Begin van het jaar sprak ik op deze site de wens uit om in 2017 een grote naam te mogen interviewen. Elf maanden later kwam deze wens uit.
Op 18 november was de meer dan 2 meter lange Finse ex-basketballer Joonas Suotamo te gast op Dutch Comic Con in Utrecht. Star Wars fans kennen hem als Chewbacca, een rol die hij in The Force Awakens en The Last Jedi nog deelde met de oorspronkelijke Chewbacca-acteur Peter Mayhew, maar vanaf Solo: A Star Wars Story voortaan helemaal zelf voor zijn rekening neemt. Letterlijk én figuurlijk dus een grote naam!
Vorige week zaterdag was het dan zover en kon ik de uiterst vriendelijke Joonas alles vragen wat ik ooit over Chewbacca wilde weten…
Interview met Joonas Suotamo
How did a basketball player from Finland become a Wookiee in a Galaxy Far Far Away?
I was made aware of the casting process and the fact they were looking for someone to play Chewbacca by a Facebook post. At the time I didn’t think I would get it. But time went by and three months later they called me because they had learned through the basketball association of Finland that I was tall, had blue eyes and they became interested and that is how it happened. I had to audition then and got the part.
When was your first encounter with the Star Wars saga?
That was a VHS tape back in the nineties… or maybe even earlier… I was very young.
What did you think of the movies?
I loved it. I thought it was an essential thing, I took it for granted. I mean, in the sense that it was in my world. It was there before I was born. I appreciated and respected it and I think that paid off in the end.
What did you think of Chewbacca?
Chewbacca was that tall hairy guy walking behind everybody in the scenes. I must say I wanted to be Luke Skywalker when I was little because of my blonde hair. But then when I got taller than almost everybody by 2 feet I realized I couldn’t be Luke Skywalker basically.
You were destined to play Chewbacca.
Exactly. But all of that came much later.
You worked with Peter Mayhew on two movies. What advice or instructions did he gave you regarding playing Chewbacca and taking over the role.
He said “don’t be so skinny”. I was very skinny (laughs). So that was a good advice. He also told me how he approaches playing Chewie and what he pays attention to in situations and interesting stuff like that. That was really helpful and confirming my own assumptions that I made by watching him work so it was very good to meet him before we started filming
In The Force Awakens most of Chewbacca’s scenes had Harrison Ford as Han Solo in it as well. How was it to work with such a famous well-known actor?
A little bit scary at first but once you got to work with him more you realize he just wants to do his best like we all do and it was very easy to focus on the work when he was around because he is such a professional. He just comes on set, leaves his life behind him in the trailer and wants to do the scene. It’s a straight to business kind of approach which I like when we’re making films.
The most iconic scene of The Force Awakens is the one where Solo and Chewbacca enter the Falcon. I believe that was you and not Peter Mayhew in the suit, right?
I can tell because of your eyes. Chewbacca’s eyes in that scene are yours. What do you think of the enormous positive reactions this scene received from the fans when it appeared in the trailer?
I was watching the reaction videos of people watching that trailer and it was insane to see how people reacted. Half of it was seeing Harrison Ford and the other half was seeing Chewie.
You couldn’t tell anyone back then it was you in the suit. Was that frustrating?
I learned to accept it you know. I can’t really tell about who played Chewbacca in which scene. I mean, I could, but it’s out of respect for Peter and I don’t want to get into it. I am still grateful I got to be a part of all this.
How was the main cast of The Force Awakens , Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, to work with?
They were just amazing. The only thing is that since they’re both from London they talk so fast sometimes! It can be hard to follow them!
What do you regard as the best moment you’ve had playing Chewbacca so far?
We just finished shooting this film (Solo: A Star Wars Story) that I can’t talk to you about at all (laughs). There were some good moments there!
Ok, I will have to skip the next five questions then!
(Laughs) There were some great moments there. Well, I got to say, doing interactions with the Porgs in The Last Jedi was very interesting. I can’t wait to see those.
