First Order TIE Fighter pilot, Special Forces TIE Fighter pilot (The Force Awakens)
Interview: September 2017
How did it all began, you and the movie business How, when and where did your career take off?
I come from a family of film lovers, and my mum, dad, and brother have all worked as supporting artists in the past. I would definitely describe it as more of a passion for me than a career. On set I have met people from all walks of life who do this work for the enjoyment, including estate agents, a bricklayer and a surgeon. Plus Pinewood Studios are less than an hour’s drive away from me.
How did you get cast for The Force Awakens? And how did you get the part of a TIE Pilot?
My dad and I sent off our photos and measurements, I was probably not good looking enough to be a rebel! I was exactly the right size and shape for a Tie Fighter Pilot.
In which scenes can we see you? Are the close-ups of the pilot who’s chasing the Millennium Falcon on Jakku of you?
I spent three days working on the hangar scene, it was amazing how much time is spent on set for the few minutes of film which makes it into the final cut. I was one of the two Tie Fighter Pilots in the hangar scene, who walk past Poe Dameron and Finn, FN-2187.
I was also filmed piloting the Tie Fighters which chased the Millennium Falcon on Jakku. I wore both the black and black and red striped, Elite Special Forces Tie Fighter Pilot, helmets. Once set up, the unit director, Roger Guyett, asked me if I knew what Tie Fighter Pilots did. I said that it looked like they were ‘chalking a pool cue’ or ‘opening a fizzy drink’ when targeting. Then we watched the Tie Fighter Scenes from the originals together.
He described the scene. I chase the Millennium Falcon in daylight, then we go into the wreck of the Super Star Destroyer. Everything goes dark, the Falcon’s guns are stuck in one position, I knew this as I had watch JJ and John Boyega filming the Millennium Falcon gunner scene earlier that day, the Falcon then gets outside of the Star Destroyer, does a manoeuvre and shoots me down.
It was pretty amazing, we went through several takes. Between takes they ask me if I would like to get out of the Tie Fighter cockpit to stretch my legs but I didn’t want to move, I wanted to spend as much time in the Tie Fighter as possible.
You just mentioned the scene with Poe Dameron on the Star Destroyer. Did you get to talk with Oscar Isaac or anyone of the other main cast?
Not that much. Oscar would mainly talk to JJ, and then JJ would instruct the First Assistant Director, Tommy, who would then give us our cue.
What can you tell about the filming of your scenes?
My most important scene was when I was chasing the Millennium Falcon. Although at the time of the filming I didn’t even know that Rey was the pilot. I had just had the privilege of witnessing JB, under the direction of JJ, filming the turret scenes, so I had a clue as to who I might have been chasing!
Also the hangar scene, when Poe and FN-2187 steal the TIE Fighter, was really great fun! It was a very large set with lots of Stormtroopers and officers running around. There were also a number of RC droids, which we had to avoid when scattering about!
You mentioned JJ Abrams, how did he direct you?
Indirectly, through the Assistant Directors. As I mentioned, I had the opportunity to watch him directing JB in the gun turret of the Millennium Falcon as this was filmed just before we did the Tie Fighter cockpit scene to ensure the lighting was correct and so they could also use the same 65mm film camera.
Did anything weird or funny happen on the set?
I fell down the stairs of the hangar on the first take! And I nearly stood on a droid! Fortunately, I was OK and no doors closed on my leg!
You’re a member of the 501st; I bet you have a TIE pilot costume in your house?
I was made an honorary member of the 501st in June 2017. In 2016 I noticed that the 501st had created a costume reference for the TFA Tie Pilot. I was very impressed with the costume so I contacted the guy responsible, Jason Poulin via Facebook, and congratulated him on his work. Jason introduced me to the Jolly Roger Squadron Detachment Leader, Adam Petersen, and the rest is history. Some of the members of the Jolly Roger Squadron have clubbed together to get me a costume. I have most of the parts now, but I still need to build and spray the armour. I feel very privileged as the 501st are a great group and true Star Wars fans in every sense.
What did you think about the Star Wars franchise before you got cast?
I have loved pretty much everything about Star Wars since I first watched it at two years old.
You’re part of the 501st, you have done quite several conventions… has Star Wars become an important part of your life?
I have traded signed pictures and trading cards with members of 501st from all over the world! It is an amazing community and, as I have said, a fantastic bunch of highly committed people. I have also done a number of conventions doing signings and interviews.
Final words: is there anything regarding your experiences on The Force Awakens (or anything else Star Wars related) you want to share with the readers?
Join the Empire!…. I mean the First Order!!!
Aye! My membership application is in the mail!