VFX Supervisors On How They Created Some of the Special Effects in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Deadline sat down with Oscar nominated VFX supervisors Ben Morris and Mike Mulholland to talk about how they created some of the more iconic scenes from the movie. Whether you liked The Last Jedi or not, you can’t argue that the visual effects of the movie were flawless (with a few tiny exceptions). In this interview Morris and Mulholland discuss how they did the porgs, the vulpteces, the believable CG of Supreme Leader Snoke and the controversial Leia scene in open space.


First the VFX gurus talked about director Rian Johnson and his contribution to the VFX process. This was Johnson’s first project with an extensive use of visual effects and understandably the filmmaker was relying more on the use of practical effects whenever he got a chance.

Ben Morris: Rian wanted to attempt to do as much as he could practically, and that’s not a unique aspiration of directors nowadays. That came from the fact that Rian hadn’t done a very large visual effects film before. He did Looper, but it was a very subtle use of visual effects. He wanted to very definitely make the film feel filmic, even if we were capturing the images on a digital device.

Those were some overarching briefs from Rian, and the other thing that I would say is, he was incredibly consistent. His script was fantastic as a first draft, and it didn’t really change that much. With Rian, less is more. He never wanted us to go big for no reason.



Regarding the porgs, Morris revealed that their use in the movie is a mixture of both animatronic puppets and CG:

Morris: The hope was that we’d be able to use puppets for every piece of action in the film that they’re in. We had some amazing puppets, and they had to build special rigs for almost every gag because the puppets are sometime quite limited in what they can do. When we got back to editorial and the film started coming together, we were tasked with removing some of the puppeteers’ rods, and other work that we were doing on the faces was quite minimal and 2D. Rian, when he finally saw the cut, wanted to expand some of those performances, so we actually built CG porgs, as well. Ultimately in this film, it’s a right mix-up. There are certain shots that are pure puppet, there are others that are pure CG, and then there are ones where you’ve got CG and puppets right next to each other. The great challenge there was, we had reference in every shot, using a real puppet so we could match our CG perfectly to that.



Unlike the porgs, the vulpteces are all CG in the movie. You probably remember that in the behind the scenes video from The Last Jedi we saw a few shots with animatronic versions of the vulpteces, but they never ended up using these in the movie. Here’s why:

Morris: An animatronic puppet was built, which we shot on a number of occasions, but what we suddenly realized is, some of the beautiful and refractive and reflective quality of the crystals that was in the original concept just wasn’t achievable practically. It turns out with the crystal foxes, they’re entirely CG in the film. We didn’t use that animatronic in the end.



Rian Johnson’s initial plan was to bring Snoke to life using prosthetics, but because of the specifics of his face this was practically impossible, and the result was not satisfying. Morris explains:

Morris: Rian got a sculpt done by the creature team, which completely transformed the look of Snoke away from the almost gelatinous zombie look that was in The Force Awakens, and stamped him into the real world. We had that maquette on set, and we also made sure that we had an older actor who we could shoot on every time we had a shot. So we would have Andy Serkis in his performance capture outfit. He’d have a head-mounted camera system on—we actually had four cameras, two stereo pairs watching his face. We were capturing his body movements, and we had two or three witness cameras in addition, so we covered all of that. We also had this reference maquette, and then an older age person and a younger, very tall actor, who wore the incredible golden gown—which, again, is entirely CG in the film.

With all of that reference, Rian went into editorial and started cutting together the sequences. Andy’s got this wonderful resonant voice, and we started to watch the whole thing come together without any CG Snoke in there. It was working beautifully well. As Mike and the team started to put together CG Snoke per the sculpt that had been approved, we suddenly realized that he was a far more imposing character. Andy’s voice gave a sense of a larger chest cavity. His throat carried far more timbre. When you look to the CG model that we were building that matched the sculpt, he just looked too flimsy and frail. We had to put the brakes on and say, “We’re going to have to change this.”

We did a number of broader things—we made him over eight feet tall, rather than seven feet tall. We expanded his chest. We restructured all the anatomy of his throat, and we took some scoliotic curvature out of his spine that was a feature of the original sculpt. We also restructured his jawline, to give him more of an imposing face.



And finally Ben Morris revealed how they managed to execute the scene with Leia in the open space. As with the other VFXs it was a combination of things. This time a mixture of digital double, CG and Carrie Fisher herself:

Morris: There was actually a practical bridge for the main cruiser. We did multilayered effects to get her out, so we had practical special effects, pyro explosions going off. We would shoot all the different layers, so Ackbar and his other generals, they also get blown out of the room.

