Everything there is to know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ most menacing new villain

Star Wars Force Awakens Snoke Maz PhotosImage Source: Disney via EW

The new Star Wars movie introduces a slew of bad guys, including First Order troopers and users of the Dark Side of the Force. There are soldiers like Captain Phasma and General Hux, and there are Force wielders including Kylo Ren (the new Darth Vader) and Supreme Leader Snoke (the ultimate Dark Side master).

There are various theories explaining some of the villains from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but Disney has now released official images of the new supreme villain as well as more details about Snoke. Do not read any further if you haven’t seen Episode VII, however, as there might be spoilers to come.

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Given the way J.J. Abrams imagined the Star Wars VII – the movie is very similar to A New Hope when it comes to overall experience – one theory even suggested that Snoke might be a character we’ve heard of in previous episodes. That way, fans would have a villain that at least sounds familiar, rather than a Dark Side character who appears out of the blue at the helm of the First Order. But while some fans believe Snoke is Darth Plagueis, first mentioned in Episode III, that might not be the case.

Snoke might be a brand new character, one who brings his own complexity to the world of Star Wars. The news comes from Andy Serkis, the brilliant actor who plays/voices him – a remarkable feat for Serkis, who brought to life Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies and Caesar in the modern Planet of the Apes saga.

“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean, talk about secrecy!” the actor told Entertainment Weekly about his big Star Wars role.

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“When we first started working on it, he had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance,” the actor said.

And Snoke turns out to be just Snoke, rather than a legendary Darth lord capable of cheating death. Serkis said the character is aware of the events from earlier movies, but he’s a new addition to the story.

It turns out that Snoke has a complex background himself, and it’s filled with plenty of pain.

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“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful,” Serkis said. “Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”

The actor further explained that the character can only be played through motion capture, something Serkis is a bit of an expert at. “The scale of him, for instance, is one reason,” Serkis said. “He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design — you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”

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Disney’s first official images (above) showing Serkis tease some of the physical traits of the new villain – something you’ve probably noticed in theaters if you’ve seen the movie yourself. Disney also released the first official image of Maz Kanata (below), another new addition to the Star Wars universe. He’s a wise, orange creature who’s a friend of the Force and who is meant to replace a certain tiny green Jedi master.

Maz Kanata is also a character created with help of motion capture. Actress Lupita Nyong’o plays Maz.

“As an actor for films, your eyes are a lot of the way you communicate anyway,” Nyong’o said, referring to Maz’s huge and powerful eyes. “So it was definitely a gift to have that be the means to her magic as a motion-capture character.”

Nyong’o further revealed that it was Serkis who offered her tips on how to play her. “The biggest advice he gave me, that was so important to hold on to, is a motion-capture character you develop the same way as any other. You have to understand who the character is and what makes them who they are,” she told Entertainment Weekly.

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