The following article is an interview (a long interview) with Clone Wars Producer Dave Filoni. They talk recap of season 4, and Filoni fills in a couple details that were left out from the episodes! Also, and this is amazing, he says Next Season Will Be A Big Year For Ahsoka!!!!!! It’ll be focused on her more! SO EXCITED! Well, here’s the interview:
Star Wars: The Clone Wars just ended Season 4, wrapping up an intense year for the series, which saw big changes for characters like Captain Rex and Asajj Ventress, some of the show’s darkest material yet and the debut of some very notable characters – topped off by Darth Maul making his return.
With the season over, I spoke to The Clone Wars’ main creative force (no pun intended), supervising director Dave Filoni, for an in-depth conversation about everything that occurred in Season 4, going through each story arc. Our conversation ended up lasting an hour, as Filoni got into the specifics of how and why certain plot points came to be – and, yes, gave me some very intriguing hints of what the future holds for the show, with Season 5 set to begin this fall.
IGN: Looking back at the beginning of this season, you started with the Mon Calamari arc, and I feel like Riff Tamson was a sign of things to come as far as the increasingly edgy, dark material on the show – both with what Riff did to others and how Riff came to an end, with his head getting blown off.
Filoni: I think that there’s been a kind of rising intensity on the show generally, and it goes for all manner of the villains. I think there’s always this thing with animation where you’re trying to get the broader audience in the United States, kind of just grab onto it and say, “It doesn’t matter that it’s animated. It’s just storytelling.” And that’s a pretty big challenge, you know, that we’re not just kids’ fare. And I think some of that is a bit of a reaction to that. So you have a little more intensity that you might see on a normal TV show. Frankly, you wouldn’t really think much of in a sci-fi, normal television. Because then the shark guy in CG or a costume seems a bit extreme and outlandish. So it’s not, I think in some ways, as vivid and graphic. But in the animated world, it all kind of seems, “Wow, that’s intense.” It’s like killing Roy Fokker in Robotech. It was like, “Oh my gosh! They killed someone. That’s out of control!” So it’s just a way to make you feel like there are real things at stake and that the war is reaching a point where it’s not just this adventure anymore, that it’s really battle lines that have been drawn and people are paying the price. At the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, there are heroes on both sides. It’s often easy to see someone like Riff Tamson as simply the villain, but we don’t know what situation he’s fighting for for the Separatists. Why is he there? We don’t get into that, but I think it’s good to have that more challenging intensity at times.
IGN: In the first four episodes, there was a lot of Gungans…
Filoni: [Laughs] How about that, huh?
IGN: [Laughs] And there was lots of Jar Jar. Did you just think, “If we’re going to do a big Gungans storyline, let’s go all in and see what these guys are about”?
Filoni: There was some pretty big effort by us and George [Lucas] to say that, outside of Jar Jar, the Gungans themselves aren’t a goofy group. They’re not all tripping over their spears and awkwardly running around. Jar Jar’s kind of the anomaly there. They’re actually quite efficient warriors. You know, large, amphibious creatures would be pretty daunting to anyone. Though, I think that made them viable as a combatant, even though Jar Jar often times is at the front of the group.
IGN: In “Shadow Warrior,” you had the unlikely but fascinating battle of the Gungans versus Grievous. It’s in the rain, it’s really intense… Was that a lot of fun to approach that and see how that would play out?
Filoni: Yeah, because that was a huge challenge. I think I’ve said before how I went back and forth on that one with George several times saying, “Wow, if we do this to Grievous, I think that’s going to be a big, big loss for him. His credibility’s going to go down.” You know, we argued about it back and forth several times trying to figure out was that going to be the best move. George was always pretty resolute that it was going to be fine, and he talked with me through how we could achieve it. And I thought, “Well, if we’re going to take him out, then we have to lose something pretty big on the good guys’ side to make the sacrifice seem pretty meaningful.” So we had to take out Tarpals, which is pretty sad actually. He’s a likable Gungan for sure. But I think it also, in a way, lends to Jar Jar’s character that he sees this all go down and that he witnesses it, that he kind of grows from the experience of watching this dramatic battle. Jar Jar’s character, I think we’ve been able to do a lot with him on our show. I think that any fan would say that doing several episodes in a series with Jar Jar Binks wouldn’t be their number one thing that they would think of doing. And it’s more the challenge of having the character and saying, “How can we take him out of just being the fool and developing him in a way where he is a little bit more than that?” Maybe he’s a little bit smarter, maybe he cares about things and maybe he’s affected by the things in a way that makes you actually care about that character. Like anything, I think that Jar Jar, overtime, I think he grows on you. I think he’s part of the Star Wars language — oddly, in some ways.
IGN: Then you had the couple of episodes about the droids. I specifically want to ask you about “Nomad Droids,” which I have described as perhaps the weirdest episode of The Clone Wars.
Filoni: Very bizarre.
IGN:I loved it, but it was very bizarre. I mean just some of the stuff: R2 accidentally smushing the king and having that smear across him the rest of the episode; the Wizard of Oz things; and there’s suddenly robot pit fighting going on. What was the genesis of that episode and going so out there?
