Here’s an interesting little fact about ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars.”
You can put four members of the voice cast and can have and by the time they are done you can have a complete episode. If that isn’t enough, these four can pretty much put on one epic half-hour just on their own.
The first is Dee Bradley Baker, who voices all the clones plus several other characters. Then there’s Corey Burton, who spots in a number of key characters, be it Cad Bane, Count Dooku and Ziro, plus his share of side characters. The third is Tom Kane, who is not only ubiquitous Narrator, but Yoda and his share of side characters.
Just don’t forget Matt Wood. He’s the voices of not only Poggle the Lesser, but all the Droids.
“I voice the Commando Droids and the Super Battle Droids,” Wood counts off, “the more elite squads. I also do the Tactical and Assassin Droids. There’s also Wat Tambor.”
As any fan knows, this also includes the everyday Battle Droids and one other key recurring character, the Jedi killer General Grievous.
Actually, there’s quite a story as to how Wood got the job of Grievous, who has been around since the Genndy Tartakovsky miniseries and “Revenge of the Sith.”
“I started with this company when I was pretty young, 17 years old and right out of high school,” Wood recalls, whose actual title is series supervising sound editor and was trained by the legendary Ben Burtt. “I started by working on video games.
“Acting was something I always liked to do. Whenever I had the chance I would join drama projects in high school and community college. Here and there, there were opportunities right here.
“The voice of General Grievous was based on a character I had previously done for George Lucas,” he adds. “It was also something I knew what he wanted. I actually submitted my audition to him anonymously back in 2005 during ‘Revenge of the Sith.’
“It was a funny situation because that was completely anonymous. That means all George heard was the voice only. Even then we knew Grievous was going to be a computer-generated character. Still, we went through this series of casting packages, not only in California, but also in London and Sydney, Australia. I got to be there with George as he gave out all these directions and seeing him never get quite what he wanted.
“Anyway, the last package had to come through my department. We had to process all those voices because Grievous is a cyborg. We had to make it always sound a bit computer generated. So there was always some kind of processing going on. So as the last package was going through, my partner in the department said ‘Hey! Why don’t you throw one of yours in there?’ He convinced me to do it.”
Then came the big surprise.
“So I put it under an assumed name, and George ended up picking it,” said Wood. “I got a call from our producer, Rick McCallum, saying George had picked someone, and being we did it anonymously, they wanted to know who it was. At first, I couldn’t place the initials they had put to the audition tape to a name, then I realized it was me! So, when I told George, he didn’t seem to mind at all. That’s how I got the part.
“There was a little trepidation. I’ve worked for the company a long time. I remember there was a long walk from the lunch room where I finally told the producer, Rick McCallum. I remember wondering if I had just totally destroyed my career. Then I got the call from George directly and he was very happy and we were going to start recording the next day.”
Mind you, Wood also loves being a sound engineer. Working at Lucasfilm is nirvana for a guy like him.
“Here at Lucasfilm I get to work with all the latest toys,” he notes. “When I got into this company in 1990, it was when we were moving from magnetic film to digital. So I also got to pioneer a lot of the techniques we used here. I also got to learn from a lot of the masters of the craft, like Ben Burtt. He’s such an amazing artist. We have a tremendous relationship.”
And he gets to give those toys a workout with his various voice roles.
“Grievous involves some ring modulation and a little pitch changing,” he said. “Then I just EQ it so his voice sounds like it’s coming through a speaker. It still starts with the acting. I have to project a lot. I also have to make sure that I’m especially articulate because of the processing.
“Now the philosophy with the Droids is they are so massed produced it’s too expensive to put a high powered processor in them. So they do fine as a legion against an army of clones, but put some Jedi in there and they start getting mowed down.
“The Battle Droids are some of my favorites on the show. They have been in scenes that I thought are really hilarious. Also, because they don’t have a mouth, when Dave Filoni and I are down doing the final mix, we can still pitch jokes at the last minute. Whatever we can come up that we think is even funnier. I just go for the most annoying voice I can for those guys. It’s fun when I have a scene with Grievous and the Droids.”
Very soon fans will get to see Wood have a ton of fun. The series will kick off the new year with an episode focusing on Grievous and the Droids.
“Yes. Once again, the Jedi are out to capture Grievous, but he’s definitely laying in wait for them,” says Wood. “There are going to be a lot of Jedi and Grievous one-on-one. That’s always fun. We’re also going to get into Grievous’ reasons for hating the Jedi, where a lot of his anger stems from.”
Now having played Grievous for a number of years has given Wood some definite ideas about the character.
“I see him more with the pompous arrogance of Jack Nicholson in the film ‘A Few Good Men.’ He’s above the law and thinks he can do what he wants. He’ll also display it whenever he can,” says Wood. “I’d see him as frustrated. He feels like he’s not being given the tools to really do his job. He’s been given this legion of Battle Droids that don’t necessarily work the way they’re supposed to.
“He’s actually much better when he goes up against the Jedi. His skills are really for one on one battle. I think you really see it in the episode ‘Lair of Grievous.’
“Also, I think Grievous is starting to get wise that Dooku is playing him. He feels he should be standing shoulder to shoulder with Dooku. Now he’s starting to realize that he’s another pawn, just a more sophisticated pawn. Don’t be surprised if every once and a while he will stray from Dooku’s orders and Dooku’s just a means to an end.”
As for the possibility of Baker, Burton, Kane and Wood doing an entire episode all by themselves, it’s not as far fetched as that might sound. Wood actually admits such sessions are some of his favorites.
“Sometimes the recording sessions get pretty small. There have been entire episodes where there was basically almost nothing but the Clones. I’ve done long sequences of nothing but Grievous and the Droids. That’s fine. I like working with those guys. When it’s just those guys we go through the episode chronologically and do it all at once.”
As for the future, Wood openly admits this year will be the first one where he gets to concentrate solely on Clone Wars. In the past he would have to run around to also work on such movies as “Wall-E” or “There Will Be Blood.” This time that’s not the case.
And what is he doing with this spare time? Why more voice acting.
“It opened up a lot of doors for me,” he said. “I’ve picked up a lot of roles since then.”