Sometimes life can be a random series of events leading to fortuitous or not-so-fortuitious moments. For Ben Schwartz, getting to voice BB-8 -- albeit briefly -- in the Star Wars universe seems like kind of a bit of both. The actor known for Sonic the Hedgehog, Parks and Rec and the recent Disney+ film Flora & Ulysses does actually have a credit in the Star Wars universe, and told us his shot came after Harrison Ford infamously injured himself on set.
Like many an actor or actress who finds out that he or she will be in the Star Wars universe, Ben Schwartz revealed his excitement and glee over getting to help voice BB-8 early on as the latest trilogy of movies was coming together. Plus, he also revealed how Harrison Ford’s infamous injury on the set of The Force Awakens led to it happening. On a set visit for the Disney+’s Flora & Ulysses, Schwartz recalled the tale and it was one filled with ups and downs, beginning with the movie having to shut down production for a couple of weeks.
I had lines of dialogue; we wrote lines... So J.J. [Abrams] called me, Harrison Ford had hurt his foot, remember when they stopped for a week? He comes back home, says, ‘Hey I’m building this there’s a droid in this. We want him to have a personality. We want him to know when he’s happy. When he’s laughing, when he’s sad. Would you want to be that guy?’ I was like, ‘What, are you crazy?!’ I remember being outside a casting office.. Being on the sidewalk while he’s telling me that; I was almost skipping! I couldn’t believe it. He goes, ‘Will you come in and look at the scenes we’ve shot already?’ Nobody’s seen anything yet. It’s just dailies! I was like [playing it cool], ‘Yeah, sure I’ll come in.’
Now, Harrison Ford injuring himself on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a big deal at the time and the story rolled around, likely due to the fact the actor he injured himself when the Millennium Falcon slammed down on his leg. Production on the Disney-owned property was halted for two weeks and J.J. Abrams has spoken in the past about some of the changes the script needed that were only able to happen after Ford hurt himself (thankfully he was fine).
We knew previously this timeframe was when Rey and Finn’s relationship was reworked, as J.J. Abrams himself admitted a few short years ago. Now, Ben Schwartz has explained how his work with BB-8 entered the picture during this timeframe as well.
Ben Schwartz has spoken about his work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the past, noting that actual lines of dialogue were written, but he also shared a few more details about all of the work that went in before Bill Hader famously took over and then ultimately the final product was able to be created.
We would write lines: What he thinks BB-8 would be talking, what would BB-8 be saying to Rey? So we wrote lines of dialogue and we recorded them, me talking like BB-8. And then I would improvise lines, stuff like that. Then we’d send them to Industrial Light and Magic and it came back and sounded like my voice too much. It sounded like a robot. So, then they said, now do it in like beeps and boops, we got a synthesizer. Then I got a movie that filmed in Atlanta and then Bill Hader took over for me. Then, I think at the end J.J. just got an app on his iPhone.
So did Star Wars: The Force Awakens and subsequent movies use Ben Schwartz’s work? In a way, as the actor also revealed to us what he knows about the final BB-8 product.
What they did was they took all my lines and the editors told me they used my lines to learn when to edit back and forth and how to feel what the droid is saying. So they said it was incredibly helpful for 7, which to me is to great… and in the end I get a credit in a Star Wars movie.
At the end of the day, Ben Schwartz also told us he got to putz around on set a day John Williams was there and we also know that he was able to play a Stormtrooper for a scene as well. So, it sounds like he really did make the most of the experience even if the whole BB-8 plan didn’t work out exactly as expected. It’s certainly an example of making blue milk out of lemons if I’ve ever seen one.
Catch him in Flora & Ulysses on Disney+ now.