J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy pose with R2-D2 builders Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples.
Lucasfilm has brought on a pair of Star Wars fans and enthusiast droid builders to create R2-D2 for a role in Episode VII. Lucasfilm's president, Kathleen Kennedy, spotted builders Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples at an R2-D2 Builders Club conference in Germany over the summer. "[Kennedy] posed for pictures with us, looked at all the droids we’d built and was very complimentary," Steeples tells StarWars.com. "I mentioned that the R2-D2 Builders in the UK were available if required, as a semi-joke." When they were eventually contacted to work on the film, Steeples says, "it was on [Kennedy's] recommendation."
Steeples spent 10 years collecting parts for his first R2-D2
R2-D2 won't be the only droid built by Towersey and Steeples. They'll be in charge of creating a number of functional and accurate astromech droids for the upcoming picture. They have a history of creating accurate replicas of one of Star Wars' most famous droids, with Steeples completing his first R2-D2 in 2007 after 10 years of collecting parts. "We have a good knowledge of Artoo, with a large stock of parts for reference and drawings, plus we know what is involved throughout the whole building process, as well as potential problems we need to avoid," Towersey tells StarWars.com.
The duo of builders isn't completely new to the film business: they've been hired in the past to work on Star Wars-themed commercials for Currys, the UK appliance and electronics retailer. Towersey and Steeples are hoping to outdo not only themselves but also the builders who came before them with their new R2-D2, by creating a new and improved one. "What we do need to do is improve on the mechanics," Towersey tells StarWars.com. "We’re currently in a research and design phase where we're looking at drive options for reliability on all possible terrains."
Towersey and Steeples say that they're excited to have gone from enthusiasts builders participating in the R2-D2 Builders Club to proper crewmembers. "It’s fascinating to see the whole process of filmmaking as Star Wars: Episode VII grows around us," Towersey tells StarWars.com. The film will hit theaters just over two years from now, on December 18th, 2015. Not much about the movie is known yet, but for now, we have at least one confirmed star returning — even if it is through a brand new model.