De Ewok films: de eerste echte Star Wars spin-offs!
Ik gooi het er direct uit: ik erger me.
Waaraan? In december verschijnt Rogue One, een film die door zowat alle media de eersteStar Wars spin-off film wordt genoemd. FOUT! Het is de derde spin-off! In 1984 en 1985 verschenen er namelijk twee films die zich in het Star Wars universum afspeelden…en zelfs een link met onze eigen Henny ‘Soundmix Show’ Huisman (!) hebben!
Het is 1984, een jaar nadat het laatste deel, Return of the Jedi waarin de Ewoks een grote rol speelden, in de bios verscheen. Deze Ewoks brachten George Lucas op een idee: hij zag wel wat in een 1 uur durende TV special. Uiteindelijk werd dit idee een anderhalf uur durende TV film: Caravan of Courage: an Ewok Adventure. In deze film geen Skywalkers, geen Stormtroopers en geen Yoda, maar de familie Towani bestaande uit Catarine, Jeremitt en hun zoon en dochter Mace en Cindel. Ze crashen op de planeet Endor waar vader en moeder door de reus de Gorax worden ontvoerd en de kids door de Ewoks (met Warwick Davis als Wicket!) worden ontdekt. Met de hulp van de Ewoks gaan ze op pad om hun ouders te redden; een tocht vol gevaren en mysterie!
Zoals gezegd is Caravan of Courage een TV film. Toch doet de film aan als een heuse bioscoopfilm. De effecten, sets en locaties zijn (zeker voor de jaren 80) fantastisch. In Nederland verscheen in 1985 deze film dan ook gewoon nagesynchroniseerd (!) in de bioscoop (waar –tot groot vermaak en verbijstering van mijn StarWarsAwakens-collega’s- Henny ‘Surprise Show’ Huisman en Coen ‘Oppassen’ Flink stemmen voor hun rekening namen!) Zelf herinner ik me verrassend genoeg nog goed dat ik deze film in de bios zag. Om eerlijk te zijn vond ik het jammer dat Luke, Han en de rest niet te zien waren maar er nu twee kinderen centraal stonden, maar dat de film er goed en mooi uit zag was direct duidelijk. In de jaren erna ben ik deze ook steeds meer gaan waarderen.
In hetzelfde jaar als dat Caravan of Courage in Nederland in de bioscoop verscheen kwam in Amerika de opvolger op televisie: Battle for Endor, een film die in Nederland niet op TV of in de bios kwam maar op video (maar daarover later meer). Deze film gaat verder waar Caravan of Courage ophield. Warwick Davis is weer van de partij als Wicket en de rollen van Mace en Cindel worden wederom vertolkt door Eric Walker en Aubree Miller. Verder zijn Wilford Brimley (bekend van The Thing en Cocoon), Paul Gleeson (The Breakfast Club) en de Nederlander (!) Carel Struycken (Twin Peaks, Star Trek, The Addams Family) te zien. Struycken speelt zelfs de rol van Terak, de bad guy in deze film.
Net zoals bij Caravan of Courage was George Lucas bij deze productie betrokken (hij schreef beide verhalen en produceerde beide films) en werkten ILM grootheden als Joe Johnston en Phil Tippett ook mee.
De manier waarop ik deze film ontdekte (we schrijven 1987, een tijd waarin niemand thuis internet had) herinner ik me als de dag van gisteren: in een huis-aan-huis-krant stond een advertentie van de plaatselijke videotheek met afbeeldingen van nieuwe video releases. Deze stond er ook bij:
Ik dacht dat ik gek werd. Een nieuwe Star Wars film? Een enorm cool uitziende alien die boven iedereen uitsteekt en een soort van Solo gunslinger prominent op de cover? Direct naar de videotheek om deze VHS band te huren!
Hoewel de film (wederom) erg mooi gemaakt is bleek de cover de meest misleidende in de geschiedenis van de film: de stoere actieheld die centraal op de poster staat…ziet er in het echt anders uit…en doet maar een paar minuten mee! Tot op de dag van vandaag vraag ik me af waarom men zo’n onlogisch affiche heeft gemaakt. Maar goed, de film is zoals gezegd meer dan de moeite waard. Mooie effecten, leuk verhaal en een fantastische nieuwe Star Wars alien: Teek (gespeeld door Niki Botelho).
Hierna was het gedaan met de Ewok films, al kwam er nog wel een animatiereeks die het twee seizoenen vol hield.
Vele jaren daarna begon ik met het interviewen van cast en crew van de Star Wars films…én de spin-offs! Zo heb ik jaren geleden Eric Walker (Mace Towani), Niki Botelho (Teek), Dan Frishman (Deej) en Kevin Thompson (Chukha-Trok) gesproken over hun rol in deze films.
Hieronder enkele segmenten uit de gesprekken die ik met hen had, en dan alleen de gedeeltes die betrekking hebben op deze twee films. Voor de volledige interviews verwijs ik je graag naar mijn persoonlijke site waar ze volledig op staan!)
Wanneer je klaar bent met het lezen van de memoires van deze 4 acteurs verwacht ik twee dingen van je:
Je gaat beide films kijken (indien je ze nog niet kent…en anders ook trouwens)
Wanneer iemand zegt dat Rogue One de eerste Star Wars spin-off film is corrigeer je hem/haar. De Ewok films mogen dat niet meer tot de officiële canon behoren, ze zullen altijd de eerste echte spin-offs zijn! #EwokMoviesAwareness
Namens ondergetekende (en ongetwijfeld ook Hennie Huisman): bedankt, of beter gezegd: ‘Yub Yub’!
Interviews met de cast van Caravan of Courage en Battle for Endor
Allereerst Eric Walker. Eric speelde in beide films de rol van Mace Towani. Tegenwoordig acteert hij niet meer maar houdt zich bezig met het produceren van muziek.
In the beginning of Battle for Endor your character gets killed by the Marauders.
Did this feel as a disappointment and when did you find out that this would happen to Mace? In Ewok Adventure you were one of the two major characters, and now your part ended in such an unworthy way.
Of course it was a big disappointment. I was originally told by Aubree Miller’s parents that I was cut totally out of the movie and the biggest disappointment was that neither Lucas nor anyone at Lucasfilm bothered to tell me. I still remember my father sitting me down and telling me the bad news. It is a day I will never forget and I cried that night until I finally fell asleep.
Then suddenly about a month later I got a call from my agent saying I was offered a smaller part in the movie. I was so happy to be apart of it that I jumped at the chance. I wanted to show the world that Mace would not go down easy but fighting! My whole experience with Lucasfilm as a boy is something I will go into great detail in a book that I am currently writing called, Growing Up On Skywalker Ranch. The book will feature a lot of information that no one knew about George Lucas and what really goes on at Lucasfilm, ILM, and Skywalker Ranch. The book will also have a never before seen DVD and making of the Ewok movie video that Warwick Davis and I shot and made while we were filming the Ewok movies. It will be a must for all Star Wars fans to ad to there collection as you will see a lot of stuff no one has seen inside of ILM and Lucasfilm.
How did you get the part of Mace and how was it for a young old boy to get cast for a Star Wars spin-off movie?
I auditioned in Los Angeles at the Egg Factory across the street from Universal Studios. It is no longer there but a subway station now. I actually have my original audition on video and it will be released with the making of DVD with my book. During that audition I did a monologue that caught George Lucas’s eye. About two weeks later I had a screen test with Aubree Miller in Northern California and won the role. It all happened very fast, later I found out that they were looking for Mace for a long time and had auditions in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Aubree Miller came from the San Francisco auditions. I was basically chosen out of thousands that were looked at for the role.
Did you see the original trilogy when it hit theaters in the late seventies, early eighties? And did you have a lot of the toys?
No, because I was too young. I did however see Return of the Jedi prior to getting the role of Mace Towani. I loved it and saw it about 10 times, so I was very aware of how special Star Wars was and I felt honored to be working for George Lucas.
The first Star Wars name George Lucas came up with was Mace Windu; his name is featured in one of the first drafts of A New Hope. Was your character Mace Towani named after him?
No. Mace Towani is Star Wars first Mace. He used the name again with Samuel Jackson because he liked the name. There is no truth to the rumor that Mace Windu was in the first drafts of A New Hope. Mace Windu was never mention in The Journal of the Whills or the first drafts of A New Hope. All that was added later. But if you know anyone that has one of the original scripts from 1973-1976 and not revised ones, they will tell you that Mace was added later. In fact a lot of Star Wars writers have done articles in magazines calling Eric Walker Star Wars first Mace. You can find the articles in the official Star Wars magazine of Germany and the U.K.
Most of the cast of Ewok Adventure were little people. Besides them it was Aubree Miller and you.
How was it to work with this cast and have you kept in touch with them?
Little people are some of the most down to earth people you will ever meet. They are very friendly and fun loving and almost always have the best sense of humor. I have kept in touch with Warwick Davis, Mike Edmonds, Dan Frishman and Kevin Thompson. Recently Aubree Miller and I attended her first ever convention in Ohio. I have pictures of us and Dan Frishman (Deej, Wicket’s father) on my website at EricWalker.net.
You were directed by John Korty and George Lucas was on the set too. Can you give us your opinion on both of them?
John Korty is a wonderful actor’s director. What that means is he knows something about acting and can really help an actor reach an emotion or get to where they have to in a scene. George Lucas did direct for a few weeks for the re-shoots because John Korty had a prior commitment so they said and could not make it. George is very technical and really knows how to set up a scene. When he is working on the set it runs fast and is less laid back then when John Korty directs. This is both good and bad. Lucas always has a lot of ideas about what he wants and sometimes comes up with them at the last possible second who creates on the spot trial and error. I remember sometimes he would give me the changes in his own handwriting the very morning we were shooting them, giving us very little time to learn the lines and to know what was going on. But it was creative and worked well most of the time.
Since you weren’t part of the original storyline, which character would you have liked playing from any of the six films in the trilogy and prequel trilogy?
Anakin Skywalker. No disrespect to the actor who played him, but I could have done a lot better. It may have been the directing by George Lucas because I have seen Hayden do better in other movies, so it’s a toss up. It goes back to what I was talking about with Actors Directors and John Korty. Nonetheless, I felt his Anakin was very weak and not the Darth Vader we all love in the first three Star Wars Movies. Growing up I liked many others had a fantasy about George Lucas using me to play Anakin but that never came to pass and I would have been too old anyway by the time Lucas got around to making the prequels. Anakin would have been a challenge but we all know the prequels did not turn out how all the fans hoped as they were watered down versions of the originals with no teeth to them.
You have done conventions, but lately it seems you don’t do a lot of them. It’s been quite some time since you have been to Europe for instance. Any specific reason for this?
No reason in particular. I have been busy working on a few projects so I have not had as much time to go to many conventions. I also do not do this for a living like a lot of convention regulars you see time and time again. They make their living on it and I do it to meet and greet the fans. Sometimes if a fan does not have money, I have been known to give them an autograph or two. I also donate most of the money to local charities in my area. I have personally witnessed some Star Wars regulars like the Chewbacca guy (editors note: Peter Mayhew), be rude to fans who want him to sign things and I do not like it. Fans are what make you a star and believe me there is a higher price to pay for that kind of attitude.
What do you make of the nature of Star Wars fandom? Here we are twenty-nine years later and the franchise is as popular as ever. Were you surprised that Star Wars fans want to meet you at conventions?
Absolutely. I was told that since Star Wars was a big deal and people would remember this Ewok movie for about a decade. Here we are twenty-two years later after even the Ewok movies and I am doing an interview on your website!
Regarding the fans I am truly humbled and it touches my heart that someone would care about Mace Towani or Eric Walker. I really enjoy listening to all the personal stories from all of my fans. It really touches my heart to know that maybe I helped them escape this world if only for a brief amount of time while they were engaged in watching Mace and Cindel try to save their parents. Many of them have shared with me how they would pretend they were Mace while they were playing with friends or other relatives and if I was able to help them by being a mentor or someone they wished they were like, I am thankful to have participated as a positive role model in their lives.
You have attended acting classes in the early eighties along with Sean Penn, Noah Hathaway, Corey Feldman and Barrett Oliver. Are you still in touch with them? How were they back then and did you guys dream about regarding acting back then?
I am not in touch with most of my classmates. None of the ones you mentioned here. I am in touch with Courtney Gains (Children of the Corn, Sweet Home Alabama) and Byron Thames (Star Trek: Enterprise, Johnny Dangerously).
As fellow working actors we always were there for one another. Every time one of us had a movie coming out we would all go out to see it together the night it came out. I remember when Courtney Gains was had a movie called Secret Admirer with C. Thomas Howell and we all went out in Hollywood to a movie theater to see it, when suddenly Crispin Clover gets off the bus at the same intersection. Courtney and Crispin were working on Back To The Future together at the time, so he just happen to see us and ended up joining us to watch Courtney’s new movie as well. So that is just one example of how actors support one another.
What would you regard as the highlight of your career so far, and what is the most important thing you have learned in the movie business?
