I am Roger Christian, and after starting as a tea boy on Oliver! in 1968 I graduated to the art department on films such as Life of Brian, Alien, and of course Star Wars: A New Hope (for which I designed the lightsaber and created the interior of the Millennium Falcon, and won an Oscar). I was also second unit director on Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace.

Back in 1980, George Lucas commissioned me to make a short film that would play in front of The Empire Strikes Back in certain cinemas around the UK and Australia. That short became Black Angel, which you can see here.

Now, I am turning Black Angel into a full length feature!

You can see it on our Indiegogo page here, where we have some absolutely amazing art from artists such as Martina Pilcerova (the Game of Thrones books) and Richard Anderson (of Guild Wars 2 and Batman: Arkham Knight).

So without further ado, ask me anything! Victoria is assisting me this evening.



reddit has been really kind to me.

When the short originally got rediscovered, and it went into the Glasgow Film Festival, it went through a BBC article, and then Esquire and then up on reddit. And i know that one of my original articles that I wrote for Shadowlot went straight to reddit - on science fiction corridors, and how influential they are.

So we're all fans - we all love cinema- and I know it's hard to be part of this world. So I thought IndieGoGo would do that.

And let me tell you - when I was young, I wanted to get in the film industry. That is all I wanted to do. MY father, who was very old-fashioned, said "You're going to be a doctor, an architect, or a priest. Take your pick."

So I got SO broke, trying to get in, SO many letters written - I couldn't connect to ANYBODY in the industry, I knew nobody where I came from - and so I sold an old Mini in the next town, because I had no money left.

And I hitched a lift back, because I couldn't even afford the bus fare. And the man who picked me up was an architect.

And we got to chatting, and then he said "Oh! I know one of my staff worked on CLEOPATRA, would you like me to connect you to him?" and I said "Oh, yes please!"

And that led to me having a job in the film industry, and the films I love - I became the tea boy for John Box, he was one of the best production designers in the world, they were called art directors - he did LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO - and he took me on and mentored me through.

So I know that, you know, we're offering some similar mentorships, all sorts of things - there's talent out there that never get any exposure.

So we're all cinema fans. Whether you're making films, or just watching them.

And I really appreciate all of the fans, and the questions and the interactions. And I think there's a hunger for what I'm trying to do now, which is make REAL film that is not so fast-cut that you can't enjoy it.

And reddit, I think you have more fans than anyone on the planet. So it's an honor for me really, to be here.

I hope to come back and answer more questions soon.

And in the meantime, if you want to come be a part of BLACK ANGEL, here's the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/black-angel/x/249469

Thank you, so much, for listening and being part of this.

Comments: 243 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

NorbitGorbit108 karma

what sorts of set dressings look fantastic on camera but horrible in person, and vice versa?

Roger_Christian176 karma

That's interesting. Any contemporary science fiction where they've specially tried to make it look plastic-y and real - they never work! And any dressing, to me, that's not really aged down correctly so that it creates a proper environment that's real - that, to me, never works.

It's got a lot better now. It used to be worse. Now they can do just about most things.

Since Ridley Scott made LEGEND, snow looks really good! It was all artificial in that film. It kind of showed what you can do. But you just have to be very careful with colours and environments - I mean, bright red on set can be very hard because of video cameras, and really stripey wallpaper can play up on camera.

I like colour-coordinated things with patina, so that they take on a feel like life.

The thing I most hate in the world is when they spray things with silver paint to make it look like "science fiction." They used to do that - spray everything silver, and think Oh, it looks space-y!

It looks terrible!

I used to get frightened as a kid by Daleks, and they had a toilet-plunger as an antenna on the front. But they used to spray things silver on Doctor Who in the very early days.

But the things I never thought worked were films like FLASH GORDON, where you had lots of shiny plastic, and guns that were kind of plastic, that went beepbeep! No one was ever scared by that!

suaveitguy103 karma

Do you think Jodorowsky's Dune would have been really doable? As it was then, with him at the helm, would it have come together?

Roger_Christian147 karma

I think it would have been more interesting than David Lynch's, to me, because the talent that was arranged on it - and he was a CRAZY - I recently watched Jodorowsky's documentary on the making of DUNE, and it kind of looks fairly impossible, I have to admit.

But the one that got away, on this subject, to me - Ridley Scott was doing DUNE.

And I'd seen the paintings of the worms and things. And I know this would have been the version of DUNE that the world would have loved.

And de Laurentiis for some reason fired Ridley, and they parted ways over "creative differences," and replaced him with David Lynch.

But these paintings - if anyone can find them on the internet - they were just absolutely epic.

It was beautiful.

That's the one that got away, to me.

Sporkicide100 karma

I know the sets and costumes of Star Wars used a lot of military surplus and found objects - what was the most interesting or weirdest item that you used as a prop or set decoration?

Roger_Christian259 karma

I don't know if I should own up to this.

But on one of the robots in the Sandcrawler interior, where they capture C-3PO, there's actually a gynecological instrument that doctors used for women.

But it looked right, you know?

It was only afterwards that I realized what it was. But by then, it was too late!

suaveitguy70 karma

Battlefield Earth had a pretty over the top reception. How did it feel when it first came out? How have your feelings about it evolved?

Roger_Christian133 karma

John Travolta was one of the biggest stars in the world at that time. And he came to me, because they had a budget of $21 million dollars, and it was budgeted at $80 million, so Quentin Tarantino had recommended I do it, and Travolta called George Lucas, and he said "With that amount of money, Roger's the only one that can pull this off for you!"

