From EU to Episode II: Aayla Secura

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June 18, 2002

No Small Parts

By Pablo Hidalgo

The old actor's maxim speaks of there being no small parts, and that is very true for Star Wars. The visual tapestry is so dense with meticulously planned detail that even the most briefly glimpsed characters develop a following. Fans venerate characters like IG-88, Snaggletooth, and Aurra Sing even though they don't have a word of dialogue, or even a full minute of screen time. Their designs are so intriguing that they demand extra attention. Sometimes, this is supplemented through licensed products, like action figures or spin-off fiction, which allow collectors and readers to learn more about said characters.

With Aayla Secura, the process had an interesting twist. She was already an existing heroine, with a built-in audience of comic book readers who understood her origins before she ever made it onto the screen. After seeing artist Jon Foster's original cover art for issue #33 of the ongoing Star Wars series, Writer/Director George Lucas saw star potential. Aayla Secura, a blue-skinned Padawan, embodied Jedi strength and Twi'lek femininity in an eye-catching combination of beauty and power. It was the perfect ingredient for the action sequence recipe Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic were constructing, layer-by-layer.

Episode II was well into post-production when the decision to add Aayla was made, so the casting and costuming of this particular Jedi happened mostly at ILM. Stepping into Aayla's droid-kicking boots was Amy Allen, a Production Assistant working at ILM. It was a fortuitous delay in an unrelated film that saw her entrance into Episode II. "I got to do a lot of hands-on work and really get involved with all the shows that were going on at the time," recounts Allen. "This included A.I., Jurassic Park III, Pearl Harbor, and all the really big shows. I was on Gangs of New York for quite a long time and then it went on hiatus because the movie release date was postponed. That's how I ended up working on a stage unit for Star Wars, which was a blessing in disguise."

A graduate from San Francisco State University, Allen studied film and sought work in the Bay Area, landing a job at Industrial Light & Magic. Though her work was primarily behind-the-scenes, her role as Aayla was actually not the first blue Twi'lek Allen performed. "I had been a Twi'lek for the Episode I DVD," she says. In a modification to The Phantom Menace for the DVD release, Senator Orn Free Taa's formerly human-filled Senate pod was instead populated with Twi'leks. "George [Lucas] decided, last minute, to replace that shot. So, I was actually a blue Twi'lek probably two months after I started at ILM."

Allen underwent makeup and a headdress fitting, and was dressed in a Senatorial aide gown designed for Episode II. She was shot against greenscreen, supervised by John Knoll, one of the Visual Effects Supervisors for both Episodes I and II. "I was interested in being in front of the camera, but it's nothing that I actively pursued," she admits. "But when an opportunity arises, one must take it!" Little did she expect what was to come.

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Keywords: Behind-the-Scenes, Actors, Dark Horse, ILM, Costumes, Comics

Filed under: The Movies, Episode II

Databank: Secura, Aayla
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