Concept artist Jake Lunt Davies reveals design secrets from the film -- and shares never-before-seen explorations of Maul for his return.
To create everything we actually see in a Star Wars movie, no matter how complex, it all starts with a simple process: human beings drawing things.
Last week, puppeteer Brian Herring took StarWars.com inside the Solo: A Star Wars Story creature shop, revealing many of the techniques and methods used to bring the film's various creatures and aliens to life. Now, concept artist Jake Lunt Davies takes us back even further -- to the design stage, where the movie's characters and various galactic beings were ideated. With Solo now available on Digital and Movies Anywhere and its arrival tomorrow on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and On-Demand, StarWars.com spoke to Lunt Davies about defining (and adding some bling to) a giant worm-like entity, developing a Star Wars biker gang, and bringing Maul back to the big screen -- with a first look at previously unreleased Maul concept art. (Note: All concept art by Jake Lunt Davies unless otherwise noted.)
"There are four of us in the creature effects concept team -- Ivan Manzella, Martin Rezard, Luke Fisher, and me. To begin with, we all work on a brief, generating ideas until one design gets picked and that designer takes it forward into development for sculpting and fabrication.
"The initial brief for ‘The Lair of the White Worms’ suggested that Lady Proxima was this matriarch of a low-level street gang, intolerant of daylight, might be literally worm-like, and potentially have tentacles underneath the water. We played with ideas that the tentacles might interconnect with her attendants, that maybe they were all a symbiotic organism; we looked at whether she was truly worm-like or more like a snake or serpent. Has she got scales or arms? She also had to be dominant over Han. She needed to come up and over and really bear down over him, towering up out of the water.
"The final creature design for Proxima was by Ivan Manzella, but I ended up designing her costume. When we had fully made the puppet, we experimented with dressing her in long flowing fabrics. In one of the drawings I drew, you can see her in white fabrics swooping down into the water. However, when we did it for real, it just didn't work. It was clingy, it just didn't do what you wanted it to do. So we ended up looking at hard-surface things. She's like Fagin from Oliver Twist. She sends these kids out stealing and she keeps some choice things for herself. So her costume was an amalgamation of just trinkets she liked with an element of chainmail, large-scale loops all interlinked with a metal carapace across the top. Also, in place of fabrics, we had these strings of mother-of-pearl discs, like you get on those old-fashioned lampshades, hanging off her that were almost suggestive of scales."
The Sabacc Game & Players
"We were given a screening of the film McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Everything was real low-level lighting, and that was a big starting point. Through the course of production, Caravaggio came up. We sat a long time just referencing Caravaggio and the Caravaggisti -- Flemish artists that were very influenced by Caravaggio, who were painting these scenes of gamblers and card players, people sitting around tables, and lots of little action poses. With Bradford Young’s lighting using practical sources, what you see in that final look is very Caravaggio influenced.
"At one point we had all the sculpts arranged, prior to them getting molded and signed off. We set that scene up, we had them all sitting around this big table. We had the low light above the table and it all looked amazing."
There are so many characters in that scene. They all read as Star Wars to me, but the designs are all doing different things. Are you consciously trying to make them all fit together?
"On a physical level, no. They are all shapes and sizes from different parts of the galaxy. But costume and details do work to tie them together.
"However, we did try this thing, which is apparent in a couple of the designs. You know the big one-eyed guy, a big looming thing with one eye and the little red thing with two heads, sitting next to Lando? They were both designed by Ivan Manzella. We did this little exercise where we thought, 'Right, Star Wars was made in 1976. This Han Solo film is set 10 years or so before Star Wars. So imagine if this Han Solo film had been made 10 years prior in 1965. If it was made in 1965, what would've influenced the designers? It would've been more '50s.' So we generated a lot of '50s pulp sci-fi style aliens and those two that Ivan did came out of it. They have this really '50s space monster feel about them.
"I did love the dealer. You do get to see him a couple of times. He started out as a sketch for Enfys Nest -- we were all pitching in on that. They wanted to have this bony-mask feel, and at the time the mask was meant to be made out of bone with scrimshaw detailing. But then he didn't get picked for Enfys Nest, and I had to get rid of the bone mask, so it became this leather mask. But I loved him. I was really pleased with him. I just thought he was so Star Wars. I loved his hat. He's got this tube, like a breathing apparatus, that comes out one side of his mouth, and that's a nod to a short, stumpy cigar -- a Clint Eastwood kind of thing. Like a cigar coming out the side of your mouth. It works again for a classic poker dealer look. You've got your cigar and the shade over your eyes. [Laughs]"
Dava Cassamam (second from right above)
"There's nothing particularly female about her. But that's aliens for you, who knows what sex some of them are? On a side note, there's a sort of default assumption to aliens and creatures that they are male unless they're obviously female -- curvy, sexy, or have a feminine costume. In the case of her, why shouldn't she be female? She doesn't need all these tropes or cliches to make her female.
"I think she started off as another character. Just a general, background boss alien or something. She might have even been Dryden Vos at one point. We were just generating all these ideas. It turned out she fit in to the sabacc game quite well. The original concept was much more refined -- the headdress and tech was more modern, slicker, and new with gold detailing, which we degraded in the final look, and her fine fur-trimmed coat became this rough bear-skin around her shoulders. All much more rough and ready.
"I think when I drew it, I was thinking of the Native American headdresses. I love that silhouette where everything sweeps back off the head. That's kind of got that Western feel, as well, I suppose. On a very subtle level, it has that feel."
"A handful of us were let in on Maul being in the film so we could start development on it. We all had to be extremely hush hush on it, as they really wanted it to be as much of a surprise as possible. It made it tricky to actually work on because we didn’t even want people to know there WAS as a secret. Anytime anyone came into our room, we were on guard, basically, and would quickly put another safe picture up to hide what we were working on. But yeah, it was brilliant working on Maul.