When Bad Robot tweeted this picture of J.J. Abrams hanging out with R2-D2 last week, most of us took that to mean the diminutive, attitude filled droid was definitely going to appear in Star Wars: Episode VII. We already assumed that, but it was nice to get what we thought was confirmation. It seemed like a given, but now Lucasfilm has made it officially official, swearing an unbreakable blood oath that R2 will indeed figure into the grand scheme of Episode VII. But that’s not all. Both the robot in this picture, as well as the one that will appear in the final movie, are fan made.
You probably recognized Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in the photo, and if you’re like me, you guessed the other two dudes are random Bad Robot employees that like photobombing their boss and robots. That, however, is not the case. According to the Star Wars blog on StarWars.com, those men you see are Lee Towersy and Oliver Steeples. They belong to the R2-D2 Builders Club, which, as you may have inferred, builds models of astromech droids, models that happened to be fully functioning recreations.
The two Brits have officially been brought on board the production of Episode VII as part of the creature effects team. How’s that for a dream come true for a couple of die hard Star Wars fans? One day you’re just hanging out, building robots because it’s fun and awesome, the next you’re working on a damn Star Wars movie.
Kennedy spotted their R2-D2 model, which took ten years to build by the way, at the Star Wars Celebration in Germany. Steeples says, “She [Kennedy] posed for pictures with us, looked at all the droids we’d built and was very complimentary. I mentioned that the R2-D2 Builders in the UK were available if required, as a semi-joke. When I was contacted to work on the film by [executive producer] Jason McGatlin, it was on her recommendation.” So take this to heart, you never know when an offhand comment could yield insane, life changing results.
Though production hasn’t started on Episode VII—it is slated to kick off in spring of next year—Steeples and Towersy are already hard at work at Pinewood Studios, where their full time attention is focused on astromech creation. Towersy says:
What we do need to do is improve on the mechanics…We’re currently in a research and design phase where we’re looking at drive options for reliability on all possible terrains, whether it be a one-motor-does-all, or a system which is easily adjusted depending on terrain. We have a few mocked up ideas which we hope to road test very soon.
So Artoo is the first concrete, 100%, I-don’t-give-a-damn-how-many-rumors-are circulating, character to be confirmed for Star Wars: Episode VII. Reports say that, at this stage of the game, neither Mark Hamill or Samuel L. Jackson have heard from Abrams and company; and Harrison Ford’s involvement seems more and more up in the air as time passes. It seems like if R2-D2 is involved, his cowardly robo-bro C-3PO should also be along for the ride, but we haven’t heard anything yet. All that we know for certain right now is that we’ll get to hang out with favorite spunky little droid, the movie will open on December 18, 2015, and there will be stars and wars and most likely Jedi Knights. And I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me.