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Lucas brings nightmares to life in 'Star Wars'

A behind-the-scenes look at how the cast and crew make special effects seem so real.
/ Source: TODAY

The “Star Wars” saga has seen its share of fiendish faces.  But for the last installment, director George Lucas wanted a little more yuck for his buck.

“That's always the challenge. You have 'x' amount of money. And you have 'x' amount of technology. And you're trying to make your dreams come true,” said Lucas.

In this case, nightmares too.  Lucas and his team of editors and designers created the nefarious nemesis General Grievous with a few tricks up his sleeve — all four of them.“The general concept behind General Grievous was that I wanted someone who echoed Darth Vader,” Lucas said. “More machine than man.  In this case, more machine than alien.”

“There are certain ‘wow’ moments in a ‘Star Wars’ movie,” said Glen McIntosh, the sequence supervisor of "Star Wars."  "The big shocker is [General Grievous] has two arms at first, and then he lets Obi-Wan know that he's messin' with the wrong guy.”

At Lucas' own Industrial Light and Magic Company in northern California, breeding binary bad guys is the family business.

“He exists as a three-dimensional model only in the computer and it looks like a completely realistic creature that exists in our world,” said McIntosh, whose gig was to give General Grievous some gusto.  “What it doesn't have right now is a performance.  And that's where I come in.”

“He's made up of wire mesh. It's essentially like manipulating a puppet in three-dimensional space. I have controllers for his hand, for his fingers, for his head, for all the parts of his body,” said McIntosh.

Lucas was unimpressed when he first saw a fight scene with Grievous and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Looking for a better reaction from Obi-Wan, he stole a shot he had filmed with actor Ewan McGregor dueling Hayden Christensen. He cut McGregor out, and inserted him opposite his evil adversary.

“That's what editing is,” said Lucas.  “You know, all editors do this.  They basically cut and paste things in ways that weren't originally intended, but actually get the intended result in the end.”

But Grievous still lacked gravitas.

As the supervising sound editor on "Star Wars" episodes I, II and III, Matthew Wood was already used to making funny noises in his office.  He spent long hours making down-to-earth sounds seem out-of-this-world.  But when he heard that Lucas was struggling to find a voice for his new villain, Wood decided to throw himself into his work. 

“I was sitting here with our dialogue mixer Chris Garbosio, and we were like, you know what, I'm gonna take a crack at it,” said Wood.

“We went through lots and lots of actors to play the part. And, even some animals.  And then, eventually, I found a guy, a voice on a tape. And, I said, ‘This is the guy. This guy's great,’ ” said Lucas.

“So we told George, and George was like, ‘Great. He's an actor and he's a free actor.  That's perfect,’ ” said Wood.

Once he recorded his lines, Wood put them through a synthesizer, and out came General Grievous.

“Last but not least we got the pitch,” he said. “Who would have thought?  I'm such a nice guy too.”

In this “Star Wars” movie the nice guys really do finish last.