andy serkis snoke

When ‘The Force Awakens’ arrived back in 2015, it brought with it any number of as yet unanswered questions. A lot of these had to do with the backstory of the new trilogy, events that had taken place in the thirty years since ‘Return of the Jedi’, for example, that the new films are unlikely to explore in great depth (all the more fodder for novels and other such tie-in material). But some were directly relevant to the sequel trilogy. And of those, the one that has inspired the most discussion and speculation (with the possible exception of Rey’s lineage) is the true nature and identity of Snoke.

The Supreme Leader of the First Order appeared only briefly in ‘The Force Awakens’, and then only as a hologram. However, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Snoke when ‘The Last Jedi’ hits next month, at which time we’ll be learning a lot more about the character. Andy Serkis, who plays Snoke via performance capture, recently spoke with Entertainment Weekly, both sharing his some insights into the character and teasing revelations that may be coming in the film:

“The thing about Snoke is that he is extremely strong with the Force, the dark side of the Force. He’s terribly powerful, of course. But he is also a very vulnerable and wounded character. He has suffered and he has suffered injury. The way that his malevolence comes out is in reaction to that. His hatred of the Resistance is fueled by what’s happened to him personally.”

In addition, Serkis further fleshes out the dynamic – glimpsed briefly in ‘The Force Awakens’ – between Snoke, General Hux, and Kylo Ren, giving some sense of what makes Snoke’s underlings tick:

“His training of Kylo Ren is not yielding what he wants. Therefore his anger towards Kylo Ren is intensified because he can’t bear weakness in others. Part of the manipulation is goading him with Hux and playing them off against each other.”

Perhaps most interestingly, Serkis spoke on the subject of Snoke’s disfigurement:

“You witness his physicality. His body is kind of twisted up like a corkscrew, and so he has limited movement. His aggression and his anger is contained and restricted by that physicality. His jaw is completely mangled and the left side of his face is mauled. So I had a way of taping down the left hand side of my mouth to restrict the lip movement on that side. His deformity is very much based on injuries from the First World War, from the trenches.”

The First World War was in many ways defined by the collision of nineteenth-century tactics with decidedly twentieth-century technology. This combination of advanced killing machines and time-honored strategies that were rendered obsolete virtually overnight gave rise to battlefields that can only be described as meat grinders. Parallel advances in medicine, however, allowed soldiers to survive injuries that would have almost certainly been fatal even ten years prior. “Survive” is the operative word, however. It wasn’t unheard of for these mangled men to return home with the sort of disfigurement seldom seen outside of a mortuary.

However, just because we’re learning more about Snoke doesn’t mean we’ll be learning everything about him. As writer/director Rian Johnson explains:

“Similar to Rey’s parentage, Snoke is here to serve a function in the story. And, you know, a story is not a Wikipedia page. For example, in the original trilogy, we didn’t know anything about the Emperor except exactly what we needed to know, which is what Luke knew about him, that he’s the evil guy behind Vader. But then in the prequels you knew everything about Palpatine because his rise to power was the story. We’ll learn exactly as much about Snoke as we need to. But the really exciting [thing] for me is we will see more of him, and Andy Serkis will get to do much more in this film than he did in the last one, and that guy is just a force of nature.”

Directed by Rian Johnson, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is due to arrive in theaters on December 15, 2017. The film stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Domhnall Gleeson, and Gwendoline Christie.