We’re entering our final month of Star Wars anticipation, which means a few more details on the who’s who of the new saga. Earlier today we heard about Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata, who it turns out was featured on one of the posters, but Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke is a character we’ve been completely in the dark about thus far, barring his two lines in the teaser trailer. That’s no surprise, owing to the secretive nature of JJ Abrams’ mystery box, but it the good folks at Entertainment Weekly were able to pry some stuff out of Serkis.
“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean talk about secrecy!”
Serkis hints at a collaborative design process, his voice and performance constantly informing what the character would eventually look like, so don’t trust the early concept art that’s been floating around. Giving the mo-cap veteran a say in the character seems like a good idea to me. He was brought in to help Mark Ruffalo out with his Hulk transformation in Avengers: Age of Ultron, instructing him to keep the size of the creature’s biceps in mind while moving around, so it’s clear that he understands the physical nuances that go into creating otherworldly characters.
Serkis also comments on the size of the character, listing a few other reasons why Snoke’s look couldn’t have been achieved using practical effects.
“He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”
The name itself sounds like it’s splitting the difference between ‘snake’ and ‘smoke,’ but that’s just my own speculation. As much as these filmmakers love doing things in-camera like the original Star Wars, painting pictures from one’s imagination is a completely different story 38 years later, and I’m glad they’re using the full spectrum of visual effects. As for Snoke’s place in the story, it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be connected to the events of the original films to begin with, so it makes sense on more than just a practical level.
“No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character,” Serkis says. “He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”
Unless we’re dealing with typical Abrams-mandated misdirection, Snoke probably isn’t going to be a Sith, at least the way we understand it. That doesn’t rule out having a connection with the Dark Side of course, but his real motivations are likely going to remain a mystery until December 18th.