The Book Of Boba Fett Stunt Coordinator J.J. Dashnaw Talks Creating Stunts Fit For A Galaxy Far, Far Away - Exclusive Interview

Television has brought a whole new dimension to the world of "Star Wars." Not only has Disney+'s "The Mandalorian" presented all-new stories set in a galaxy far, far away, but in its 2nd season it also introduced the most fully realized version of the fan-favorite character Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) ever committed to the screen. Even better, that introduction led to the spinoff, "The Book of Boba Fett," a seven-part series that focused on the bounty hunter's efforts — with the help of his right-hand woman, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) — to take over the territory on Tatooine that was left without a leader when Jabba the Hutt perished.

Of course, this is "Star Wars," so Boba wasn't going to get what he wanted without a fight. The person responsible for ensuring those fights were not only exciting and dynamic but also fit into the world of "Star Wars" was stunt coordinator J.J. Dashnaw, a long-time stuntman whose credits include everything from "Sin City" to "Django Unchained" to "The Matrix Resurrections." While Dashnaw admitted that learning the rules of "Star Wars" was a unique challenge, he was so successful at bringing the show's action to life that he was nominated for an Emmy for his work. Dashnaw sat down with Looper for an exclusive conversation about his experiences on "The Book of Boba Fett," including acting as Temuera Morrison's stunt double, filming the show's gigantic final battle, and why he prefers to avoid using CGI.

Learning the 'rules' of Star Wars

How did you get involved with "The Book of Boba Fett"?

I actually was on vacation in Florida. I'm privileged to work for [Robert Rodriguez, who executive produced and directed several episodes of "The Book of Boba Fett,"] since "Spy Kids 2," and he asked me if I wanted to come aboard and be a part of this project. Without hesitation, I said, "of course," and it started from there. I was very, very excited and thrilled to be able to have this opportunity.

Were you a fan of "Star Wars" and the stunt work of the movies and the shows before being hired for the series?

Absolutely. It's pretty hard not to be a "Star Wars" fan, and it's such an amazing show with "Mandalorian." So as much excitement as there is, there's also a little pressure to continue to make the show better. That's always what our main focus is, to try to make the show the best that we can and to make sure that it [represents] the vision of our writers and [keeps] everything true to what the "Star Wars" world is and what all the rules are. It was an amazing opportunity for me, and I've been able to learn so much. The professionals we get to work with on set are pretty amazing.

There's so much history there, too. What kind of research do you do to make sure the stunts in the show honor what came before, especially for Boba Fett?

You think you know a lot about "Star Wars," but there's so many other different rules and things you need to learn as far as [for example] these lasers — they shoot, there's no recoil, and us as stunt people who're used to firing weapons and having to pretend like there's recoil. The way that certain characters move, you got to learn that [and] come up with what kind of action works best knowing that. I'm still learning all these rules, and it makes coming to work that much more fun.

Creating stunts without CGI

How did you develop the stunts for the series so they were specific to each character and helped tell their different stories?

We didn't use much CGI in our stunts, which is pretty awesome. Most of the stuff you saw was all real. That's how I like to set things up. I like everything to look real. I like wire work to look real and believable that someone's actually flying through the air. That's how I was brought up and learned my craft from some of the best people from the generation before us, and I try to use what I learned from them and make it translate on camera.

Where did you learn those practical skills that can apply today when things are so CGI-heavy?

I came from a second-generation stunt family, so I was one of the lucky ones to grow up and watch all these amazing stuntmen and women from back in the day in the '80s and '90s, when all we did was real stunts. I've had the privilege of growing up with these people and learning from them. My father and mother are very well-respected stuntmen [and] have been in the business for 40-plus years. So [always] having them to ask questions or how to make certain things work better or look better, it's honestly a blessing, and I'm very, very lucky to have that.

Working with Temuera Morrison — and wearing Boba Fett's armor

What was it like to work with Temuera Morrison? He's got such a history with this character. Did he have strong opinions about how Boba Fett would move and fight that you incorporated?

Yes. Tem — I can't say enough good things about this man. What a professional. He definitely had ideas, and he's one of the good ones [in] that he doesn't tell you what to do; he collaborates with you. Obviously, having his advice or input is invaluable, especially for this role. It really, really was amazing working with Tem. I can't say enough good things about him and what a talent and professional he is, not to mention a hard worker. This man was in makeup for two-plus hours every single day, and not once did he complain. To have that kind of leadership on set is contagious. Everybody works harder when the main person is that person not complaining and out working as hard as everybody else. So, pretty awesome to work with Temuera.

I can imagine. You also doubled for him when Boba Fett was in full armor. How did you feel when you put on that costume?

Anytime we get into [a] wardrobe of that kind of coolness, you always feel cool, but I was also trying to study the way he moves because I didn't want as soon as his helmet came on [for him to be] a totally different guy. So I would watch Tem a lot on set walk around. That was probably the biggest-pressure part of it, to try to make it look like it's the same person when he's in full armor.

Was it challenging to execute stunts in that armor? It looks so constrictive.

It does look constrictive, but believe it or not [it's] very, very comfortable. The wardrobe department did an amazing job putting this outfit together. My helmet actually had a fan kind of air condition thing in it, even, so I didn't fog up. I was pretty spoiled on this one.

Working with Ming-Na Wen and the show's amazing directors

Ming-Na Wen, who plays Fennec Shand, has done stunt work before. Was she excited to take on the stunts that you came up with for her?

She was, and Ming is also a professional. Between her and her stunt double, Ming Qiu, those two ladies are amazing. They're hard workers, and it was nothing but a pleasure to work with Ming. Same thing. Our one and two cast were absolutely amazing on this one.

