The voice of GENERAL
MARK: Hey Matt.
Thanks for talking with us today. Let's begin by talking about how you
got started. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like you got involved
in sound design around 1992. Tell us about how you came to work with
Well I started for Lucasfilm in 1990 testing video games. I was fresh
out of high school, and saw a job posting on a local BBS for a Games Tester in
Nicasio, CA. I knew through my fan-boy ways that Nicasio was where
Skywalker Ranch was... so I faxed a resume over to them (my dad had one of the
first fax machines)... and started the interview process. It took about
6 months, but I was in! The first game I worked on was my favorite, The
Secret of Monkey Island.
Was it kind of a proving process, working your way up in the ranks?
Absolutely. Every job I have had out at Lucasfilm is a project based
job, meaning they all end. If you aren't getting re-hired on projects,
well... that may be a sign.
Many people don't seem to realize that sound editing and design is a very
intricate art form. How do you describe what it is you do to the
As George likes to say, Sound is 50% of the film experience. On the big
shows, almost 80% of what you are hearing was not recorded on the set at the
time of filming. We have to create and balance out an audio world for
the film-goer. This involves all the aspects of sound: The dialogue
recorded on the set, the ADR or Automated Dialogue Replacement that is
recorded in a studio after filming, the Sound Effects, the Foley which are
sound effects too specific to be found in a library, i.e. Footsteps and
clothing movement. Then all of this needs to be balanced with the
musical score to create your audio experience. It is a massive technical
and artistic task.
Since you've been doing this you've worked on a few Jerry Bruckheimer films as
well. Describe the differences between working on films like those and
Well the division of Lucasfilm I work for is Skywalker Sound, and we do sound
for many directors and studios. Most of the work that I have done at
Skywalker involves a smaller crew working for a longer period of time, instead
of a huge 40 man team working for a few weeks. Also with George's shows
we answer to one authority on all the sound work... George. This usually
is not the case on most Hollywood studio projects.
Not including what happened with Episode III, what was the best moment and
your worst moment in your career?
Best moment by far was sitting down and watching the opening crawl of Episode
I in 1997. It was my first day on the film and I had wanted to work on
the Star Wars prequels since I started in the company. I called my mom
to celebrate. Worst moment... hmmm... when I was working on the first
Mission Impossible movie and I had to send about 40 hard drives down to L.A.
for a mix, and they all ended up on the conveyor belts and all over the floor
of the LAX airport terminal during a rush hour. Knowing that the mix of
the film was hanging on me finding all the drives and making sure they worked
was some of the most stress I had in my early career.
Can we talk about you in Hudson Hawk? That's a big guilty pleasure film
for me. Tell me all about that experience.
I love Hudson Hawk! Well lets see...ILM posted a message that they
needed a torso and hand match to some shots in the film of Leonardo da Vinci.
I went down there and they said I was a perfect match. So we shot all
the close-ups of Leonardo opening and looking at the alchemist crystals in the
film with my body. That was a trip. It was also great to meet
Michael Lehmann, who directed one of my favorite films, Heathers. I met
Michael again years later when he was posting a film at Skywalker and asked
him if he recognized my hands. I think he thought I was crazy until I
explained it to him.
Tell us about the non-sound work you did on Episode I. You're actually
featured as a few characters, like Bib Fortuna in the Jabba scene. How
were you called upon to do that?
Well I knew George and the casting director pretty well, so when they were
looking for someone to play alongside Jabba in the Pod-race I was in the right
place at the right time. I had a few Polaroids taken of me and then was
approved by ILM and the makeup man as a good match for the prosthetics that
were already made, I went out to ILM and shot the thing in 5 hours including
make-up time. It was there that I first me John Knoll, an amazing artist
at ILM. I returned the favor of a cameo to him by recording him as a
dying, screaming pilot in the end of Episode I.
Don't you also have some voice work in Episode II?
I've done a few voices for that film. The Dug Taxi driver and the guy he
almost hits, "What The?!?!?" I also play the voice of a Gungan... there
are a couple more peppered throughout the prequels and the classic trilogy
DVD's, but some are secret!
So now with Episode III, you're the voice of General Grievous. I
remember reading that at one point Gary Oldman and John Rhys-Davies were
supposed to do that character? What happened there?
I was involved with the processing of Grievous, and Rick McCallum, our
producer had sent out many casting packages all over L.A., Sydney and London.
