"Star Wars Episode 7" is confirmed to see the return of R2-D2, after the familiar droid was shown in a Twitter picture. The team who built the astromech droid is also revealed. Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, "Star Wars" fans and members of the worldwide R2-D2 Builders Club, are hired for the job on the recommendation of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
"It all started when Kathleen Kennedy toured the R2-D2 Builders area at Celebration Europe this past summer in Germany," says Steeples. "She posed for pictures with us, looked at all the droids we'd built and was very complimentary. I mentioned that the R2-D2 Builders in the U.K. were available if required, as a semi-joke. When I was contacted to work on the film by [executive producer] Jason McGatlin, it was on her recommendation."
Keeping an astromech droid in working condition throughout the production, which is in full swing at Pinewood Studios outside London, is a challenge, as it's filled with gears, lights, and electronics. Steeples and Towersey were chosen because of their expertise and experience, both having worked on "Star Wars" themed commercials for the U.K. appliances megastore Curry's.
But they are not just re-creating a fully functioning, film-accurate astromech droids, they want to build a better R2-D2. "What we do need to do is improve on the mechanics," says Towersey. "We're currently in a research and design phase where we're looking at drive options for reliability on all possible terrains, whether it be a one-motor-does-all, or a system which is easily adjusted depending on terrain. We have a few mocked up ideas which we hope to road test very soon."
The first installment of J.J. Abrams' three-part films is slated to hit theaters across the U.S. on December 18, 2015. Casting to look for the lead roles is still underway. The first open audition kicked off in Bristol, U.K. It was scheduled to begin at 11 A.M. but many hopefuls got turned away as the queue was already closed by 9 A.M.
Online audition was initially not an option, but now it's opened due to the overwhelming response. Applicants are advised to submit their videos on Cast It Talent's website before December 3.