At this moment it would have to be working with George Lucas and Lucasfilm. I learned a lot of about movie making from them. But all that is about to change with Star Walker as it will soon replace it. Still, I have to say George was a mentor if you will. He is responsible for my love of film making and editing in particular. If he and Tom Smith did not rent the camera equipment and let us go around the set filming I might not love the art of film making. My hope is that George gets back to just that, the art of film making. I feel he is surrounded by ‘yes’ people and if that is something he wants that is sad.
I have many things I would like to say to George and speak to him about which include wanting to work for him on a few projects. I plan on contacting him shortly in fact to tell him about my book and wanting to work for him again. Who knows, maybe he will be back in my future, but I doubt it. I have read so much about his vision with Francis Ford Coppola and see he has lost that vision. I am hopeful about his plans to go back to making movies that he wants to do and I wish him luck. I have also learned that Hollywood will get to you even if you’re George Lucas and you move so far away to escape it. All one has to do is watch the first three Star Wars movies followed by the second three. Then you will see Hollywood or the merchandising machine at its best.
The first three movies were made by filmmakers and the prequels were made by the toymakers. That is what I have learned about the movie business. There is nothing wrong with the toymakers as they have their own place. The problem is keeping them out of the film making process and that is something I fight to do. Let them make the toys after the movies are made. You will find that better movies will ensue.
Niki Botelho was 16 (!) toen ze de rol van Teek speelde. Later was ze ook te zien in Batman Returns en de TV serie Charmed.
What do you recall of the filming of your scenes for The Battle For Endor and how did you get cast as Teek?
Originally Teek was an actual puppet. However, Wilford Brimley was throwing a fit with the directors, the Wheat Brothers. “I can’t act to a F****** puppet!” Often, I would be off the clock for work and Wilford would kindly ask me to act as the puppet for line sight so he could be interacting with something real.
I did not even see it coming. One day they told me my call time was god awful early, like 6 am -for a sixteen year old that is early-. I was to report to the creature shop.
Next thing you know parents are there signing contracts with me. I had to join the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) as soon as possible. It was a bit crazy. You know, no one ever ‘asked’ me if I wanted to do the part. I was the tiniest of the bunch, always was and always will be.
The main cast for The Battle For Endor were you, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller and Wilford Brimley. How did all of you get along during the filming of the movie?
We all got along wonderfully. They were like my first second family. We went out to dinner a lot, swam together….we were all so young, it was a blast! Once, Wilford asked all of us -at the time- kids if we were free for dinner and also if we liked sushi.
He ended up getting a limo to take us all to his premiere of Cocoon in San Francisco. We were all so surprised with all the photographers etcetera. It was a good time.
The Battle For Endor was directed by Jim and Ken Wheat. How were both men to work with?
Well as I said before how pissed Wilford was about the damn Teek puppet; he screamed at the Wheat Brothers and called them the Idiot Brothers. Wilford refused to work with them, therefore all of Wilfords shots were shot by the second unit director who was Joe Johnston at the time. He is pretty big in Hollywood these days and cool as hell to work with.
Did any strange, remarkable or funny things happen on the set? Can you share some memories?
Lots! Someone was always messing with someone!
One shot we were filming a POV shot across the ravine of all the Marauders descending down the hill. The Idiot Brothers wanted me to get up at the end of the scene and walk out of frame. Joe was directing me at the time. He did not like the idea so he put DUP on the slate (directed under protest). Joe did not have a good feeling about this one and he was right. I walked right out of frame and over the edge. I tumbled and tumbled and tumbled some more. Finally I ended face down in the creek, water rushing through me as well as the costume, making it weigh about two tons. I was choking on water by the time they yanked me out of the water and ripped my mask off.
Everyone freaked out and thought I was seriously hurt, the way the fall looked. I was 16, nothing hurts when you are 16. The creature shop was so pissed at the Wheat Bros. They painted a huge fake bruise on my back. The Wheat Bros. called me over, all concerned. I told them I felt fine, however my back kind of hurt. I lifted my shirt to show them my back…the fake bruise was huge. They shit their pants! We all got a good laugh at it.
How do you look back at the fact you were in The Battle For Endor, and are you proud to be a part of Star Wars?
You know Dennis, I knew, even though I was only 16 this gig was beyond special in so many ways. I was so young, traveling to Japan with Lucasfilm -everything First Class of course-. I realize now that I am older -and I hope wiser- I see how cool it is to be a part of major entertainment history.
I enjoyed playing Teek, it was fun. My friends say they knew which character I was right away by my mannerism. Funny huh?
Daniel Frishman was naast de twee Ewok films (Waarin hij de vader van Wicket speelde) ook in Return of the Jedi te zien.
