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In Rise of Skywalker, Rey and Ben Solo are more in sync against Palpatine than you could ever know
In her 25-year career as a stunt double and now stunt coordinator, Eunice Huthart has helped embody some of the most memorable genre action sequences in cinematic history. Her work is featured in huge films like Children of Men, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Justice League, and she’s been the personal stunt double for Angelina Jolie since Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
An integral member of the global stunt community, Huthart is also a crucial member and voice in the vanguard of women injecting their perspectives into the action oeuvre.
Most recently, Huthart acted as stunt coordinator for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, executing every aspect of director J.J. Abrams' vision, from Rey’s initial training sequence all the way to her final showdown against Palpatine with Ben Solo. With her support team of stunt professionals and fellow coordinators, Huthart used her decades of experience and creativity to craft set pieces that would make their own memorable impact, but also help cap an entire saga.
Audiences always remember an epic ending, so SYFY WIRE asked Huthart to break down Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Ben Solo’s (Adam Driver) momentous confrontation with clone Palpatine in the Sith chamber on Exegol in the last act of Rise of Skywalker.
From the advance prep with the actors to the grace notes that add emotional depth to the physicality, Huthart takes us through it all ...
PLANNING THE FINAL SHOWDOWN
"[From the start], J.J. had mentioned to me that he wanted the end scene to be so memorable, so I was just working on stuff. At the time, it [involved] Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) but we weren't allowed to even say the word. We would get in so much trouble.
He even had a code name, 'Thirteen,' and you were always supposed to use the code name. But I would forget that. [Laughs]
I'd be chatting with J.J. on a set and I'd be like, 'Oh, J.J., I had this great idea for Palpatine where he comes through that...' And then the whole set got quiet and would be staring at me. And I'd be like, 'Oh, bollocks.'
We were conceptually thinking of stuff way, way, way before we even started rehearsals for the movie. In January 2017, we had about a month of conceptual design. J.J. just left me to my own devices and we would design the moves and some kind of different strategies for the characters. One of the things I wanted to deliver is that Rey and Kylo Ren (Driver) progress with their Jedi powers. So we just accentuated that just a little bit more, which J.J. embraced.
What we did with Daisy is we made her lighter on her feet. We wanted her to be grounded, but we wanted her to be a lot lighter on her feet. I made her watch things like middle-distance runners to see how they move and how they just look so light when they run.
With Adam, he’s got a very unique stance. His hips are really tight, actually. I think it's from being tall for a lot of his life, so he must always be hunched looking down or trying to match people's height. We loosened up his hips so that he would look [even] taller, and [we set] his shoulders back. We were working on back exercises with his personal trainer, Simon Waterson. We were working on getting his stance looking different.
Then one of the other things we did is we made the lightsaber lighter in weight than what they were used to. So in their movements, all of a sudden they were moving this lightsaber very quickly, a lot more [quickly] than what they were in the other two movies. It was those subtle differences we wanted to embrace."
BEN SOLO'S BIG MOMENT
"I kept on at Adam saying, 'When you are Ben, how are we going to do it differently?' He's like, 'You got to give me time, you got to give me time.' In the meantime, we went back [to plan]. Because he was Ben, we threw in a few Easter eggs emulating things that Han Solo (Harrison Ford) did in some of the movies.
I think it was a bit of all of them, really. J.J. wanted a version. Adam wanted a version. I just wanted to pay homage. All I wanted is that when Kylo was Ben, that there was something slightly different about him. Just in his costume as well, it helped it a little bit. It was the undershirt so it looked a bit different and it made him look lighter. I think we did something different with his hair as well. So just that nuance to the eye would have made a change, and then Adam just did his own thing.
We did say, 'How about when Harrison does this and when Harrison did that in that movie, should we put [it] in?' Which he did.
I'd say it was predominantly Adam, really. He really researches his character. He comes in very, very well prepared as an actor, which again just makes my life very easy. I'd say that was all Adam, with me and J.J. maybe adding a little bit of salt and pepper, that's all."
THE DYAD IN TANDEM
"We considered [the dyad] all the time with each of [their] choreography. That was J.J.'s vision from day one.
Even in the very, very first draft of the script, that was always his vision, [that their styles] were always going to be intercut. We knew that. We just considered it when we were doing the choreography.
It was quite an easy process because we fully understood the vision that J.J. wanted. And I always knew the editor is just going to enhance it. You know, the impact of it is going to be so well-told on the screen.
We did [the separate fights] with the doubles. At that point, it was hard getting the actors because filming was so intense for both of them. So we did it with the doubles.
It was a well-worked-up sequence and it was planned that way. The plan worked well."
PALPATINE DRAINING THE DYAD
"I mean that was just all the actors, really. At that point, it was easy for Daisy to be exhausted. It was virtually the last day of filming, as well, so it was easy for Daisy to be very exhausted.
Whenever we choreograph a fight and whenever we're going through the beats, we're always very clear on where the character is and how much energy the character is bringing in. And that's where J.J. is great because he has a great manner in which he explains to the actors exactly what he envisions the character to be, and what they're doing. So it was very little from me, if I'm honest. It was a great compilation of J.J. directing the guys.
For example, while we were rehearsing, we would put Daisy and Adam — but on separate occasions — in a harness and we'd have a push-pull kind of thing. We'd have them fighting against that push-pull and saying, “This is the exhaustion you should be feeling at the end when you drop to your knees and you're done. This is how empty you are at that point.”
And they love it because they just embraced anything that we wanted to bring them so that they knew where they were with the characters. So, we did do R&D work with them, but I have to say, they were so good that they always found it, if that makes sense."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available now on digital and is available on Blu-ray and 4K on March 31, 2020.