Wat velen niet weten is dat The Force Awakens een Nederlands tintje heeft. Nadat eerder de Nederlandse acteurs Dickey Beer (Return of the Jedi) en Carel Struycken (Ewoks: Battle for Endor) in een Star Wars film te zien waren was het nu de beurt aan Gerard Smith.
Hoewel Gerard in de Verenigde Staten is geboren heeft hij (naast de Amerikaanse) ook de Nederlandse nationaliteit, heeft hij hier gewoond en spreekt hij ook de Nederlandse taal. Toen ik van hem bericht kreeg dat hij wilde meewerken aan een interview was dit dan ook geweldig nieuws: een Nederlandse Star Wars acteur die vragen beantwoord voor de Nederlandse Star Wars community! Treffender kan het niet.
In The Force Awakens speelde Gerard een Resistance colonel en is hij te zien in diverse scènes op de Resistance basis op D’Qar… maar daar vertelt hij zelf meer over in onderstaand interview (dat op verzoek in het Engels is).
Interview met Gerard Smith
Hi Mr. Smith, it’s great to have an interview with a Dutch Star Wars actor for the Dutch Star Wars site! A perfect match! My first question for you: Could you tell how you got started in the movie business?
I initially got inspired to be an actor by watching countless episodes of a show called Daktari as a kid. Daktari, Swahili for “doctor”, is an American children’s drama series that aired on CBS prime time between 1966 and 1969 in the United States. The series, an Ivan Tors Films Production in association with MGM Television starring Marshall Thompson as Dr. Marsh Tracy, a veterinarian at the fictional Wameru Study Centre for Animal Behaviour in East Africa.
However, it wasn’t until many years later that I actually walked onto a movie set for the first time.
Whilst completing my MBA (Masters in International Business and Economics) at UCLA – University of California, Los Angeles, a professor pulled me over after giving a presentation with my group and told me that I was a pretty good presenter and had I ever thought about acting. He suggested that I do so and wrote down a few names and numbers that I could call (this was before the internet took off), and gave them to me. So I contacted them and one thing led to another and I ended up on a movie set.
To be honest, I don’t actually remember what movie or TV show was my very first. I just remember calling the numbers my professor gave me and sending my photos in to them in the mail. Then I got a phone call one day and was asked to come into an agency in West LA on the Sunset Strip (Hollywood Boulevard). I registered with the agency and from that moment on I was on many productions.
I quickly earned my way into the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA) and was able to gain more respect by building my portfolio and ultimately landed a legitimate Hollywood “acting” agent/manager.
Can you tell how you got cast as a Resistance colonel for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? How did the casting process go?
It was my destiny. I came to the UK in 2012 for the Olympic and Paralympic Games after closing out and selling off my successful outdoor and adventure business in Belgium (think The North Face, Arc’teryx, etc.). I was hired on for the last 7 months as an event manager for The Games. My contract ended after The Games finished and I decided to stay in London to look for work.
So, one day I simply Googled acting agencies in London and a plethora of agency names came up. I registered with a few of them and was asked to come into one of them for a registration day. They said they were a new agency representing SA’s but had extensive contacts in the film industry. I didn’t think much of it nor did I hear anything from them for ages and then one day I got an email informing me that I had been chosen – from my picture – for a new movie and asking my availability for the summer months.
There wasn’t much of a “process” really. I was chosen from my picture, although I heard that there was a casting for some supporting actors. Once my availability was considered to be sufficient, I was informed that I would be a “pirate” in the anonymous movie. This is the 1st movie that I had been in for many years since I left Hollywood and when I heard “pirate” I immediately thought that the movie was a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel or something along those lines.
I then went to a fitting at Pinewood Studios where they took very accurate measurements.
I was not initially cast as a Resistance colonel. I was a basic Resistance fighter fitted into a standard Resistance “pirate” military outfit. On the first day of filming, I went to wardrobe and my costume was fitted on me. I, as did everyone, had to be inspected and given the personal approval of Michael Kaplan, Head of Costume Design. He looked me up and down, through his big black-framed glasses, and he very quietly and calmly told his assistant standing next to him to upgrade me to a Colonel.
How did the filming of your scenes go?
I was in multiple scenes both on location at the RAF Greenham Common – the Resistance base on D’Qar – and at Pinewood Studios.
In general, the filming was quite intense because I had to focus on my performance as an actor as well as concentrating on other things going on around me such as health & safety as well as other personalities and the absolute awe of being on the set of Star Wars with the original cast and incredibly talented crew, technical specialists, artists, creatures & robots.
It was imperative to be absolutely focused on your role at that moment. It can be quite distracting to be standing next to a 7 foot Wookiee as BB-8 scoots past you or Admiral Ackbar positions himself next to you in the War Room. Not to mention being in the same room with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and many others. So total FOCUS on the task at hand and staying in character was key and it was very important not to get star struck. I carried on performing as if it was just another day at the office.
My scenes started filming late spring and early summer at Pinewood Studios. However, as we all know, Harrison Ford broke his leg on set and many of my scenes were postponed until late summer after Harrison returned back from LA fully recuperated. Upon our return in late summer, as you can imagine, the emphasis on being SAFE on set could not be over emphasized!
You were there on the set with some Star Wars legends like Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and new stars Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. How were they and did you get to interact with them?
The entire cast and crew were incredibly nice. As well, I will take a moment here to mention that the Director, J.J. Abrams, was (is) an incredibly talented, patient and all round nice person and extremely fun to work with. I am NOT just saying this just to be saying it. I have worked with a lot of directors and A-listers and believe me they are not all so patient and fun to work with!
Yes, I got to speak with many of the Star Wars legends, but not at great lengths except on one occasion.
One morning on location, I was asked by an AD to follow him. He brought me close to the Millennium Falcon and then asked me to stop and wait there until he came back. Then, after about 15 minutes, he came back and asked me to follow him closer to the Millennium Falcon. He brought me right under the spaceship and then I started seeing familiar faces like Carrie Fishers stand-in and Harrison Ford’s stand-in. Then J.J. emerged out of a crowd of activity under the Falcon where it became apparent to me that they were preparing to film a major scene. The AD put his hand on my shoulder and said “this guy” and J.J. gave a quick sign of approval then spun around and disappeared into the busy group behind him. The AD just walked away and told me to stay where I was standing.
It was about 9am by this time and the sun started burning its way through the early morning mist. About that time, a group of very nice wardrobe and make-up ladies approached me and started pulling out their sewing needles and make-up kits and went to work on my uniform and my face making sure everything was perfect. Not long after that, Admiral Statura (Ken Leung) approached me from the same group that J.J. had disappeared into. He said that we would be doing a scene together with Harrison and Carrie. I didn’t have time to get nervous or think about how incredibly cool this was. So Ken and I stood there together about an hour talking and getting to know each other in the warm morning sun. A very pleasant experience. Turns out he is from the same part of the States I am from and we just couldn’t stop talking. He even told me that his closest childhood friend in New Jersey was called “Gerard”! We had a lot of fun talking while waiting until everything was set. In the meantime, the lead photographer and his team also came over to us and took like a zillion photos.
Finally, Harrison and Carrie came out under the Falcon to rehearse their roles. Carrie’s action was to come to Admiral Statura (Ken) and me after her intimate moment with Harrison. So before we formally started rehearsing, she came up to me, reached out and shook my hand and said hi and asked me how it was going. We talked for a while in the morning sun with Ken and then Daisy Ridley came bounding over to say hi. She was smiling from ear to ear and very jubilant. Extremely nice and you get a very sincere feeling about her.
Ken welcomed me to the Star Wars family and made me feel very at ease. Carrie talked to me about many things and was explaining to me about her dog before J.J. came over and got her and asked her to go back to Harrison that we were ready to start filming.
