Neal Scanlan admits he wasterrified whendirector Rian Johnsontasked him withcreating anew bird-like creaturecalled porgsfor “Star Wars:The Last Jedi.”
The creatures and droids supervisor knewhe was walking a perilous line creatively.
“You gotoo cute, and you disengage some people. Don’t go cute enough, you’re going to exclude younger viewers,” says Scanlan. “Creatingsomething that hits the mark, that was a harrowing experience. I thought, ‘I’m going to be getting hate mail.’ ”
But there’s been no deluge ofhostile lettersas “The Last Jedi” arrives in theaters this week. The wide-eyed porgs are the movie’s undisputed breakout stars.
Here’s what you shouldknow about the winged critters:
There are SO MANY
The porgs are everywhere on Luke Skywalker’s hideaway planet Ahch-To. We’ve seen the screaming porg on the Millennium Falcon. But there are “murders” of porgs (the term for groups), along with porglets (baby porgs). Male porgs are slightly tallerthanfemale porgs,
“They are slightly irritating, in an endearing way, in that they are forever a presence,”Scanlan says. “They are everywhere.”
They have bird qualities
The mischievous creatures were inspired by Johnson’s visit to the puffin-filled Irish island of Skellig Michael. They can fly, though “it’s more like a flutter, it’s not elegant,”says Scanlan. They are distracted easily by shiny objects; they don’tspeak, but make frequent sounds, especially fearful cries.
Not everyone is a fan
The porgs have their vocal critics online, and there were even anti-porg factions onThe Last Jediset.
“They’re nasty, to be honest,” says John Boyega, who plays Finn. “There were really tiny ones all bunched together in a holein the Falcon and they just looked likea bunch of cockroaches.”
But Daisy Ridley (Rey) says she has an“adorable”toy porg, and new cast memberKellyMarie Tran (Rose Tico) went full porg for Halloween. “I even made my own costume. My porg love goes deep,” Trans says.
Even GwendolineChristie (evil Captain Phasma) managesa soft spot for the critters. “What’s everyone’s problem?” she asks. “I do not understand how people can possibly hate the porgs.”
They work Wookiee magic
“The Last Jedi”features one porg who works his way into Chewbacca’s hairy heart. The creature was designed with Wookiee-like qualities in its face and coat to enhance that“special friendship,” says Scanlan.
Theinterspecies kinship is real. “The little critter finds a way into Chewie’s emotional place in a way we haven’t seen much before,” Scanlan says. “Porgs can push those buttons.”
Complicated sceneswere aided by computer-generated imagery createdby Industrial Light &Magic. But porgs arepredominantlypuppet creations workedon set, interacting with the actors.
The porgs requiredgrooming by a team of four handlers, who did everything from glistening their wide eyes to plumping feathers.
“During last checks [before shooting], there would be people making sure Daisy Ridley’s hair and makeup were perfect. Then, look to the left, and there’s a porg getting the same treatment,” says Scanlan.“Theporgswere just short of having their own trailers.”
Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY