Dennis Lowe and Roger Nichols. When you think Star Wars, these aren’t the names that pop in to your head are they, but in these days of overkill where no name is beyond us if we have the money, believe me, guys like Dennis and Roger are a breath of fresh air.
After speaking to Dennis for a while, both myself and Kris were lucky enough to get an invite to spend some time with these SFX gurus at Dennis’s home, and what a home it is. From the time you catch a first glimpse of the amazing murals and artwork of the exterior, to the amazing sculptures and totally unique art and paintings that make up the interior, you are left in no doubt that you are in the house of a very creative and special guy.
Dennis and Roger were responsible for making the animatronic Yoda and R2 units come to life especially in the Empire Strikes Back. They also worked on the 21B medical droid, as well as constructing the Hoth probe droid that we are all so familiar with.
Armed with Sharpies and enough photos we descended on Dennis and Roger and they made us feel welcome from the off. Dennis is truly the older brother we dream of having, his enthusiasm is infectious and he showed as much interest in our stories of collecting autographs and the different characters that make up this hobby as we did in hearing about his time on set and subsequent work on the Alien films. In fact, it felt at times as if it was myself and Kris who were the hosts.
Moving on to Roger again another guy you really can’t help but like. He told us a great story about a coffin which I can’t divulge the full details of, let’s just say these 2 definitely come under the category of naughty, but loveable rogues. I think you would have to be dead not to feel totally and instantly at ease with them both, we really were made to feel like old friends meeting again, rather than two star wars fans who had just turned up for the first time.
Both Dennis and Roger come with impressive C.Vs . Dennis having worked on amazing films such as Labyrinth, Frankenstein, First Knight, The English Patient and Cold Mountain to name but a few, however his first love is very much the Alien films to which he has had such a big input, so please if you get a chance check out his documentaries (Alien makers) they are little pieces of history.
Rogers list of achievements are none the less impressive having worked on Alien, Conan, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, India Jones and the Last Crusade, Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Interview with a Vampire, Mission Impossible, Enemy at the Gates and Band of Brothers to name but a few. He told us how he managed to actually do Brad Pitt some damage on the set of Interview with a Vampire, which not many people can lay claim to.
Talking to us about his work on Empire and Jedi, Roger explained that he had worked on the X- wings in the Hoth hanger scenes as well as a joint effort with Dennis creating the Bacta tank, he explained that they had to create the bubbles that were in the tank and had pumped a gas solution into it that they later realised was highly volatile.
Roger also fitted all the next generation R2 units from a New Hope with new smaller round motors that allowed it to do so much more, replacing the mechanised chain and pulley system that was already in place. He also recalled the scene in Jedi where the Ewoks are carrying R2 on a pole and he was asked to bring up the second R2 unit from the workshop for this shot, and not wanting to anger the powers that be, Roger kept quiet and used the unfinished model for the shot which if you look on slow motion, as the Ewoks lower R2 down you can see that this is just a shell with no guts and no third leg, in fact it is hollow. No one has ever picked up on this, so remember you heard it here first.
Moving on to Dennis, listening to him is a once in a life time thing, he has that amazing ability to make you believe that you are actually part of the story he is telling, he has the ability to spark even the dullest imagination.
Dennis has the most amazing replica of the Parthenon Selene horse that’s on display in the British museum sitting on the wall of his living room, in any one else’s house this was seem extravagant, but for some reason it just fits in with Dennis perfectly. Dennis spoke of his great experiences working for Ridley Scott on the Alien films and explained what a perfectionist Scott really is to the point where he would always go over budget on his films in the pursuit of perfection, but when you consider titles like Alien and Blade Runner still look amazing and hold their own in today’s CGI driven world, I would say the extra bucks paid off.
Dennis also told me that he was working out in Hollywood and was put up in Château Marmont on Sunset Boulevard, which was a place that many of the great actors of the day stayed. He complained to room service that there was a musty smell coming from his room only to be told that this was the room in which John Belushi had over dosed and died only a few weeks prior, most of us would have asked for another room but you’ve guessed it to Dennis this was just another great story to tell his friends and decided to remain in the room.
We spent the whole afternoon with these two amazing individuals and really didn’t want to leave, both Dennis and Roger made us feel so welcome and we even went to the pub for lunch, they were both so gracious and kind in signing every thing we put in front of them, thanks are really not enough to say how grateful both myself and Kris are for their generosity and I think the biggest compliment I can pay both these brilliant guys is that I really can’t wait to go back for another visit.
I hope you all enjoyed this brief insight into the world of Dennis Lowe and Roger Nichols and for the time being :MTFBWY: