In the following interview he talks about this series, how he became a Jedi Master, how he scared Ewan McGregor's kids and a lot more!
How did you get started in the movie business?
I was travelling the world when I was younger working all types of jobs and met some people that worked in the industry. When I visited them back in America got to spend some time on set with them and really liked what I saw especially the art department. I really enjoy working with my hands and designing things. Before working in the industry I was in construction, mainly Bar and Restaurant design. Anyways, upon getting back to Australia I moved to Sydney to get into the industry, first few jobs in the industry was parking cars and working in catering but with hard work and getting to know the right people. I was soon working in the art department on all the big movies.
You portrayed the Jedi Master Saesee Tiin in Episode II. How did you get this specific part?
I can thank my brother Zac for that opportunity. He had actually come down to Sydney to find some work and I helped get him a job working on Star Wars as a carpenter helping fit out different departments work areas. I was currently working in the Art Department building a space ship, the “Solar Sailer”. The guys in the creature department really liked Zac and next thing we knew he was playing a Jedi……..Saesee Tiin. I was pretty jealous but super happy for him, who doesn’t want to play a Jedi master? A week or so later George Lucas saw him cruising around set with his long dreadlocks and Kit Fisto was born. He then found out that he could no longer play Saesee Tiin as they were in the arena scene together. As we have similar face structures he was able to talk them into giving me a go at trying for the role as Saesee Tiin. I ran straight up from the art department, tried on the mask and it fit like a glove, so from then on I was Saesee Tiin and mum and dad had two Jedi in the family.
You were in the big arena fight scene with Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen. Can you tell something about the filming of this scene?
Well, it was just a huge sand pit built in one of the larger sound stages, surrounded by green screens. In strategic spots they had basic platforms positioned to represent the shuttles we escaped in. It was a lot of fun, I was allowed to work with the more trained stunt guys as I had some experience in martial arts so could wield a lightsaber at a decent skill level. The AD’s pretended they were battle droids and we acted as if we were defecting lasers fired from them. At the end of the scene I had to leap up onto one of the platforms with the other surviving Jedi. Later on in CGI it was replaced with the shuttle.
Were there other scenes filmed with you that were cut from the final movie?
No, I did a few days filming but all in and around the arena scene.
How do you look at your character?
I like Saesee Tiin a lot, he may be not as “cool” as Kit Fisto but I like his background and abilities. His look is a little harsh, but I think he is a pretty good character to play. There are not many Jedi roles I would have chosen above him.
There must have happened strange, funny or remarkable things when filming. Can you tell something about these moments?
Not a lot to tell really. I know it was pretty exciting at the time to just be there and be involved. One funny moment was when Ewan McGregor’s family came to visit on set and he went to show them some of us characters in prosthetics. When they came over I said hello and the kids took one look at me and started to cry, with the yellow contacts in I do make for a pretty imposing figure. Zac and I also played a few minor background characters in other scenes such as the bar scene. In that scene I was standing next to and talking with a young girl who was also an extra and it turned out it was George Lucas’s daughter, that as a bit of a trip.
You were directed by George Lucas. How would you describe him?
He was very polite and respectful but at the same time knew exactly what he wanted. I really didn’t get much time with him but from what I saw a great guy.
You were young when the first Star Wars movie was released. I bet you had the toys as a kid? Or weren’t you a fan back then? If you were, what was it like to be on a Star Wars set?
Yeah, Zac and I were both huge fans as kids. I still remember going to watch the films in the local cinema as soon as they came out, then the next day making up our own lightsabers to play in the back yard. We had a bunch of the figurines as well. It was pretty amazing to be part of the Star Wars movies even behind the scenes, but once we lucked out with the roles of Jedi Masters it was amazing. We were on such a high at that time, felt a little like a dream, who ever expects to be a Jedi for real.
Over the years you have attended various conventions where you had the chance to meet the fans. What do you think of these events and how is it to meet all those fans who want you to sign photos, posters etcetera?
It’s great, I actually haven’t been able to attend that many conventions due to work commitments but the ones I have done have all been really enjoyable. It is great to be famous for a day, where people want your autograph and photos with you etc. All the fans are always so nice and polite, and in turn I try and give 100% back to them. It can get tiring but I always have a great time. I have not done one for years, I actually miss it as they are a lot of fun.
Besides Star Wars you are best known for the TV series Survivor. You are the Production Designer/Producer of this series and even got three Emmy Award nominations. What is it that makes this series so important for you? And why should everyone who reads this interview start to watch this series immediately?
I love working on the show mainly because it allows me to travel the world and settle into various places and cultures in remote areas for lengthy periods of time…..and get paid for it! We have a tight group of people working with us so it’s like one big family moving around to different countries making a TV show. As for watching it, if that’s your thing it’s a great show and we try to keep it as real as possible, what you see really happens and we don’t allow anything to break that reality behind the scenes. It’s a lot harder for those people out there than anyone could imagine.
Looking at the future: what are your current and upcoming projects?
I am currently in Nicaragua filming the next season of Survivor. After that I’m not sure, bit of a break then start working on the next Survivor I suppose, assuming it is picked up for another season. Can’t see why not though it’s been running now for 11 years and still going strong which is all good for me and the rest of the crew. Not sure what I’ll do when it’s all over but that’s part of the fun isn’t it!
If there is anything you want to say to the readers here’s your chance!
Thanks for all the support and may the force be with you all!