Have you seen The Last Jedi?
I haven’t seen it.
But you know how it will end?
Yeah, I read the script.
Ok… I won’t ask anything about the ending.
(Laughs) I wouldn’t say anything!
What was the weirdest thing that happened on the set of The Force Awakens?
Harrison is such a presence that anything he said was always funny. He liked the fact that he was back playing Han Solo and if he said something everyone would be listening and it was very energetic and I really liked that. What was weird seeing was him almost getting killed in the incident where the door landed on his foot. I was there when it happened and I thought he was dead. Luckily he wasn’t!
Well, he is Han Solo… and Indiana Jones!
Regarding Han Solo: in the Han Solo spinoff movie you play alongside Alden Ehrenreich who is taking over the role. What do you think of his portrayal as Solo?
Well, no one has seen any footage yet, but I can tell you everyone will be pleasantly surprised with his performance and with the direction of that movie, storywise.
A couple of months ago the Solo movie got a new director: Ron Howard. A good move?
Ron Howard is a great and legendary director. He’s old-school. For instance, I did this scene where I had to walk for the sixteenth time. He noticed from the way I was walking I was a bit tired, so he came up to me and said I should relax and take a breath. My career has just started and I have already worked with so many great directors.
After this trilogy has ended will we see you as Chewbacca or another character in a new Star Wars movie or TV series?
I hope so. I also want to explore other roles in other movies.
A new Star Wars trilogy was recently announced…
Yes, but it’s way too early to say anything about it. I haven’t been contacted about that yet.
Well, I hope they will! Thanks for the interview and I can’t wait to see Chewbacca again in The Last Jedi and in Solo: A Star Wars Story!
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…
Exclusief interview met Alan Austen (Stormtrooper & Bespin Guard)
Brits acteur Alan Austen speelde maar liefst drie rollen in The Empire Strikes Back. Stormtrooper (op bovenstaande foto is hij de trooper rechts van Carrie Fisher), Bespin Guard én (de handen van) Han Solo. Speciaal voor StarWarsInterviews deed hij onderstaand interview, wat volgens traditie ook hier te lezen valt.
Interview met Alan Austen
How did you get cast as a Stormtrooper and as the double of Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back?
I joined Central Castings and The Film Artistes Association in early 1979. Being cast as a stormtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back was all down to luck for me. I was the correct height and age. I was already on set playing a Hoth rebel when I was asked to try on the stormtrooper costume. I fitted and I was able to walk around in it, so I was cast. Doubling for Harrison came about after the production team realized that they needed some filler shots of Han Solo. Harrison had already gone back to the U.S.A. so I was asked to double for Han Solo.
I read that in The Empire Strikes Back there are some close-up shots of Han Solo’s hands where they’re not Harrison Ford’s hands but yours. In which scenes can we see you as Solo?
Yes, my hands doubled for Harrison’s in several scenes. Due to the editing, it’s very difficult to tell them apart. I remember that I had to push buttons and flick switches.
Had you seen the first Star Wars movie before you got cast?
No, I had never seen the first Star Wars movie. Of course, now I have seen it several times and never tire of watching it. That goes for all of the original trilogy movies.
What do you recall of the shooting of your scenes?
So much stands out. Of course the Cloud City shoot out is vivid in my memory and also the carbon chamber scenes. The main thing was being able to run and hit marks whilst wearing a storm trooper helmet.
What would you regard as your best memory from The Empire Strikes Back?
I only did one Star Wars movie. So many cherished moments from The Empire Strikes Back. The lifelong friendships that I made, the laughs and fun that we had on and off set. A great conversation that I had with Billy Dee Williams. The fun moments with Carrie!
What did you talk about with Williams and what were those fun moments?
The conversation with Billy was him giving me advice about acting and working on movies. No personal stuff. Carrie was just constant fun always laughing and joking. No more to say other than that.
You have been in the convention circuit for some years now. What do you like the most about being a guest and what is the most remarkable or craziest thing that happened at a show?
Yes, I love doing the conventions, they are most enjoyable. A stand out moment was at a convention in The Netherlands when two stormtrooper cosplayers danced together in their costumes. This was videoed on someone’s phone and then watched by eight Star Wars actors on the flight home.
Besides Star Wars you have been in several movies including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon, James Bond: Octopussy. What do you regard as the highlight of your career?
The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark are the highlights. Later on I worked in British tv drama but nothing ever lived up to those two movies.
The Empire Strikes Back is not only considered to be the best of all the Star Wars movies by many fans. Actually, it is even considered to be one of the best movies overall. How does it feel to have been a part of this?
I am very honored to be a part of The Empire Strikes Back. However, I realize that I was and am very lucky. I am fully aware that it was a question of right place right time. I just hope that I lived up to the opportunity! I think I did.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met John Mogridge (Snowspeeder pilot)
Vechten tegen de Imperials op Hoth, Han Solo naar de Carbon freeze leiden én The Emperor onthalen op de Death Star. Brits acteur John Mogridge deed het allemaal. In The Empire Strikes Back is hij namelijk te zien als Snowspeeder piloot en Stormtrooper terwijl hij in Return of the Jedi een Death Star Gunner speelde.
Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed John Mogridge het volgende interview waarin hij terugblikt op zijn Star Wars tijd. Zoals gebruikelijk is het interview ook hier te lezen: op StarWarsAwakens.nl!
Interview met John Mogridge
How did you started your career in the movie business?
I joined the F.A.A. (Film Artistes Association) and the Central casting agency in November 1978. The Empire Strikes Back was my second film. You got work by phoning the agents and asking if there were any work “Calls”. They’d say Empire Strikes Back, Elstree studios, 8AM. That’s how I got my first day on The Empire Strikes Back. That was March 1979.
Can you tell how you got cast as a Snowspeeder pilot and snowtrooper for The Empire Strikes Back?
I arrived on my first day and the 2nd assistant director, Steve Lanning, gave me my daily salary voucher (we call it a Chit) with the title “Rebel” on it. I was a rebel for a while. Then they wanted snowspeeder pilots and he gave me that job. I did that until the end of May or the beginning of June. Then I was given the Snowtrooper role. That was only for a short time and finished my on and off run on The Empire Strikes Back as a stormtrooper in the carbon freezing chamber and Bespin cloud city scenes.
Three years later I got the call for Revenge of the Jedi as it was called at the time. I only played an Imperial gunner on that film in the Emperor’s arrival scene.
Did you see the first Star Wars movie before you got cast? What did you think of it?
I took my brother to see the original Star Wars film and really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to get the autographs of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Dave Prowse for him when I worked on The Empire Strikes Back.
You’re one of the Snowspeeder pilots in the scene where Carrie Fisher gives the pilots instructions. What are the other scenes in which we can see you?
Some memorable scenes. The carbon freezing chamber seemed very high and a bit sinister compared to the bright and shiny cloud city set. I did a lot of filming with the second unit being directed by John Barry. Sadly, he was taken ill one day and died the next. A lot of people were upset by that. He was a nice man.
What do you recall of the shooting of your scenes?
A funny scene… there’s a picture on the internet where a snowtrooper is seen falling over as they enter Hoth. I was on that scene. I tripped but didn’t fall and it seems so did many others. It didn’t get in the film. Irvin Kershner took a long time to build a scene and the photo of me in the briefing scene standing around looking bored took ages to set up. He did do a great job.
Your Rebel pilot character got a name many years ago: Habeer Zignian. When and how did you find out and what was your reaction?
My character having been given a name was a complete and pleasant surprise. Although I only found out in 2018.
What is the best memory you have regarding Star Wars in general?