Filoni: Well, we know the people love the droids. Really, that is the whole genesis of it. George wanted to do this very fantastical tale where we were almost telling a whole story in one act. One act is Lilliput [from Gulliver’s Travels], one act is Wizard of Oz. It was a big challenge that way, but kind of a fantastic event. I like the idea of having Commander Wolffe at either end of it, being kind of like, “Oh, I can’t believe these guys are here.” And I have to say, when they were written and when we were shooting them, I felt like they were the most extreme, blown-out episodes of the old Droids cartoons that have ever been done. They kind of capture that whimsical sense, and it’s one of the ways that our show is very different. We’re not afraid creatively, and George is obviously the one pushing for it, to kind of make these leaps stylistically and say, “Yeah, but these [episodes] are just going to be fun, and these are going to be weird — and we know they’re weird — but they’re not outside the realm of Star Wars.” If we’re to accept Luke flying down a trench and hearing a voice, and that’s what guides him to reaching his goal and we’re all okay with that… Little miniature people tying someone down in a Lilliputian way is too extreme? Probably not. So it was a look at that kind of a wider Star Wars universe; the kind of magic going on with the tree people under the ground on the planet Aleen and the other weird, bizarre problems that are out there besides just the Clone Wars going on. A big departure to be sure, but I think a fun one for the crew.
And it’s Artoo and Threepio, and we really haven’t had them together a lot on the show. There’s not a lot of opportunity to have them together. So you get a kind of iconic look at them, and it just reminds you of when there were with the Jawas in A New Hope. If that’s all you see of that movie, and you don’t see anything about the Empire or Darth Vader or Stormtroopers, imagine what kind of movie you’d think you’re watching? It’s just Artoo and these Jawas. I mean, that’s, like, far out! So I think there’s that kind of innocence to Star Wars that, in a lot of ways, I almost think has gotten lost, or people just don’t remember it because they’re so focused on the type of intensity that we deliver in other ways. It’s more like The Force Unleashed reality that fans have kind of made up in their imagination overtime that was never really a part of the original trilogy if you go back and look at it. We have to bridge all these different eras of Star Wars, and that’s another big challenge the show’s inherited.
IGN: It was on one hand obviously a nod to the opening of A New Hope, but there was a great sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern thing going with the whole storyline. Especially when they’re walking by a huge lightsaber battle and we don’t even really get the context of what’s happening.
Filoni: Right. I call that my Star Tours moment actually. When I was talking to Steward Lee, the episodic director, I said, “I want this directed like Star Tours.” Like, we’re following the droids right behind them, and they’re like, “No, we’re not going that way!” Because Star Tours always had those awesome moments where you get a glimpse of something, and you go, “Wow! I wonder what that’s — Oh, we’re not going there. The door just shut.” So it’s a fun thing. We’ve often discussed doing an episode where we’re with the clones and we never really see the Jedi, but they just kind of leap over us — lightsabers flashing and then run off ahead and we’re like, “Wow, what was that all about?” It’s a great perspective also. Because when I was a kid, the Jedi were a much bigger mystery than they are now. We never really saw one except Obi-Wan, and he was old. And then we got to meet Yoda, but he was old. And Luke, let’s face it, he was never really the best. I have a notion that anyone on the Council could really kick his butt. He had a lot of heart though, right? He had a lot going for him. And almost it was what he didn’t know that made him really dangerous to the Emperor, it’s just love for his father — but he wasn’t going to take you out with his lightsaber skills, that was for sure. We’ve kind of lost that sensibility of, “Wow, the Jedi are really unique.” But we’ve tried to show them unique in other ways, unique personalities and give them more depth on this show.
IGN: Then the Umbara storyline was a huge clone-centric one. Rex being a focal point of this series — one of the characters that we’re most sort of fascinated by because he was new and his fate is unknown — by the end of this arc we’ve seen a huge change for Rex in that he does finally disobey orders and seems so much more disillusioned. He literally asks, “What’s the point of all this?” Where is Rex going forward? He appeared a little more in this season, but the stories weren’t centered around him. So where’s his head at, do you think, by the end of Umbara?
Filoni: Well, I think that Rex is in one of the range of trooper that has survived a very long time, and it gets into bigger questions, because we know where we’re going with Order 66 and what happens in the end with the Jedi and the clones. I think we’ve really fleshed things out more with the clones in a way, to say that they aren’t as docile and predictable and following every order like the Kaminoans thought. Just because the Kaminoans said they would be that way, it doesn’t mean that when you get them out there on the battlefield that they are going to be that way. And I think something that they really didn’t predict would be the effect of the Jedi on these guys, because the Jedi really insisted on treating them like people and not treating them like numbers. And getting them to really feel their personalities and express their individuality and believe that that was what would make them good soldiers. Even though they’re working for a unified goal, they wanted them to be alive and not just another type of gun running around.
So that was an unpredictable thing, and I think for Rex, we’re watching that evolution in Rex, which makes the question of what will Rex do if Rex makes it to Order 66… You have to couch everything in mystery, but if he does make it to Order 66, is Rex a clone that will pull the trigger? Do all the clones pull the trigger? How does that work anyway? And these are all things that we actually have gotten into in a lot of detail that unfortunately for you, you’ll have to wait a long time just to see it fleshed out. [Laughs] That’s the downside of this. I have to say, like, I’ll tell you that, and it’s very much on my mind these days, right? But you’re going to have to wait several episodes… several episodes! And you’re going to be like, “Why is Filoni telling me about this? That’s so mean! He always says this stuff, and it never even happens in the season!” And I’m like, “Aw, yeah, but we were working on it that day, you just didn’t know, and you didn’t see it.” People used to ask me all the time, “Are we ever going to see water? Are we going to see Mon Calamari?” And I’m like, “Maybe one day!” And meanwhile, I’m looking at the footage, but I can’t really say! All of this is just going to make your readers think, “Oh my gosh, Filoni’s telling us something!”