So Ron Hubbard, who wrote it, was the most prolific pulp writer of the era. He'd written 48 pulp fiction novels. And BATTLEFIELD EARTH has nothing to do with his church - he actually writes an apology at the beginning of the book, stating to the followers of his serious work that he just wanted to write a "rip-roaring science fiction adventure."

And I kind of went out, and we made a pulp science fiction film. And I was trying to be graphic novel-like. And I think I was a bit too early.

And I think it sums it up when I was asked this question in Hungary, on live television, and I said "My enemy is mediocrity. So I'd rather be at the high end of doing what I do, and if we're going to look at box office, then I'd rather be not in the middle, where it's just mediocre. I'd rather be exciting both ends of the spectrum." And they asked about the Raspberry, and I said "Alfred Hitchcock got one. Stanley Kubrick got one. Ridley Scott one."

America haaaaated 2001 when it first came out. Everybody walked out of the cinema! Same in Britain.

So you never know. And the only sad thing for me is that the film was never judged as a film. There's a huge number of anti-Scientologists in the world, and they just went for it. And even to the extent - I mean, the LA critic in the LA Times when it opened said I had buried subliminal messages in the film, and if you dared to go see it, you'd come out of the film a Scientologist!

So I wrote a very honest letter back, saying if I buried subliminal messages, it would be to eat more popcorn.

But the film - Quentin Tarantino came to the premier, and sat between John Travolta and I, and at the end of it, he stood up, hugged us both, and he said "This is the stuff i REALLY want to write, and I know I can't. And you're probably going to be crucified by the religion-haters, so wait 18-20 years, and then it'll be re-evaluated."

And I know that right before he died, Roger Ebert re-evaluated it, and said it was quite an interesting film I was trying to make.

And John Travolta actually had never been on Barbara Walter's show before. And when he went on, and she said "What's the film you're most proud of making, John?"

And he said "Battlefield Earth."

So I felt that was a kind of nice compliment, really.

Given a choice, I would have filmed the book as it was, and I really loved the book, and I couldn't, because John had developed it as a part for him, and so that was playing out.

But I said to them at the time - the book has got something REALLY special. It starts very slowly, and builds, and I thought that was an interesting journey to put on film. I think it would've been more of an art film, but that would've been okay by me.

suaveitguy45 karma

What was the best set piece/prop you ever macgyvered on set?

Roger_Christian126 karma

I'll give you two.

In STAR WARS, the first one, there's a thing called "the comlink." And that's the little communicator that the Stormtroopers use, and C-3PO uses in one shot. So I was in the production designer's office, showing him some plumbing units that he could design into a set.

And a call came from the floor, from George, and he says "I need a comlink NOW! I need a communicator now!"

So as the call came through, and George was saying he needed a comlink NOW, I undid a pipe, and out fell a filter.

And I looked at it and thought that it had a little grid on the end, with little indented circles around it on one end, and I went OH MY GOD! and I ran to my room, stuck one little ring around it, ran to the floor, and put it into George's hand, and he said "PERFECT!"

And there was only one ever made.

And it still exists.

And I think I know where it is.

The second one - on ALIEN - I made the whole of the Nostromo interior, everything, I did the whole ship.

And then once I'd got it done, I became the stand-by art director.

Which means that I'm the art director by Ridley's side the whole time because i wanted to learn, and I loved it. I loved the pressure of the floor, and I knew Ridley - he was a friend, I'd done commercials for him - so I wanted to be by his side.

And he suddenly said to me "OH god, I need a notebook! One of the crew's got to write something down! Do you have anything?"

And I walked off the set and went oh GOD, how can I come up with a notebook for ALIEN? I can't just give them a notebook and a pencil!

And then as I was standing, literally by a continuity girl's table - and I was staring at the floor, thinking whatcaniusewhatcaniuse - so she took her continuity photograph on an RX-7, those old Polaroid cameras.

And she just ran out of Polaroids - flipped them over, and out came this little black container that had 8 little photographs inside, and it had a little spring-loaded end on it that flipped the photographs, pushed them out as it came.

And honestly, I watched it go into the waste bin in slow motion, dived in and thought PERFECT!

So the blue ALIEN logo wings, I quickly stuck that on the top, and I got little green-squared graph paper, it was called - it had little green squares on it - cut that up- stuck it in where the Polaroid prints were - found a suitable pen, I knew I had a metal pen, Ridley said "PERFECT!" and on it went.

It is in the film. It's actually sitting where Ian Holm who's analyzing data in his laboratory, making notes, and it's actually there.

Roger_Christian212 karma

And the most iconic thing was the laser sword - now we call it the lightsaber.

Well, when I read the script, I knew that that would be the iconic image of this world.

And I was making everything out of junk - I was using real guns, and adapting them for the film, and I would stick with superglue - I got through BOXES of superglue, sticking things on the barrel, sticking on sights to give them a different look - and it was getting near to the time when everything had to be shipped to Tunisia for the start of the shoot at the end of March.

And I still had not found a lightsaber.

And I couldn't make them. We didn't have the money. And I knew it wouldn't look right. I was trying to find an object to make one out of.

And I made Luke's binoculars myself, in my office, out of an old sixteen mill camera. And I stuck on another piece for the viewing screen. And I needed 2 lenses for the front, so I went to a photography shop, in London, where we used to rent all of our equipment from, for movies.

And I found two lenses. And we bought those. And then I just said to the owner - "Do you have anything interesting in boxes, anything you don't use, that I could take a look at?"

