Interview: Jason Curle — ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

I take a slight departure from the world of Creatures and CFX with my latest interview, by looking at the world of stunts in film and particularly, those by Jason Curle in the latest Star Wars feature, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Jason Curle is a martial artist and professional film ‘stunty’ who – along with his team, walked away with this years SAG Awards Stunt Ensemble trophy for their work on Wonder Woman and Game of Thrones – stunt doubled Alden Ehrenreich during the Ron Howard portion of the shoot.  Solo marks his first time delving, as a performer, into the world of Star Wars; a world he’s been a fan of since his childhood.

RV:  Star Wars!

JC:  (Laughs) Yes!  I grew up with Star Wars films and the Prequels came along at a really good point in my life, while I was in my late teens early 20’s, so those films sit quite well with me.  In fact, I was working at a cinema when The Phantom Menace came out and I got to see it a day before it released. The amount of times I went in to see that Darth Maul fight scene. Seeing Ray Park as Darth Maul in Episode I, that was something else.

RV:  Absolutely, he was incredible in that film.  Let’s talk about your work on the franchises latest offering, Solo:  A Star Wars Story (which at the time of this interview, is the number 1 film in the U.K.)

JC:  I was there for the Ron Howard section of the film.  As production ramped up and started reshoots, they brought me in to double Alden.  Sometimes they need multiple doubles.  I predominately worked on the heist sequence; the actual train part and some of the tunnel sequence.  It was such a fantastic project to be a part of.

RV:  And this may seem like a silly question but, I’m guessing you’ve seen it by now?

JC:  Yes!  I saw it opening weekend and really enjoyed it.  I’m never biased towards any films I’m in.  I always ask myself: is it a good stunt film or not a good stunt film?  That’s the way I look at it and I was really, really happy with it.  Getting to double Han and be with Chewie was a dream come true.

RV:  Can you describe how you felt?

JC:  You get asked what’s it like all the time.  While working on it, I thought it seemed like a fun film.  Everyone was happy and what I saw seemed to lean itself really well to camera with some really nice moments stunt wise.  Obviously, things often change on the editing floor but it was a really fun film during the shoot and obviously, the finished product.

RV:  Can you describe the conditions?  I imagine they’re very different for a stunty compared to somebody from CFX etc.

JC:  There were some tough conditions with some stunt guys in gnarly positions doing some really tough things.  But what might have seemed like a throwaway scene ends up paying off when you see it on screen.  And you walk away really happy with what you’ve done.

RV:  You’re quite an experienced performer, having worked on Wonder Woman, Game of Thrones, Edge of Tomorrow and Kingsman etc.  In general, how do people go up for these types of parts?  How did you land the gig, if you don’t mind my asking?

JC:  In the stunt world you have what’s known as a Stunt Coordinator.  That person will generally have a number of people they already know.  They’ll be on the Stunt register, which includes the person’s measurements, headshots and that sort of thing.  But I’d worked with the coordinator for Solo – Roy Taylor – before and after he took over on the reshoots, he needed a double and I fit the bill:  Alden’s height, build, looks and skill for what’s required.

When I got the call I knew the coordinator was working on Star Wars so I thought, “could be work!”  He asked if I was free and then he dropped the bombshell that I was doubling Alden. I told him that I didn’t care what I was doing in that film as long as I got to spend one day on that set as Han, I could die happy!  I don’t normally get ‘star struck’ on shoots but going on set for solo, I was like a schoolboy again.  I couldn’t wait to get my costume fitted and thought the entire time, “this is going to be so cool.  My first Star Wars credit!”

RV:  So did it seem different to other studio films then?

JC:  For me it did; the practical effects.  Normally you see mo-cap suits and blue / green screen and you imagine the scene and you look forward to it, but here, you’re walking from a physical set to physical set.

RV:  So with that I mind, can you describe that train sequence?  What was the set like in terms of the practical aspects over the CGI?  I imagine you weren’t actually on a double decker type, tilting, speeding train rushing through a mountain scape?

JC:  (Laughs) There’s only so much I can obviously say, so sadly you may have to wait for the BTS [behind the scenes] when the film is on Blu-ray.  Though you’re actually not far off your last statement as there was surprisingly very little CG needed.  The technical teams have pulled off some amazing, fully functional sets.  This made for some interesting logistics in regards to stunts and even just filming!

RV: The Lady Proxima sequence really evoked 80’s American fantasy cinema for me.  It reminded me of The Golden Child, Legend, The Dark Crystal etc.  It could’ve so easily have been captured via mo-cap or CG using the now classic stick and tennis ball technique.  How did you react to seeing Lady Proxima emerge from the water?  What was going through your mind during that sequence?

JC:  The Proxima set and Lady Proxima herself were absolutely phenomenal.  She looked amazing on screen and seeing her in full glory was something else.  Being fully submerged to standing at full height was made even more impressive that she was animated by a talented team of puppeteers!  There’s also a voice actor doing the lines at the same time too, so the entire effect is pretty spectacular.

The nice thing with these practical effects is that you don’t have to wait till post to see the vision. They painstakingly create it all for real.

RV:  I can only imagine.  Can’t wait for the special features on the home release!  There’s obviously a lot more to a stunt performers role than just being flung around or doing death-defying moves.  Are you quite nifty at catching a blaster now?

JC:  Catching it wasn’t the problem.  It’s trying to holster the bloody thing!  It may seem like something simple, but the costume, masks, wind machines, moving sets and thinking about the actual performance, can make the simplest of things annoyingly tricky!

RV:  Again, I can only imagine!  What do you feel was the toughest stunt on the picture, either for you or what you saw from others?

JC:  Any of my colleagues who had to do anything in those winter trooper costumes, they went through some stuff to get some brilliant shots.

Also, any of the fight sequences, as I know how hard the performers all worked on those.  Brad Allen, who you should really look up if you don’t know him, was the 2nd Unit Director and is an incredible fight choreographer.  In fact definitely look him up!  Here’s a link to a fight scene he did with Jackie Chan.

RV:  Let’s talk about one of the other characters in the film now; the Millennium Falcon!  Being Ehrenreich’s double, I’m assuming you spent some time on the Falcon? Again, what were your first reactions, given this is your first Star Wars film.  I imagine the other cast and crew weren’t so fazed?  Or were they?  Given the Falcon is so fresh looking?

JC:  I didn’t spend too much time on the Falcon.  Not as much as I’d have liked to.  Though getting to actually go inside and look around up close was really quite surreal.   Standing outside the full size Falcon was quite bizarre.  Such an iconic ship and it is there, full sized, in all its glory and I could actually touch it!

I’d grown up seeing the original films and playing with the toys, so I think I may have reverted to my childhood a little.  I don’t think I was the only one either.

RV:  Yourself and Ehrenreich are best buds now, right?  Saturday morning, grab a coffee at your local Barstucks level besties, right?

JC:  (Laughs) Well not quite.  Due to it being such a hectic schedule, we were rarely together. I was off doing my sequences on one stage while he’ll being doing another scene at the same time on another.

Of course, we crossed paths and he was a really nice guy, so I really hope he does well in the future…it may lead to more doubling work for me! (Laughs).

You can follow Jason Curle on Instagram and see his work in Solo:  A Star Wars Story, in cinemas now