IGN: Or, “Don’t trust him!”
Filoni: Yeah, you can’t. Let’s face it. You really can’t. Well, I’ve known you for a while now, so I figure you have a good idea of when I’m telling you something that’s really going to happen and when I’m like, “Yeah, I just can’t talk about it.” [laughs]
IGN: You touched upon this, but I have been wondering, will this show be able to answer the question of whether Order 66 is completely genetically within the clones or something or just an order they’re trained to follow. You had that scene in the Umbara arc where Fives says to Rex, “Do you really believe that or is that what you’re engineered to think?” And it makes you think of Order 66. Do you think you’re going to be able to touch upon that, even though your show is set before Revenge of the Sith?
Filoni: Oh, I would say that’s on the table. I wouldn’t look for that answer anytime soon. But especially in the writers meetings we have with George, that type of thinking definitely comes up in regards to the clones. So even though it’s relevant for Revenge of the Sith in that moment, it’s definitely relevant for when we’re talking about the clones and their behavior in regards to Krell. How much are they programmed? How much of it is free will? Or is it a Manchurian Candidate thing where they don’t even know, and then it all goes down? So I would say that all of that’s all on the table, and I think that’s why Rex is such an interesting character. Because a lot of people understand that he’s really headed in that direction, at least meaning that we’re going to be able to answer some of those questions probably through Rex and Rex’s experiences… And let’s face it: He has a cool helmet. That goes a long way for people.
IGN: Before we move on from Umbara, there’s one story point that I was curious about. We see Dogma was arrested at the end, but what did Rex and the other clones tell everyone? What did the Jedi think happened as far as how Krell died?
Filoni: Well, they definitely reported it as fact. It wouldn’t really be in Rex to go over the facts in a way that’s exaggerated. They basically would say that General Krell was a traitor. He was planning on aiding the Separatists and leaving the Republic. He turned on the Jedi Order. “We had arrested him and were trying to make a decision about executing him, because we thought at that point we were going to lose the base. Should we let him get away, which would possibly be damaging in the future? Before I, as the commanding officer, could come to that decision, Dogma made that decision for us.”
He can’t condone his actions through the court system – Basically, Rex can’t legally support it openly. Personally, he probably might agree with the situation. He can’t fault Dogma for what happened, but he can fault him because by the book… Dogma’s off the book. That’s why Dogma gets arrested. It’s something I’ve always held about Mace Windu and the Chancellor. If Mace Windu executes the Chancellor, it’s my belief that Mace gets arrested, even though Palpatine is a Sith Lord. Because what does that mean to anybody in the Republic, really? I mean, there hasn’t been a Sith Lord for a millennia, right? So what does that mean to someone? “Oh, I’m sorry, Mace. You’re upset that someone, this fictitious person that you call a Sith, was running the Republic and making the trains get to the station on time? I don’t understand the problem.” So that’s why I think Mace goes into that room and says, “We’re here to arrest you,” and then when he gets how powerful Palpatine really is he’s like, “I’m going to have to take the fall on this.” And that one decision turns out to be pretty costly.
IGN: Yes it does!
Filoni: Because I think Anakin, in the end, would have been for arresting the Chancellor. And when he sees that Mace is there to execute him, it makes him think the coup is all a real thing. And I think that same truth exists where Krell is concerned for Dogma unfortunately. I think that Rex and them might go and testify on his behalf. But it’ll be interesting, the military and the military power that’s growing in the Republic is an interesting dilemma for both the clones and the Jedi. Guys like Tarkin, they’re gaining more and more control, which is something the Jedi insisted happen at the beginning of the war by saying they’re keepers of the peace, not soldiers. But you have to be careful of what you wish for sometimes I guess.
IGN: With the Zygerrian trilogy, how did it come to be adapted from a previously written comic book? That hadn’t happened before on the show.
Filoni: Yeah, we had a couple open stories which meant we had kind of worked on our allotment of scripts for a season, and we had some open slots that we didn’t have a story treatment for. And George, who reads the comic books every now and again, knows Henry Gilroy from his work on the show. And I think to him, it was just a natural progression. He thought, “Well Henry worked on the show, these are Clone Wars stories. Why don’t we just give Henry a shot at adapting these for actual use on the show?” So the dilemma for me creatively was that Henry had written those stories at the beginning of the Clone War. And now I’ve made this bold promise to the fans that we’re only ever going to move ahead in continuity, and I think that is frankly the right thing to do, personally. I think that people can follow the story as much as they can if it’s more told in a straightforward fashion. I called [Henry] and said, “We really want to do this, but let’s bring Ahsoka up to age. And this is what’s been going on with her.” I mean, Henry knows because he watches the show, so it wasn’t that difficult. But by that point, a lot of people didn’t know, and Henry certainly didn’t at that point, that Ventress had left Dooku –that she had been thrown out. Ventress was in the original story in the comic book and working for the Separatists, so she obviously couldn’t do that, so we had to rearrange that. It was a challenge, but it was also pretty fun. And I think it really clearly illustrates the difference between the EU material and what makes it up on the screen as George wants it. Which is that in the end, the comic books are a great place for ideas and creativity by many, many really talented artists and writers. But when George is gonna bring it into his universe, a lot of times it’s going to need tweaks. Some things are really similar, but they’re not exactly the same, which isn’t that strange when you think about it, when you consider anything that’s adapted from one medium to the other. A lot of things change, whether large or small, all the time.