I am really proud to have been a very minor part in a great series of films. It changed my life. I met and I’m still in contact with so many friends like Alan Austen, Peter Ross, Chris Parsons (editor’s note: all three men played various parts in the original trilogy) and so many more who I wouldn’t have known without Facebook and the world wide family of Star Wars fans.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Bruce Logan (ILM)
Vraag een willekeurige Star Wars fan wie in A New Hope de Death Star vernietigde en de kans is groter dan een Gorax dat het antwoord Luke Skywalker is. Fout! Het was namelijk ILM’er Bruce Logan die verantwoordelijk was voor het letterlijk opblazen van het Death Star model in 1976. Dit was slechts een van de vele special effects waar Logan voor verantwoordelijk was in A New Hope.
Speciaal voor mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com deed Bruce Logan het volgende interview waarin hij terugblikt op eind jaren 70; de begintijd van Star Wars. Zoals gebruikelijk is het interview ook hier te lezen: op StarWarsAwakens.nl!
Interview met Bruce Logan
In the mid 70’s you joined ILM to work on Star Wars. How did you get this job?
I had met with George and Gary at the beginning of the production when they were interviewing visual effects people. George got back from shooting the live action in England, and because the signature (very hi-tech at the time) motion control effects system was being constructed not a frame of film had been shot. Panicked, he called me up to head up a second unit effects unit to shoot puppeteers in black suits “flying” miniature spaceships on black rods. Not surprisingly this did not work out very well. So my unit moved on to do some of the signature explosions in the show.
Why didn’t you return to work on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?
After Star Wars came out, George moved ILM north to San Rafael to avoid Hollywood and all the “rules” that when with it. Half of ILM moved with him and the other half stayed in the same building and broke off to form Apogee (editor’s note: a VFX company).
What do you recall of your meetings with George Lucas?
I found George to be very organized, the man knew exactly what he wanted but not always how to get it. He gave me marching orders and then left me alone to figure out how to do it. I’m not sure that I even watched dailies with him as my unit was at another location across town. He must have liked what he saw because our unit moved to bigger and bigger stages and we shot bigger and bigger explosions.
You’re one of the first crewmembers of ILM in the 70’s. What was it like working there back then in Van Nuys?
As I was not part of the main unit, I did very little work on Valjean. However, as I was friends with almost everyone there and because they had a full machine shop, I spent many weeks there with my full race Mini Cooper machining parts and fabricating equipment. So, I got to experience the entire production process without really being involved.
Which shots/scenes were you responsible for? And are there good anecdotes you can share regarding creating them?
My claim to fame is that I blew up the Death Star. When I think back to the first day of our unit, I remember Joe Viskocil, our powder genius who constructed all the miniature bombs, I realize we were just a bunch of unsupervised kids running the orphanage. Joe came in the first morning and there was a huge explosion and a cloud of smoke coming out of the little room on wheels that was used to load film. Luckily there was only a loss of hair and a rash on Joe’s arms. It was an interesting way to start. But it never really got any better as the explosions got bigger and better, I remember running around the stage wiping burning napalm from my arms after one of our larger explosions. Later, looking at pictures of our shoot, I see that our only fire protection was a single hand held fire extinguishers. Ahh! simpler days.
What was the hardest effect to create while working on A New Hope?
Although I was not involved, I would say the Landspeeder was one of the hardest. In a non-CG world getting rid of the wheels putting in heat ripples and suspending it in shot where we didn’t see the whole craft.
However, the construction and first extensive use of motion control is obviously the most significant innovation of the movie.
Which effect from A New Hope are you most proud of?
Blowing up the Death Star, who wouldn’t be?
Today CGI has largely taken over and there are less practical effects. Is this –in your opinion- a good or a bad thing?
My favorite Visual Effects are when they based on live-action elements and then enhanced with CG. Whether based on miniature or full scale live-action, I like the organic feel of these kind of shots. Shot which are entirely CG still have an uncanny valley feel to them, even with the unbelievable advances in CG effects.
I read that you knew about Joseph Campbell before work on Star Wars started and you were happy George Lucas got a spiritual message out. Do you think that’s something modern Star Wars lacks after George left in 2012?
