When putting the pieces together for his new sci-fi epic, Star Wars director Gareth Edwards was reminded of a terrifying visit he paid to Area 51.
Edwards is best known for directing Rogue One, a Star Wars film that serves as a prequel to the Original Trilogy. If you’ve watched the Star Wars movies in order, you’ll know it well by the absence of an opening crawl. Meanwhile, The Creator, Edwards’ new movie, tells the futuristic story of a war between humans and artificial intelligence. It follows ex-special forces Joshua, who is tasked with tracking down and destroying a civilization-ending weapon from the AI’s side — only to discover that the ‘weapon’ in question is a child.
As Joshua tries to track and kill the Creator, the architect of this weapon, he must head into the USS NOMAD — a destructive space station that orbits Earth and carries out attacks on AI targets. With the NOMAD essentially being The Creator’s version of Star Wars ship, the Death Star, getting it right was key. So, as part of his pursuit to make the best science fiction movie ever, Edwards thought back to some of his own experiences visiting Area 51.
“We were trying to [emulate] a bird of prey, so that when [NOMAD] was in the sky, it looks like a bird. There’s an instinctive reaction that, I think, as mammals. Then the other [inspiration] was an eye, like an all-seeing circle looking down on you,” Edwards told Mashable.
“We tried that, and we tried the bird of prey thing,” he said. “And then at one point, we were like, ‘Let’s just do both!’ When we fuse them together and cut a big negative chunk out of it, it got really interesting,”
In his interview with Mashable, Edwards explained that his reason for making NOMAD this all-seeing “bird of prey” came from his own, very real and terrifying experience of being chased out of Area 51 along with Star Wars concept artist Matt Allsopp.
Describing it as the “freakiest experience of our lives,” Edwards explained how they were “chased, followed by security and night vision, all the way back to Las Vegas. And while we went over one of the mountains, a giant grid pattern got projected down across the mountains in front of us by a laser.”
“I thought I was going to get arrested, I didn’t know what they were doing,” he continued. “Maybe they were playing war games or just messing with us. But we turned into two little girls, and we actually spent the night in the same room because we were worried that we were going to get deported. So I’ve always wanted to put that idea of a projected grid into a film; it felt very scary. And this is my first chance to really do it.”
For more on one of the year’s best movies, check out our The Creator review and The Digital Fix’s own interview with Gareth Edwards. Or, if you want to hear about other upcoming, innovative sci-fi projects, you’ll enjoy our guide on Avatar 3.