Harley Durst | Being Moloch (Interview)

Liam was captured by the White Worm Gang and forced into servitude under the watchful eye of Moloch…

Moloch was present in the White Worm’s den when Han Solo was brought to Lady Proxima after his failed mission. Lady Proxima was angered by Han’s failure and ordered Rebolt to hit Han with a staff. Han got angered by this, grabbed the staff from Rebolt, and said that he will hit back. Moloch then pulled out a blaster and pointed it at Han. Frightened for Han, Qi’ra ran in front of Moloch and pleaded with him to not shoot Han. Han then grabbed a rock and broke a window with it, exploiting the Grindalid weakness of sunlight. This caused Proxima to burn it up and retreat into the water. Han then took Qi’ra, pushed through the scrumrats, and ran outside the den. Moloch quickly covered his face with armor so he wouldn’t burn, and started to pursue Han and Qi’ra. As Han and Qi’ra were escaping in a land speeder, Moloch opened fire on them but was not able to hit them or the speeder.

Harley Durst | Being Moloch (Interview)

Moloch then took Rebolt, Syke, and a pack of Corellian hounds with him in his A-A4B land speeder to pursue the White Worm deserters with. Moloch quickly caught up to Qi’ra and Han in his speeder and started to knock their speeder with his much more sizable speeder. Moloch proceeded to chase the deserters through the streets of Coronet City. Han eventually took the chase into an industrial manufacturing plant. Han then slanted his speeder to try and fit through a small crevice so Moloch would not catch him. At the end of the crevice Han’s speeder became wedged in the crevice, so he and Qi’ra were forced to continue running on foot. Moloch’s speeder was way too big to go after them, so like Han and Qi’ra, he and his enforcers were forced to chase the deserters on foot.

Harley Durst |  Being Moloch (Interview)

Moloch tracked Han and Qi’ra down to the Coronet Spaceport but was momentarily stopped by a stormtrooper. Moloch informed the Stormtrooper of the runaways, and the Stormtroopers began to look for Han and Qi’ra as well. Han and Qi’ra were able to get to the gate to leave Corellia, but as they were walking out, one of Moloch’s thugs grabbed Qi’ra and brought her to Moloch. The gate then closed so they couldn’t get Han. Thus, allowing Han to escape Corellia.

Interview With Harley Durst:

Liam: How does working on Star Wars compare to all your work on other projects?

Harley: Playing Moloch in Solo: A Star Wars Story is definitely the highlight of my career, it is also the most difficult and challenging job I have ever done.

Liam: How did you get the role of Moloch in Solo: A Star Wars Story?

Harley: I was originally cast as the stunt double to Moloch, but when the creatives saw what I could do with the movement in the costume and animatronic head I was given the cast position. The screen test I did was quite entertaining, to say the least. I was in a long narrow room with mirrors down one end with around 15 creatives and the heads of department. It was the first time I ever had on the full costume and animatronic head, to my surprise I had zero visibility, absolutely zero… I was asked to move with a serpent-like motion down the room towards the mirrors. I asked that someone let me know when I get close to the end so I know when to stop. When the animatronics are turned on it’s like having your head stuck in a bee’s hive, lots of buzzing from the servo motors and bits and pieces moving very close to your face.

Harley Durst |  Being Moloch (Interview)

I started off down the room, really focusing on my breath and balance making the serpent-like action, I found a nice rhythm and felt really confident, then it all came to a sudden halt. I actually walked straight into the mirrors at the other end… There was a sudden hard stop and the animatronic mesh smashed me in the face, I had no idea I had hit the mirror and the impact opened up a small seam in the face which allowed me to see a figure standing in front of me, not realising it was my own reflection, I thought I had run into someone and started to apologise to them, or to myself as it were. Turns out that everyone just assumed I could see as I was moving with so much confidence they forgot to tell me when to stop!

Liam: When you were given the role of Moloch, were you given any info to accommodate this?

Harley: Yes, I sat down and had a long conversation with Neal Scanlan, head of creature effects, who gave me a lot of insight into how they came about to develop Moloch and how he fits into the Star Wars universe and the type of movement they thought he should have. I was also given the script to see how Moloch fits into the story to develop his relationship with Qi’Ra and Han.

Liam: What was it like on the set for Solo?

Harley: The sets on Solo where authentic, all the sets I worked on were built in their entirety, the attention to detail is phenomenal. Walking into the Cornelian spaceport, which was the first scene we shot with Moloch, was mind-blowing, it was huge. It took up the entire 007 Studio at Pinewood and had all the creatures and robots roaming around live. The most incredible set was the refinery outpost on Savareen, where we see Han process the Coaxium after the Kessel Run. The outpost was built in a national park on Fuerteventura which was very hot and windy making it a very hostile environment to be filming in, especially considering how many creature characters we had there, the sunsets were epic, truly a stunning experience.

