Behind-the-scenes secrets of filming the latest Star Wars blockbuster have been revealed by a Horsham man who played the part of an Imperial stormtrooper in the movie.
Actor Ali Newport, 32, from Broadbridge Heath, scooped the role in Star Wars:The Force Awakens but was sworn to secrecy before the film was released.
In fact, he revealed, that when he got the role he was not even sure exactly what the part was that he would be playing, or even what the film was in which he would be appearing.
His suspicions were aroused when he realised that the original Star Wars’ film-makers were involved, but it was only when he was lining up with other film ‘extras’ for a wardrobe fitting that the penny dropped.
“People were coming out with smiles on their faces and I knew,” he said. But the whole filming process was cloaked in secrecy. “All the newspapers were flying drones overhead trying to get pictures.”
It meant that Ali and his fellow stormtroopers - between filming and moving between sets - had to take off their helmets and place them in special bags, wear poncho-type capes over their costumes and even cloak their boots.
Ali ended up being in many of the scenes in the final film and was, in fact, in one of the first scenes with John Boyega - ‘Finn’ - running into an imperial carrier. “I was one of the stormtroopers running out,” he said.
He said the film set was like a giant warehouse “and then suddenly you walk into a massive imperial aircraft carrier and you just go ‘whoa!’ It’s huge. It was just amazing.”
Ali, who runs his own painting a decorating business when he’s not acting, was one of 60 stormtroopers who were given three days of training before filming. “We were taught how to march, how to hold our weapons properly and how to run.”
Ali, who holds a shotgun licence, thinks that his experience of shooting was also a help in him getting the part.
But the role was no bed of roses: he spent 14-hour days wearing a leotard beneath his stormtrooper outfit, helmet, gloves and boots during filming at Pinewood Studios in 30-degree summer heat. “They were not the most comfortable costumes and had definite certain restrictions on movement,” he said.
But the experience hasn’t put him off and he’s hoping that he’ll be called again to take part in the next Star Wars when filming begins this summer.
Meanwhile, while he didn’t get to meet any of the film’s ‘big stars’ during filming - it was when Harrison Ford was airlifted to hospital after breaking his leg - he later enjoyed a starry night out when he went to watch the final film in 3D with his mum and dad, Don and Sue Newport, and girlfriend Lois Taylor at Horsham’s Capitol Theatre.
Ali, whose family are all musical, studied at Collyer’s in Horsham and has done radio and television presenting work. He hopes that now he can progress from being a supporting actor to more leading roles.
Apart from Star Wars, he has already appeared in minor roles in a number of other productions including EastEnders, AVIVA commercials, a Winter Olympics commercial and ‘Kill Your Friends’ feature film among others.
Ali spoke out about his experiences after a 23-year-old actor last week falsely claimed he played a stormtrooper in the Star Wars film.
Alex Rolt, from Horsham, later apologised after he fibbed about playing the masked soldier who shouted ‘traitor’ during a fight scene with John Boyega’s character, Finn.