Since actress turned fashion icon, Lupita Nyong’o, burst on the scene with an Oscar win for her portrayal of ‘Patsy’ in ’12 Years A Slave,’ her fans have been excited about catching another glimpse of her on the big screen.
Her almost immediate A list status allowed her the choice of any film she wanted to pursue. So, she chose, what is slated to be the highest grossing movie of all time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Lupita plays Maz Kanata, a female pirate that has lived over 1,000 years. Her eyes (that are covered with goggles) hold a special power. And she owns a castle that plays host to smugglers and riff raff.
While, fans may be hoping for a peek at the beauty, this role was strictly motion capture, so you will never see her face, but you will feel her presence. We had the privilege of catching up with Lupita and the Star Wars director, JJ. Abrams to find out about her new adventures with motion capture and why the star that is used to being photographed by paparazzi on a daily basis, was afraid of the cameras, her first day on set!
How long did it take to put on the motion capture suit everyday on set?
“To get suited up, In the beginning it took about 2 and 1/2 hours, maybe three, but in the end it was about an hour and 15 minutes.”
“Lupita had dots [sensors] everywhere, even on her teeth! She had dots all over the place. And actually, not until today have I met her without dots!”
What was your scariest moment on your first day of production?
“Playing a motion capture character, this was something completely new to me and walking into a room, I had to do this thing, where they had to take my picture from all directions at one time. And I had to stand in the middle and there were 360 degree cameras all around me and that freaked me out.”
Audiences have seen films using motion capture, but the most famous example was Avatar. The world was captivated by the tall, and incredibly life-like blue creatures and the real actors behind those characters were familiar faces, Zoe Saldana and Laz Alonso among others. Now, Lupita has joined the ranks as she tapped into her imagination and used her body to make her character, Maz Kanata come to life.
“My very first experience with motion capture, I got to be on sets with the actual actors. So, I am eternally greatful to him for giving me that. Because it was a great way to get into this wonderfully crazy thing called motion capture. I got to be on those sets and see those things and feel. And the art direction is so detailed, even when you’re standing on set it’s mesmerizing. And I think audiences are going to have an immersive experience, much like we had filming it. The physicality is something that carries on into the theater and that was something that attracted me to motion capture. The idea of working on a character that wasn’t limited by my physical circumstances and I could work with my body in new ways and I’ve continued that on to the stage.”
“She was remarkably tireless and wiling to experiment with different versions of this character. I’ve never been through this before with an actor, where we got to discover again and again, how to better tell the story and I always felt guilty, every time we started up another session. Every time Lupita was willing and game and deeply committed to finding Maz Kanata’s voice and again I’m eternally greatful.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters Friday, December 18th! May the force be with you.