After a few rehearsals, J.J. walked up to Ken and me and gave us a few suggestions to nail the action. Then he shook both of our hands and emphatically said let’s do this as he walked away.
I spoke with Harrison Ford on a few other occasions, mostly at craft and about coffee, but he was rehearsing the details of his scene with J.J. whilst we were all talking.
What great/funny/remarkable stories can you share regarding your time on the set of Star Wars?
I don’t know where to start (or stop). I couldn’t possibly explain them all here, so I will only select a few. The entire experience was amazing. From the outset of filming, J.J. Abrams made us feel like “part of the family”. Sometimes J.J. would take a moment at the beginning of the day and give a short impromptu speech about how he was really happy to have us ALL working together and that we should ALL feel as one family and that we indeed ARE all one family!
I guess one other remarkable moment was when, as if it couldn’t get any better, I had to step out of the scene for a few minutes while some cables were being moved in the place I was standing. So I was asked to step off (and down the steps) to the ground level. I just stepped into a group of onlookers and didn’t really look anyone in the face until after. So a few minutes went by and I decided to look quickly to my left. So, standing directly next to me was Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm), Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg. Kathleen looked back at me and said “Hi” and Tom looked over and gave me a friendly nod while Simon Pegg kept staring straight ahead in total amazement of the set and what was going on.
The other truly remarkable thing about Star Wars and my time on the set was the SET itself!!! The set design and all of those absolutely incredibly creative people that helped make that happen is truly beyond comprehension! I couldn’t help just looking and studying (on my down time) the intricacies of the set design of the Resistance base! Incredible!
What is the best or most precious memory you have regarding The Force Awakens?
I am not sure if it’s the most precious moment, but it’s the one that I think about almost every day and that’s when I was selected to be in a scene with Han Solo, Princess Leia and Admiral Statura in front of the Falcon Millennium. It’s the scene I just described 2 questions prior to this one.
When J.J. Abrams came over and shook my hand before we started to film that scene, I knew that it was a special moment. It was even more special after we successfully completed the scene and J.J. came out and was smiling and said, jokingly, “if it didn’t work it was all Gerard’s fault” and was smiling from ear to ear looking at me!
In a previous scene on another day when Princess Leia was giving a speech to all of us inside of the Resistance base, J.J. came out from behind the camera between ‘takes’, walked towards the edge of the platform where we were all standing and looked at me and asked me what my name was in front of all of my Resistance Alliance Rebel colleagues. I told him my name was “Gerard”. He said, hi Gerard, and politely asked me if I could stand more “straight up” in the group rather than leaning slightly to one side because it didn’t look right on camera. I was embarrassed like hell but my fellow Resistance fighters were like, he spoke your name! What an honour to have J.J. Abrams actually speak to you!
Star Wars VIII is currently filming and Rogue One will be released in December. Will we see you in one of these movies (or in both)?
No, I was not involved with Rogue One. “They have contacted me to be involved in Star Wars VIII, but of course, I can’t disclose much about that now. Plus I don’t know anything . . . It’s really on a “Need to Know ” basis, even for some cast members and walk-on actors like myself. ”
Besides Star Wars you have acted in a lot of popular movies and series: SPECTRE, Blade, Babylon 5… what is your own personal favorite of all the things you’ve been in?
I really enjoyed working on Blade. That’s the most memorable for me. We filmed most of the vampire scenes in the San Fernando Valley in an abandoned factory building. Each day we had to walk through a huge “shower” and get covered in artificial blood before filming. That was after getting our vampire fangs fitted and special shoes. Each day we had new shoes and new clothes as well because they were ruined by the fake blood and impossible to clean it off. Every day after filming we had to take a shower before leaving (obviously).
Since I do some martial arts, and the director liked my look, I was upgraded to do a fight scene with Wesley Snipes. Since I had to work with the fight choreographer, I was invited to go behind the factory where Wesley’s trailer was. They had built a mini-outdoor gym on the side and so Wesley told me I could pump a little iron if I wanted. So that was cool.