And he said "Oh, under that shelf there, that stuff hasn't been looked at it in 10 years, have a look at it."

So the first box I pulled out - I took the lid off - and there was tissue paper inside - and as I pulled off the tissue paper - now, you have to go in slow-motion, and the music is rising...

And there were these flash-handles.

From an old press camera called a Graflex.

And I pulled one out, and just said "Oh my goodness, this is it."

And I bought the lot, raced back to the studios - and my set decorating room was FILLED with shelves of any bit of junk I found that was interesting, it was like a magpie's nest, and I had some rubber draft-excluder that was in T-shape, which I stuck on the Sterling sub-machine guns for the Stormtrooper weapons, and I stuck that to make it into a handle - I stuck seven of them around the end of it.

And I had an old calculator that I'd broken down, and I found a little strip of bubbles, like lenses, and those I stuck into the old grip of this flash-handle.

And I called George.

And I said "You'd better come to my office."

And he walked in, and I just handed him this lightsaber, and it was quite heavy - because it had batteries inside, and it had a red button, and he just held it and smiled.

He knew I got it.

And then he just asked me to add a little ring on the end - because for Tunisia, it didn't fire up, but we needed to hang it on Luke's belt, and that went out to Tunisia - I made two of them. And that's the one that Obi-Wan Kenobi brings from the trunk, the one that he gives to Luke and says "That was your father's". That's the one I made for eight pounds - about twelve dollars.

And now - there it is - in the STAR WARS 7 trailer - being handed back again.

They re-produced it. But it's Luke's lightsaber, from A NEW HOPE - if you look, there's a lightsaber being handed over, and there it is - all these years later!

It's very cool.

Sorry, that was three. There's a lot more. All these things - all these stories, everything - they're going to be in my book! Because everybody wants to know. So all of those stories are there.

hllimes197342 karma

You say you want to bring it back to the physical real action of older films, like Conan the Barbarian and Excalibur. I love that. Do you expect this will require more money due to the greater need for rehearsal and choreography, or do you expect that the less spent on CG will offset it? Can't wait to be a part of the indiegogo!

Roger_Christian77 karma

Thank you so much for your support!

And I'm SO happy that I'm touching people, because I am an audience member. I sit in cinemas, and I know what's missing. And quite honestly - I love huge - Super-Man, and Iron Man, and Pink Man, and whatever-Man - I love these films. You go to the cinema, you get blasted by sound and visuals and everything.

And then you wait for the next one, and you get a huge blast, and hide.

And I love that.

BUT. EXCALIBUR has stayed with people all of this time. So has the original CONAN.

John Boorman - I call him one of the great filmmakers of Britain- and to me, he was one of the British filmmakers with balls, because he made so many REALLY interesting movies.

This was around EXCALIBUR - when he'd seen BLACK ANGEL, he asked myself and the director of photography down to Pinewood Studios, and he showed my short film to his entire crew, and then stood at the end and said "That's what I want!"

And then Roger Pratt, the DP, was almost in the toilet, and I had little bits of film left over from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and only 25,000 pounds, and I had an advantage - that I had a crew of 9 people, we had one camper wagon, a little one. I could go up dirt roads where NOBODY could go, and find amazing locations.

And I said "John, you're going to have a crew of 100, or 200 people, and you're going to have food trucks, and lights, and generators, and all of that stuff."

And he said "Well, that's true indeed."

But they were very kind. And the DP and the various design people said "No, no, we know what John wants!"

I put my costumes together with no money, we just made it up!

And I'm absolutely going to even the way STAR WARS was made - we had NO MONEY.

I had to invent the technique of using scrap to make all the sets and things, because we had no money. It was partly because i thought I could make them old and used like that, but it also cost me next to nothing. So I could fill the sets with these.

ALIEN was the same, you know. It was made for very little money. And I look at the first JURASSIC PARK, and that's the one people really remember - and Spielberg only had 75 CGI shots, and the rest of it, he had to get it to look real.

And I'm going to back to use those techniques.

So I have to have some CGI - because I have a flying demon in mine - I'll use CGI for that, but I'm going absolutely down and dirty. And it will be a quarter of a price to make this epic than if I were using CGI - going to REAL locations, at the right time of year, and I'll be using stunt coordinators, and I'm going to have the fights look so real that you can smell the blood and the sweat and the tears.

That's my goal.

That's what we're going to do with this.

Roger_Christian39 karma

So I'm very low budget!

So that's why this small IndieGogo amount - this will help fund the Undead, making a few of those, it's all going up on the screen. I need whatever help I can get!

DKDNZ33 karma

Hey Mr Christian :)

If you could change one thing from your work on the sets, what would you change?

Best luck.

Roger_Christian84 karma

That's a tough one.

Something I would go back and change - in STAR WARS, on the first one, I finished creating Han Solo's cockpit for the Millennium Falcon, and I took George Lucas to the set, and we looked at it, and I said "George, I think we should personalize it - for good luck, in AMERICAN GRAFFITI, in Ron Howard's car, you had some dice hanging."

And George kind of smiled, and said "That's a good idea."

So I showed him six sets of dice - there were cloth ones, and rubber ones, and things. And he chose these small chrome dice.

And I hung them on the set, and if you look carefully at the stills, first up, there they are. And then the DP took them down.

And I really regret not going down there and fighting to put them back - because for me - I did the same on ALIEN, I'd put used coffee cups on the tables, and personal things, because that's what happens when people on long journeys, and especially Han Solo's ship, it should be full of his own personal stuff.

I did show him fuzzy dice! But he rejected them. He thought they looked too big.

