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It wasn’t a surprise, and the work on the pic’s more than 2,000 VFX shots includes the villainous Supreme Leader Snoke, a performance-capture-based CG character portrayed by actor Andy Serkis.
VFX supervisor Ben Morris of Industrial Light & Magic says that while Snoke was more of a ghostly figure in The Force Awakens, for The Last Jedi he’s a physical character and got a full rebuild. “Andy Serkis gave an incredibly resonant performance while we were on set,” he says.
“We wanted to bring back some realistic human skin texture. We really pushed the look of our old-age skin,” explains Morris, noting that they provided details such as age spots, freckles, stubble around the eyes, drooping lids and peach fuzz on the ears. “We looked at a lot of real-world references because we didn’t want his disfigurations to be so fantastical that people wouldn’t believe them.”
A critical aspect was getting the eyes right, in order to create a truly believable character and avoid the uncanny valley. “We pushed our eye modeling to be as anatomically accurate is it could be,” says Morris. “It’s all in the details — the eyeball, iris, cornea, tear ducts and, also as eyes get older, they have vein structures and other details.”
Costume designer Michael Kaplan actually made the full-sized robe that Snoke wore. “A stand-in who was over 7 feet tall wore that, and we’d bring the robe into the studio and we’d photograph, analyze and scan the structure so that we could create an exact replica [in CG],” Morris explains.
The VFX in The Last Jedi were created through the efforts of all four ILM locations (San Francisco, London, Singapore and Vancouver) as well as six additional vendors.
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Sir Anthony Hopkins