Welcome to From Concept to Screen, an ongoing article 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.
This time we go for a meditative retreat and look at the various locations of the Jedi Temple and examine how they all came to grace the silver screen in the prequel movies.
Jedi Temple exterior
George Lucas wanted the Jedi Temple to be set apart from the general art deco style that was the guideline for the buildings on Coruscant, to have it be more a place with a sense of sacredness to it while still maintaining a sense of grandeur. To design the temple complex as distinctly different, designers Doug Chiang and Ed Natividad were inspired by the contrast of the TransAmerica pyramid in San Francisco and the rest of the city’s skyline. Other influences include the Forbidden City in China, as well as gothic and Egyptian architecture. Early concept art depicts the Jedi Temple as a pyramid with parts of the walls cut-away or replaced with various other towers before arriving at a pyramid shape with the top cut off to put the various towers up on. The central tower was to house the Jedi Council Chambers and many drawings were made of that tower where gothic-like spikes were added that stuck trough the roof and would become pillars in the actual council room.
For Attack of the Clones new thumbnail sketches were made to give Lucas new ways to show off the now familiar exterior of the Jedi Temple. In these quickly drawn sketches various kinds of lightning and moods could be tested.
The exterior of the Jedi Temple was built as a miniature by ILM for The Phantom Menace, which was reused for Episode II with slight modifications and refurbishing. For Revenge of the Sith the model was expanded with the entrance and stairs. The clone troopers were digital, but Hayden Christensen filmed his part of marching towards the Temple during the pick-ups against blue screen.
During postproduction for Episode III work had begun also on the 2004 DVD release of the original trilogy and among the changes was the addition of the Jedi Temple in the Return of the Jedi Coruscant celebration.
Jedi Council chamber
The description to the artists by George Lucas for the interior of the Jedi Council chamber was “gentleman’s clubs, where important people sit in big, comfortable chairs and discuss important matters.” The exterior shot of the Jedi Council chamber by night was made with a specially-built model of the tower. With the exterior established, the interior had to match with that and thus various designs were tried out, not only of the room, but the chairs as well. At one point the Council would not sit in a full circle, but rather a half one. The actual set was build six feet (around the 1.80 meters) above the stage floor in the Leavesden Studios to accommodate the many puppeteers that were needed to bring Yoda, Yaddle, and Yareal Poof to life. The latter was built directly into his chair. A change later made during post-production required the digital lowering of the window, as well as the removal of a middle bar to make the two smaller windows into one bigger window.
After shooting, the set was struck down because it was too large to keep, but the chairs were put into storage. For Attack of the Clones, the set was rebuilt, reflecting the changes made for the previous movie. For Episode III it was once again rebuilt, but this time only as a half set. For every movie the blue screen in the windows was to be replaced with breathtaking views of Coruscant’s cityscape.
The very first finalized shot for Episode III was Obi-Wan sitting in his chair on the Jedi Council.
Jedi Archives & Analysis Room
The inspiration for the Jedi Archives came from other famous libraries like the Vatican to venerable stately architecture seen in many English libraries with their ceiling-high bookshelves and with busts on display. The set on which Ewan McGregor and Althea McGrath (Jocasta Nu) acted out their scene was a minimal one with only a couple of pillars, busts on pedestals, a floor, and the desk that McGregor sits at. All the rest was added by ILM with a miniature built in 1/8 scale. The library model was an impressive 12-feet-long and featured five bays with rows of shelves. It also contained a removable back wall for when the bays had to be shot without the back wall which was needed so they could make the five bays into a total of 10 for the final shots. The books themselves were made to glow by CGI, but the model did contain books with various shades of blue. The busts of what would later be known as the Lost Twenty were done in two ways: there were miniatures made that featured cameos, among others, of animation director Rob Coleman, John Knoll, and even George Lucas. Then there were the real busts that were built for the live-action shoot — these included busts of Yoda, Saesee Tiin, Ki-Adi-Mundi and, of course, Count Dooku.
For the room in which Obi-Wan has the saberdart analyzed in the Analysis Room, they repainted the floor of the Jedi Council Chamber set and added doors next to the windows. They also added three consoles for Jedi to sit at. The clean room in which the droids appear however was a miniature, with Ewan McGregor staring into a blue screen wall behind the windows. This miniature was actually the first bit of work that ILM did for the movie.