Protomancer45 karma

The dice are actually in Episode 7, Mr. Christian. You can see them on the cover of the Vanity Fair cover shoot for the new Star Wars. Right between the V and the A of the magazine's title.

Roger_Christian5 karma

I did! And I had a look at the cover, and I want to thank whomever sent that in, whoever you are, and it's AMAZING that JJ Abrams has seen that, and restored it to the way it should have been!

I never knew that! I was really amazed when I looked at the cover!

HuntedGatherer27 karma

Was the original Black Angel inspired by The Seventh Seal at all? I kind of got that vibe.

Roger_Christian33 karma

Yes. THE SEVENTH SEAL I loved. I loved Bergman. It was very much inspired - if I take any film - by SEVEN SAMURAI by Kurosawa, and I kind of adapted Kurosawa's "lone samurai fighting evil" into my antique world that I was creating.

beernerd22 karma

Where do you draw your artistic inspiration?

Roger_Christian46 karma

Ehm - well - that's interesting, because I grew up in Britain, after the War. And it was a pretty terrible place. Very gray, and they'd had two World Wars, so I read, voraciously, things like King Arthur and Ivanhoe and the Norse Legends.

And I've got a book coming out soon, called CINEMA ALCHEMIST - I call it that because I use scrap, and I turned it into an Oscar. It's like Alchemy, you take scrap metal and turn it into gold. That was the old Medieval alchemy.

And I kind of went back and examined it. And I've got some now - Thomas the Tank Engine, when they first came out, the Reverend Shepherd used to do these illustrations, beautifully painted in the original Thomas the Tank Engine, and I would get graphic novels, and I used to go to museums - I was very impressed by Georges de La Tour - he was the first painter to stop doing these formal Renaissance garden-type paintings, and his famous painting has a skull with a single candle in it, and a group around a table. And he made the faces real, an amazing painter.

A lot of artists I would watch.

And then, I was very lucky in London in the Sixties - we had about twelve art cinemas. I spent my entire time, week after week, and each weekend there would be films by Tarkovsky, Bergman, Kurosawa (who was my absolute mentor, I just hero-worshipped Kurosawa, to me he was the great cinema-maker and storyteller) - so I would get all my inspirations from there.

blushiftprod21 karma

Hello Roger and congratulations on the new endeavor! When will filming start and when do you estimate for release dates worldwide?

Roger_Christian27 karma

Filming should start at the end of September through October and November, and then we would be ready to come out next Spring to Summer.

blushiftprod16 karma

Do you plan on visiting some of the same filming locations as in the short film, or will you be seeking new territory?

Roger_Christian31 karma

Two answers to this:

One, I have to go to Scotland, because BLACK ANGEL was the first film ever to put Scottish locations up on the screen in a dramatic, beautiful way, so I feel that they own me!

And the second short film I made, called THE DOLLAR BOTTOM, that won an Academy Award, I think in 1982, for best Dramatic Short film. So I'm very tied to Scotland.

So I say now if I don't go there and shoot something - they're going to be hurling haggises over the border at me!

Also, the castle that i had is what took me to Scotland in the very first place for BLACK ANGEL. I knew this castle, I'd never seen in on film before, and to me, it was a vision of the most romantic castle - like a pre-Raphaelite vision.

And that's what took me to Scotland, because I had 25,000 pounds and a crew of 9, and I had to kind of duplicate what Kurosawa was doing, and I knew that Scotland could give me those locations, and the right time of year - which is RIGHT before the snow comes in winter - the skies are INCREDIBLE, changing every minute, with veins of light coming through.

So when I made the film, there was no CGI, and I had 25,000 pounds (about $35,000) so I had to shoot whatever I saw.

And the problem for me now is that there are no studios in Scotland. It's a big issue there. So I have to go to Hungary, where there's massive studios, and huge epic sets that I can adapt, and I'm going to Belgium that has medieval cities, and some were seen IN BRUGES, that film that Colin Farrell did, and those two countries give us 52% of our budget in tax and incentives - so we have to go where we can get the film made, because we are independent, and fairly lower budget.

And the film - the big story that I'd always had, and now it's written and is fully developed - starts in the Desert Southland, where there's amazing cities - in fact, where Ridley Scott made KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and GLADIATOR. I filmed there, and I know some really amazing places to shoot.

So we'll be there. It's interesting story, with Scotland: when I showed BLACK ANGEL at the Glasgow Film Festival, we had a 2 hour Q&A afterwards.

And a lady stood up, and she said "You start it all, I have to tell you. I produced the pilot for Game of Thrones. And Ireland came in, and offered them all these incentives, huge tax incentives, and they had studios there to shoot in, so they shifted the base."

So it's a shame, because Scotland has so many amazing locations. And I love it there- the light and the visions there are so strong.

So I'm going to go back.

And I couldn't afford to shoot in Glencoe. Because Glencoe is very famous. AMAZING battle there, between the British and the Scottish. It's just a magical place.

So I'm going back to shoot there.

So Hungary, Belgium, Scotland, and Southern Morocco.

suaveitguy14 karma

How does a film like Black Angel disappear for all those years?

Roger_Christian49 karma

So what happened - in the laboratory that you make a film for, they keep a negative.

So any time you can go back to the laboratory, you can make prints or copies. That was always the way it was. When film was, before digital.

