I had the chance to talk with supervising director Dave Filoni of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" about what we can expect from the hit television show's fourth season. As usual, he was more than happy to fill us in on what's new in a galaxy far, far away.
First question. What's up with working lightsabers and laser guns underwater?
Until you've seen it in the films, I don't think it's really defined. The clones all have special guns that were designed by us to be different than the guns they use above water. Those are their water-adapted lasers. Of course, the Mon Calamari and the Quarren can fire underwater. When you get to that level of detail, the lightsaber in the 2D cartoon had a lot of bubbles when it was ignited underwater. We actually couldn't do that. The whole effects budget went to a lot of bigger things like the crowd scenes and the things we were doing there. When you're producing this, you have to choose what you're going to go for. I think at the end of the day, we are aware that it is a fantasy series that is a lot of fun. If we followed strict rules, there wouldn't be any sound for Tie Fighters, the Millennium Falcon, or X-Wing Fighters. You have to play a little bit with the fun of fantasy once you're dealing with talking fish people who are battling one another, too. To be honest, all this stuff gets a lot of thought. Believe me; nothing is ever done lightly.
What's different this season on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" from the past ones?
The last season I think we worked really hard on making the character stories a lot more strong. Especially when you got to the Savage Oppress and Asajj Ventress arcs. I think we saw a development of characters that we hadn't really seen on the show before. Certainly with Ahsoka. On those last two episodes of "Wookie Hunt," we really broke a barrier for ourselves as far as the environments go. We have these lush environments and a lot more believable detail to make our worlds seem more immersive. That's one of the big things you get on every episode of "The Clone Wars" this season. I'm hoping the audience realizes or feels that there are more immersive worlds than they've ever been in before on our show. I think we've always done good sleight of hand for making you believe you're on these planets like in "Citadel." Now [we're trying to get] the kind of small detail that goes unnoticed. You watch it more than you see it. I think one parallel of what I'm talking about where it was done on levels that have never been seen before was in James Cameron's "Avatar." The sheer amount of detail going on in those jungles is something that really hadn't been done before on that level. We're trying to give that same feeling [that these are] real place[s]. That's one of the big things. [We've bumped up] some of the scales of the battles that you're seeing with other participants. Just dotting the screen with warriors and combatants on that level. When you go through a city, you're going to feel the civilization and you're going to see the people in the streets on a level that you would expect on a big scale movie like "The Ten Commandments" or "Gone with the Wind." I hope that audiences will go, "Wow! This is a big sprawling production." I want to bring that feeling to every episode. That's what season four is all about. Plus, we still have those personal stories going on. I think they're better written than they've ever been this season. There's much better acting with the characters. We just try to raise the level of everything every season until we finally can't do it anymore. I don't know if that will ever happen.
Tell us about some of the characters we'll be seeing this season?
Even though we are in our fourth season, there is a lot to tune in for this year. Coming up in the weeks ahead, you're going to see two episodes that are really about R2-D2 and C-3PO. We haven't really focused solely on those two characters where it's a story about them. I think that they are (in the films anyways) the backbone of the "Star Wars" franchise. As a kid, they were the first two characters I was introduced to on the blockade runner. We have Anthony Daniels providing the voice of c-3po still. He's magnificent as the character of course. R2-D2 is still R2-D2. He's such a big-time celebrity in his own right. Having episodes focused on them is fun and will bring a great change of pace for our episodes. Seeing "Star Wars" from the droid's eyes. We go from that to a massive battle campaign on the frontlines with the clones. The Clone stories are always some of the favorite ones we tell every year. We go more in depth with them than we ever have before. We really just challenge Rex with some interesting questions about what it means to be a soldier in this Clone army. He works this time with not only Anakin but with a new character named General Krell. He's the four-armed basilisk Jedi general that you see in the trailer for season 4. He's a fantastic new and very powerful character we've brought in this season. I think he's going to surprise a lot of people and become their new favorite character. It's always a balance on our show between characters you know, characters you always wonder about, and characters you didn't ever know existed. Krell is one of those. He really shines in this big sprawling arc that we do. Towards the latter half, we'll bring back Asajj Ventress. You get to see what's happening with her. We'll bring back Savage Oppress so we can continue the story arc of what's happening with him. We even bring back Boba Fett who we actually did not see last year. That's always fun because I love working with Daniel Logan. I love telling stories with Boba and I think we handle that material reverently. I know Boba's a huge character in fandom and we explain what's been going on with him. Cad Bane returns as well. You get a lot of the characters that you've seen. What's nice is we're really continuing the stories with explaining more of what's happening. Of course, Anakin has a big story this year. We're always keying in to what his Dark Side temperature is and where the needle points. We keep track of that with Ahsoka. There are many pieces moving in "The Clone Wars." I think the way George is heading with the show is if you've seen all three or four seasons into this, you'll know what's going on. If you haven't seen a single episode of the show, you can still jump in on any episode at any point.
