It's common knowledge that George Lucas loves racing. He put a drag race in his movie American Graffiti, so it was not a big surprise when he put a (pod)race in Episode I: the Phantom Menace. The favorite to win the podrace in the movie is a Dug called Sebulba who was voiced by Scottish voice actor Lewis McLeod. In early 2010 I had the chance to ask him some questions about Sebulba, his experiences while working on Star Wars and his view on Episode I.
How did you get the part for Sebulba in Episode I? Did you have to audition for instance?
I have a good friend who played Darth Maul. His name is Peter Serafinowicz. He told me he was going up for the movie and that I should be too. So he offered my reel to the casting director along with my agents copy and they got me in for an audition. It was back in 1997 out at Leavesden studios. It was an amazing experience. Unforgettable.
How did you come up with Sebulba’s voice? Were you influenced by certain existing people for instance?
Sebulba speaks the same language as Jabba: Huttese. So I leaned toward Jabba initially. It ended up like a more hoarse Jabba crossed with a man who does movie trailer voice overs!
Can you tell something about the days you worked on Episode I. How did your days look?
My sessions were booked in two hour increments but we were used relatively quickly. I did thre sessions with them over an 18 month period.
The last session was three months prior to release and it was at Abbey Road studios. That in itself was exciting given my love of The Beatles!
How was the atmosphere in the studio where you worked on Episode I? Did any strange or funny things happen?
I got invited to lunch off the back of that session with the great Mr. Lucas, legendary sound designer Walter Murch, casting director Robin Gurland and producer Rick McCallum.
It was unbelievable. I sat with living legends having pizza. They made me feel so relaxed I accidentally ate George Lucas' parsley of his plate. He didn't notice thankfully.
The voice over from the first day recording was at Magmasters in St Anne’s court London. It is sadly no more but the result is on disc 2 of the Episode I DVD set.
George Lucas was like the Wizard of Oz. He sat behind a curtain in the voice booth!
Episode I got (like all the prequels) a lot of criticism. What is your view on the movie and on all the criticism?
It is a movie without technical equal for its time. There are scenes where there are upward of 4000 digital effects interacting on screen. An awesome achievement.
I didn't like some of the dialogue or the Obi-Wan Kenobi accent but otherwise it was good, if a tad overlong.
The John Williams score is breathtaking. My character even had its own track. Number 9 on the CD is 'Anakin defeats Sebulba'. I was thrilled. And the opening cue sounds like 'Scheherazade' which was my father’s favorite. He died before the movie was completed. It is very special to me.
Is there the possibility that we’re going to see you in a future Star Wars project? Maybe the TV series?
I would love to be involved! Oh yes! I still have to take them up on the invitation to Skywalker Ranch to see the audio set up. As a voice over it fascinates me. When it comes to audio equipment and mic’s I put my geek head on!!!
You have done the voice for Obi-Wan on some Star Wars videogames. How did you approach that task? Did you try to imitate Ewan McGregor or did you try to give your own touch to it?
I did both. I initially took the direction of Darragh O’Farrell. He's the voice casting director for LucasArts. He was brilliant and allowed me to shape it a little more without losing the essence of the familiar voice.
You were born in 1970 if I’m correct, so when the original Star Wars came out you were a kid. Were you –like so many other kids- a fan? Did you have the toys for instance?
I had all the characters except for two Bountyhunters: Bossk and Zuckuss. I built papier-mâché sets and had a number of spacecraft and of course the Millennium Falcon!!
I sold my collection in 1983 for 55 pounds and bought a poorly made bike built by Puch!! I wish I had kept the lot!
There is the theory that Sebulba was modelled after the Roman character Messala of the 1959 movie Ben Hur. Like Sebulba, he wins races by having his opponents crash. Do you know if this ‘rumor’ is true?
This is the first I've heard of it! Very interesting.
A lot of people always say that Sebulba resembles Michael Schumacher, the Formula 1 driver. Suppose Sebulba would race Schumacher. What would happen?
He'd kick his ass. And tamper with his car causing his "Motor car" to skid off the road into a ditch leaving him to fight the sand people with his chin.
What is your general feeling about being in Star Wars?
When it occurred it was the best experience in my working life. The moment I found out I jumped up and down so much I broke my sofa. I am so immensely proud to be a part of it. George Lucas is an incredible human being who has enriched all of our lives with his vision.
Another word for sh#t.
Too young to be driving a Pod Racer.
Boonta Eve Podrace
The weather was lovely