IGN: In the Zygerrian trilogy, Dooku says his goal is the extermination of the Jedi. And we know Palpatine has that goal, but Dooku’s a little more interesting because he was a Jedi. Do you think we might get a little bit more into what happened there and how he’s gone to such an extreme if he was once a member of this group?
Filoni: We’ll deal with Dooku a little more directly in the future. Maul being in play affects things to a certain extent as you can imagine, because he’s there as a fallen apprentice, and Palpatine now has a current apprentice. It kind of makes for an interesting scenario. I find that Dooku’s a really interesting character because I really don’t know how many people get that he was a Jedi. I think it’s so easy just to make the leap that he’s a villain automatically. And when you really think about it and that he was Qui-Gon’s master, that’s a big bit of information there that’s really interesting. I think that there’s a lot you can do with Dooku, and with Corey Burton playing him, why wouldn’t you want to do it, to be honest?
IGN: With “A Friend in Need,” I just have to say: Quadruple decapitation… One of the coolest things in Season 4.
Filoni: It was emblematic.
IGN: [Laughs] Does that mean in Season 5 we’ll get someone cutting off five heads at once?
Filoni: We’ll give you five in 5. Don’t worry. [Laughs] Not a problem, not a problem. That’s a promise.
IGN: That was just such an awesome moment. Did you think, “Yeah, we’ve just gotta go for this”?
Filoni: It’s always a challenge because I get that the show gets dark for people at times. But in a very real way, the Jedi’s main weapon is a sword, and there’s really no nice way to take someone out when you’re dealing with that as a weapon.
IGN: No. But it’s quick! They didn’t feel a lot of pain.
Filoni: Yeah, I mean it’s clean, right? It cauterizes. I don’t know that the Mandalorians even thought about it – they didn’t even know! I directed that episode, and you get someone in a scenario and it’s the best thing. You know, she’s on her knees, tied up in rope, four guys around her that are still tied to the line. You think, “How would she get out of this?” And I’m like, they’re cocky, they’re probably underestimating her because she looks small. If she can get a hold of her lightsabers and leap up quickly and take the slack out, whatever’s on the rope, that would make them all stumble forward. And if she helicopters her way down, that would be really cool. It’s the kind of thing that I think when you see at your local cineplex, you go, “That’s really cool,” and you don’t think about twice. But you’re sitting at home on a Friday night watching Cartoon Network, you’re like, “Wow! Wasn’t expecting that!” But it’s kind of the fun of it, and I give Cartoon Network a lot of credit. They’re very good to me as far as recognizing that we’re trying to continue the film series on television. And we do a lot of things that I think are more related to films. When you look at the Dooku decapitation or Vader choking guys and throwing them against walls, you don’t think of it much when you’re watching a Star Wars film. But a TV show I think is a lot more challenging. They’re really great at dealing with me and those issues, and I never feel like I’m compromising stuff for the stories. We’re still telling the stories. And I really enjoy working with the Death Watch, and I think having Ahsoka cross paths with them was really fun. I mean, you’ve got jetpacks, you know?
IGN: Oh yeah!
Filoni: One of those shots where they’re just flying towards the camp and we push the camera in past all of them… I’ve dreamed of doing that shot ever since I saw Boba Fett when it came in the mail to me all those years ago. So you have to do that for people, you know? That’s what they want to see. And I thought Jon Favreau was brilliant in that episode too.
IGN: Oh, he was great, him and [Katee] Sackhoff. It was a great combination.
Filoni: Yeah, yeah. Oh, and Katee coming on was a big win. I try to do that. I try to do the crossover for people, and she was really kind to come in and do that. I thought that she did a really, really good job.
IGN: The next storyline, with Obi-Wan undercover, was interesting in that the final episode had a swerve where some very important stuff happened with Anakin at the end – the idea seemingly being that this was Palpatine’s first true attempt to turn Anakin. Was the idea, “Well in Revenge of the Sith, we see it all play out. But what if he tried it already? What if he’d tried, but it didn’t work the first time?”
Filoni: That was really a George idea, as all the initial story jumping-off points are. He said, “This is the first attempt. You’ve seen the second attempt.” Because he’s trying to get a sense of Anakin’s abilities. I think a lot of people just accept the inevitability of Anakin become Palpatine’s apprentice, but it’s not so cut and dry. If Anakin can’t survive the Clone War, if he’s not powerful enough, he’ll die. And he’ll never become Darth Vader. It’s not gonna happen. The Emperor’s interested in power and being the most powerful person. So it was kind of neat when George explained that to really do this story that was ultimately about Anakin, but doing it all through Obi-Wan Kenobi’s point of view and trying to come up with a plan and something that was so layered that the audience doesn’t really even see this test of Anakin coming, because the Jedi don’t see it coming. And Cad Bane has no idea that’s what the purpose of the whole thing is. Even the bounty hunters, to a large extent, get played in the whole thing, because the kidnapping of the Chancellor is such a ruse. It’s never really meant to happen even in the way that Cad Bane thinks it’s going to happen. So “The Box”, everything about it, was just a filtering process to failsafe — because Dooku knows the Jedi are going to be able to kind of suss something out. So the Box is not really meant to figure out which bounty hunters can’t make it through. Because you see the bounty hunters that they need for the mission obviously made it through, like Derrown. But the Box really filtered out Obi-Wan, and it allowed Dooku to understand that that was who was really there, that there was someone, a Jedi, in their midst.