We worked with Carrie [Fisher] to at least get her to be blown forward in a believable way before she gets sucked out. Then, when she’s outside, it was a combination of digital double Carrie for the wider shots, and then we actually shot her, so we could do the moment where she comes to and the ice starts thawing off her face. We shot that with her. We didn’t hang her on wires. It’s incredibly uncomfortable on wires, so we were able to support her in other ways. It’s a combination of real Carrie and digital doubles when the moves were wide enough, and it made most sense to do it that way.


For the full interview with more details on the VFX from The Last Jedi make sure to visit Deadline.



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Founder of SWNN, MNN and The Cantina forums.

Born on April 24, 1980.

Val Trichkov (Viral Hide)

Founder of SWNN, MNN and The Cantina forums.Born on April 24, 1980.

34 thoughts on “VFX Supervisors On How They Created Some of the Special Effects in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    • February 26, 2018 at 3:57 am

      I don’t know who that guy is, but I hate him. Never hated anyone because of their hair before. Not even gingers.

  • February 26, 2018 at 12:15 am

    Star Wars needs special effects, digital effects, not all can be practical, it is part of the magic, is part of creating fantastical sfuff. That idea of wanting to have all practial is very stupid imo, this is not a western movie it is a space fantasy movie.

    In the first movies they used matte paintings, and puppets, not because it was the right way to do it but because that was the tools available, or what they could achieve at that days, but now they at LF think that making all “real” is better, that’s just stupid, just looking at the new Yoda and the super fake porgs (when not cgi) you can see that practical is not allways the best way to do it.

    • February 26, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      As in most things in life, balance is key. What can be achieved practically should because it looks better when it’s actually there, but what looks fake anyway might as well be CGI to make it as realistic as possible.

  • February 26, 2018 at 12:18 am

    Trying to win the VFX oscars, aren’t we?

    • February 26, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      No, who said oscar? No alive person wants an oscar. SW, since 1977, was made to help the poor people of Somalia, just for that. Not for the money, not for success, not for oscar, not to sell toys. SW is like you: don’t want money, and only exist for that: help people of Somalia.

      • February 26, 2018 at 10:09 pm

        Is this sarcasm? If it is, it’s really bad. Might want to tighten up your game George Carlin, I don’t think it’s coming across the way you intended…

    • February 26, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      I love the VFX work on TLJ, but I think “War for the Planet of the Apes” deserves the VFX Oscar this year. It’s incredibly difficult to make photorealisitc apes believable. They did an outstanding job.

      • February 26, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        I’ve been championing Apes for awhile. They’re incredible. I know Jungle Book was amazing in it’s own right… but as you said. A totally believable ape? A lot of the animals in JB looked really good while others not so much.

      • February 26, 2018 at 9:28 pm


        • February 26, 2018 at 9:29 pm

          The original planet of the apes of 67 still has the best effects (make up)

      • February 27, 2018 at 8:04 am

        I agree, TLJ won’t win an oscar. While War has a good chance at winning (I recall it already won some guild’s award), Blade Runner has some good chance in winning aswell, for using miniatures and more practical effects than any of the star wars sequels.

  • February 26, 2018 at 1:08 am

    There was a ton of bad CGI in TLJ.

    • February 26, 2018 at 3:55 am

      I thought the Crystal foxes looked pretty great. The Porgs didn’t look real at all, but I suspect their purpose was solely to market toys to young kids.

      TLJ effects on Crait I thought were pretty good, but the thing is with special effects these days is that so many movies go overboard on the effects it’s hard to have a ‘wow factor’ as we’re kind of used to it. Worse still is that CGI effects which look great at release can look dated and tacky within a few years.

      • February 26, 2018 at 6:35 am

        Crystal foxes looked great to me, but porgs, they could use CGI for close ups too, the cgi porg looked better, more alive imo, they think having them being puppets gives more value or something to the movie and people will like it more some how, I dont know, but if they look fake, whats the point?

        • February 26, 2018 at 7:19 am

          The more practical the better. It’s not a question if things look real. They must feel real. And nothing feels more real than an actual real thing.

