Beware all you Gelflings and malcontents of Thra! Defy the Skeksis, Lords of the Crystal, and they will sic SkekMal on you. Yes, SkekMal, the terrifying Hunter in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. You wouldn’t want to end up as one of his trophies.
Though, despite all SkekMal’s tracking skills and blade-slashing and nasty temperament, he couldn’t do it without the able assistance of creature performers Nick Kellington, operating the body; Kevin Clash working the head and mouth and Ralph Ineson speaking on the Hunter’s behalf.
On September 10, 2019 on Twitter, Nick talked about his experience filming the Hunter’s fight with a couple Gelflings, Rian and his father Ordon. With his kind permission, I’m sharing his words below.
“The fight sequence that this [image] is taken was sooo much fun to film and really exhausting to perform. I had such a blast. We filmed it in one day, in the morning vs Neil Sterenberg and in the afternoon vs both Neil and Dave Chapman. I’d had one day’s rehearsal to learn the sequence with Stunt coordinator @ianpkay [Ian Kay] (who also choreographed the awesome fight) and then we were on. It wasn’t much rehearsal but Ian was a great teacher and was very patient with me. Both Neil and Dave did incredibly well that day (especially Neil because he was on for the whole day with me) as once the set had been lit we pretty much went at it the whole day taking minimal breaks. Also those guys were holding tiny swords via their puppets vs myself wielding these massive #Hunter swords!
“Director Louis Leterrier kept asking for more power and aggression from me and poor Neil was on the receiving end hanging onto puppet and sword for dear life AND giving and incredible performance as Rian at the same time Ian kept an eye on the fight at the monitor and between takes would run in and give me tips on how to sell the fight more and make it work for the camera, all this whilst Louis was giving us notes on the what he wanted from the scene and Kevin Clash was giving me notes about what he wanted from SkekMal as a character.
“It was a lot of info to take in on top of remembering/performing the fight (in a heavy creature suit with limited vision) but that’s just part of my job. SkekMal’s claws don’t allow me to close my grip fully so I sneakily tucked the handles of my blades into the straps on my costume so they wouldn’t fly out of my hand as I was swinging them around (which they never did).
“At one point, when I spin around to attack with my tail, Rian ducked but Neil didn’t and the tailwhipped Neil in the face! (He was wearing goggles). It must have stung mightily but he took it like a champ and after a few seconds we went again for another take.
“In the afternoon we were joined by Dave, and Matt Lyons and Callum Dixon who puppeteered SkekMal’s extra arms and we continued filming the second half of the fight. It was like a dance between the five of us (again, hats off to Ian for the choreography) and everyone worked so hard to get it right. We were all glad of the short breaks when my head was swapped between the lighter stunt head and the fully animatronic head so that Kevin could perform the dialogue and SkekMal’s facial reactions in the sequence.
“I was pushed both physically and mentally that day (and sore at the end of it) but it is an on set experience that I will never forget. Not wanting to get into spoilers but there is a “fall” in the sequence that Ian performed the Hunter for, as it was classed as a stunt, which was filmed a few days later. He did a great job and I thank him for both that and all his help filming the fight.”
Nick Kellington can be followed on Twitter, as @NickKellington.