IGN: And by the end of that, you also have a lot of things set up for Revenge of the Sith as far as Anakin mistrusting the Jedi and Mace Windu mistrusting Palpatine.
Filoni: Absolutely. I think it’s an important thing because a lot of people, when they watch the movie, they go, “Well how can he turn his back on these people? They’re like a family to him.” But when you give the greater context of this series, you see, “Well, it might be a family, but the family doesn’t trust him. The family doesn’t believe in him fully. The family often isn’t as much a family as Palpatine is a grandfather.” The scene between Ian Abercrombie [as Palpatine] and Matt Lanter [as Anakin] is just phenomenal, when they’re walking over to the window. It’s probably the most like the prequels our show has ever been. It’s really, still to this day for several of us, just devastating with Ian’s passing. I mean, he is so brilliant as Palpatine. We still have his work well into next season. So it’s great that he’s still alive and well, at least in the Star Wars galaxy.
IGN: Let’s get into the final four episodes, starting with “Massacre.” You had zombie Geonosians in Season 2, but you went even further here.
Filoni: Can’t stop there! Zombie witches, I think they trump zombie Geonosians. These were nasty ones.
IGN: They were! They were creepy. Again, do you have a lot of talks about how far you can go?
Filoni: Oh yeah, and with Katie [Lucas] writing, it’s really fun because she’ll definitely go for it. I have to pull back from there because she’s so good with that stuff – witches and zombies. [Laughs] She even tried to throw in some kind of wolf-like creature in there, but I cut it. It was nice of her, but at that point it was getting a little too Twilight for me. I already put a wolf in, so Embo has a big wolf-dog now. It was intense, and we knew it was going to be. But they’re witches after all. It would have made a great Halloween episode if we could time it better. But it definitely challenged us to come up with our own type of creepy zombies — different than the bug zombies. I mean bug zombies — bugs are bugs, right? But these were a little bit more personal and identifiable, and I thought that their animation when they fought Grievous… You can just sit and watch that scene and watch in the background while Ventress tries to get away all of these zombies attacking Grievous. And he actually comes out on kind of the upside of it, which is good. A lot of people liked that, that he wasn’t easily trumped. I still don’t believe that, at this point — one-to-one — that Grievous could really take out someone like Ventress in a lightsaber fight. I mean, it’s just me, but he doesn’t have the Force. He can’t wield it. I don’t see how he can hope to be as proficient as a Jedi or a Sith could be fighting with a lightsaber, which is why he’s always willing to dirty play at the end of the day.
IGN: Yeah, once things aren’t going so well for him, he quickly cheats or calls in help.
Filoni: Yeah, it’s in the movie. Mace Windu says, “General Grievous will run and hide, as he always does.” He’s an interesting character for all that thought. And obviously, you know, he’s adept at using lightsabers, but I always thought his thing was fear. If you are afraid of the many swirling blades, then you’ll parish staring at them. But if you can just focus through it, you can defeat that opponent — like any video game! Video games are the same. It’s like Bowser in Mario. If you buy into all the axe throwing or fireballs, you’re dead. All you gotta do is jump on the guy and he’s dead. I was just playing Mario 3 last night with a friend, so that’s why the Mario reference is fresh in my mind.
IGN: In “Bounty”, we see Boba Fett again and he’s certainly more badass, but he’s not all badass. Now he’s got a costume, but it’s not the costume. Was there a lot of thought about how much you want to elevate him without going too far?
Filoni: Yeah, I mean we have to be careful. He just can’t become that awesome that fast. You have to grow him into it. And at one point — this is just an interesting factoid that I don’t think I’ve talked about — we actually had him in the actual Boba Fett outfit. But we decided that if we were going to do that that we wouldn’t just have him appear in it. And that this is one time where, when we’re ready to put him in that armor that you see in The Empire Strikes Back, we’re actually going to get into it and say, “This is how he got it. This is how it got made.”
We’re going to forge the Boba Fett that you see in Empire, and that’s really what we’re doing with him. Every time we show him, we build a piece of that character, and those pieces are going to come together. Then he’ll finally be ready to be the guy. You just never seen this part of his life before. But nobody starts out and they’re just the ultimate – especially a gunslinger. There’s always a gunslinger that’s better than you, always. Right now, we know who that is, you know… Cad Bane. He’s the guy.
IGN: Boba certainly showed that he’s adept in a fight in “Bounty”. But he can’t take on someone like Ventress yet, even for a second.
Filoni: No, he’s not ready for that level yet. He’s fighting outside of his level range. He shouldn’t be in that area. He shouldn’t be in that area. But Ventress, it was probably the best moment when she’s like, “No, you have no idea who you are dealing with.” Which is true, he’s totally out of his depth there. But now he’s learned, and now he really hates her. [Laughs]
IGN: What were the conversations like regarding bringing Simon Pegg onto the show as Dengar? He’s a huge, lifelong Star Wars fan, but he’s also been a vocal critic of the prequels.