Are there any plans to branch out from the Clone Wars and tell tales from other periods at some point?
I never want to say never. Every time I do, things seem to go in that direction. I've thought about different stories throughout many different periods of "Star Wars." I'll throw them out at ["Star Wars" creator] George [Lucas] and he's just enjoying exploring the Clone Wars period right now. We have many different things coming out from Lucasfilm. In fact, we'll have "The Old Republic" game coming out which is going to cover a big time period there. For now, we're telling stories in "The Clone Wars" time period. If you had told me in the beginning of this series how many episodes we would do and how long we'd be going I'd be surprised. To be honest, we're this many seasons into it and there's still so many great stories coming for you guys that George has discussed with us and we're executing right now and in the future. It's amazing how versatile these characters in this universe can be. You never know. The Mortis thing was a big departure for us last season as far as the types of stories that we told and the level of mysticism that we brought in with the Force. That was a surprise. I think it will surprise everyone where we're going in the future. I never say never, but for now we're full steam ahead with "The Clone Wars."
Are there any guest stars we can look forward to in the coming season?
It's been announced that we've got Katee Sackoff coming in to play a character this season. She's playing a Mandalorian Death Watch trooper. She's the first female Bob Fett-looking character that's ever been in George's "Star Wars" universe. That's pretty exciting. It was great working with her and I think she did a great job with the character. I think it's going to be a fan favorite like those characters tend to be. She's a bit mysterious and involved in action. It was fun having her on the show. I don't think there's any other surprises right now that I can think of or that I can really say. We have Jon Favreau coming back to reprise his role as Pre Vizsla and that's always fun. You never know. There might be a surprise or two in the season. It's probably nothing I can talk about yet.
How long do you think you'll be doing the show? Is there a plan?
I don't know. It's been an incredibly fun show for me to make. George is enjoying working with us on it. I've always told fans as long as they watch it, we'll keep making it. I'll be happy to do so. It's a really creative environment for me as a director. George has given me a lot of control and a lot of say over what goes on in this universe and that's hard to get in this industry. I'm happy to keep doing it if you'll keep watching it. I'm working well into the future of the series now. When you look at it, we haven't had a film released since 2005. Yet you go anywhere and you still see kids walking around with lightsabers. They're excited about Clone Troopers and they seem to all know who Captain Rex is. A lot of them now know Savage Oppress as well as they do Darth Maul. We have the 3D and the Blu-ray coming out. As far as the big picture of "Star Wars," it's just as exciting for kids and families now as it was during "Revenge of the Sith." I don't think "Star Wars" is going away anytime soon. I think that means "The Clone Wars" isn't going away anytime soon. Its obviously a great time to be a "Star Wars" fan and I think it's going to just keep getting better.
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Eric Shirey is the founder and editor of Rondo Award nominated movie news websites MovieGeekFeed.com and TheSpectralRealm.com. His work has been featured on Yahoo! Movies, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! TV, Associated Content from Yahoo!, DC Comics, StarWars.com, KISSOnline.com, and other national entertainment websites. Eric has interviewed and worked with actors like Harrison Ford, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Gerard Butler, Brooke Shields, Brendan Fraser, Michelle Monaghan, Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Gene Simmons, Ashley Tisdale, Selena Gomez and many more.
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