Let me make it clear before we get started…London was ridiculously hot the day I met Matthew Wood. I’d already changed shirts once, and gone back into the oven, and here I was about to meet Matthew Wood the voice of General Grievous and successor of sound effects pioneer Ben Burtt. Matthew Wood is to audio, what Filoni is to visual. Star Wars The Next Generation, if you will. But it was too hot for meeting such luminaries. Thirty plus degrees and here’s Matthew Wood, in a jacket looking ready to go out on the town.
How have you kept so cool when it’s so hot up here?
“It’s very hot but I’m just ignoring it.”
I realised he’s using a Jedi mindtrick already…I’ll need to be devious to try and dig out a tasty revelation. I just need him to let one detail slip and the worlds press will beat a path to my door. Lets see how that works out.
Lets start at the beginning Matthew. How did you get involved with Lucasfilm and Skywalker sound.
I was a huge fan of the film when I was five years old in 1977, and that was the first time I saw a movie that I was wondering how they even made it. Reading the Marvel comic of Star Wars, I opened it up at the back page and there’s Alec Guiness sitting there next to this scruffy looking guy in a plaid shirt. I said to my mom, I know who Obi-Wan Kenobi is, but who’s that other guy? She said, that’s George Lucas he made the movie. And that’s how I found out what a director does. It just so happened that Lucasfilm is based about fifteen miles west of where I was. Skywalker Ranch was this sort of mythical place that no-one knew about. I was always trying to find out where was this place, and who works there? I did a little social engineering and found out that there was a video games division and they needed some quality assurance technicians, or games testers. So that was my first job when I was seventeen, and George was very open to people moving around. I didn’t have to stay as a video games tester my whole life.
I was able to work in the sound division when they were coming up to the new way of doing post production sound. George was getting ready to do some more Star Wars movies so he wanted to get the technology ready for it. We did a TV show called the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. That’s where I met Ben Burtt and he became my mentor. He taught me sound design and sound editorial, and I taught him the tech, how to do sound design in the modern age. So we had a great relationship and ended up doing the prequel movies, the Pixar movies, and the new Star Wars with JJ Abrams. I’ve made my way through the ranks there, I love Star Wars and the crew I work with love Star Wars. That’s mainly what I’m doing these days. That’s my path of how I got to work for Lucasfilm and tomorrow it’ll be 28 years I’ve been there.
Congratulations, that’s really impressive.
You provide a lot of the background characters, droids and clones, assorted aliens. How many different characters in total?
That’s a really good question, I’ve actually never gone back to see what it’s been. Various directors along the line have been aware I’m a voice actor, including Dave Filoni the director of Clone Wars. He let us play around, and I’d play a lot of droids or aliens. Something where I could take my performance and blend it with technology and make a weird sounding creature. I don’t know how many I’ve done, but I have a great group of actors that I work with, that I pulled from The Clone Wars, the original Star Wars and the prequels and we do all the background voices for the new movies. We play Stormtroopers and aliens, and P.A. voices (public address – loudspeaker announcements) and Imperials. The whole team loves Star Wars, so there’s a lot of improv. We have the movie up and we go through it and say we can put things here and there. The sound clips are presented to the director and he normally goes for it and likes it. The last movie we just did, Solo, Ron Howard and Kathy, I think they liked all the little homages and call-backs.
Are you also involved in Star Wars Resistance?
Yes, we’re in post production right now, and my team is actively involved in that and we’re getting ready to start production on Episode IX. There’s a whole lot of Star Wars in the pipeline, a lot of excitement. And obviously, as you know, The Clone Wars was announced and we’re going to do more episodes of that. So a lot of the key players, the voice actors are still around and love to do it. Dave Filoni is still running the animation division at Lucasfilm. We have his passion and what he’s brought to the company, we’re so lucky to have him. He was trained directly by George Lucas, and he’s got such passion for Star Wars. To have him come back is really exciting and we’re looking forward to getting those out there for people to see.
We all love Star Wars so much and The Clone Wars is dear to our hearts. That was the show that George Lucas asked me to work on, and said ‘hey we’ll do six episodes and then hand it off to somebody else”. We stayed, and did one hundred plus episodes because we loved it so much. Following Dave Filoni’s career is going to be so interesting. I really have high hopes for him to do live action work, features, or something episodic. He’s just so good with actors and story, and what he’s learned from George is invaluable to Lucasfilm, I hope to see him rise really far.
I agree with Matthew, we all do, Dave Filoni is beloved by the fandom. At this point in the interview I could throw away the notepad and just talk all day about cartoons, George and Dave, and beepy robot noises. I’m here to get a scoop for you though, so I felt it was time to bring out the big guns. The hard hitting uncompromising journalism you came here for.
Please can you give me a nugget? The tiniest sliver for Episode IX, Resistance sound design, character thoughts…anything please??
Unfortunately not, that’s how I remained a twenty eight year employee, because I haven’t done that, so all I can say is that, you know it’s a great team that’s working on Resistance and it’s a really unique look. Everyone’s excited to be working on it and can’t wait to show it off. Episode IX, everyone’s looking forward to continue working on the storyline and see where it’s going to go. I haven’t read the script yet but I can’t wait to do that and we start shooting soon. To have JJ Abrams back to finish Episode IX is great, but unfortunately I can’t share anything other than that and big excitement and really motivated crew members wanting to get to work on this film.
So no comment on the ghost of Anakin sound design, how you want that to be?
Matthew laughed and replied “No, I don’t know anything about this.” Matthew is so cool under pressure, no slip ups, not a single muscle twitched in his face to reveal hidden knowledge of great import. He still wasn’t even sweating at all. How does he do it?
You have mentioned working with Dave Filoni and George Lucas, they’re similar in a lot of ways. But what are the differences between them.
Billions of dollars maybe? No I’m kidding! Their ideas are very similar, their methodologies, and I’d say that Filoni is there every day working with all members of the crew. He’s very motivated, and so was George. I’m trying to think of differences, it’s hard to compare. I’ve worked with Filoni since he started his career more than ten years ago with Lucasfilm. We were all on this fledgling little show called Clone Wars that we couldn’t talk about. We completed an entire season without being able to tell anyone we were working on it.
He’s matured as an artist in those ten years, and I hope to work with him till he stops making movies. I take a very light-hearted approach when I work on the films because they’re entertainment. Working with the directors we’ve had – Gareth Edwards, Ron Howard, Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams and Dave Filoni, they all love Star Wars so much and are all great storytellers. Every one has their own unique take on Star Wars and I’ve loved, as an artist, working with all of them. I hope that comes through in what we present for everybody because its a happy group of people making good entertainment
The final seconds are on the clock as the sports folks say, it’s last ditch effort time…will we see General Grievous in the new Clone Wars episodes?
No comment. I’m working on the new episodes, that’s all I can say.
Matthew smiled at me, so read into that what you will, but I couldn’t crack his defences. I was melting like a dropped ice cream, Matthew however was cucumber cool. Lucasfilm, your secrets are safe for another day.