Harley Durst |  Being Moloch (Interview)

Liam: Can you describe your time filming Moloch’s scenes?

Harley: Intense! The creature team developed and customised a video goggle system so that I could see, after many tests I found the best place to mount the camera was on my chest, pointing at my feet, so I quickly started to recognise people by their lower halves… Mounted on the head and the video feed had trouble keeping up with the head movement, plus orientation was surprisingly difficult.

Harley Durst |  Being Moloch (Interview)

Nearly every scene Moloch is in involves stairs, and to top it off Lady Proximas’ Den was shot under UV light which the camera did not pick up, so all I saw was darkness, try navigating stairs, water, camera marks, positions and lots of running with dogs, mostly blind… As the head took 20mins to take off then put back on I would spend hours at a time in it with the video goggles on, eyes closed, while my team would be keeping me cool with fans etc.

Liam: How long did it take to get into costume?

Harley: As the Moloch costume is a full animatronic head rig and creature face it only took around 20 minutes to get into the costume, but that was after countless hours doing fittings to get it right. I had to have my head cast for a custom skull cap as well as a sculpted backpack system that would take the weight of the animatronic.

Liam: What are some of your fondest memories from being in Solo?

Harley: It is always the people, on every film I work on, it is the passionate people and the oddball characters who make this such an incredible industry to work in. If I had to choose one memory, it would be when my mother and eldest daughter, 4 yrs, joined me for a week in Fuerteventura and came out to visit the Savareen set. Now she thinks that every time daddy goes to work that is where I am, magic!

Harley Durst |  Being Moloch (Interview)

Liam: Who are some of your favourite characters from the franchise and why?

Harley: On book day at school I was always dressed as Luke Skywalker and my brother as Darth Vader… Yoda is my all-time favourite though.

Liam: How did you get into stunt work, and can you describe what the job entails for anyway who is unsure?

Harley: I used to teach Capoeira while I was studying a media degree at university, I was approached by some postgraduates who had funding to shoot a feature film which had a lot of fighting in it. During work on this film, I met a professional stuntman who gave me advice on how to pursue stunt work and where to begin training. So I finished my degree then moved cities and started training for stunts.

My best advice to anyone wanting to get into stunts is to do as much research as possible, talk to as many stunt professionals as you can and never say you can do something when you can’t! There are many different ways to do a single stunt so it is important to be able to adapt to a situation and not consider all this right or wrong. I often get hired because of my skill set but then asked to do something completely different! My approach is that unless I can levitate I will never impress anyone with my physicality in this industry. There is always someone stronger, better or younger waiting for their turn. I can only ever do my absolute best with what I know and the more experience you get the more you know.

Liam: How did you get involved with Marvel?

Harley: My first big-budget feature film was 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine where I was hired as a stunt performer, then again I was hired for The Wolverine in 2013 for my parkour speciality as a ninja in the snow village scene where Logan is captured.

Harley Durst | Being Moloch (Interview)

Years later I had actually just finished shooting on the DC Film Wonder Woman in the UK when I received a call to double for Loki on Thor Ragnarok in Australia. Subsequently, it was during the filming of Ragnarok that I was called to come in for a screen test for Solo: A Star Wars Story. So the last few years have been amazing!

Liam: What was it like being Tom Hiddleston’s stunt double in Thor: Ragnarok, and can you describe the scenes you filmed?

Harley: Working with Tom is great! He has a great physicality and is a master of his craft. Tom would always push to do his action and fight scenes himself, which means we got to do a lot of training sessions together.

Harley Durst | Being Moloch (Interview)

One of the more dangerous scenes was shot in an alleyway in Brisbane, Australia, dressed up to look like New York City. In the scene, Hela kills Odin then smashes Thors’ hammer and blasts Thor and Loki through the air smashing into dumpsters. There is a brief top shot of the scene in the Trailer for Ragnarok but the scene was replaced in the theatrical release. The Thor Stunt double and I were both on wires being pulled by air rams that threw us backwards about 15 meters into a pair of prop dumpsters. We dialled in the rams during our rehearsals, I was ‘comfortably’ hitting the dumpster consistently then landing on the concrete floor on my side. During the take, in full costume which adds weight and some restriction, I hit the dumpster upside down which meant I also hit the concrete upside down on my head! The shot looked amazing but unfortunately will never see the light of day…

Liam: You were also a stunt double in two of the Wolverine films, who were you the double for, and what was that experience like?

Harley: I was a regular stunt performer for the first and played one of the snow ninjas in the second film due to my parkour skill set, used for running and jumping along and off the sloped rooftops. I was 1 of 3 Caucasians hired in a 20 strong Asian stunt team.
Superhero films can be a lot of fun as you get to be super creative with the movements and ideas, often breaking the convention of ‘regular’ action. Working with the stunt team 87eleven is great, they are so talented and creative.

 

The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.

Liam Bailey

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