Welcome to From Concept to Screen, an ongoing series about the various stages of the production that your favorite character, vehicle, creature, location, or scene of the Star Wars saga had to undergo before arriving on the silver screen.
George Lucas wanted the Jedi Knights to represent the variety of sentient life in the Star Wars universe, which led to many designs and pieces of concept art being made by the art department, some of them variations on the podracers seen in The Phantom Menace. Ironically however, the Jedi Master Kit Fisto was not among those and actually started out as a design for a new Sith Lord. With the death of Darth Maul, a very long process started to design a new bad guy for Attack of the Clones. Among the wide variety of designs was one of a white faced male alien with dreadlocks, dark baggy lower garments, and a curved lightsaber. The artist, Dermot Power, was never quite happy with the design and kept tinkering with it. The Sith Lord became a female with a bald head instead of the dreadlocks; while the style of clothing was kept, it became more detailed. This female Sith was discarded when Christopher Lee was cast into the role, but this design was later re-used for Asajj Ventress. Lucas then asked Power if he could mold the original white-faced alien Sith into a Jedi. The face became softer, yet still with a toughness in it and the color green was added. The finishing touch was putting the new Jedi in the familiar tunic that the Jedi wear, and thus Kit Fisto was born.
Attack of the Clones
While setting up the various departments in preparation for the shoot in Sydney, set carpenter Zac Jensen became friends with Matt Sloan, who was working in the creature shop. When people were needed to portray the Jedi Masters, it was Sloan who made the suggestion that Zac should portray Saesee Tiin. However, after Lucas and producer Rick McCallum met Zac, it was decided that Sloan would play Plo Koon and that Zac would play Kit Fisto instead. Saesee Tiin’s role went to Zac’s brother Jesse, who with his background in Aikido fighting would give tips and moves for Zac to use. The mask (made from a cast of Zac’s head) and make-up took four and a half hours to put on and consisted of prosthetics being glued on his face and airbrushing his skin green. This allowed the actor to properly show facial expressions like the now iconic smile of the Nautolan Jedi Master.
With the battle in the Geonosian arena being a mixture of live action with CG elements, responsibility for the live action fell to Nick Gillard. The stunt coordinator had written many smaller vignettes for the various Jedi as how to fight and what they fought. Despite them being quite short, Lucas felt it was important they still told a story, so he told Gillard to expand on his short notes like, “Two Jedi fighting a super battle droid in the bleachers.” These mini stories were then filmed by the second unit on a very partial set with mostly blue-screen and sand coated underground. This filming took place around September 2000 and happened at the same time that Lucas and the main cast were filming in Tunisia and Italy.
Although a physical section of the gunship was made for medium and close-up shots, this was not used for the short scene where Kit Fisto, along with Ki-Adi-Mundi and Mace Windu, exits the ship to lead the clone troopers into battle. This was due to a script change that altered the battle from being fought mostly in the air to it being on the ground as well. Filmed during the pick-ups, ILMer Daniel Zizmor donned the mask and stepped off a blue box in a sea of blue screen. While the movie shows us that Kit Fisto exited the gunship with the other two Jedi Masters, they were filmed separately from Kit Fisto.
With his design and winning smile, Kit Fisto quickly grew to become a fan-favorite and it was not long before his character was expanded on across the various media. His next on-screen appearance came in the original Clone Wars series by Genndy Tartakovsky. With stylized visuals that were not too close to the looks of the characters from Episode II, Kit Fisto appeared in three chapters — 1, 5, and 21.
Revenge of the Sith
With the Clone Wars raging for three years in between Episode II and III, concept artists began drawing the familiar Jedi characters as battle-worn warriors. Among them was Kit Fisto, whose tunic was reduced to rags and was given a scar — in the concept art above, he displays a grim look without his typical smile. In the rough draft, dated January 2003, Lucas had already added Order 66 and the deaths of many Jedi characters, with Fisto being killed on Saleucami (with Lucas noting that this was also the final spelling of this planet) rather than with Mace Windu, who faced Palpatine alone. The first draft from April 2003 keeps Fisto on Saleucami, but adds Barriss Offee and Ali Gallia as other victims on that planet with him. June’s revised second draft is the first time that Kit Fisto is added to Mace Windu’s confrontation with Palpatine; they arrive like “gunslingers out of the Old West.”
Considering that Zac Jensen was unavailable to return (he was working on the TV series Survivor) and with Kit Fisto lasting longer in the Palpatine battle than the other two Jedi, a stunt performer was cast in the role. This was Ben Cooke, who was also Hayden Christenson’s stunt double. Filming took place July 15, 2003, in the Fox Studios in Sydney Australia on Stage 7 on which the office set was built. The shoot was not entirely without problems considering that the gloves that some of the Jedi, including Cooke, had to wear made it difficult to grab lightsaber hilts. Because of that, along with Anakin added to the scene, a reshoot was needed. They redid the entire entrance of the Jedi and their death scenes on August 27, 2004.
Nick Gillard, who played Cin Drallig in Revenge of the Sith, liked Fisto’s lightsaber hilt so much that he took one of props when it was time to film his scenes.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Voiced by Phil LaMarr, who based the Jedi’s voice on the 7-UP guy and added a bit of a Jamaican accent, Kit Fisto made many great appearances throughout Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Join us soon for a flight in the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy when we explore the Millennium Falcon!
Sources: The Art of Star Wars Episode II, The Art of Star Wars Episode III, Mythmaking: Behind The Scenes of Attack of the Clones & The Making Of Revenge of the Sith.
Sander de Lange (Exar Xan) from the Netherlands worked on the Rogues Gallery feature in Star Wars Insider and has written the back-story for Niai Fieso through “What’s the Story?”. He is an editor for TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub and an administrator for the Star Wars Sourcebooks page on Facebook.