One day you're geeking out in your garage, the next you're collaborating with J.J. Abrams on the highly anticipated "Star Wars: Episode VII" — at least that's the story behind R2-D2's return to the big screen.
After the beloved bot appeared in the first behind-the-scenes photo from the set last week, StarWars.com revealed the two men responsible for bringing R2 back to life. Meet Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, two "Star Wars" fans who devoted their time to creating fully functional, film-accurate versions of the character as part of the worldwide R2-D2 Builders Club. They say they were discovered last summer by none other than Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy during a tour in Germany, and are now serving as part of the creature effects team for the new film.
"She posed for pictures with us, looked at all the droids we'd built and was very complimentary," Steeples said of Kennedy. "I mentioned that the R2-D2 Builders in the U.K. were available if required, as a semi-joke. When I was contacted to work on the film by [executive producer] Jason McGatlin, it was on her recommendation."
But Towersey and Steeples aren't just recreating R2; they want to one-up on the original.
"What we do need to do is improve on the mechanics," Towersey told StarWars.com. "We're currently in a research and design phase where we're looking at drive options for reliability on all possible terrains, whether it be a one-motor-does-all, or a system which is easily adjusted depending on terrain. We have a few mocked up ideas which we hope to road test very soon."
Something tells us that R2-D2 won't be the only new-and-improved gadget in Abrams' reboot, but we'll have to wait and see what other tricks he's got up his sleeve. "Star Wars: Episode VII" isn't due out until December 2015.