Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s big baddie, Supreme Leader Snoke, was revealed in the film to be a very real, very flesh-and-blood alien presence in charge of the First Order, inflicting dread and dark influence over Kylo Ren and Rey. Now, thanks to a behind-the-scenes clip from the film’s home-video release, we can see how actor Andy Serkis (of Gollum, Planet of the Apes, and now Black Panther fame) brought the mysterious baddie to motion-captured life.
Watch below as Serkis, clad in high-tech apparel and delivering every nuanced expression, sneers as supremely as a Star Wars villain deserves:
What’s most surprising here is how much of Snoke grows from Serkis. The main traits we’ve come to associate with the character — down to his creepy, self-assured laugh — all originate from the actor himself, no VFX needed.
“I take my cues from very much his bone structure, his physiognomy, his gimletty eyes," Serkis told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s all drawn from trying to breathe life into a character by being inspired by the look of it too, by the mask that you’re playing.”
He keeps a steady gaze on Daisy Ridley as she flies through the air toward him, and discards a lightsaber like it’s beneath him — everything cool about Snoke, besides the very base of his desiccated appearance, is seen in this motion-capture performance.
Still, some of the prop work had to be rendered by VFX. “You have to be able to use your imagination to make your body do those kinds of things, to imagine that you’re catching a lightsaber. What is the weight of it, how does it feel, what’s the shape of it," Serkis said. "You have to be quite precise in all of those things, and it sometimes takes a few takes to get it right.”
This commitment to detail is why Serkis basically has a monopoly on the mo-cap business and why Snoke truly works as a CGI villain in a film full of practical effects.
To watch this and more special features, you’ll have to wait until Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released on digital on March 13 or Blu-ray on March 27.