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.