Astromech droids like R2-D2 are a big part of the Star War universe, and fans love the spunky little buggers. The seventh installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens knows this well, and though it sees R2 primarily in what amounts to a robo-coma, it introduces us to anther feisty new fan favorite, the adorable BB-8. While some characters in-world are fluent in droid, most of us in the theater are not, but as it turns out, BB-8 is actually saying words.
We knew that BB-8 was communicating when he burbles on at people in a sequence of blips and boops, but there was actual dialogue written and recorded to help the actors. Ben Schwartz, who, along with Bill Hader, helped voice the one-of-a-kind ball droid, explained the process during a Reddit AMA. He said:
We wrote real dialogue for him, there’s recordings of me over scenes. J.J. Abrams would show me scenes and I would say real dialogue as BB-8 in response to whatever Rey or people were saying. And the goal was to give that to Lucasfilm, and they would turn it into beeps and boops. … I was told by the editors that all the dialogue that I did for the film was used while they edited. So if Rey was having a scene with BB-8, they would edit with my dialogue in there to help know when to cut to and back and go to the wide and stuff.
It makes a great deal of sense that there was dialogue. When BB-8 speaks, he’s obviously attempting to communicate something very specific that relates to what’s going on in a particular moment—he’s not just spouting gibberish or random swear words, except maybe when he’s bouncing around the Millennium Falcon.
Okay, the fact that there was specific dialogue is interesting. That approach must have made it much easier for the actors on the other side. It’s one thing to know, in a general sense, what BB-8 is trying to tell you, but having actual words and sentences to react to must make the process flow in a much more natural fashion. I’m curious if this is a new strategy or something that has been employed on previous Star Wars movies.
Check out the rest of what Ben Schwartz has to say about creating BB-8’s voice in Star Wars: The Force Awakens below.
You probably already know this, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made a ton of money, surpassing the $2 billion mark. That’s nuts. But what’s even crazier is that we don’t even have to wait all that long for more adventures in that far, far away galaxy, as Star Wars: Rogue One opens on December 16, and Star Wars: Episode VIII hits a year after that, on December 15, 2017.