          • February 26, 2018 at 5:01 pm

            There is a misdiretion on this though, I can completely agree with you, but is not the the same if a 2 year old boy makes a Yoda than if a 18 years old make another one, both will look real because they will be real physical stuff, but the differences in the execution will very noticeable. Yoda from Episode 1 looks horreondous to me (worst than 8’s), and it is practical, CGI Yoda in the same movie (but in 2011) looks way better. It is not always the tool they use to make something, that will give a good result, but the execution.

          • February 26, 2018 at 5:18 pm

            I mean, granted, it should be done well 😉

        • February 26, 2018 at 10:47 am

          Seems like most people didn’t like how Yoda looked, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t notice the mouth thing and he reminded me of how he looked in TESB. Ignorance is bliss I guess. He definitely looked better than he did in Attack of the Clones.

          • February 27, 2018 at 3:12 am

            Yoda looked, hands down, the best he has since Empire. It was the first time in decades that I looked at Yoda and thought ‘yes, that’s Yoda’ rather than ‘well, I guess this CGI is better than the TPM puppet at any rate – it kinda looks like Yoda’.

      • February 26, 2018 at 2:13 pm

        I can´t remember many creatures in SW that looked real. The b-movie aspect of the creatures is part of the charm of the saga

  • February 26, 2018 at 5:23 am

    Aaah… whut ‘iconic’ scenes?

    • February 26, 2018 at 11:08 am

      For me the bombers run, Holdo’s sacrifice and the Crait battle are just beautiful and very well executed technically.

      • February 26, 2018 at 7:48 pm

        The bombing run was fantastic. Great opening. I also enjoyed the tactical layer of it. Right down to the “Five bloody minutes ago!” Ending with Leia looking at the cost of it all.

    • February 26, 2018 at 2:10 pm

      TLJ is a series of iconic scenes. The bombing, all the Rey-Luke scenes – the force describing scene , the whole unmatchabe Rey-Snoke- Kylo – this, the most beautiful scene of the saga, by far – , and Luke-Kylo ending scene is to be remembere all life. I Feel sorry for ones that are so bitter that coulnd’t enjoy these astonishing scenes for selfish reasons.

  • February 26, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    TLJ is the most visually stunning SW. Special effects ar top notch. There are just segments of other SW movies that can match TLJ visually,

  • February 26, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    I don’t think I asked a question, but point taken and I agree- although none of those movies you referenced stuck in my mind for the effects except the Revenant, but I think that might’ve just been because it was horrifically savage. (haven’t seen Birdman though).

    What I would reference negatively ROTS- the opening space battle, I never liked it. Looks like a computer game cutscene. Also TLJ, when the bombers line up and the fighters all zoom past- kind of thing we see all the time. Much better when there was only one bomber left to worry about.

    One film that did stick in my mind for great effects was Dredd, because it was unique and the effects sequences were largely swathe of colour so it kind of felt you were looking at some kind of weird, gruesome art.

    • February 26, 2018 at 8:36 pm

      That opening scene is considered one of the best with only ANH’s in the top, I find it curious that you dont like it, its beautiful. And it will be hard to get that results with practical effects.

    • February 26, 2018 at 10:43 pm

      Agree, Dredd is another great example.

      Also I agree on the ROTS space battle.but Kashyyk is worse! 😉

  • February 26, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Porgs and the Crystal Foxes were awesome additions to the creature line up. I remember squealing a bit while playing Battlefront 2 and seeing some run deeper in the caves. I’m a manly Stormtrooper after all. 😛

  • February 26, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    A question, where is the practical part in the Hyperspace crash?

    • February 26, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      There is none. But the “less Ian more” theory still applies.

  • February 26, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Crystal Foxes: cool

    Luke’s “Force projection” onto Crait and pseudo battle with Kylo: cool

    Canto Bight: Terrible. Pretty much all of it.

    Porgs: FAR worse than Ewoks. Not cute. Glad Chewie was eating them.

    The Raddus: cool

    The transports: Probably the WORST spaceship design in all of Star Wars. They looked like eggs with windows. Mork from Ork would be proud.

    Rey and Kylo’s battle with the red shell-fish guys after Snoke’s murder: Really not all that great. Completely forgettable.

    Poe’s “yo mama” jokes and the bombing run at the beginning: Just, no – not iconic. Humor was too forced, and the bombers were way too damn slow to be believable. Plus, the tech was just dumb. Why rely on 1940’s style WWII bombers to get directly over their target when you can fire missiles or other trajectory weapons from afar and achieve the same results with far less risk?

    Gorilla walkers: Not that great and nowhere near as iconic as the original walkers from ESB. Just because they were bigger doesn’t make them better.

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