Filoni: You know, for me, it was just really simple. He’s a Star Wars fan. I know he’s a Star Wars fan. He seems cool. I know several people that know him and say he’s a big fan. So I thought, “Well, let’s get him. He’s done Star Trek, but he’s a Star Wars fan. So let’s get him back into Star Wars.” And I know a lot of people ask, “Oh, but why? He says this and that.” But I’m not going to concern myself with that because I know he’s a fan, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this job it’s that fans are passionate people. Whether you’re a celebrity fan or just a fan going to WonderCon or Comic-Con, you have your opinions. And I’m not going to fault people for that, I’m not going to get into a big dialogue with them. I’ve met tons of fans that feel different ways about all things Star Wars, and I just appreciate the passion because that’s where it all comes from. When we don’t like something in a movie, people take it to a strange level sometimes, but a lot of times the impotence of that is, “I really, really wanted to like this!” That’s being a fan, and I’ve always thought in some ways being a fan gives you the right to say, “I don’t like this.” People think we’re all just, “Oh, I love it! I love everything and dress up like it and go to conventions.” But fandom’s gotten very complex. I think that that’s why forever in the back of Marvel Comics you have a section where people can write in and say, “Hey, what’s up with that?” I mean that was the form when we were kids was you’ve got to write a letter in, and if you get really lucky it gets published and then you’re in that episode forever. [Laughs] How sweet is that? It’s just all part of it. I was glad that he was game to do it. I think that speaks to how much he loves Star Wars right there, and I thought he did a fantastic job.
I wanted somebody who loves the original trilogy to come in and play Dengar, and he was brilliant in doing it. I thought he added a twist on the character that people didn’t really think. He’s a younger Dengar, you know? He was trying, he was trying back then. He hadn’t let it all go yet. [Laughs] He wasn’t just having that filet o’ fish every week like he obviously was in Empire. He was a real, big time bounty hunter back then, and I thought Simon did a great job with it. It was a lot of fun directing him and talking with him about being a fan. It was a great time for me. Everyone that I’ve brought on — Jon Favreau, Katee Sackhoff, Sam Witwer, Clancy Brown — what they all have in common is a passion for this thing that we all have, which is that they first experienced it when they were young, and it filled their mind with adventure and imagination. And that set them on a path to where they are in their career, on one level or another. That’s really what it’s about.
IGN: Last but not least, the final storyline of the season…
Filoni: The big challenge.
IGN: The big challenge! Once you knew you were going to go for it, you were going to bring Darth Maul back, how daunting was that and how many conversations did you have about, “How do we handle this, how do we handle him?”
Filoni: Oh, it was a whole thing. It was the kind of thing in the story meeting with George where we’re like, “Are we really doing this?” Because sometimes George will joke with us, and we’re not sure if he’s serious or not. I think he said, “We’re bringing Darth Maul back,” and we’re all kind of like, “Yeah, that’s funny! Wait a minute. You’re not laughing.” It became clear that we were going to be tasked with this, which I just thought was incredibly ironic because when I saw it in the theater I thought there was no way that guy’s ever coming back. “Good on you, George. You cut him in half this time. There’s no Boba Fett-ing this guy. He’s gone.” And then to be tasked with the responsibility of bringing him back and making it believable was a huge challenge. But we all sat down and worked it out, and we all began to think because the Nightsisters were involved, especially Mother Talzin, there was a real opportunity to make this believable in a way that was more mythical, more spiritual, more magical than anything scientific, which would all point to no — there’s no way this can come back.
But in the same way that you can accept Obi-Wan Kenobi having a personality and living after his destruction on the Death Star, maybe you can believe that hatred works the opposite way but it all works in the physical realm. So there were a lot of discussions we got into to try and bring this character back. And we had several sources. One was a Visionaries comic book where we saw him running around with robot legs. So, we liked that imagery. And again, that’s something that the EU spawned, and we didn’t just throw it out and do our own thing. We said, “Well, let’s look at that.” And George liked to look at that, we showed it to him. He said, “Well, let’s go with that.” So it is kind of an homage in that way. Because it tends to work out here and there in different ways.
And I think Savage gave us an opportunity with Clancy, to have this guy on this journey meeting this kind of morally little snake guy. It’s like our own little Gollum, our little Shelob’s Lair if you will. The spider-legged thing was all George. I have to give credit where it’s due. We were going to have Darth Maul in different states of decay when we found him. I was drawing some weird, trash-looking legs on Maul that didn’t really have much shape, and then George said, “Let’s make it like a spider. Like his mind couldn’t seize on what he was or any one thing, it just forms in this way.” And to really make it all happen, you need a hardcore actor who’s going to go all the way, and that was Sam Witwer no doubt. He is a lunatic, especially in that first part, and he knows his Star Wars.
IGN: He does. I had a long conversation with him on the set of Smallville that became very Star Wars oriented.
Filoni: There’s no such thing as a short conversation with Sam Witwer. You get an answer, you can get a drink, have a sandwich, and he’s just finishing his first sentence. That’s why you love him though.
