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News & Insight

May The Fourth Be With You | Annie Leibovitz Shoots The New Star Wars Set

By Kishore Sawh on May 4th 2015


If you squint and dissect Star Wars frame by frame, it may be a little difficult to see it as anything but a film of fancy, and therefore it would appear curious how and why it struck such a chord in the very souls of the people who watched it. But if you open your eyes, you’ll realize that not only is it American as it gets (Millennium Falcon was modeled off a burger, is a bootlegging vehicle won in a card game), but the story is as old as time. It’s simple good versus evil – the dark lord fighting the good princess and her knights, one of which was a swashbuckling rogue with a lovable pet/sidekick dog.

So I suppose today is a bittersweet day for photographers, children like me in a grown man’s body, because not only do we get a further glimpse at what is likely the most anticipated film in years, but that once again we weren’t chosen to photograph any of it. And that’s sad, because I know when many of us watched that trailer, and saw the Millennium Falcon being driven like a bootlegging hotrod (and it was actually designed to smuggle contraband), the clock started to roll back. By the time Harrison Ford and that cuddly creature modeled after Lucas’ dog, Chewbacca, stepped out, we were 8 once again.

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The Empire is rebooting, and who else would get to go behind the scenes and photograph the cast other than Annie Leibovitz. In this brief behind the scenes video from Vanity Fair, we see that Leibovitz was granted unprecedented access to the cast and set to photograph the Vanity Fair cover. The cover looks to actually be shot ‘inside’ the Millennium Falcon, a character in itself, along with other characters Han Solo, Chewie, Rey, Finn, and BB-8.

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[REWIND: Star Wars Featurette: BTS Video of the Birth of the Lightsaber]

Of course, the resulting cover image, which is the only one revealed at this time, has the classic Leibovitz look, but she somehow manages to encapsulate that very distinct Star Wars feel. Though the video is very brief, you get a little feel for Annie’s set up, which to me looks rather simple, and I love that. Sure she’s shooting medium format on a Hasselblad, but there doesn’t appear to be a mess of manipulating lighting, which I think is probably a good thing, and contributes to getting the feel of the film, rather than a stylized take. 

How would you shoot this given the chance? The issue hits stands this week.

[Via ISO1200]

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. robert garfinkle

    A long time ago, in a neighborhood theater far, far away – was our group of friends, who reveled in the same awe inspiring world George Lucas put us in. I remember playing hooky one afternoon, to see Return of the Jedi. Me and a bunch of soon-to-be geeks, stood in line all day long, to wait for the opening of the movie. We bolted around mid-day, for a midnight show, even had pizza delivered in line. Back in the early 80’s you could do that.

    Today, if I were on the set taking pictures, I would not just be nervous, I’d be bananas inside, bonkers… but I’d shoot until the batteries ran out… and have a blast.

    One of my friends who I stood in line with, made star wars a reality for himself… I remember him making super 8 films with fake laser blasters, yet editing in the laser shots with a pin after the film was developed… he had a blast with it. Then, when AOL came about he befriended a whole bunch of people who spent the next 30+ years making star wars costumes – eventually making their way to Universal studio events doing shows and now he does work for Disney / Lucas Films… He even had a star wars wedding. wedding party of storm troopers etc.

    had to share that.

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    • robert s

      I think in life, everything should be in proportion. when I see those people sitting days to get in to watch a movie, I think to myself, dont they have family friends work hobbies? and they need to get some medication.

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    • Thomas Horton

      Back in the 70’s I was one of the very first to see a particular movie. I waited in line at a special Hollywood theater. I was there! I saw it first!!!

      It was the exact same movie everyone else saw the next day without waiting in line. :(

      I can understand wanting to be at opening night for a play as each performance is different. But for a movie that is static? Never again. That was a pretty dumb thing I did back then.

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    • robert garfinkle

      @ robert s – loosen up a bit. It was fun, as a matter of fact we did it again for the remaining star wars films, and when the new one comes out, we will be right back in line, this time, with our families, and more friends to boot… Last time, the news showed up because people like ourselves were the attraction – and some of us were on TV. That’s cool.

      We do have lives – and this is part of it. I will be putting in my PTO request for the event, as most likely it’d be for a Wednesday night midnight showing (very typical) and so will my friends. :)

      I suppose I could take a shot at some too – I have my head-scratcher.

      A kid, who waits all night long, through the morning, till the doors open @ Best Buy, to get a video game in which he / she will have beaten in 1/12th the time they stood in line waiting to go buy it… only to tell their friends, by lunch time, that they already beat the game and have posted the cheater codes online – destroying the challenge of the game for others – the enablers…

      It’s funny, you’d think I’d be one of those – dually diagnosed ADHD / ADD gamesters… I cannot fathom living like that. to me, they are on too much medication :)

      But, if all is fair in love and war – I get it. You could not see doing that sort of thing (standing in line at a movie) just as much as I could not see myself doing that gaming thing… we all have our “incomprehensively demoralized” lines in the sand we won’t cross, until we find ourselves doing something similar…

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    • Ralph Hightower

      The first movie date with my then future wife was at the first Star Wars movie.

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  2. Lauchlan Toal

    I admit that I’m not always a Leibovitz fan, but it’s always interesting to see her work and the cover image is definitely strong. Thanks for sharing this.

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    • robert s

      nice to see the article, not a fan of her work. style is outdated. she did great things in the 80’s. its 2015. the angles and lighting is too, dry.

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  3. Rob Harris

    The first 50 shots would be shaky as heck because of excitement, but I suppose those could be merged with subsequent ones for a special effects look. :)

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  4. Ed Rhodes

    may the 4th be with you!

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