Accidental Jedi: How a VFX artist earned a surprising place in Star Wars history

The Star Wars saga has taught us that the path to becoming a Jedi is a long and difficult road, demanding a lifetime of commitment, sacrifice, and study to earn the title of Jedi Master.

For Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Matt Sloan, however, the process of becoming a Jedi was quite a bit easier than that — in fact, all he had to do was ask.

“It’s been fun watching his career flourish,” said Sloan of Plo Koon, the Jedi Master he played in both 2002’s Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.

The role is the one and only acting credit on Sloan’s professional résumé, and a blurry screen-captured image of the character serves as the his profile picture on industry site IMDb.com. That being the case, it seemed important — to Star Wars fans, at least — to get the story behind his link to George Lucas’ sci-fi saga.

While discussing his work as the visual effects supervisor on the Oscar-nominated film Love and Monsters, Sloan was more than happy to explain how he ended up under all of the robes, makeup, and prosthetics that brought Plo Koon to the screen.

“I was hired as the animatronics supervisor on Episode II, working on the mechanical side of the creature department,” Sloan told Digital Trends. “We had to go down to the casting department at one point to discuss the actors we were putting into the Neimoidian costumes, and on the wall behind the casting director were pictures of the Jedi Council. There were headshots of each character, along with the character’s name and the cast member’s name. But there was one Jedi who didn’t have a cast member’s name: Plo Koon.”

The character’s unique look, with his alien face behind a pair of small goggles and a complex rebreather system that allowed him to breathe in environments outside his home planet of Dorin, caught Sloan’s attention and inspired him to make a request he says was only semiserious at the time.

plokoon from starwars
Lucasfilm Ltd.

“When we were done, we were asked if we had any more questions, and kind of jokingly, I said, ‘Just one more question: Can I be him?'” he recalled.

The next thing he knew, Sloan was playing a Jedi Master.

“The character was in The Phantom Menace, played by Alan Ruscoe, and I was the right height for the costume [in Attack of the Clones],” explained Sloan. “Once they confirmed I was the right height and everything else, it was great, because it was a little, half-day thing to play him.”

Along with appearing in all three Star Wars prequel films, Plo Koon played a key role in the popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series (voiced by James Arnold Taylor), and is notable for being the Jedi who discovered Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano, and first brought her to the Jedi Council.

Although Plo Koon meets his end along with countless other Jedi in Revenge of the Sith, his adventures in The Clone Wars — set between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith — earned him a sizable following in Star Wars fandom.

“When I died in Episode III and get thrown forward in the ship, I managed to cover my face with my hand accidentally, proving I’m definitely not an actor,” laughed Sloan. “But I’ve been told George [Lucas] really liked the look of the character, so he kept popping up in other areas of the film, too.”

Lucasfilm Ltd.

And Lucas wasn’t the only person to take a liking to Plo Koon. Dave Filoni, the Lucasfilm director and producer on everything from The Clone Wars to The Mandalorian, is known to be one of Plo Koon’s biggest fans. Filoni went so far as to dress up as Plo Koon for the premiere of Revenge of the Sith and reportedly has various items of Plo Koon memorabilia around his office.

“Playing a Jedi Master in Star Wars is a pretty good first — and last — acting role,” said Sloan. “I got a lightsaber. I got to play on a starship. I’m more than content with my acting career as it stands now.”

“So, yeah, that’s how you become a Jedi in Star Wars,” he laughed.

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