Every time we had got a new batch of auditions in, I would process and name
them and send them up to George for evaluation. By about the 30th
audition I thought I would take a crack at it. I put mine in with a
batch of 10, under an anonymous name... and he picked it! I remember
being scared when Rick called me asking for the complete name of the "A.S."
audition that George picked. I had submitted all the auditions from all
the actors just with initials. I told him I would get back to him on
that tomorrow. I slept on it and wondered if I should try to get out of
this situation somehow, maybe thinking I had crossed the line. The actor
part of me was excited... I had been taking acting classes since high school
and had recently completed an acting intensive program at the American
Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. I think that is what gave me the
confidence to submit an audition
in the first place. The next day I called Rick and told him the news...
he was surprised that it was me and asked me if I wanted to tell George.
I said "Yes!" George didn't even blink an eye and came down and recorded
with me the next day to get the whole performance.
MARK: Was it the kind
of thing where they told you to do whatever you want, or did they have a
specific sound in mind for Grievous?
Because I was on the sound crew I could watch George's thought process evolve
with the character. I had inside information I suppose. There was
also the matter of deciding on a process for the character... should it be
pitched low? Should it sound metallic? My cohort Chris Scarabosio,
who was our Dialogue Editor/Mixer for the film and I both hammered out a
process which fit very well to the visuals that ILM had provided. Chris
was the one who recorded me clandestinely for my audition.
Had you seen all the animatics, or just concept art when you voiced it?
I had seen animatics and concept art, it all helped me with my audition.
Looking at the finished product, how do you feel the Grievous character came
Evil... evil! ILM completely blew me away with the incredible visuals.
The bone on the head, the beating "heart" the separating arms... are all
fantastic. I had some tough shoes to fill with the voice.
Do you see a future with more voice-over work? Not that you haven't
already done quite a bit, but I mean more exclusively.
I am currently looking for representation in that field. I love using my
voice. I would love to be able to blend the disciplines of sound work
and voice acting... they seem to go hand in hand!
You recently did your first public autograph signing, and I think it's safe to
say the fans went nuts for ya. How did that feel?
What a fantastic way to end the Star Wars prequels! Meeting the fans was
amazing. I forget about the impact of these films... I guess I should
leave Skywalker Ranch and get out more sometimes.
It begs the question, do you like the attention this gig has gotten you, or is
it too overwhelming?
I love it! It is not overwhelming, I am a voice talent... my face is
hidden! But maybe not for long!
We had talked about how you were working on the Episode III DVD deleted scenes
right now. What can we expect to see there? I think you mentioned
there were a couple of Grievous scenes to be included.
Yes I am finishing that up as we speak. I'm going to have to plead the
5th on this answer though. We aren't done yet!
Tell me about the extensive work you did on the original trilogy. That
first film needed a lot of attention for the DVD release. Describe some
of your efforts there.
That was a dream come true. Working with elements from the original
trilogy was wonderful. Updating the mix to work with modern DVD dynamics
was a challenge. Because of the way the first film was originally mixed,
we could not use the original mix elements. Everything was tied
together, so moving things spatially or adding frequencies or new elements
would be impossible. The track had to be created from scratch. I
think this is the only movie I could have done this on so perfectly.
Star Wars was etched into my subconscious, so anything that sounded out of
place from the original would stand out to me right away. Our challenge
was to use the original unmixed elements and re-mix them for a new more
dynamic mix. The theater systems of today are very unforgiving when it
comes to playing back old material. I wanted the low frequencies to
really boom and the soundstage to take full use of the Dolby EX environment,
while keeping the original feel. Empire and Jedi both had separated
"stem" mixes so we could add and change without affecting all the elements
like New Hope, so those two movies (aside from the new scenes) were less of a
MARK: Would you call it
a labor of love?
Without a doubt. I had Ben Burtt and Terry Eckton, two of the original
sound crew members working with me to re-create the wonder of these amazing
tracks. My co-workers Dave Acord and Tom Myers and I, all seasoned
prequel sound crew members came together to bring these mixes into today's
You also provided some voice-over work on those, correct?
Yes, there were some added scenes that required more voices, as well as some
elements that needed to be replaced in the original mixes. They are very
very small additions... but a trained ear will hear them.
After the Episode III DVD is done, what's next on your plate?
Acting work I hope! Also Ben Burtt and I are in talks to work on Steven
Spielberg's next film. And one more thing... a vacation!
If you could separate yourself from the work for a second, how do you
personally feel about the finished film?
Episode III ends so well. I think it tacks right on to the original
trilogy so nicely. The fans, including myself are going to feel good
Thanks so much for chatting with us. We look forward to seeing you kick
a little Jedi butt on the big screen.
Thank you! I look forward to adding this interview to my collection...
it will all make sense May 19th!
This interview was conducted with
permission from Lucasfilm Ltd. 2005
Buy this 20x16 General Grievous
TAKE ME HOME