Throughout the six Star Wars movies so far, Emperor Palpatine was the ultimate bad guy, building Death Stars, killing Jedi and turning Skywalkers to the Dark Side (well, he was 1 for 2). So how can The Force Awakens top that?
Get ready for Supreme Leader Snoke, a new CGI character. While his motives and his appearance are among the most closely guarded secrets surrounding the new movie, PEOPLE has drawn some clues from the cast and crew.
He’s Freaky Tall and Skinny
While director J.J. Abrams tried to use as “real” creatures as possible, including intricate puppets and costumes in scenes on the junkyard planet Jakku and in pirate Maz Kanata’s castle, Snoke couldn’t be created for “real.” As Neal Scanlan, chief of creature and droid effects, tells PEOPLE in the magazine’s new Star Wars special issue (on newsstands now), “This character is much better executed as a CGI character. That’s just a practical reality when he’s 7-foot-something tall; he’s very, very thin.”
He Interacts with Darth Vader Fanboy Kylo Ren
Even though Snoke is a CGI character, cinematographer Daniel Mindel shot on set with Serkis and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. “It’s not a complete green-screen environment,” Mindel says. “Therefore, we have atmosphere. We have texture that we’re putting [Snoke] into, that is physical. Sometimes, from the outside it would seem absurd to just walk in and look at how we do that. On the other hand, there’s a great amount of method to it. In that particular theme, we had Andy Serkis interacting with Adam. Andy himself brought a massive amount to the scene.”
See exclusive photos, get a first look at new characters and learn more secrets from the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in PEOPLE’s Star Wars collector’s edition, on newsstands now. And for more exclusive Star Wars news, come back to PEOPLE.com every day until it hits theaters Dec. 18
He Has a Real Costume
To further make Snoke blend in with the actual actors and sets, costume designer Michael Kaplan created an outfit for Snoke and fellow CGI character Maz Kanata. “Even though they were to be CGI, there were initial costume sketches and then actual costumes were built,” Kaplan says. “This helps the CGI technicians realize their final effect and know precisely how the fabrics will move.”
He Has Mysterious Strengths and Weaknesses
“[Snoke] is strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful,” Andy Serkis, the supreme actor for CGI characters who embodies and voices Snoke, tells Entertainment Weekly.
He Knows the Force Woke Up
The voiceover of the very first teaser trailer was Serkis as Snoke saying, “There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? The dark side and the light.”
He’s Freaky Ugly
Or at least, that’s likely what the audience will think. Serkis will only say, “He has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone and facial structure.”