IGN: The one thing you don’t go into is the specifics of physically how he got from Naboo to where he is. Did you discuss that? I know that would be some pretty big exposition…
Filoni: It sure would! I have actually [thought about it]. Yeah, I’ve gotten into it quite a bit, especially because when you bring a character back like that you have a lot of the novelists and comic book writers chomping at the bit to add their bit to it. So there’s been an effort of late to try and keep those things all informed, because what we’re working on comes from George. So a lot of them are like, “We would like to know what’s kind of going on in this discussion so we’re not just writing off in the wind here anymore.” So if it’s anything that gets close to Clone Wars anymore in any way, usually there are people emailing me discussions, and I say, “Well, this is happening,” and, “That scene’s plausible.” I’ll even take stuff and ask George, “Hey George, would this work out? It’s not going to be in the show, but just to keep this all together.” There’s a very coordinated effort going on to keep things moving forward all together in the right way. So it did come up, how does he get there, and why don’t the Jedi find him or his body, or what’s going on with that? And that’s been discussed in some detail actually.
IGN: And might we see those answers in some other form at some point?
Filoni: I would say it’s possible. I mean, you know the EU. If there’s one minute of time left in the Star Wars galaxy, they’ll fill it in. I’m still waiting for the Ben Quadrinaros one-off book. What happens when that pod crashes? Did he lose all his money, is he a deadbeat now, is he stuck on Tatooine? Is he working in a shop there, meets a lady? I don’t know.
IGN: Savage doesn’t participate, as far as we see, in the slaughter of those people. He’s been corrupted by Talzin and Dooku, but would he go along with that? What does he think of that – of Maul’s plan basically being, “I’m going to kill a bunch of innocent people, and that’ll bring Obi-Wan here”?
Filoni: Well, I hate to say it, and it’s off-camera, but I think you have to assume that Savage goes along with it. He understands his brother’s need for revenge. He’s such a twisted, contorted character. He’s such a Frankenstein in our world. There was an original version where, in the hologram, Savage was standing with Maul when they communicate with the Jedi Temple, but I said, “This really doesn’t work if they’re both there.” Because [the Jedi] are not aware of the connection between them. So if he’s not there, it’s actually more believable that they could surprise Obi-Wan and actually take him out. That was a very difficult thing to set up to make you believe that they could take out Obi-Wan. And then also, I have to say that, you know, really working out that the Jedi would send one guy after him… You know, I had to set up the plausibility that, I mean, why would it be Darth Maul? The Jedi, they seem pretty skeptical, even though Yoda’s pretty sure in telling Obi-Wan that he’s coming back. But Yoda somehow has, through the Force, an echo that if he lets Obi-Wan go by himself it means that Obi-Wan’s going to have to rely on the help of this person that otherwise might not choose to step more towards the light. So always with Yoda, there’s kind of a bigger thing going on, and there is an example of a bigger thing going on. But it is one of those things where if I was in charge, I’d probably say, “Everybody who’s not busy, we’re going over there to get this guy, whoever he is.” But a lot of stories often don’t work out that way, for whatever reason. But I didn’t want to say, “Well everybody’s too busy.” Really? “Everyone’s too busy?”
IGN: “Someone’s over in the cafeteria. I’ll go get them.”
Filoni: Yeah, right? “Jocasta Nu, this is your big chance!” [Laughs] “You’ve been waiting for this, girl!”
IGN: She has a triple-sided lightsaber!
Filoni: “Yeah, we’re gonna see if you can pull this off with your library card.”
IGN: As exciting as it was to see Darth Maul, Ventress teaming with Obi-Wan was kind of the coolest part of it all to me, in that it was something that your whole series — certainly the last two seasons — have felt like it was aiming towards. Was it great to earn that moment – these two fighting alongside each other against these two awesome villains?
Filoni: Yeah, it was one of my favorite moments because I think when you think back to The Clone Wars movie and what you knew about Ventress before the series, you’re like, “No way would that ever happen.” You just don’t see that ever happening, and I think that that’s where you see some really good final character development going on with someone on our show. And I think we’ve been working towards that for years. And really, George saying that she’s going to be kicked out by Dooku was kind of the first steps of that. And now we’ve been able to develop her in a way where she’s not really a good guy, but she’s not as much a bad guy. You just don’t know what she’s going to do, which makes her a pretty compelling character. Nika [Futterman] has always been able to kind of infuse Ventress with a lot of interest, a lot of tongue in cheek — I don’t want to say “comedy” but definitely, she’s a deceptive character, she’s kind of a sexual character. She can be a funny character, and the banter between her and James Arnold Taylor has always been really good. So, I knew when we had that scene, you know, I added a couple of really bad jokes in there just to let them play off of it. And I said, “Here’s some ideas. You can riff whatever you want to riff too.” But the idea is that these two longtime opponents now have no choice but to mutually help each other. And it made for what I feel is some of the strongest Star Wars-esque dialogue, where they’re bantering back and forth. “You’re suggesting we run?” “I learned from you.” I think that’s a great moment, and you need the acting to pull it off and the animation. I thought it came off pretty good.
IGN: Your doesn’t typically pick up storylines right after what we just saw. I know you can’t probably say how quickly it’ll be before we learn this, but the last time we saw Ventress, she and Obi-Wan were fleeing together. So will we find out what she did after that?
