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Going from a Star Wars appreciation society that builds life-size R2-D2 replicas to working on the actual film itself is probably a little much for most fanboys to imagine, but that’s exactly what happened to two U.K. members of the R2-D2 Builders Club.
Speaking to the BBC’s Artsnight program, Oliver Steeples revealed how he had taken his R2 — five years of labor — to a Star Wars convention in Germany in 2013, where he plucked up the courage to speak to Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy.
“I made a comment that if they were making any films in the U.K. and needed any droids, to get in touch,” he said. “And then, from a very cheeky comment, I was called several months later by Lucasfilm asking if I was available to work on the new film. It was incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Steeple’s R2-building colleague Lee Towersey added that, despite his joy at getting to work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he had to go to elaborate lengths to keep it a secret.
“My wife knew, which was fair enough, but I’ve got two teenage sons,” he said. “So I decided to keep it quiet from them because of school chatter and so on, so I made up a job and had to lie about the job I was doing.”
The cat was finally let out of the bag when J.J. Abrams tweeted a photo from the Star Wars workshop featuring Towersey, Steeples and an R2-D2 model.
The two fanboys-turned-Lucasfilm employees spent a year working on the pic, creating four different models of R2-D2 that they were responsible for doing the movements for on set via remote control.
“One of the biggest concerns was that they were going to call ‘action’ and it wouldn’t work, or there was going to be some type of problem,” admitted Steeples. “But luckily it never happened. R2 worked flawlessly. He couldn’t have been better at all.”
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