Youngling Training Room
With Attack of the Clones showing more of the Jedi Temple, designers began to play with the familiar Council chamber pillars and big windows and using them to create new rooms. In one concept image they added a new floor design as well as plants to a veranda, which became the Youngling Training Room in which the Bear Clan helps out Obi-Wan. The set used for filming thus also became a redress of the Jedi Council set with a different floor plan and with some plants and a couple more pillars added. Due to only half the set being redressed into the training room, Lucas had a limited option of camera angles. The area outside the training room was created by using a miniature combined with some live-action elements shot against a blue screen. While the blue floor of the stairs appeared to be carpet, it actually was a coat of stippled blue latex paint. False perspective was also used on the arches to make it appear larger than it actually was.
Mace’s original office & Yoda’s room
Another redress of the Jedi Council chamber set for Attack of the Clones was for the original office of Mace Windu. Adding blinds to the window, a different color scheme, a bed and a big ornate desk the crew created a whole new room. However, Lucas did not like the set and moved the scene to a more sparsely and monk-like room. The bed of Windu, however, ended up being used for the extreme close-up of Anakin having his nightmare about his mother. The new room for Mace Windu was just a big blue screen box with tuffer chairs and a window with blinds. This room was not only used for Windu but also for Yoda, who was given a more yellow color to differentiate from Windu’s copper colored room.
Yoda’s room returned in Revenge of the Sith for two scenes. One of them being a discussion between Yoda, Mace, and Obi-Wan about the bad state the galaxy is in and the role of Palpatine (this scene ended up deleted but can be seen on the DVD) and the other being the lesson Yoda gives Anakin about letting things go. The latter was shot during the pickups in Shepperton Studios on a minimalistic set: the three chairs they sit on and one window with blinds was all that was build.
Jedi Temple communication center & Circuit Room
The Jedi Temple communication center (or War Room/Briefing Room as it is also known) from Revenge of the Sith was one of the sets that was first built as a maquette so that Lucas could decide on the camera angles he would want and how much was needed to be made as a practical set.
The design for the circuit room where Obi-Wan changes the signal was approved on May 1, 2003, by Lucas and was drawn by Ryan Church. The circuit room was built as a miniature made out of plexiglass and with the help of a laser cutter, which found more and more use throughout the production of the prequels with the constant improving technology. The concept art of the control room in which he and Yoda watch the hologram of Anakin killing younglings was drawn both as how it would appear on a typical day, as well as a damaged by clone fire. The set was build has a half-set with the other half being completed by ILM.
Various hangars were seen in Episode II and III and were mostly done digitally. The scene in Revenge of the Sith where Anakin quickly leaves to go to help out Palpatine was written in postproduction and filmed on August 30, 2004, in a matter of minutes. For this quick shoot there was no set at all required. The CG model was also used as background for the shots of the clone troopers taking aim at Bail Organa later in the movie, with the live-action being filmed on a set which was not much more then the floor with the speeder of Bail on it.
The Clone Wars would also show various hangars, including one that had a carbonite chamber added.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars areas
For the animated series many new locations were shown like the detention center, a funeral room, a Holocron Vault addition to the Jedi Archives, a Chamber of Judgment in which Ahsoka faces judgment of the Council and the quarters of not only Barriss Offee, but Anakin, as well. We saw the medical center where the Jedi come for treatment and finally we went outside to a topside garden, which was only glimpsed briefly in the background of Episode III.
Great Hall and other hallways
And to get to all these areas you need to have hallways, but it was not until Attack of the Clones that we would end up seeing these hallways. These hallways were to be “moody, like a cathedral” according to Lucas, a place of contemplation with rooms for meditation around every corner. The staircases, like the one seen next to the training room of the Bear Clan, were actually inspired by the staircases of New York’s Grand Central Station.
Many of the hallways in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were realized as partial sets with miniatures added by ILM and in the cases where you see more then the hallway (like Episode II’s hallway with Yoda and Mace Windu talking or Episode III’s outside view) a matte painting was used to complete the shot. The bodies of the dead younglings that Obi-Wan and Yoda find in Episode III were played by a couple of extras, among them sons of crew members.
And with us inside the Jedi Temple now we can go and visit the subject for the next article: The great Jedi with a smile, Kit Fisto.
Sources: The Art of Star Wars Episode I, The Art of Star Wars Episode II, The Art of Star Wars Episode III, Creating the Worlds of Star Wars: 365 Days & Sculpting A Galaxy
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.