Filoni:That has been discussed, the awkward car ride to wherever they go together. I actually discussed that with a writer who’s doing some material in a different format, so we’ll see if it turns up there. But I talked about what their motivations would be and what Obi-Wan would think. It definitely doesn’t dispel the fact that she’s a war criminal. So there’d be some pretty strong feelings about that. But Obi-Wan has kind of a decision to make on what to do now that they’re together like that. We won’t pick up with Ventress right after that moment for sure. That moment will pass, and it’s probably not as thrilling as people would like to think. They just go to Starbucks and talk it out. But yeah, it definitely sets up the future, and where we go with it in Season 5, with Ventress, I think it’s even more interesting. With Season 5, there’s a lot more at stake I think every time our characters are on screen. It’s some of our best material to date. And some really great four-part arcs are coming up.
IGN: With Maul, I felt it was a bit like you approached Boba Fett. Maul got rebuilt, he got back his sanity and focus – but he still wasn’t quite Phantom Menace Maul, flipping all over the place – and he didn’t have a double-sided lightsaber. Was that something else where you thought, “He can’t just instantly be that badass again”?
Filoni: Definitely. In my opinion, he did really well for being out of the business for about ten years. To come back in and take down Obi-Wan, leaping around on velociraptor legs, he did pretty good. It’s an interesting dilemma having him on these weird legs, because he can’t instantly fight in the style that you remember Maul fighting in. So Sam really had to bring it through voice and through expression of animation in the face. But there’s some twists coming up for Maul, that’s for sure. He’s far more cunning and well-trained in how to be a Sith than people think. He’s not just all about being an enforcer. He got a good education from his master, and we’re going to put that into effect next season for sure.
IGN: As you mentioned, you’ve got Maul back while Dooku is now the new apprentice. Plus, we know Palpatine has his eyes on another potential apprentice!
Filoni: Right. Too many girlfriends for Palpatine.
IGN: [Laughs] So will you have some fun playing off those dynamics of, as you say, “too many girlfriends?”
Filoni: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s what it feels like, right? It’s a problem of riches for Palpatine, I suppose. But one wonders what he’ll think of Maul. You have to ask yourself, “Does he even know yet that Maul is back? Can he sense that?” These are some of the things that we’ll get more into. Palpatine is able to take, as Sidious, a more and more active role in the series as we go forward, which is something that you’re going to be able to see next season in quite a big way actually.
IGN: Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t just give you the general “Anything else you can tease about Season 5?” question.
Filoni: I think that it’s definitely — it’s such a cliche answer from me — but it is the best stuff we’ve done. I think that the character development that you saw this season is going to pay off next season, more than it has in any other season. We introduce several ideas about Ahsoka and where she’s going. Ahsoka has a huge year next year. And I think people who have been loyal to the show and have watched it since the beginning and watched this kid grow up, there are definitely things that are going to happen to her next year that change her forever as a character, relating to the other characters especially. So that’s going to be a big deal. Lux Bonteri will come back. We’ll bring the Death Watch back. Katee Sackhoff’s character Bo-Katan comes back and has a lot more to do. Maul, obviously, will be back. It was a rough second half of the season for Obi-Wan Kenobi…
IGN: He got beat up a lot, man!
Filoni: He got beat up, yeah. It’s because James Arnold Taylor kept going, “There’s not enough Kenobi in the beginning.” Actually, no. We had animated that all! But the smackdown came. I kept telling everybody, “You guys asked for Kenobi. It’s coming. He’s going to be seeing double a lot.”
IGN: Poor guy.
Filoni: And to be honest, it gets worse for him. I mean Maul is just a thorn in his side. But it’s good because it raises the drama. I’ll tell you that Hondo Ohnaka comes back, and I like Hondo very much, played by Jim Cummings. He’s probably one of our favorite characters that we created specifically for the show. George really loved Hondo, and there’s some really great improvisation work by Jim. We always love having him around, and he shows up quite a bit. So there’s a lot going on. Artoo has, I think, his best moment of the show coming up in that season. Everybody loves Artoo. But no more pixie dust stuff for Artoo. He’s on a real mission for a change. You’ll get to see that. This is pretty good spoiler stuff here!
IGN: Yes indeed!
Filoni: I’ve tried to be better. You know, it’s the worst when you read these things, and later the fans are like, “Aw, Filoni didn’t say anything again! He didn’t tell us anything!” They’ll probably say that. They’re never happy enough. The second that Season 4 was over, all these new revelations in one season — Maul comes back, all that stuff — and the second it’s over, “Where is the trailer for Season 5!?” You just can’t get enough! But I love it. Hey, at least they want it, right? At least they’re not like, “Whew, we barely made it through that. They totally jumped the Tamson when they brought Maul back.” So at least there’s that, and I keep promising, and I will deliver, that Star Wars Celebration VI — if you can get down for that — that’s going to be a Clone Wars showcase for me. I feel we gain nothing by holding back at that point. We’re going to show you some intense stuff. We did last time. And this time I really want to go even more all out because I think what was great about that experience was the word of mouth from fans that there was this character Savage Opress who was going to come on the show was great. The fans have proved it: we benefit, I think, from showing them really cool stuff at the convention, and I think enough people are on board that I can show you some really cool stuff at that convention. If I see you there or at Comic-Con, I’ll do my best to have our best there.
~originally published at http://m.au.ign.com/articles/1221285