So this only transpired because i was getting SO many requests to show this film again - we started to track down, and the laboratory had gone bankrupt in the early 90's. And NOBODY knew where all the negatives had gone. 20th Century Fox (who distributed all the STAR WARS films) couldn't find it. And there were 2 prints I knew of - one that Lucas had archived, and that has gone missing, and they still can't find it, they've been looking for two years! - and I had a print. I was directing commercials for Richard Edlund, who was the effects supervisor on the first STAR WARS film, and I went off to make my film NOSTRADAMUS in Romania, one year after the revolution.

And in my hotel, all the big actors had shell holes in the walls, and there was no food. We had to bring our own food. There were no phones literally working anywhere.

And when I got back to America, Richard Edlund's company had gone bankrupt. They'd thrown everything out, including my print!

So I thought Well, that's it. This thing, BLACK ANGEL, is going to have to stay in people's memories.

And i got a phone call out of the blue, and the archivist at Universal Studios in Los Angeles called me - Bob - and he said "I've tracked you down! Are you Roger Christian?"

And I said "Yes."

And he said "Did you make a film called BLACK ANGEL?"

And I said "Yes."

And he said "What company did you make the film under?"

And I said "My company" (because it was a government grant) "called Painted Lady."

And he said "I've got your negative."

So - your reaction - multiply that by THIRTY! That was me!

And after I'd picked myself up off the floor, I said "What do you got?"

And he said "I've got a tin of your original negative, I've got different pieces of sound, and I've got 4-5 tins of your material here."

So there it was.

So then we went, we had it restored, and that's what's showing now. It was digitally restored, beautifully, by 2 producers in San Francisco who did some of the restoration for STAR WARS and other films. And they've restored it, frame-by-frame. It's exactly as I shot it. I couldn't believe how good digital conversion could look. And I took it to Skywalker Sound - because they are the best in the world - and because I'm family, they did it for very low money, they told me not to do TOO much to the sound, otherwise it wouldn't match the picture.

So now it is! Now it's on digital. And now it's a master forever. So that's the story.

It's an amazing story.

The timing, really, and the Universe really giving me a huge gift.

IKingJeremy14 karma

What motivated you to turn the short film into a full length feature?

Is it something you've wanted to do for a long time?

Roger_Christian25 karma

It's my passion project that I've had since I made the short film.

I'd always had an idea of a kind of ancient epic, because it's in my DNA. And I tried early on to do Merlin, King Arthur, Tristan and Isolde, and just could not - there was no market for fantasy. Nobody would finance anything.

And now, basically, because Lord of the Rings created that audiences, and Game of Thrones has made it on fire - the whole world wants this ancient world reality now.

So I kind of owe it to them, really.

So this story, I've re-written it. I've re-conceived my original story, and we've dramatized it for today, and this is my passion project. It always has been. It's been burning inside me to make.

Patience is a virtue! 34 years later!

But also, somehow, the universe has made it possible - that's all I can say - for me to do what I've always wanted to do. And I love this project. And everyone who's read the script now loves it.

And I think it benefits in a way - like wine that's seasoned in a barrel. I've seasoned a lot, I've got WAY more experience, and like Ridley Scott, in the last 15 years, I look at a film that's really stayed in the audience's memory, and that's GLADIATOR. And so years of experience in making movies can really help.

threepi012 karma

When do you expect to announce more cast for the film? I love that you have Miss Weissbecker, instead of a younger actress. She's beautiful, but believable. Will you be using this as a template for Maddox's actor too?

Roger_Christian18 karma


And I can't say who we're talking about now, because it's not allowed, but yes - I'm trying to go for young, and deep.

Somebody who has a lot of stuff inside them. And that's what Laura has.

My German producer brought her to my attention.

And I'm casting every single role - from the largest to the smallest - with exactly that same philosophy. I want everyone to belong in the ancient world, and have that depth of soul, and light, and romance, and all those things you can't duplicate unless an actor is really like that, and if I can get the actor we're now, we'll announce it fairly soon.

And I do have Rutger Hauer. And look at his face - what he's like now - he's playing an ancient priest in my story! And I do have John Rhys-Davies. He's an old friend. He said "I don't care, I'm in this film, you have to give me a part." So he's playing the rival king to my leading knight.

And his daughter is Laura Weissbecker, and she's a renegade - she leaves her father, who's a bit of a tyrant.

So Laura will be a kind of horse-riding princess character whom you could say was a little bit touched by Hunger Games - that kind of earthy character that she's playing in that.

So those are all in. And we are in discussion with Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos in Game of Thrones. He's playing my equivalent of Merlin, but much more ancient. There was a real person named Myrddin (in Scottish history), one thousand years ago, he was a sorcerer and wild man, living in the woods and things. He's going to have ancient Druidlike tattoos and things. So like Arthur has Merlin, like Luke has Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, I had to have a mystic guide - because this is all a hero's journey in my film, and it's all part of that archetype mythology.

So there had to be a kind of sorcerer who's a guide, and who's very intwined in the story. It's a lovely part.

And I didn't want to go ancient, too old. This film is for a young audience. But I'm really going down and dirty. My fights are going to be in rain, and mud, and look absolutely real. I won't have thousands of CGI soldiers all running around. This is man-on-man, or man-on-black-angel fighting. Terrible fights. I want the audience to engage with the characters.

goofball_jones9 karma

Late to the party, but was wondering what it was like working with Giger on Alien?

Roger_Christian5 karma

Very interesting.

Because his personality - everyone knows what he's like, he's a fairly reclusive, introspective artist. He had his girlfriend, Mia, who was Italian and completely opposite. And when I met Giger, when he decided to stay and help, I asked him "What do you need?"

And he said "I really need a lot of bones."

