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River Phoenix makes his feature film debut in the
role of Wolfgang Müller, the explorer most at home
with scientific theories and least of all with
class bullies in Paramount Pictures' "Explorers."
Nicholson got a job with Ray Mercer & Company, where he worked as a camera assistant for shooting inserts, learning the art of optical line-up as well, which involves taking a series of different film elements and combining them together to create a composite effect. With work in hiatus, Nicholson was ready when he got a call from Light & Magic, at that point functioning for only five months, who needed an optical line-up person to work with John Dykstra and an eventual team of 70-85 people in a new film that was going into production called "Star Wars." Nicholson's primary responsibility was in the optical printing and shooting of the composite effects.
He admits that all during the "Star Wars" experience, the special effects team felt this film was indeed something quite extraordinary. "There was a feeling we were pioneers of some sort in the terms of film technique," Nicholson states, "and that film audiences would not only be receptive to us, but cheer the effects work we had created."
When George Lucas decided to move the ILM operation from Los Angeles up to Marin County, Nicholson went along as the supervisor of opticals. He supervised the next two "Star Wars" episodes, achieving more decision-making responsibility with each, and heading teams of 16 to 100 people for various effects.
The expertise in the complex visual effects area which Nicholson has developed and polished served him well in working with Joe Dante to envision and then bring to screen a series of awesome effects in "Explorers," always attempting to bring to sophisticated film audiences something they have never seen before. The evolving art of visual effects gives confidence to Nicholson that soon ILM will have the tools and capability to "bring a director's dreams to life on screen," however complex those dreams might be. "We want to have the tools at hand to create the impossible regardless what the director's request," he states.
"....It was so weird.... I couldn't feel myself speed up or slow down..."