December 19, 2018
It's time to open Door Number 19 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. To find out the identity of today's guests, simply click play above or below here (wherever your browser has put the play button).
Alternatively, download all the episodes of The Cosmic Shed going back to 2014 and eventually get to this one. Alternatively, download them all and listen at your leisure in no particular order.
As always, we're mainly typing words here to push the identity of today's guests further down the page so you don't accidentally find out who they are before listening to the podcast. That would spoil the surprise.
Here's a photograph of the man who controls R2D2 in all the Star Wars films since The Force Awakens.
Lee Towersey is the droid building fan who got hired to actually control R2D2 for real.
Behind Door Number 19 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Alfie Wearn. Alfie is conducting a trial to try and find a way to detect Dementia early but it turns out that he does a half decent impression of C3PO which turned out to be rather useful for this episode.
Alfie joined Andrew to talk about his work, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Inception, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Still Alice, Inside Out and Elf.
Alfie Wearn and R2D2. Spot the TARDIS on the Christmas Tree.
Oh and there's that C3PO impression which comes in handy because also behind Door Number 18 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Lee Towersey, the man behind R2D2 in the recent Star Wars films.
Lee and someone who isn't our Andrew
You can listen to the podcast to get the full experience but here is a transcript of the interview Andrew did with Lee.
What is your role and what does it entail?
I am a member of the Creature Effects Department based at Pinewood Studios. We have a number of departments within CFX, my department being Model Making. We are sometimes referred to as the Droid Department as that is mainly what we make. I started by building droids for The Force Awakens, my main build being the four R2D2s Oliver & I built. I also built the Mouse Droids, Toolbox Droids and dressing various droids including the Gonks. I’m also fortunate enough to be on set operating the droids I’ve built.
How did it feel when they said "ok, you're R2D2"?
Oliver Steeples was attending Celebration in Essen with a number of R2 Builders. A few of the guys asked Kathleen Kennedy if they wanted Astromechs building for the new Star Wars films. Amazingly a few months later Oliver received a phone call from the Production Team who went round his house to inspect his work. Next thing I know, Oliver called me to ask if I could join him for a trip to Pinewood to explain how we built out Astromechs along with talking about the work we have done together. We had done a lot of Lucasfilm promotional work and a TV advert together so I guess we were already on the Lucasfilm ‘radar’. After a few weeks we went back to Pinewood Studios for yet another meeting which turned out to be a job interview and we both left the meeting having been offered jobs with Neal Scanlan’s CFX team.
Any stories from filming you can share with us?
I do have some great stories but due to NDA I am not able to share I’m afraid!
What else can we see your work in?
Apart from the occasional Month or so off between films I have been working in the CFX Department on Star Wars since The Force Awakens. Oliver left after TFA but I have continued to look after R2D2 and operating him on every film since. I have built other droids including the A-LT track droid seen very briefly in Rogue One and seen a little more in Solo. I have been part of a team assisting with many other builds along with running regular maintenance on the droids to keep them as reliable as possible when on set.
Do you have a favourite R2 moment from the films?
One of my favourite moments was operating R2 on the Falcon during The Last Jedi. When we shot the scene where R2 wakes up and drives over to Luke to talk to him it felt like a special scene at the time and I feel turned out to be pretty good in the film. When we reached Luke we switched out the 3 legged remote control R2 for the two legged version. Jimmy Vee was inside the two legged R2 at the time with me performing the head movement via remote control. People have asked me if the Leia projection was shot after Carrie Fishers passing. It wasn’t, we shot that before her death and it was always meant to be in that scene, it turns out it was a nice nod to Carrie Fisher in her memory.
You can hear our podcast on The Last Jedi behind Door Number Eight of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar
Door 8 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar came with free lens flare.
Alfie mentions the Jennifer Aniston neuron. You can read about that here.
Andrew mentions riding a Kelpie. That looks like this.