Unfortunately, the entire fight scene that I am in with Wesley did not make it to the final edit. But it was really cool to have done it anyway.
I read you once helped Arnold Schwarzenegger move his furniture out of his house. I just have to ask: how did you get into a situation like that? Helping out ‘The Governator’?
It’s an amazing story really. As anyone that knows me can tell you, I am a huge fan of everything Terminator, so when I first met Arnie on the set of Batman and Robin in 1997 on the Universal Studios lot when he was Mr. Freeze and I was a Gotham City wealthy patron, I was very pleased to say the least. He was full on in his outfit and stepped out to have a puff on a cigar. I had “seen” him a few times since I lived in Venice Beach and joined Gold’s Gym on Muscle Beach where he used to pump iron out in the open Californian air. He passed by there every so often. He also owned a restaurant and Austrian beer house in Santa Monica called “Schatzi’s” where I used to frequent. So I had seen him a few times, but never met him until on set.
In addition to doing the acting thing, I was also an event and party manager at a VIP party service to the stars based in Beverly Hills called The Party Staff. They regularly sent me out to great locations such as The Playboy Mansion and other residences in Beverly Hills. On one occasion, I was assigned to Arnie’s house to manage one of his many charity events he was putting on. So that’s how I ended up in his Beverly Hills mansion moving furniture with him. It wasn’t a lot of furniture or big stuff. Just a few tables in the den. He asked me to help him move them out so that when the guests arrived, they wouldn’t be tripping over things and more space would be available for guests to congregate in the den if they so desired.
My final question: Could you say something in Dutch to all the Dutch Star Wars fans out there?
I am honoured to be a global citizen of the world and to represent the Netherlands in such an iconic movie as Star Wars! As a teenager, I was scolded once by my science teacher in school that I was a “dreamer” and was told on multiple other occasions to stop looking out the window and daydreaming. The creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, was in fact a dreamer. The creative team that Lucas initially set up in the summer of 1977 got together to “dream” of the worlds that Lucas had created to help bring the movie to life. So if I can say just one thing, that’d be “STOP NOOIT MET DROMEN!” (“NEVER STOP DREAMING!”)
That’s a great advice! Dankjewel voor het interview en hopelijk tot ziens in Star Wars VIII!
Special thanks to Sci-Fi signers united!
Exclusief interview met Nick Stanner (Stunt performer – The Mandalorian)
Wat zou Star Wars zijn zonder goede stuntlui? Iemand moet de stormtrooper zijn die door een vlammenwerper in rook opgaat of van een rots af valt!
In The Mandalorian ging stuntman Nick Stanner meer dan 30 keer ‘dood’ en was hij als diverse personages te zien. Van Mandalorian tot stormtrooper! Onlangs interviewde ik hem voor StarWarsInterviews.com en zoals altijd is het ook hier te lezen!
How did your journey in movies start? How and why did you become a stuntman?
Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska I was not around film at all. I grew up competing in Gymnastics for my parents’ club all the way through college. I was always flipping off something and in eighth grade I remember watching a movie, not sure which one, but I mentioned I wanted to “do that” as I pointed at the screen. My mom asked if I wanted to be an actor, and I said, “No, I wanna do the cool stuff!” Mom said Oh a stuntman?! I said yeah, and went back to being an eighth grader. Fast forward to after college, I was looking for a new apartment in Lincoln Nebraska where I went to collegians was telling my mom and she said, “I thought you said you wanted to go be a stuntman! When are you going to do that?” The second I heard my mom say that and I knew she supported me no matter where I was, I decided to leave. I headed to Florida to get involved with the live stunt shows at the theme parks like Indiana Jones at Disney, Sindbad at Universal and many others in the Orlando area. Once I got into some of those shows I started to meet people in the film industry.
How did you manage to get hired for The Mandalorian TV series?