And fortunately, I'd got bones before, because they're quite dangerous. These are like human bones and animal bones, but there's a disease called anthrax that you can get from bones not treated.

So I got him a whole truckload of medically prepared bones.

And we set him up in a small studio, we built him a studio, and he would sculpt in miniature the sets using the bones that we got him.

And I had lunch every day, at the studios in a pub, me and John and Michael Seymour, we would have lunch every day in the pub with Giger. And we had to translate British dishes for him. What was "toad in the hole" or what was "Shepherd's pie." And a pudding that kept coming up, they had an English pudding called "Spotted Dick" - that comes from the old Dick Turpin days, haha! And so we used to translate what to eat for him.

All the miniatures, the sets would be built from the miniatures. So the pilot set, he made a miniature version of it, and the Alien craft exterior, the mothership with the planet beyond it - he sculpted the whole thing in miniature, and then Les (who was in charge of making Giger's work into full sets) would have it drawn up and created full-size. And then Giger came and worked on every full set, all the the final details.

If you look at his paintings, they're a mixture of bones and sexual objects, pieces of human beings, and so using the bones, he could create the Alien landscape where the Mothership was. It's all giant bones, if you look. Ridley disguised it with smoke on the set, but it's huge blown-up size of what were miniature bones.

singularineet5 karma

I love the control panel on Alien during the self-destruct sequence, with the Fly Agaric button and all that. Amazingly hilarious! But the only images I've been able to find are low-resolution and don't show the whole thing, probably just stills from the film. Could you tell us a bit about the story of that panel? And, is there a high-quality photo of it available somewhere?

Roger_Christian4 karma

I haven't seen any of those. I've been trying to get images myself out of FOX, and they've been very difficult to deal with on it.

I haven't seen any hi-res images of that.

That was just to give different kinds of elements to it- I think it was Michael Seymour that designed those buttons -but I've never seen any, no.

Doodler_of_the_Alps4 karma

As a current College student with a dream of working on sets for movie productions, what sort of advice do you have? What did you wish you knew about the industry before starting your career?

Roger_Christian4 karma

Well, it's two different phases. The easiest way in is through drawing, and you go in two different paths - I had to go to architecture school, so I would go in drawing sets, set decorating you can come in from a more interior designing, and nowadays, the really best way to come in is to work with film students, on their films - my daughter did this with a fellow student. Saying "I'll do whatever's required" - it's like being a slave, for a year, but you learn very fast, quicker than any other way.

If you just go and volunteer, find students who want to make films, saying "I'll do the art direction" - or music videos - those are the very fast way. My daughter did this, she didn't get paid, she worked with students, and she made a lot of experience.

I'll say a quote, if I may, because when I went for my interview for my first job, John Box designed LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, he was the greatest, really. He looked at my folder, all my drawings, all my architecture work, all my paintings - and he closed it up - and he said "I'll tell you the film industry as a designer. You're in the visit. You have a bottle of green ink in your pocket. And you're standing by an aeroplane. And a cloud of dust arrives, and out of the car gets a director and a producer. And the director looks at it, and says 'It's great. Can you have it red by tomorrow morning.'"

And John said to me "Either you do it, and have it ready, or you talk your way out of it and have that as a solution. That's the film industry as a designer."

So just by doing it, the more experience you can get, the better it is - just scrambling around to get stuff and do things. Architectural drawings, studying those things, interior design, any of that weighs in. If you're in Los Angeles, if you look up Les Billey, he was my partner architect on STAR WARS, ALIEN, many films. He's now started a school in Warner's old studio in Hollywood, just for designers, to teach them reality, because he said he realized that no one knows! And when I last spoke to him a few weeks ago, he said he had the first two students in.

So that would be a really amazing way. Les has SO much experience.

TheAmazingWJV4 karma

I love your thorough answers!

Two questions:

  1. Have you seen the game Alien: Isolation? What do you think of the interior design compared to your work?

  2. Did you work with Ridley Scott on the AT&T "You Will" ads? Those have an incredible atmosphere.

Roger_Christian5 karma

1.) I haven't seen the game yet. But I did see a picture. And I think they're doing pretty well. I mean, games are imaginations of what we'd put up there in the beginning. And they've got - from what I've seen - all the floors right, because we had underfloor lighting - they've done it better, because you can see through, we just had pallets. That we used from STAR WARS, actually!

2.) No, I did some Hobis ads with Ridley. And a few others. I didn't do that one. He's the kind of advertising, Ridley. His Apple commercial, when Apple launched, is still probably one of the greatest commercials ever made.

I think it was only ever shown once.


Ranwoken4 karma

Hi Roger! I owe you a big chunk of my childhood, so thanks for that. My question is this: when working on Phantom Menace, what was George like? 'Cause we talk a lot around here (with way more authority than any of us should), and word is always that he was just trying to do the whole thing himself/wouldn't let anyone ring him in/ask the hard questions/etc. So what was he really like? How did his behavior compare to the old days?

Roger_Christian2 karma

He was exactly the same.

George has always remained the same. There was never an argument throughout all that filmmaking, even with tension going on, and in fact George made a joke when he first came, he said he was going to have t-shirts made saying "I'm not James Cameron" because James was famous for being volatile on his set! So the only difference was that George had more confidence and on THE PHANTOM MENACE, people didn't question everything that he was doing, which most of the crew did on the first film - nobody believed him! No, they didn't. They thought it was a childish fairy story that no one was ever going to see. And even though it seems like a huge film, George financed every film himself.

