshie:

“[T]hey stuck a cross on a pole to represent Liam, who is six inches taller than me, and another, lower one to represent Natalie, and I was filmed talking to a couple of crosses on two sticks! It was slightly puzzling and pedestrian, but when I saw how skillfully they merged those shots into the film. I was amazed and very impressed. It wasn’t filmmaking as I had been used to, but acting has had to evolve just as filmmaking has had to evolve. It was a learning curve.”

Considering that some big-time actors sometimes have their scene partners deliver lines to their stand-ins, a couple of sticks might actually be preferable.

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