One of my best friends that I met at the very first show I did when I moved to Florida was Ryan Watson, the Stunt and Fight Coordinator for The Mandalorian now. We have known each other since 1999. He is one of the best in the industry for fights and creative camera work.
Which characters did you play as a stuntman? The Mandalorian himself?
I played a mandalorian, but not THE Mandalorian. The Mandalorian stunt double is Lateef Crowder. He is amazing with movement. I played numerous characters. I died 32 times in the first eighth episodes, many as a stormtrooper. I did all the high falls so any time someone falls from a roof, that’s me. You can count at least four in the final battle in episode 1. 3 falls in one circle of the gun and one when IG-11 shoots me before they walk in the door. That’s a couple examples, but I am all over the place. I also was the green face guy with Carl Weathers and speeder bike trooper.
You just mentioned that you ‘died’ 32 times. What was your favorite death scene?
Each death was unique. My favorite is high falls, which is why I get to do them all, but being torched by mandos flame thrower as a stormtrooper.
Which of these characters was your favorite?
They are all fun to play, but there is nothing like being a jet pack mandalorian flying on wires. Kids dream come true!
Did you meet the Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal? How was he to work with?
I met everyone and worked with the whole cast! It’s an amazing crew with no lack of talent and everyone is very down to earth. Being there every day, I had a chance to get to know everyone pretty well. Pedro is a jokester so we got along great. I’m a big comedy fan so I enjoyed Bill Burr.
Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?
There were a few funny moments on set. Lots of laughs all around really but when it was time to work playtime was over. Off the set there was plenty of laughs and good times. When you’re working 10-14-hour days it takes the whole crew to keep everyone in good moods and in the film biz there is no shortage of laughs.
What is your favorite anecdote regarding the production of The Mandalorian?
My fave laughs, not sure of anecdote, was when Bill burr would mess with the crew. He has such quick wit and had the entire crew laughing!
Were you a Star Wars fan before you got cast?
I was a so-so Star Wars fan. I liked the movies, mainly the first 3, and saw them pretty young. Being involved has brought me a little deeper into the world but I would not consider myself a diehard fan.
The question I have to ask every stuntman: what is the most dangerous stunt you’ve ever done?
Most dangerous stunt would be getting hit by car in Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon, or a 9-story high fall while being lit on fire, but it could be being hung underneath a helicopter by 75 feet of cable and flown over Los Angeles! Hard to pick just one, they are all super fun to me!
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Jake Cannavale (Toro Calican)
In aflevering 5 van The Mandalorian maakten we kennis met de jonge premiejager Toro Calican, gespeeld door Jake Cannavale. Speciaal voor zustersite StarWarsInterviews.com beantwoordde hij kort enkele vragen!
How did you get cast for The Mandalorian and were you a Star Wars fan?
They asked my agent if I would like to be in it. And I’m a massive fan and always will be.
How did the shooting of your scenes (most of them with Pedro Pascal) go?
They went very well. There was not a single difficult person to work with on that entire set. In my so far very short career that’s already not something I take lightly. Pedro Pascal was awesome! Mad love to Pedro.
You were directed by Dave Filoni, who many fans see as George Lucas’ heir. What is your opinion of him?
Other than the fact that he genuinely loves The Phantom Menace I have literally nothing bad to say about Dave. He’s the man. I loved working with him as an actor, and I have nothing but faith in him as a fan.
Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?
During me and Ming’s fight scene, Dave told her stunt double -whose name is also Ming- to actually kinda beat me up…it looked fantastic.
What is the best memory you have regarding The Mandalorian?
Probably knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that I can pull off a blue leather outfit.
Besides acting you’re also a musician in a band called Vixen Maw. How would you describe the music you make and who are your musical influences?