You also worked with some great directors, like Robert Rodriguez, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Dave Filoni. What was the experience of collaborating with each of them?

Everybody that directed an episode is amazing in their own right. Mr. Filoni always likes to keep things moving on set, but he's pretty much our bible. He makes sure that we are keeping everything in tone to the show, and he's very specific on what he wants, and he definitely gets us to the finish line super fast.

Bryce Howard is amazing, as everybody knows. An absolute kind person, and she's so talented. When it comes to action, she's very, very open to listening to how to make it better, and when you have somebody that trusts you like that, it's awesome.

Again, working with Robert, like I do all the time over the years, he's definitely helped me in my career and given me some amazing opportunities. This is definitely up there at the top of them.

Designing fights for the Mandalorian

Speaking of the world of "Star Wars," the 5th episode of "The Book of Boba Fett" focuses on the Mandalorian, which includes that fight in the meat locker featuring the Darksaber. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?

That was my first time with the Darksaber and also working with Mando, [whose stunts are performed] by Lateef Crowder. Lateef is such a pro, and he's so amazing. It was great having him. Obviously, I would ask him about how he would move and do this, so it was just as much Lateef helping put that scene together as it was anybody else. That was a definite fun fight to film and to shoot, and we're all very happy with the way it turned out.

Pedro Pascal is the actor who plays the Mandalorian. You were his stunt double in "Equalizer 2." Was it a blast from the past to work with him again?

Absolutely. I've actually worked with Pedro on a couple things. I doubled him on "Equalizer 2," as you mentioned, and also on "We Can Be Heroes," a film by Robert Rodriguez. So anytime I see Pedro, it can be a year or whatever, but we are always pretty excited to work with each other and see each other. He's a good dude.

Filming the show's huge final battle

The show's final episode includes this massive battle that's pretty much nonstop. How did you go about designing that battle so that each of the characters has their moment to shine?

We actually got a lot of time to shoot that scene, so we were definitely able to plan things out and rehearse it. It definitely was one of the more fun ones only because we were outside blowing things up, getting launched across the streets. It was basically six weeks of playtime for us. And the directors and everyone that we had out there — awesome. We were all very happy with the way it all turned out.

When you have this massive battle sequence and you're going over six weeks, how do you maintain the continuity from one thing to the other?

It's definitely in the planning. It's our script supervisor that keeps us straight and makes sure that we aren't venturing outside or messing up. We had a really good plan on this one, and the reason it probably took six weeks is because of how careful we were shooting everything and making sure that every little beat worked and that we were telling a story in our action. It definitely was planned out, and we were able to take our time.

One of the cool things about that fight is that it pushes the story forward. It comes to a powerful conclusion because of every little thing that goes on. How do you keep all those story points in mind and design the action around them?

I take my time, and I talk to our writers and our directors and our producers. Before we set anything up in concrete, I like to show them where my thoughts are and what our rehearsals are looking like and make sure that they're on board with it as well, and make sure nothing's distracting to what they're trying to tell or have the story tell. Like everything else, it's major collaboration between a bunch of different people.

Keeping things practical

As you said, you specialize in stunt work that doesn't include CGI. With CGI so prominent in movies these days, why is it important for you to include less augmentation rather than more?

Again, that's another collaboration between us and the visual effects department, who are absolutely amazing on this show. They're always helping us enhance things, whether it be a fireball or something. Being the pros that they are on this one, they love when we give them real stuff [on] camera because then they don't have to do so much in post. Some of the hardest stuff to fix for them is if our action isn't working or they have to completely replace us for a CG character. So it was nice to be able to work with them and to give them so much stuff to work in the editing room afterwards when we're all gone.

You have an actor in very heavy makeup as Cad Bane in that final scene, as well as the Rancor and multiple flying ships. There's so many things that are so specific to the "Star Wars" universe that don't resemble Earth at all. How do you account for all of those elements?

Again, it's being able to work with such professionals. Dorian Kingi actually played Cad Bane and is awesome. I've known Dorian since we were kids, actually. His outfit and his special effects makeup were unbelievable, just like most of the characters in the show. Making that Rancor, that monster, I could not believe how real it was. We got to have it on a mechanical rig to have it actually move around and have its mouth open up. I've been in this business 30-plus years, and I'm always learning and always getting to see cool stuff. It's always a blast to be a part of it.

The honor of his Emmy nod and what's next

You've earned an Emmy nod for your work in "The Book of Boba Fett." What does it mean to you to get that nomination?

It's always an honor to be recognized. Awards are great. It shows our hard work has come together, but [as] long as the producers were happy and the fans were happy, that's our main goal, to make sure that the work that we're doing actually matters for something. I feel like we did that, and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the work. I'm proud of work that my friends put into this for me. It was a very, very special [show] to be a part of.

There's a lot of call these days for stunt workers to be recognized more with awards, like at the Academy Awards. Do you agree with that, or is that something that doesn't really cross your mind?

It doesn't cross my mind. Like I say, I come from the older generation where it was always cool to be a stunt person and be behind the scenes and the unsung hero. I think awards are great and getting pushed for, but I just like being a stuntman, and if my work is enjoyed, then I'm happy.

Will you be involved in any future "Star Wars" projects?

Yes. I've been working with them, and I've grown a pretty close relationship with the studio, and they're like an extended part of my family. Everybody on there is a professional and a pleasure to work with.

What else is coming up for you in addition to that?

We don't usually talk about it too much, but currently I'm overseeing something, and I'm actually working on "Spy Kids: Armageddon" for Mr. Rodriguez here in Austin.


Yeah, we're staying busy, that's for sure. More fun things are coming y'all's way.

"The Book of Boba Fett" is available to stream on Disney+.

This interview has been edited for clarity.