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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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Dominic West plays the Zodangan warlord Sab Than in "John Carter." (photo by Frank Connor | Disney)
"John Carter" Week, part 4: Dominic West's George Lucas experience

This Friday, the Disney sci-fi blockbuster "John Carter" -- the most expensive movie ever filmed extensively in Utah -- opens in theaters around the country. All this week, The Cricket will bring you tidbits from the cast and filmmakers who made "John Carter."

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"John Carter" isn't the first time Dominic West has spent time in front of a green screen.

Early in his career, West -- who plays the villain in "John Carter," the warlord Sab Than -- had a one-line role in "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace."

"I was desperate to meet George Lucas," West said at a press event last month outside Phoenix.

West, the British actor best known for roles in "The Wire," "Chicago" and "300," took two roles in "The Phantom Menace" -- a palace guard (which made it into the film) and a Naboo officer (which was cut).

"The only thing I asked him was, 'What sort of accent do you want? Do you want American?'," West said. "And he said, 'Of course.'"

West had to deliver his only line -- "The boy is here to see you, your highness" -- into his lapel, as if speaking into a microphone. "Lucas said, 'Of course, they wouldn't need to speak into any microphone because there'd be a little chip in your chin. But we can't see that on screen.' I thought, 'Oh my God, a glimpse into the future from George Lucas.' And, sure enough, a year later, everyone's walking down the street talking to themselves on their hands-free sets," he said.

Overall, the experience was a bit of a disappointment. "George Lucas wasn't as interesting as I thought he might be," he said.

But the memory did help him on "John Carter."

"I was prepared for the green-screen work in 'John Carter,' because of being on 'Star Wars' and seeing sets that are only 10-foot high and having to imagine the rest of it," West said.

When acting against a green screen, having to imagine seeing things that will be added in post-production, West said, "you can so easily look like a twit.…

"I'm haunted by Patrick Swayze's shot in 'Ghost,' where he's looking at this ghost or whatever it is coming out of the sky. It's quite a lingering shot," West said. "It's so awful and so easy to do. That was what I was terrified of. … At the back of my head was, 'Don't be Patrick Swayze.' ... It is quite tricky not to be daft."

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For a view from the set of "John Carter," and a look at the Utah connection, read The Cricket's article from Sunday's Tribune. Also, read this story about how the film moved from the page to the screen.



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