Vixen Maw is an experimental grindcore band. I would describe us as the musical equivalent of getting lobotomized by an unlicensed brain surgeon with Parkinson’s disease and medical fetishism. I don’t like to speak on behalf of my band members (or anyone, as a general rule) but I can say we are all pretty eclectic in terms of our musical tastes, with extreme music being the anchor, or epicenter, so to speak. So our influences are pretty all over the place. I will say that we are currently writing a new album from our own respective quarantine spots and some of the bands I’ve been listening to for inspiration include Chepang, Bandit, Narayama, Vulva Essers, Cloud Rat, Botch, Wormrot, Coke Bust, Gulch, and Bryan Adams.
You’re almost 25 years old. Where do you see yourself in 10 years and what are your career goals?
In ten years I see myself hopefully having had enough memorable screen time to be sampled in some kids shitty grindcore band that his parents are sick of hearing rehearse from their garage. Also I would genuinely love to be writing for a living. Theater, film and animated television.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Richard Stride (Poggle)
Door de jaren heen is er de meest grappige en bizarre Star Wars trivia in boeken en op internet verschenen, maar wat de geur(!) van de Death Star plannen was -tot vandaag!- goed bewaard gebleven!
In een interview met zustersite StarWarsInterviews.com deelt Richard Stride (die aan Attack of the Clones en Revenge of the Sith meewerkte) een leuke anecdote.
How did you get started in the movie business and how did you get the parts of Poggle and a Clone Trooper in Star Wars?
I went to drama school at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts and in 1993 I graduated and went straight into a Hollywood movie called First Knight. I actually was originally cast as Obi-Wan’s double for the films Episode II and III. However, I gained many extra characters along the way.
How did you play Poggle?
I was in motion capture suit and had a great scene with the late Christopher Lee. When filming the scene with Christopher Lee, with the Death Star plans, I made a remark to the props guy that how clever even the smallest props where in design and craftsmanship in even the Death Star Plans. He started to laugh which was strange and when I asked him what was so funny he told me they had forgot to make them and he had to dash out the day before and went to Halfords and it actually was a car air freshener. So I told Christopher Lee when handing over the Death Star plans it was something to freshen the whole Galaxy with.
Can you share some of your memories regarding the time you worked on both movies?
I loved it. I spent all my time on set and didn’t really go to the green room as it was so much more interesting to watch other peoples scenes etc. It was lovely to be part of a big family on set and chat to so many interesting people.
How did George Lucas direct you?
He is a very visual director and has a very clear idea of what he is after. You have to put your trust fully in a director as they can see everything, and that’s what I did.
Did they give you any memorabilia after the movie was finished?
I was given a T-shirt and a signed call sheet on the last day of filming and a personal thankyou of George Lucas.
When was your first encounter with the Star Wars phenomena?
I saw it as a child on TV and loved it. I watch it over and over again.
What are your thoughts on the two Star Wars movies you were in?
I liked them and they are great movies to keep returning to as you learn something new each time.
What do you regard as the highlight of your career so far?
I loved doing Star Wars, but also Shakespeare in Love, and playing Hamlet for the stage.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Paul Brooke (Rancor Keeper)
Het is een van de meest bekende scenes uit Return of the Jedi: de scene waarin we een huilende Rancor keeper zien met op de achtergrond de zojuist door Luke verslagen mega monster. Afgelopen december was de Britse acteur Paul Brooke die deze rol vertolkte te gast op de EchoBase conventie in Utrecht. Uiteraard sprak ik hem voor mijn site StarWarsInterviews.com over de wellicht meest bekende seconden uit zijn leven én kwam ook een van de meest bekende acteurs allertijden ter sprake. Volgens traditie is het interview ook hier te lezen.
How did you get cast for Return of the Jedi?
I was touring India with a play for the British Council and my manager had trouble getting in touch with me because we were moving around from city to city. When we got to Calcutta, there was a message in the hotel waiting which said, “I’ve accepted two days filming for you the week you get home”. You have nothing to do. But we both made the money. Which made me laugh at the time and hadn’t really made me laugh ever since because I feel like I’m privileged to be even in a small role, the smallest role I ever played in front of a camera in a lucky career where I’ve rarely stopped working. But how lucky I was to be part of this extraordinary franchise.