I think the Joseph Campbell influence fell away almost immediately. Any discussion of the “Force” became more about superhero (Jedi) powers and less about an elemental interconnectedness of all beings and all things. But the whole franchise is based on “A New Hope” and as such this philosophy unavoidably underlies everything. Thanks Joseph.
My final question: You blew up the Death Star, not Luke Skywalker. I guess you should have gotten that medal?
Yes. But what I don’t talk about so much is that, I also blew up Alderaan. I guess all that loss of innocent life, cancels out any medal I might be entitled to for the Death Star.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Katie Purvis
Katie Purvis behoort tot een select groepje acteurs die op zéér jonge leeftijd al in de Original Trilogy te zien waren: in 1982 was ze pas 15 jaar toen ze geselecteerd werd om een Ewok te spelen in Return of the Jedi. Ondanks haar leeftijd was ze al behoorlijk bekend met de Star Wars familie aangezien haar vader Jack Purvis in A New Hope (hoofd Jawa) en The Empire Strikes Back (Ugnaught) te zien was en al jaren een duo vormde met Kenny “R2-D2” Baker.
Speciaal voor StarWarsInterviews.com en StarWarsAwakens.nl deed Katie het volgende interview waarin ze terugkijkt naar begin jaren 80, ingaat op de impact van haar vaders carrière, treurt om een mislukte ontmoeting met Harrison Ford én een unieke anekdote heeft over een zieke Ewok!
Interview met Katie Purvis
How did you get started in the movie business?
My dad Jack Purvis was working on Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits movie where he played Wally, one of the six Bandits. One summer’s day he took me with him to the film set when they were filming the iconic Titanic scene. The story goes one of the little guys, Tiny Ross, had broken his arm when he fell whilst on horseback in a previously filmed scene, so Terry asked my dad if I would suit up and be Tinys stand-in for the shoot. So I was taken to costume and make up and transformed from a 14-year-old schoolgirl into Vermin the Time Bandit. That was how I got started in the film business!
And how did you get cast for Return of the Jedi?
Again, I consider myself very privileged in how I got cast in Return of the Jedi. This was due to my dad already having been in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. My dad’s agent asked me if I would be interested in being on the movie to play a teddy bear character a few months before. They were looking for around 50 short people to play Ewoks! As I was only 15 years old, I had to speak to my school to ask permission. At the time, I was taking my Mock O Levels exams, so I did have a bit of study leave during the filming days. So the production gave me a schedule and together with my head teacher we worked my exams around that. This meant I would be filming for two days and then sitting in an exam hall the next! Needless to say this made it very hard to excel at academics, when all I could think about was what was going on in the Ewok Village!
What do you recall of the filming of your scenes for the Return of the Jedi?
The whole 2-week experience was so exciting for me a teenager. I had already met Mark Hamill back in 1976 whilst my dad was working on A New Hope, as he had been to our house for tea, when my dad Jack and his partner Kenny Baker had been working in Cabaret in the evening after a day’s shooting. Dad brought Mark home before taking him out with them to watch their show. Mark was really kind to my brothers and I.
So when I met him again on Return of the Jedi it was just like meeting one of my dad’s friends. I didn’t really get introduced to the other cast members, as it can be really busy on set and my dad being so humble didn’t want to disturb them as he said they would be preparing for their scenes. This was a little disappointing as I had had a schoolgirl crush on Mr. Ford. First day on set my dad and I were standing in our Ewok costumes feeling all fat and furry when Harrison came past and greeted my dad! I was so nervous as I thought finally I am going to get the chance to meet my hero! Unfortunately not to be. Dad and Harrison had a chat and to my dismay my dad didn’t even introduce me and Harrison walked off into his position to begin the day’s scene! I won’t tell you how I expressed my disappointment to my dad about him being responsible for me not meeting my schoolgirl crush!
Did any strange, remarkable or funny things happen on the set?
