The force was with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Tuesday morning, as the blockbuster grabbed Oscar nominations for sound mixing and visual effects.
With roughly 1,700 VFX shots including digital recreations of the late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher as a Star Wars: A New Hope-era Princess Leia, the pic earned a spot in the VFX competition, which is rounded out by The Jungle Book, Arrival, Deepwater Horizon and Kubo and the two Strings.
Disney and Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light + Magic was the lead VFX house on Rogue One, as it has been throughout the franchise’s history. The individual nominees include ILM VFX supervisor John Knoll, who also wrote the story and executive produced (and previously earned an Oscar for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest).
“The digital human work is some of the hardest stuff we had to work on,” Knoll said of Rogue One. “I never met Carrie Fisher. Kathy Kennedy knew her well, and we weren’t going to use the digital Leia if Carrie wasn’t happy. But Kathy said she called and she loved it.”
Knoll was nominated with animation supervisor Hal Hickel, also an Oscar winner for Dead Man’s Chest; special effects supervisor Neil Corbould, a two-time Oscar winner for Gravity and Gladiator; and ILM visual effects supervisor Mohen Leo, a first-time nominee.
“This is special, personally, because I pushed to get this made and Kathy was especially kind to let me do this and we put together a fantastic team,” said Knoll. “A lot of us got into the industry because of Star Wars. It’s why I chose VFX. So it was an especially fun project and touching.”
He added that he was looking forward to sharing the day with the team at ILM: “Visual effects is the biggest team sport [of the Academy Awards categories]. We had a least 800; it takes an army to do this kind of work.”
In the sound mixing category, the Rogue One team of David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson were nominated along with the sound mixing teams on Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.
Like Knoll, Scarabosio — who has been with Skywalker Sound for 26 years — said the original Star Wars steered him into the business. “I grew up in San Francisco, and when Star Wars came out I was a huge fan,” he said. “I have massive respect for George Lucas, and Star Wars is probably the film that made me want to work in film. I didn’t even know what sound design was, but I knew I loved movies and music.”
This is rerecording mixer, sound designer and supervising sound editor Scarabosio’s third nomination; Skywalker rerecording mixer Parker’s eight nomination (he previously won for The Bourne Ultimatum and The English Patient); and production sound mixer Wilson’s fourth nomination.