Posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2017 by Ethan Anderton
This week brought Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to Blu-ray and DVD, allowing fans to bring home the first Star Wars spin-off home to watch over and over again with the added bonus of finally being able to watch Star Wars: A new Hope right after.
Besides that, you’re likely going to be rewatching all of the scenes with K-2SO on repeat, since he stole so many scenes from his human counterparts. That’s thanks to actor Alan Tudyk (A Knight’s Tale, Wreck-It Ralph, Firefly), who not only provided the voice of the reprogrammed Imperial droid, but also did the motion capture performance on set with the rest of the actors.
We had a chance to sit down with Alan Tudyk along with Industrial Light and Magic animation supervisor Hal Hickel to talk about how they brought K-2SO to life, from his inception, to finding his voice, to figuring out his movement and more. We ran part of this interview regarding the original journey K-2SO had in earlier drafts of Rogue One, but this is the full Alan Tudyk interview with insight from Hal Hickel along with it.
I wanted to walk about the inception of K-2SO, because I believe there was some concept art floating around that show him as one of the silver Imperial droids that we saw in the original trilogy, right?
Hal Hickel: Hmmm. I don’t know. I haven’t seen that. I’m not doubting you. It may well be because there was a lot of exploration early on. I have to say the first artwork I saw is pretty much what he ended up looking like. But by that time the art department had already done a lot of exploration with Gareth [Edwards]. He had already honed in on something, and I never went and back and trolled through all the other versions they discarded, so I don’t doubt that there’s some version of him like that out there. I just haven’t seen it myself.
As always happens, there was tons on exploration under Doug Chiang in the art department. Once they started to narrow it down then Neal Scanlan’s group over in the UK, the creature shop, got to work doing a three foot maquette clay sculpture and a head study. Eventually they built, like a fiberglass – I don’t know what it was made out out – full size version of him painted and everything, before we even started doing our CG version.
When did Alan come into the equation? Was he at the top of your list to voice him and do the motion capture?
Alan Tudyk: That was Gareth. I talked to Gareth at some point, was asked Skype with him, and didn’t really take it very seriously. It was at a friend’s house, “Hey, can I use your iPad, I gotta talk to this guy.” I thought he was asking me, since I had done I, Robot, that’s how I took it. Not that he was interested in me in the role, just that I would talk to him about how it would work. I had a very frank conversation with him. He’d be like, “Well I want every movement, every twitch of the eye, and even if it’s a bad take, the mistake is what’s true, and so I want that on camera.” And I was like, “Why the hell are you gonna do that? A mistake on camera ’cause it’s true?! This is bullshit. Man, get the best take you can but definitely get it. Just make sure you’re on the actor. Don’t abandon him.” I was just letting it all hang out at my buddy’s house like, “Listen, you’re a nice guy but you gotta figure it out.”
Then he asked me to audition. Gave me some pages that don’t exist in the movie. It was an early version of the movie, or it was just an audition scene. They sometimes just give you a scene with an idea. It was about me landing on a planet and the magnetic fields fried this robot’s brain, K-2SO’s brain. He was buzz [slow-motion voice] slowing down and then [fast speed voice] picking up – it was putting you through the paces, what can you do with this? I did that, my wife taped it, or recorded it on her iPad, sent it off. Then Gareth came to town for Star Wars Celebration Anaheim and said he wants to meet you just to talk. Then he gave me the role there in the room. It was mental.
What was your process as far as developing the voice for K-2So? You’re a very talented voice actor with an insane range. There have been so many times when I’ve found out that you voiced a role that I wasn’t aware of while watching, and it blows me away. So how do you hone in on that character?
Alan Tudyk: I had three ideas for it. I didn’t know what Gareth wanted, so I said I was gonna do this three ways, that audition scene. Once with just my voice like this, which didn’t sound right at all. And then one with a more – it’s called Mid-Atlantic speech, which I learned at Juilliard – it’s what Sonny the robot sounds like in I, Robot. Just proper speech. Then I did an English accent which became K2. I liked the idea of that because he was in the Empire. There are so many English accents within droids, C-3PO for sure, and the Empire has an English accent a lot in it. So that’s what I wanted to do, and luckily Gareth was like, “Absolutely, let’s do that.” That was pretty much it. Basically, they wanted the Mid-Atlantic speech of English. That proper way of speaking if you were programmed how to speak, that’s how he speaks.
Hal Hickel: I like the Peter Falk version that didn’t make it into.
Alan Tudyk: Ah! I wish I could do Peter Falk. [Indiscernible Peter Falk-esque mumbling]
He’s got one sort of wonky eye…
Alan Tudyk Yeah, yeah!
On the next page, we talk about the advancement of motion capture technology and how Alan Tudyk and Hal Hickel figured out how much movement K-2SO should have and how much of a human vibe he should give off with his personality.