And I know that the producer of THE PHANTOM MENACE, Rick McCollum, we had a talk about it just at the end of the shooting, because the film was still made in the same way as the first one, but Rick had done an analysis (because the film was about $100 million dollars), and Rick had done a budget based on a Hollywood doing the film instead of it being done independently, and he said that budget came out at $400 million.

So though it was much bigger, it still had the same "student atmosphere" that George liked to work under - it still was an independent film.

And George took Jar Jar Binks from the Laurel & Hardy pictures. And what George maintains is that his audience is really 9 years old, that's what he makes his movies for. And as he says "It's not really his fault that adults like them as well!" And I remember after it came out, most children when asked what their favourite character was, they said it was Jar Jar Binks.

Because he does stupid things, and falls over, and steps in poo, and makes all these mistakes.

He fits in George's universe of what STAR WARS is, but he didn't fit the audience's expectation of what STAR WARS.

Like Boba Fett. He's the favourite character of all. And I think it's because when you look at PHANTOM MENACE, the pod race scene is incredible, really. And it all got a bit looked over because of Jar Jar.

iggulden_20003 karma

Do you have any fun stories with Giger?

Roger_Christian2 karma

No, I think the ones I already told about lunch really! Trying to tell a German what "Spotted Dick" was!

nevosoinverno3 karma

Roger- A lot of movies are moving in a direction of mass-CGI. However, the movies that use less tend to be far better received than their counterparts. (ie: LotR:FotR vs. LotR:RotK). Do you think that large sets and set production crews may be a dying breed? Or do you think there is hope for those such things in the future?

Roger_Christian5 karma

I'm praying this tide back.

It's - to me- these films, and I was talking about this on our last session, with GLADIATOR being in our modern realm of films, how much it stays with you. People remember the images. They remember that film.

This is what's important.

So I'm hoping that it will be a continuing practice and growing again. I think there's a slight fatigue with CGI being overused.

I'm using sets on BLACK ANGEL, the feature, and I'm making it for a tenth of what Hollywood would spend, and I'm using REAL locations as much as I can. I'm limiting CGI only for what I have to use it for, not any other way.

I think there's hope for real authentic effects. I don't think they will die out. There's still some amazing people working, and teaching people about them. So I think more, and more, people are seeing that this is what the audience actually is wanting now. The tide has turned, I think.

Except if you've got AVATAR done at that level - it's amazing. He makes it real. He puts you in an environment that you absolutely believe, 100%.

And Guillermo does, too.

I took my wife, who never really enjoys science fiction, but I said "you have to come and see this" - and we both loved PACIFIC RIM. And I love Japanese movies, and I knew the culture, so I was shocked that it had only done what it did in America. And I personally emailed the studio, because I vote on the Academy Awards, and they never put it up for the awards, even for special FX- and I was so annoyed, I wrote a personal letter to the studio saying "Why isn't this film being considered? It has groundbreaking effects, and I know John Knoll (who runs ILM), he's the wizard, he was PHANTOM MENACE, he's brilliant, he told me that was probably the most difficult film they've EVER handled, and it wasn't even put up."

So I personally wrote about that. But they said they weren't putting it up that year. But it was a HUGE success around the world.

And I'm glad. I can't wait.

CeleryStore3 karma

Complete shot in the dark, but would you be willing to take a chance on me? After reading your story I noticed all too common theme; no matter how hard you work it really comes down to luck and someone willing to take a chance on you. I'd happily run cable, grip, get tea, or just about anything needed on set. I just want a shot.

Today you, tomorrow me.

Roger_Christian5 karma

Absolutely. You know, I kind of went to film school after breaking out in art directing, just to take a break for the year, and all the students there were saying "What do we need to do?!" and I said "You need TENACITY. That's your first thing. You'll do anything to get your foot in the door, however. And you only need that one connection."

Our problem on this is we'll be filming BLACK ANGEL in Hungary, Belgium, Morocco and Scotland.

So it's difficult for people, because normally you get people who are living there so they can come in and help - or nearby. If you're in Britain, you can get very cheap flights.

But we're always willing, you know. All departments need help, and you have to help where you can, because I know how hard it is to get into the industry. For me, it was really tough.

So if you like the film on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/blackangelfilm) and message the page, we'll do what we can to get you involved.

blushiftprod2 karma

Who are your contemporaries that you look to for inspiration these days?

Roger_Christian2 karma

Goodness me! Ridley Scott is really the kind of number one. And I think his movies overall are visionary. I love George Miller, I like all of his films. And I knew George, George was a HUGE fan of BLACK ANGEL. And I think people say that STAR WARS came out and changed cinema. I think that James Cameron, when he made AVATAR, made the next serious huge change in cinema. So those are interesting. There's some kind of quirky foreign directors working which are always interesting, and Christopher Nolan's doing a pretty good job putting out some interesting science fiction. And really, the one I really love - because he's doing amazing stuff - the filmmaker I think is the most embracing of different ideas Guillermo Del Toro. We know each other, we're trying to meet, and he's given me a really beautiful quote for the back of my book, which is about me! We're both so busy, but he lives nearby. He's responsible for me being inducted in the 501st in Canada! I got inducted not long ago, and I said "How did this come about?!" and they said "Guillermo told us!"

But his films, I love.

I just think he's experimental, he does the films that he REALLY wants to make, that are deep in his subconscious.

Twitteri2 karma

Do you have a steam account?

Roger_Christian2 karma

No! My son does! My daughter and her husband do. I just never have time! I've got a new son, so I'm going to have to start. He's one and a half years old, and he's already playing buttons and playing with the iPad, so I'm going to have to start learning now.