What do you recall of the filming of your scenes for the Ewok movies?
Working in those costumes was very hard work and tiring. With the heads on you were completely sealed and would have only a short period of time when you had clear vision through the eye lenses. After that they would fog up from your sweat and body heat, so before the heads were put on you would try to pick out a large landmark so you could keep your bearings.
However, all of the crew, from the director on down were very understanding of our predicament.
Did any strange, remarkable or funny things happen on the set? Can you share some memories?
One of the most memorable to me was watching a scene and although my fellow Ewoks were completely encased in their costumes being able to tell when they were “in” character and “out” of character. It was very plain.
You played the part of Deej, the father of Wicket, who was played by Warwick Davis. At the time, Davis was a teenager and you were in your twenties. Did you have to look after him on the set, just like in the movie?
Twenties? Hey, thanks! I was actually in my mid thirties. Warwick’s parents were on the set and Warwick looked after himself. I treated him as an equal. He’s quite a guy.
The main cast for The Ewok Adventure movie were you, Warwick Davis, Debbie Lee Carrington, Tony Cox, Kevin Thompson and two kids: Eric Walker and Aubree Miller. How did all of you get along during the filming of the movie?
We fought like cats and dogs the whole time. JUST KIDDING. We got along fine. All of us LP’s knew each other and got along. Aubree’s parents were there too and Eric was a pretty good kid. No problems.
The Ewok Adventure was directed by John Korty, while George Lucas produced it. How were both men to work with?
John Korty is what I would call and actor’s director. He understands how actors work and was able to translate that to our scenes. He was also very patient and created a very relaxed set. George Lucas directed me a few times and he too was fine. He was very clear about what he wanted and was willing to work with you to achieve that.
According to Warwick Davis there were plans to make a third Ewok movie, but unfortunately this never happened.
Can you remember this? That there were plans for a third movie?
This is the first I have heard of it. What would it be called? Ewok III? or Revenge of the Ewoks?
It was then only known as Ewoks III.
Kevin Thompson was net als Dan Frishman ook in Return of the Jedi te zien. In Caravan of Courage speelt hij de Ewok krijger Chukha-Trok.
How did you get cast for Return of the Jedi and the Ewok Adventure
In Return of the Jedi they were looking for Little People Actors who were agile. I went on a stunt audition in Hollywood with J.R. Randall the coordinator and he interviewed me. I was the only Little Person Actor with mime and gymnastic training from High School and Pasadena City College. I was one of five Little People cast as a stunt man throughout the entire film. Because of my work on Return of the Jedi, I was cast on Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: Battle For Endor. My character died on Ewok Adventure, but they kept me for the stunts on Battle For Endor.
In the Ewok Adventure you played the part of the Ewok warrior Chukha-Trok. What do you recall of the filming of your scenes for this movie? I’d love to hear as much as possible since there is so little known about the making of this movie.
Ewok Adventure was made for Amanda Lucas, George’s daughter. George and his wife were divorcing at this time. Amanda loved the Ewoks and George wanted to make a story about family with the Ewoks. Amanda was always on set with her dad. She was always scared of my character Chukha-Trok because he was the biggest and the toughest Ewok with the axe and breastplate. I was the warrior. Amanda cried when Chukha-Trok died. The Little People tried to keep it magical by not letting Amanda know that we were Ewoks, but she caught on towards the end because she was there so often and got to know us on set.
Did any strange, remarkable or funny things happen on the set? Can you share some memories?
Knowing that looping would come along later, some of the Ewok actors would try to come up with a Ewok language. It was quite entertaining. I would improv my own lines in English that came out so humorous it would have the crew and cast in stitches.
For Return of the Jedi and the Ewok Adventure you had to work with George Lucas. What impression did he make on you?
George Lucas was a very humble man. He ate with the crew and drove himself to set. He was very soft spoken and he looked out for his daughter when she was on set. He personally would take pictures of Amanda with the Ewoks with a little 126 Kodak Instamatic camera. I thought he would have a big 35mm camera top of the line for that time.
What would you regard as your best memory from the two Star Wars movies you were in. Is there a special moment you’ll cherish forever?
Just the memory that I was in it. I was a big Star Wars fan before Return of the Jedi. It seems to become even a bigger deal as time goes on. I never really gave much thought to later years and the affect it would have on people and movie making. Another best memory are the residual checks. When the mail comes and there is a Return of the Jedi residual check I always thank Mr. Lucas. Not many actors in Jedi get residual checks, only the American stuntmen because the actors where on points and the English actors do not get residuals.
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