What was your initial feeling when you got the part? Star Wars was very popular and this much anticipated movie promised to be big; it had the biggest budget of all three.
I wouldn’t have known that from my two mornings. But having said that, I’ve appreciated it, to be honest, more over time than I did at the time. For the reason that I’ve given you. Because I was nice and busy, I was lucky with work, and I was normally playing much better parts. But then the fact that people remember after all these years and that I get mail every week shows that even if it’s a small part, if it works, which is not just tied to the actor, of course it’s down to the script and everything. But if it works, it can make an impact that people will stick with. I’ve had the most extraordinary stories from people over the years of not only of their enjoyment, but of the passing on their enjoyment to their children and even grandchildren, which is rather touching. Probably if I’ve been offered the part and I was at home because I had loads of work where I had more to do, I would probably have turned it down and I would have regretted it like mad with hindsight.
Did you see the other two movies?
I think I’ve seen them both. I’ve certainly seen Star Wars. I was amazed and surprised that a very intellectual British theatre director, a famous guy at the time called William Gaskell, who I worked with at Royal Court Theatre, a pioneering theatre in London and who was rather up-market in all sorts of respect. I was doing a play with him before I got offered Return of the Jedi and he came out with the fact that he was a huge Star Wars fan. At the time I hadn’t seen the film and I didn’t think I thought, well Sci-Fi not particularly my scene. But then when Gaskell said, but it’s wonderful, it’s absolutely wonderful. You have to see it. So, I did and I was hooked like all the millions of others over the years.
What do you remember about the filming of your scenes?
The main thing I remember is how short it was. I did the little bit with Mark Hamill and then the following morning it was just me on a rostrum in front of a blue screen. No Rancor and nobody except for me being given directions by Richard Marquand, the director. Raising my head a little, turning the right a little up a little more. Now you’re looking at the Rancor, which of course I wasn’t, because the Rancor wasn’t there. And then on the cue having to burst into tears. That was my experience from the acting point of view. I mean, that in itself is not easy because normally you have other actors or even if the Rancor had been there in some shape or form you can respond to that. Responding to thin air is not always easy.
Did you know then what the Rancor looked like?
No, not at all.
The first time was when I saw the film and the first time I was actually WITH the Rancor was two years ago in Kentucky when this guy who built a huge Rancor for thousands of dollars and who takes it round the conventions, making money from people to be photographed with the Rancor. He said my model is up, would you pop up when you have a break, have some photos taken? I said “of course!”, and it was stunning.
Can you share any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things that happened?
I think the strangest is what I’ve already told you because it was so brief. I didn’t get to know any of the other actors. So, I said hello and shook hands with Mark Hamill. There were no personal stories. The strangest thing I think was the only time at that that I had to do something which was apparently responding to a creature that wasn’t there. But I’ve had other strange experiences in films and television. Maybe the strangest acting during a scene with Marlon Brando in an anti-apartheid film called Dry White Season, where although he was there and huge at the time. He was one of the only actors who made me feel small. It was really delightful, but he didn’t learn his lines. So, after you’d said you’re lying to him, you waited for ages while the woman upstairs told him through an earpiece what to do next, so there was a silence. You heard this in the background and then he’d come at you one hundred miles an hour force of his personality. You’d come in on cue. Then another long gap while upstairs the line was going into his ear. That’s difficult because you can’t suspend disbelief. It becomes a like an acting exercise because normally the response of the of the people helps you to act well, and if you’re not getting it straight back, there’s nothing to believe. So, when he speaks, you can respond to that but by then you’re out of the action for a period while the woman is telling him what to do. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I mean, heavens, having acted with Marlon Brando, hero of my youth.