But the other son, my older son, tells me all of the games to look at, and I'm constantly looking at images and all of these things.

Because they're amazing. They're inspirational for us as filmmakers, what they're doing.

Gnome_Commander2 karma

Which set was your favourite set to decorate in Star Wars?

Roger_Christian2 karma

The Millennium Falcon hold, where the chess game is.

I have two, really - I love that one, I think that was really where ALIEN sprang from, all the encrustation of all the aeroplane scrap that I put into it, I really got that one right I think.

I love the Cantina set.

And the most difficult one was the garbage room, where the walls come in on them and they're trapped - but I still love that one. That's where they use the comlink! Haha!

Euchre2 karma

How much of how the Lightsabers looked and worked was dictated by Lucas, or was it pretty much free reign for you?

Did you know the Millennium Falcon would need the under the floor smuggling compartments when laying out the interior shots? I always wondered about the shot showing the Storm Troopers walking over the panels and the actors emerging from them shortly afterward.

Roger_Christian4 karma

It was pretty much free reign. We had paintings by Ralph McQuarry. Who we had about 8 or 9 copies of paintings that he'd done, when George came over. And that's all my reference was. And what was in the script. So I had a kind of feeling of what I needed from the paintings of Ralph's. But really, I had free reign. George - once I'd made the first two weapons, the first things I made on STAR WARS - George knew that he could trust me to deliver to him what was in his imagination.

Because they were old, and used, and they looked real, and they worked. So we literally never had a discussion about it until I found the flash-handle, and I showed George, with my bits stuck on it.

That was it. And that became the lightsaber.

Yes. That was written in. George said - it was in the script - that they were hiding, somewhere, so John Barry, I think it was put in afterwards? I'm not so sure that was in the original story - where they were hiding - and I think John Barry made the idea of the under-floor, actually, when I think back on that.

I seem to remember it was a late addition, after we were building the corridors. So that may be where the question was leading to. But that is correct.

jrm20072 karma

What is the biggest dispute you have ever had with a director artistically? Or even an actor if you have had one?

Roger_Christian2 karma

I don't think I ever have, with a director.

Kain_Hudorra2 karma

Roger, thank you so much for gracing us with the design of the light saber, and all your other work for Star Wars. The new Star Wars films rely heavily on real sets, and I was wondering what its like knowing that your designs will inspire yet another generation of kids?

Roger_Christian4 karma

Well, that's my main kind of ambition, I think.

That we ALL are inspired. I was inspired 100% by Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, David Lean, these great filmmakers. They inspired me to go into the industry. And these people were huge inspirations to me, and odd things, Jean-Luc Goddard was a French new Age filmmaker - he made a film called ALPHAVILLE, so everyone should check that out, because with a 16 mm camera and no money, he made Paris look like an alien world! I say he's the first person to make a graphic novel movie! And I think that's what got me going.

And so now, I just hope we inspire people. BLACK ANGEL, the short film, when I had a screening in Glasgow, I met a load of film students afterwards, and I got a tank you from their parents afterwards, saying" Thank you, you inspired our children," and in fact, they just contacted me because they made a Medieval short film in Scotland, and in fact they're making another, and that, to me, is what it's all about.

So this is what we do, really.

Film is so influential.

It's such an incredible medium. And it's so powerful.

And I think used the right way - when we made NOSTRADAMUS, the producer Harold and I - he's producing BLACK ANGEL for me, by the way - we literally had I think in Romania $1 million, just after the Revolution. And this film was a huge epic. And again, we had no money, we went into Romania a year after the Revolution, there were shell holes in my hotel wall, it was unbelievably rough, but NOSTRADAMUS went into the French education system a year after it came out as the most accurate representation of what the Medieval age was really like.

And we made that with no money, and i was making it up! But we were always committed to what felt right, is right.

So - and again - rather than huge box office successes and things, i'd rather be inspirational in what I do.

theacidbull1 karma

You watch Game of Thrones?

Roger_Christian2 karma

Yeah I do! It's kind of television that I love. I'm immersed in the world that I love. I love the politics and dramer and all of the things. I love the Medieval age.

unsoundamerica1 karma

If you were to change anything you've done in film up to this point, what would it be? Do you ever watch somethingl ike Alien and say: "It would've been cheaper/easier/cooler" to do ____."

Roger_Christian2 karma


I think it's difficult. We kind of got those two right - STAR WARS and ALIEN - when we did what we could, and because of the lack of budget, in a way, it made them better when you're pushed so far into a corner, it's easier to change things.

For BLACK ANGEL, the fights would've been done very differently, had I had a fight arranger and some time, my poor actors - I could have had time and more film to use on it, I would have liked to have done those in a better way.

That, for sure, I wanted to do. And I'm doing it now, so I guess I'm okay.

I'm going to do a HUGE fight with the BLACK ANGEL - like a Kurosawa Samurai Fight - really dirty and nasty and rugged. I get two fights with the Black Angel. So in a way - a lot of the things I wanted to do in the short film, I can now do them.

So that was the big thing for me. So much was in my mind when I made that film that I could only touch on, like a little sketch.

irregularcog1 karma

If that camera flash were not on hand or available, what do you think the next object you would have gone to to make Luke's lightsaber?

Roger_Christian2 karma

I don't know!

I think I might have been in trouble! Because I could not find anything. In the end, I would have had to have made something up. I would have had to have literally find a cylinder from an aeroplane and stuck things on it - I was getting down to that point. I was really desperate.