ROGUE ONE: How They Made K-2SO

The K-2SO actor and animation supervisor answer the question, “Are droids slaves?”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released on Digital HD March 24 and on Blu-ray April 4, 2017. We got a chance to travel to Industrial Light and Magic in San Francisco, CA to chat with animation supervisor Hal Hickel and Alan Tudyk, who played the droid K-2SO in the film. We learned all about how they created the character, how Alan wore stilts for the role and whether or not they think droids are slaves.

Droids are a huge part of the Star Wars universe, from C-3P0 to R2-D2 to BB-8. In Rogue One we meet K-2SO, the reprogrammed Imperial droid, performed by Alan Tudyk. We spoke to Tudyk about creating the character and how much improv he did on set.

Tudyk told us, “I talked about it with [director] Gareth [Edwards], and he talked about - one of the main, defining things about K-2 is that he was reprogrammed. It changed the way that he relates to other people. A lot of times, you find these ways into characters, and that was the rock to build everything off of. Because he can say anything he wants to, I think that’s what gave me the freedom to improv and say whatever I wanted to from time to time. I love that, in the beginning, when Cass comes into the U-Wing and Jyn has been there with K-2, he says, ‘I see you’ve met K-2.’ And she says, ‘Yeah, lovely.’ And he goes, “I’m sorry about him. I apologize.” So he’s apologizing for me not knowing what I’ve said or done. And if there is anyone you know like that, where you say, ‘Oh, you’ve been with him alone? I’m sorry. Really, he means well. Don’t take it personally.’ It really speaks to who the character is. It gave me a lot of room to play."

It was important for Edwards to have Tudyk on set with the other actors, and to give them the correct eye line, Tudyk was placed on stilts for most of the shoot. (When the terrain was too dangerous, they rigged something to put on his shoulders so the other actors could look at K-2’s eyes.) He explained what it was like to use them. “The stilts weren’t that hard, ultimately. It was ILM that made them. They were the lightest weight ski boot you could possibly get. It’s the kind of ski boot they use to climb mountains and then ski back down the mountains like complete jackasses. It had a flexibility in it so you could do that. So it was a prosthetic foot that was bolted to the bottom and it had bounce to it. It could be aerobic. And then it was put on, like, a $50 sneaker,” he laughed. “Some sweet shoelaces. Whenever the heel went down, a light went off. It was just the best. They made it very easy for me.”

We learned that Tudyk was able to see himself as K-2SO in real time, using a “magic mirror,” which showed him as K-2 with all the correct movements. Tudyk told us how much that helped. “Oh, it was fantastic. I was able to figure out what translated. I saw that just a little character put onto movement; just a little slouch or a head turn, that they read,” he said. “They suggested a lot. So I didn’t have to do anything over the top to emote or to tell the story of what’s going on with K-2. But also, it benefitted from that as well. That any type of human movement in him took off to a new level. That was very, very helpful.”

Hickel spoke about the decision to have Tudyk on set. “Well, we knew that Alan needed to be on set, not on a motion capture stage. Technically there was no reason we couldn’t capture Alan just walking around normally, and then just target that onto K-2,” he explained. “It wouldn’t have the right sort of gait, that sort of loping gait. But mostly it was because we wanted to have him on set with the other actors and we needed him to be the right height. When Cassian or Jyn were looking up at him, they were looking at the right place. From there, it was a challenge for Neal Scanlan’s group, his creature shot over in the UK, they sourced some bionic ankles and figured out the engineering…while that was happening, we were building the CG version of K-2 and doing early tests before we had Alan here. Then we had Alan here and put him in the actual set.”

Hickel spoke about taking the footage and creating K-2. “Really, our work began in earnest after the scenes were cut and we got them back,” he said. “Our job was basically not to f*** it up! We’d laugh, the jokes were killing and the moments were great, the death scene was touching. Our job was, when it was K-2 and not Alan anymore, that it still felt like Alan. The animators worked very hard at that. It’s not just a technical process, extracting Alan’s motion and popping it onto the droid. You’ve got adjust posture and leg and arm position to make it feel like what Alan had done. “

We asked Tudyk and Hickel about whether or not they think droids are slaves as sentient beings forced to work for humans. They both immediately replied, “Yes!” Tudyk said, “Yes. Not K-2. I think he was a slave to the Empire, and that’s what Cassian’s reprogram did for him. It released his personality. For K-2, it’s like he was born, so he’s still learning, which is why he’s child-like. And also, it helped his relationship with Cassian, because he was somewhat of a father. That element really helped me.”

Hickel continued, “It’s some deep stuff about free will and determining our own fates, because, you’re like, okay, we’re talking about droids. Let’s take a second to step back and talk about the human characters in this thing,” he laughed. “I agree with Alan.”

Tudyk continued, “There is actually a moment in the movie, and it’s subtle, where they’re in the base and Cassian says, ‘We need to find a map.” And I say, ‘Well, I’m sure there’s one just lying about.’ And he says, ‘You know what you have to do.’ And it’s something that K-2 doesn’t want to do, which is destroy this other droid and rip out his head. So he’s saying, you know what you’ve got to do. It’s subtle, but it does speak to that.”

Are you guys checking out Rogue One: A Star Wars Story when it hits on Digital HD and Blu-ray? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @BMoviesD!