In fact, it was filmed in Zimbabwe because they wouldn’t allow at the time an anti-apartheid film to be filmed in South Africa. And I had two scenes there, one with Donald Sutherland and one with Brando. After I had done the scene with Sutherland they said, you can’t go home yet because we don’t know if Marlon Brando is coming or not. They said you don’t have to stay in the capital. You can go sightseeing, you can go to Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba and all these fabulous places but phone in every evening and we’ll let you know. So after about 10 days or something, I phoned in and they said, he’s not coming so you’re on the next plane back to London. I came back alone and they mounted his scenes, I think, at Pinewood, if I remember right. He was just in court scenes, so as isolated section of the film, he played an attorney. Then we filmed those couple of months later or something like that just outside London. When I first met him and introduced him, I said, I’m so grateful to you for not coming to Zimbabwe because I had this fabulous holiday at the film company’s expense. Now here I am at Pinewood being paid all over again for the same job. The great Marlon said to me “Glad to be of service”.
You have done a lot in your career but most people will always remember you for your role in Star Wars. How do you feel about this?
That’s part of the course with the acting game. The greatest thing for the actors of my level, basically a supporting actor, occasionally played leading part but mainly a supporting actor. The main thing is to keep working and you balance a part of which you have a lot to do a film or TV series with something where you don’t, or occasionally you do it just because it pays the bills.
I feel no negativity whatsoever about playing a tiny part and the fact that it has been clearly so focal for so many people is a bonus. You know it’s funny and genuinely touching when people get in touch with me and say “I saw this when I was six and I’ve been a fan ever since”. But I had so little to do. You know if you went to make a cup of tea you’d miss me and they say it doesn’t matter and they’ll always remember that moment. That is quite heartwarming. It’s great to hear.
Earlier this year a Star Wars fan film was released which features your character as a kid. It’s a prequel, an origin story where we see how he meets the Rancor. Have you seen it?
I haven’t seen it. I didn’t know is existed.
I was asked at some point, but after I retired, if I would be up in one of these later films for doing another scene. But I’d retired by then and I thought it was pushing it One of the things you have to remember as an actor is to remain reasonably match fit. You know you have to be up for it. The element of tension in front of a camera or on stage that you can still do your best. I felt having already given it up for a few years. Going back to it would probably not be a good idea.
For which movie was that?
I don’t remember. I’m afraid because I wiped it immediately. All I know is I’ve been retired for 10 years and it was during that 10 years. It was just an inquiry it might not even have come up with a job but I think it might have done because they were moving into this other area and they were I think they wanted to have a bit of a prequel for the Rancor keeper. Maybe they did it with somebody else and I haven’t seen that film that’s possible but I didn’t think that they did it.
The short film I was referring to isn’t official. It’s a fan film. Do you keep up with Star Wars? The new movies, TV series?
I haven’t seen anything of the stuff on television but I think I’ve seen all the films at least once but not the newest one. But I will do because my son will make sure that I do.
You have attended conventions, signing photos and other memorabilia. What is your general feeling to signing things and meeting fans?
Well I haven’t done a lot. I did one, for a different organization. I did one years ago maybe twenty years ago or more which had a bit to do with Star Wars, a bit with James Bond and other productions that I’ve been in. I was offered to attend conventions occasionally but I was always working so I never felt I needed to do it. I thought whatever my current project was I was lucky enough to be doing that. That was what I should be concentrating on. Now being quite a long time retired Zack got in touch with me nearly two years ago and suggested doing one in Kentucky. I thought what the hell. I went and did it and it was thoroughly enjoyable and the three days were packed with people. Then I did one for him ten days ago in Telford. So this is really only my third.
Looking back at Return of the Jedi, what are your feelings towards it?
What can I say. From an acting point of view it wasn’t hugely stretching. But, when I look back I think I’m really lucky to have been part of this legend. I feel that particularly because of the reaction of people and the fact that this very tiny bit of the film is remembered by so many people and think of it fondly. I really like that and probably they think about that much more about that than they do about television or films where I’ve had a lot to do.
I saw the movie in 1983, I was seven at the time, and I still remember you!
(Laughs) Extraordinary. Thank you!
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