I’m sure it’s well documented that the Ewok costumes were very uncomfortable and made you very hot and the eyes kept misting up. Kenny Bakers wife, Eileen, when I informed her that I was feeling unwell one afternoon, assisted by lifting her arm up and shouting ‘CUT’ when I told her “I think I’m going to be sick!”
At once the makeup lady rushed onto set and ripped my Ewok head off allowing me to upchuck my lunch! All I remember hearing was the guy from the Electric department shouting “Don’t be sick in my electric box!”
Return of the Jedi was directed by Richard Marquand, while George Lucas produced it. How were both men to work with?
Being young I didn’t really appreciate the fact that I was working alongside such greats as Richard Marquand and George Lucas, again because my dad been there from the start in 1976 so there was a great camaraderie amongst them all. To be honest I was so nervous I just did as I was asked. I think I speak for most of us who played Ewoks, it was the first time we’d met so many other Little People and all been together, so that was more exciting than working with these iconic film directors! It’s only now that I realize how blessed I was to have been part of those movies! And so wish I had taken photos and got autographs.
After Star Wars you starred in some of my favorite 80’s movies: Labyrinth, Willow and Legend. What fond memories do you have of those productions?
I loved working on the films that followed, Legend, Labyrinth and Willow, although Labyrinth was my favorite. Again for me it was about coming of age, I was now 18 and had past my driving test, although I didn’t have my own car My mum let me borrow hers. It was a red mini, which I felt so cool driving! This meant no longer did I have to drive to the studios with my dad, after all how uncool was that! We filmed Labyrinth in the summer months so we had a holding area just outside the Stage where the set had been built. There everyone would hang out, make up people, props and costume, actors and puppeteers! It was great time to be 18 and driving your mums Red Mini! I felt so grown up having just left school!
Your father Jack Purvis has played a lot of parts in the original trilogy, including popular characters like Teebo, the lead Jawa and an Ugnaught. How do look back at his Star Wars legacy?
Star Wars has been part of my family’s life since I was 10 years old. Even now I only have to hear the Star Wars music and I not only get goose bumps but I immediately am taken back in time to so many parts of my life growing up. From school summer fetes that my dad and Kenny Baker opened as guest celebrities The Minitones in the late 70’s to summer shows in Torquay where Jack and Kenny were appearing and where the showgirls would perform a show stopping number with lightsabers to the Star Wars theme tune whilst a prop R2 would spin around. My brothers and I would be watching from the wings most nights. Inevitably one of the showgirls’ lightsabers would break in two as she thrust it too hard and ended up missing someone in the audience. The crowd used love this part of the show, I suppose because Star Wars meant so much to everyone. I know it changed Kenny and Jacks lives, and ours too as our families were able to move to bigger houses in nicer areas. They became well respected as not just musical cabaret act but actors from a successful movie. The movie opened up other opportunities for them that they may never have had had it not been for their small roles in that low budget movie.
What would you regard as your best memory of all the movies you were in. Is there a special moment you’ll cherish forever?
I have been to places I never would have got to go to, had it not been for Star Wars and the love of the Star Wars community.
What are you doing these days? Are you still in the acting business?
Nowadays I no longer act as unfortunately as a result of back surgery I can no longer walk unaided. However, I have three children who would love to appear in any future Star Wars movies, so if there is any casting agents out there reading this were waiting to hear! That would make them the third generation of Purvis family to appear in the franchise. They have already been told by Mr. Mark Hamill himself, to call him Grampa!
So nowadays I am honored to be asked to appear at conventions and related Sci-Fi events.
The Star Wars community, along with some awesome people and actors have helped raise money for many charity events, which I am humbled to say has changed people’s lives. I can truly say I have met some very kind and warm-hearted people, whom I never would have met had it not been for Star Wars and its legacy.
And this is what is so incredible about the Star Wars Story!
Met grote dank aan Casper Fijlstra voor het mogelijk maken van dit interview!
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews