Bijna twee jaar geleden vond mijn eerste kennismaking met Keith De’Winter plaats, de creature performer die in The Force Awakens de rol van Goss Toowers speelde. Sindsdien is er (mede door onze gedeelde belangstelling voor voetbal) altijd contact gebleven en toen ik hoorde dat hij in The Last Jedi maar liefst drie (!) rollen speelde kon een tweede interview niet uitblijven. Naast Goss was Keith ook te zien als een Canto Bight alien en een mannelijke Caretaker op Ahch-To. Daar waar het interview in 2016 over The Force Awakens ging lag in onderstaande interview de focus volledig op The Last Jedi en schetst Keith een geweldig beeld hoe het er achter de schermen van ‘s werelds populairste franchise aan toegaat.
Interview met Keith De’Winter
Besides good ‘ol Goss Toowers which new roles did you play in The Last Jedi and how did you get them assigned?
Well, after my little adventure on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I never imagined I would be called upon again. I thought, “I’ve done my Star Wars!”, then I got the call to go to Pinewood, which was very exciting, for a fitting for a Creature I’d not played before on the unnamed next instalment. This creature turned out to be one of the Caretakers on Ahch-To, where Luke Skywalker went into exile seeking the first Jedi Temple. This Caretaker is one of the males of the species. The Caretakers you see in the film are all females. My Caretaker was described as a “Salty ‘Ol Seadog” character, basically he’s been there/seen it/done it, the wise old Caretaker that has endless stories to tell, and maybe stretch the truth a little. He didn’t speak, but that’s what I imagined he’d be doing. Quite a fun character to play.
Of course I thought this was the only creature I was playing in this second instalment of the ‘New Trilogy’. I never imagined playing more than one. It was during one of the rehearsals where Vanessa Bastyan – Supervising Animatronic Designer CFX – said to me that my other creature I was playing was awaiting for me to have a fitting. So you can imagine how gobsmacked I was.
So the other creature was going to be a character on Canto Bight in the casino. This Creature has a kind of Toad look about him. He, like all the other Creatures in the casino are very well dressed, which was very apt as we filmed the scenes on the 007 sound stage. Which was an amazing set. It was wonderful to work in the same building where the James Bond movies were filmed. This is such an iconic sound stage and very fitting for such a huge set piece. The incredible detail in everything around, which made this the casino that Bond would loved to have played at. As of this time my Casino Creature doesn’t have a name, but he was described as a loser, a loser in everything. I remember when we were filming I had to walk over to a female alien creature, ‘Derla Pidys’, played by the lovely Latesha Wilson. So in keeping with this characters reputation I played him trying to ‘chat her up’. Of course Latesha couldn’t see a thing in her costume and was unaware of what I was doing, which proved even more embarrassing for this loser of a creature.
During my fitting on the Caretaker I was playing, Vanessa informed me that Goss was also hanging on the rail waiting for me to put him back on. I’m playing Goss Toowers again, how exciting. I thought I’d seen the last of him after The Force Awakens so knowing he was back on this film was a real thrill. Sure enough, putting that costume back on just took me right back to my first day of rehearsals on ‘The Force Awakens’.
During filming on one of the scenes I also got to play another creature for a pick-up shot, that was so cool, so, I suppose I actually played 4 Creatures in The Last Jedi.
What can you tell about the suits you had to wear?
Goss Toowers is really comfortable to wear. His costume consists of boiler suited overalls, wellies, three fingered hard wearing gloves, well, he is an alien, and a waterproof shirt-looking jacket underneath the overalls. The head, however, is very heavy. The reason for this is due to all the animatronics inside the top of the head/helmet and front behind his face to help bring him to life. I wore a balaclava and a special helmet fitted to my head that the head slotted onto, I looked like Batman. I also wore a bungee strap which would run up my back and clip onto the head to alleviate the weight. With this in place I was then able to move the head around as if it were my own, and with puppeteer Patrick Comerford operating the facial movements and also speaking into my ear via an earpiece which would help give me direction into what was going on in the scene, and stop me from waking into things, although that’s another story.
My (as of yet unnamed) Casino Creature was also a very comfortable costume to wear. This Toad looking creatures costume consisted of everyday black shoes, a pair of trousers made to measure. I don’t even get mine tailor-made, and a long tuxedo looking black formal coat. I seemed to remember him also having a white kind of cravat with a brooch to hold it together. The head was a lot heavier than Goss, as he had a working mouth, so more animatronics/servos to make it all work. Again having the same fixture as Goss Toowers to help balance the weight to be controlled by my own head. I did quite a lot of walking up and down the elegant staircase you see in the casino that Finn, Rose and BB-8 use. Visibility wasn’t as restricted as wearing Goss but the only time I could see was when the mouth was opened. Even then what you could see all depended on how wide the mouth was opened.
The (also as of yet unnamed) Caretaker was a fun character to play. This costume was the most difficult to wear, and also the biggest. The body was basically like putting in a turtle shell, as it slotted over your head and your legs stuck out the bottom of it and arms popped through the sides. The hands were separate from the body and you would put these on before the clothes went over the body. There were quite a few layers of clothes, this would make him look more weighty, finished off with a kind of fisherman’s coat and a matching hat. The legs are a different story and you don’t really see the legs/feet on the Caretakers that appear in the film. We had these bird looking stick legs/feet that were attached to the sides of our legs/feet. We had green tights on our legs and these would be erased in post, good job as I’ve got boney knees.
The head on this creature was even heavier than my Casino Creature. This was due to the size of the head which was quite big compared to some of the other Caretakers. Again it contained all the necessary animatronics/servos to operate the eyes/mouth. Visibility being the same as the Casino Creature, in that what vision you had, all depended on how wide the mouth opened.
You had scenes filmed on the big resistance ship, the Canto Bight casino and Ahch-To. I’d love to hear everything about the filming of your scenes on these 3 very different sets! And were your Ahch-To scenes filmed at Skellig Michael?
Let’s start with Goss and the Resistance scenes. Like I said earlier, playing Goss was such a pleasure. Back on the Resistance. Obviously when filming you’re limited to how much information is given. I was told what I had to do at that moment and be the technician that Goss is. So my ‘job’ this time around was to carry a fuel pipe across a very busy Resistance Base that had Resistance pilots/crew running around. I told you that I have no vision at all with Goss so my direction solely relied upon my puppeteer at that time which was Patrick Comerford via an earpiece. Luckily we got to rehearse what we were doing, so that does help as I count how many steps it takes for me to reach my destination. As director Rian called ‘action’, Patrick would then very quietly tell me if I had to turn left/right/stop/turn…and at the same time, I’m animating Goss to make him look ‘real’. So the fuel pipe I carry is what I then use to fuel the ship that Leia and gang are going on. I did see various characters going on this ship during rehearsal, but I had no idea why. Once all fueled, it was a big thumbs up to one of the crew and then I went and started to fix something else. I had a lot of fun in this scene.
The Canto Bight casino was such a magnificent looking set. Quite a big set too as it was filmed on the 007 Sound Stage. Honestly, this could’ve very well been the setting for James Bonds next adventure! The amount of casino tables laid out, all occupied by wealthy individuals, all playing to become even richer. My Toad looking Casino Creature is one of the ‘losers’ at the tables. That’s what I got told and that’s exactly as I played him. I made up my own version of gambling at the table and my idea was to win you had to lose all of the golden chips you had…but I kept winning back more chips which make him a real ‘loser!’ I did lots of filming, but the only time you see him in the film is as we first enter the casino. The camera pans forward along the gaming tables with humans and aliens on both sides gambling away. Then we see a croupier on the right of the screen and my Casino Creature appears then. In fact, if you listen you can hear him growl, then Finn appears on screen. Other bits of filming I did that didn’t make the cut; there was a large staircase that I had to walk up and down and performing this with little vision is quite a feat. I remember I had to walk up these stairs following Finn and Rose. Once at the top I had to make my way around past the piano we see near the bar and stop and chat with alien creature, ‘Derla Pidys’. My facial expressions were puppeteered by Olly Taylor, who’s amazing. We had such fun and of course having him animate my mouth would make him provide a voice that I could hear via the earpiece. It’s a shame no one other than me could hear him as he was so funny, so I would animate along with what he said. Due to the nature of the scene and the amount of filming I did, I also had other puppeteers take over when Olly had to take the reins of another creature. Brian Herring was on hand when he wasn’t busy with BB-8, and Phill Woodfine helped to guide me around a very busy bar to talk to the female aliens to make sure I hit my mark. Creature Co-coordinator on the film, Paul Kasey, was always there talk to me via the earpiece if there was something specific he wanted me to do throughout this and other scenes during filming.
This scene also involved lots of stunt work as Finn and Rose ride the Fathiers from the stables that come crashing through the windows destroying the casino. I was lucky enough to be a part of some of this stunt work. One shot in particular is when the first Fathier comes smashing through the window by the bar at the top of the stairs on the casino. I was standing with an alien creature, ‘Glowen Faquidde’, played by the wonderful Lynne Robertson Bruce. We were standing by the piano near the bar at the top of the casino and we were surrounded by stunt performers. On action we had to run as fast as we could as various gadgets would trigger the collapse of the piano as this was where the Fathier was to land as it crashed through the window. This was so exciting and both myself and Lynne would act as if this was our ‘stunt scene!’ Of course, it takes such a skill to do what these stunt performers do. I was involved with a couple of other stunt scenes just after the casino tables were flipped and stunt performers were flown through the air on safety wires. Amazing to watch and great to be a part of. Lots of running and in a creature costume with little vision are quite a task, but I’d love to do that again!
The wonderful island of Ahch-To, or in my case, the wonderful island built at Pinewood! Again, what an amazing set. When you watch the film it’s so difficult to know which is the actual island, compared to Pinewood. So none of my filming was at Skellig Michael, playing the part of one of the Caretakers was amazing, after all, I thought that was the only character I would be playing. The way these creatures were described was that they are the keepers of the island. The male species would be the ones that would go off hunting off the island leaving the females to tend with all the everyday tasks, just as we see in the film. This, after all, is the island where Luke Skywalker has come to seek exile. He’s possibly the only human we know that the Caretakers have seen, so does he party with them? I like to think that he has done, a Jedi surely has to relax somehow.
We had lots of preparation for this scene, lots of rehearsals that went into the way these creatures walk. As they have bird like legs and such a huge body, we had a particularly physical walk we had to learn. Paul Kasey choreographed a dance routine that we also had to learn for our ‘big’ scene. This dance had the added physicality to it based on how we moved our bodies. It was like doing a high intensity workout. Again I was fortunate to be puppeteered by Olly Taylor and another very busy puppeteer, Colin Purves.
Before this interview you told me your scenes as a male caretaker were cut from the final movie. Could you describe those scenes? I hope they’ll show up on the Blu-ray!
When you begin filming basically you only have certain information about that scene, even then it’s limited. I remember the scene quite well. It was an enclosed space that had the Caretakers huts placed around embedded onto the hillside/mountainside. There was also a bigger hut which more than one Caretaker could be inside; maybe this was an area to gather certain Caretakers for meetings. These huts were a bit different to the ones Luke lives in. To access these huts you would walk up, what I can only describe, as slated steps. I stood on a ledge, which felt pretty high as my vision was limited. In one hand I held a long staff and in the other, what appeared to be a rope made of twine that lit up when you twirled it around. So Paul Kasey would instruct me to wave my staff and swing my rope around, incidentally, when the Visual Dictionary came out I found out this was called a ‘Nightkelp Flail’ So with Olly or Colin working my face and eyes, I swung my ‘Nightkelp Flail’ around me and shook my staff as though I was conjuring up some almighty spell, which of course, I wasn’t! Some of the other Caretakers were dancing on the slated steps or in their huts, or by the blazing camp fire that was burning below where I was standing high on that ledge. Rian Johnson came over to me and directed some more for me to do; he said he wanted to finish this particular shot looking up at me. We also performed a dance routine around the camp fire and one of the shots I did incorporated Rey walking by the side of me. As I turned and saw her I looked her up and down as if she’d ruined my dance skills, this always made Daisy laugh.
So, you can imagine how disappointed I was that this scene got cut from the film. Of course, this can’t be helped and various scenes in films are always cut for the sake of running times, or the general flow of the story. What’s exciting is that Rian Johnson recently announced that various deleted scenes would be appearing on the Blu-Ray/Dvd once it’s released. He did speak about this Caretaker scene in particular as it now transpires to be the scene involved in the 3rd one of Luke’s lessons to Rey. I’m so excited to know that I, along with all the fans, will get to see this amazing scene we filmed.
How would you describe the way Rian Johnson directed this movie?
Rian’s direction is completely different to that of JJ Abrams, but then it should be. The one thing they have in common is the passion to tell the story of Luke Skywalker et al. Besides being directed by him, I had the opportunity to watch him in action on set. His attention to detail, his relationship with everyone involved was so naturally charming. He was always smiling, like a little kid in a sweet shop. A very hands on director, he would make sure he got the best out of a scene, and whoever was in that scene would make sure that what they did made him smile even more. My first introduction to Rian’s work was the film Looper. The depth of character development in that film just shows how much he was the right one to write and direct this episode of the saga. He’s very character driven and it shows in Jedi.
You’re in scenes with almost every main cast member. Did you get to interact with them how do they perform ‘live’?
I didn’t interact with Carrie as I did when I first played Goss in The Force Awakens, but at least we were in the same scene, that meant a lot. Filming on the casino I got to work alongside John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran. When we filmed the scene with me walking up the casino steps towards the bar I was directly behind Kelly. As we stopped shooting she was totally engrossed in how I looked. She felt my hands and said they felt very ‘real’, she asked me my name and told me hers, although I still had my creature’s head on, so I don’t think we’ll be shouting hi to one another across a room just yet! When I took my head off for a breath of air, I looked, and at the side of me, watching Rian direct, was Mark Hamill. He would often be seen around various sets watching what was going on, that’s what actors like to do, makes you really feel a part of it. It was the same with the Caretaker scene. Filming alongside Daisy Ridley was nice and again she would laugh and stare in amazement at the look of the creature; all of this down to Neal Scanlan’s amazing team in the Creature workshop.
The Last Jedi is without a doubt the most talked about Star Wars movie ever. While a lot of fans love it… there are also negative reactions to the story, more then there have ever been, especially online. What is your own opinion about the movie?
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, just how boring would life be if we were all the same? It doesn’t matter if you don’t like something, it’s called an opinion, but that doesn’t mean you have to slam something for the sake of recreating your own childhood. I absolutely loved this film! Rian has got this story completely right. I was so enthralled with everything, and I wanted more. I love The Force Awakens and I didn’t think that could be bettered, but it takes the story exactly where we want it to go. For me it was taking me on that journey with Daisy, and Luke showing her the ways of the force. She’s such a strong character and that’s why she left the island, she knew it was the right thing to do, Luke knew it was the right thing for her to do. He had done the same in Return of the Jedi.
In the last scene on the Falcon I did not see Goss… does this mean he’s… gone?
Just because we didn’t see him, doesn’t mean he’s gone, this after all is Star Wars, and we all know that anything is possible. I would love to play Goss again if the opportunity ever rose. However, I was very fortunate to have played him in two films. He’ll always be my go-to alien!
Solo: A Star Wars story will be released in may… and Episode IX in December 2019. What are the odds we’ll be chatting again then?
I’m looking forward to seeing Solo: A Star Wars story, and I’m looking forward to seeing Episode IX in 2019…I told you, I’m just as much a fan as you are. It would be lovely to do another interview with you at later date, who knows?
May The Force Be With You.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…
Exclusief interview met Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Het is alweer 22 jaar geleden dat The New Rebellion, een Star Wars boek van de Amerikaanse schrijfster Kristine Kathryn Rusch, verscheen. Gedurende haar lange carrière schreef ze ook voor franchises als Star Trek en Alien én won ze een HUGO Award.
Onlangs sprak ik haar over haar bijdrage aan de ‘Expanded Universe’ en had ze een boeiende onthulling over een geannuleerd Star Wars project…
Interview met Kristine Kathryn Rusch
When and where was your first encounter with Star Wars? And what did you think of it?
I saw Star Wars: A New Hope the night it premiered. I was in high school, and a group of us went to the movies, with no idea what we were going to see. I was hooked from that moment forward.
What was your inspiration while writing The New Rebellion, and what directions did you get from Lucasfilm? How did you come up with the story for The New Rebellion?
I wasn’t all that fond of the way that the previous books had gone. I hated what the male writers had done to Leia (making her a wife and mommy instead of the strong woman that she was), and so I just went back to the first three films, which I really, really loved. I worked as well as I could within the framework of the previous novels, ignoring as much of them as possible, and restoring as much of what I loved about Star Wars as possible. Lucasfilm was very supportive. They gave me pages of detailed notes when I was done, but those were mostly terminology nits, not actual changes.
Which existing Star Wars character you enjoyed the most writing about?
Han Solo. He is, by far, my favorite.
Could you explain why?
Han? The ultimate bad boy with a heart of gold? The true hero of the piece? The one who actually rescues people? Has a sense of humor? Fights despite his cynicism, even though he has no dog in the hunt? That Han? Yep. That’s why I like him.
Which Star Wars character created by you is your favorite?
I never have a favorite among characters I create.
Although you did get to write a Star Wars trivia book, The New Rebellion was unfortunately your only Star Wars novel. What was the reason for this?
The Science Fiction Writers of America -which I did not belong to- went to war with Lucasfilm over royalties. I strongly disagreed with SFWA and told them so. I was working hand-in-glove with Lucasfilm on a bible for the books…when SFWA sent Lucasfilm a cease-and-desist letter over their royalties and- without my permission -signed my name to it. They signed a number of Star Wars writers’ names to the petition, without permission. Lucasfilm did not believe me when I told them I wasn’t involved (I don’t blame them). I really should have sued SFWA. They cost me over $100,000 with that action. And they cost me the chance to work in a series I loved.
You just referred to a ‘bible for the books’ you were working on. What kind of book was that? Something like 2012’s Essential Readers Companion; a book with descriptions of every Star Wars story?
In TV, in particular, and in film sometimes, the people who produce the show develop a “bible” which allows anyone who writes to know what’s going to happen next. Kevin J. Anderson and I were putting together a large bible for the series of books along with Lucasfilm to determine what direction the books would take over the next several years. It’s more complicated than what you’ve described, and would have taken us a great deal of work by the time we finished. We had just held the preliminary meetings when SFWA nuked everything.
In 2014, Disney declared the Expanded Universe was no longer canon. It became ‘Legends’. What do you think of this, seeing all of your work suddenly become non-canon?
It doesn’t bother me at all. I did work-for-hire, so the owners of the property can do whatever they want with it. I knew that when I signed on.
You have written books for other Sci-Fi franchises like Alien, Quantum Leap and Star Trek. In which ways was writing for these franchises different? And what is it –according to you- that makes Star Wars so unique?
The smaller franchises (Alien, Quantum Leap) really didn’t get involved in the books. We could have written anything, and no one would have cared. Star Trek and Paramount are very involved, and the same with Lucasfilm back in the day. I prefer that. I liked being part of the organization.
Final question: How do you look back at your Star Wars work?
I think I was lucky to have the chance to play in that universe. My 16-year-old self would be very proud.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…
Exclusief interview met Rusty Goffe (Kabe, GONK droid, Jawa)
De Britse acteur Rusty Goffe speelde maar liefst drie rollen in de allereerste Star Wars film uit 1977. Hij was op Tatooine te zien als Jawa, GONK en de aan juri-juice verslaafde Chadra-Fan genaamd Kabe!
Onlangs was Rusty in Nederland aanwezig bij een speciale Harry Potter-dag (een andere franchise waarin hij te zien was) in de Lemistore te Almere. Na afloop sprak Dennis hem over zijn Star Wars ervaringen!
Interview met Rusty Goffe
How did you get cast for the first Star Wars movie?
Way back in the 70’s there weren’t many dwarf actors. You had Kenny Baker who played R2-D2 and his partner Jack Purvis who was the chief Jawa and there was me! They tried me out for R2-D2 in case Kenny couldn’t cope inside the droid. Luckily he was alright so they cast me as a Jawa and it followed on from there.
One day I went into the studio and the special effects guy said “bend over and touch your toes”, which I did and they put some suit over me. They called George Lucas and said “George, how is this for a character?” George said “I love it, and we will call that a GONK”. So, that’s how the GONK droid happened.
The third character I played was Kabe in the Mos Eisley cantina. She was originally played by an elderly lady called Gilda. The costume was absolutely horrendous like every other costume was and she collapsed and fainted. She couldn’t continue so George Lucas said “Rusty, get in the dress”. That was it! I played three characters!
You mentioned the GONK. The most famous scene of him is in the sandcrawler making the legendary GONK noise. That’s you!
Yeah, that’s me! And then you’ll see a Jawa, that’s Jack Purvis. Right after that you see the GONK again with a Jawa, but this time Jack is the GONK and I am the Jawa, we switched roles and it was hysterical.
Were you in Tunisia to film Jawa scenes?
No, I was only filming at the Elstree Studios.
So, all your Jawa scenes are the interior shots.
Yes, and also in the cantina when Luke comes down the stairs with Obi-Wan you see a Jawa rushing around them that is me as well!
What was the funniest thing that happened on the set?
That was when Sir Alec Guinness was coming with Luke in the cantina. George Lucas instructed me to rush towards them and just pass them quickly on their left. Before it was ‘action’ the first assistant director said “pass Sir Alec on the right”. That was the last direction I got, but no one told Sir Alec that, so I nearly knocked him over. He thought I was going left but I went right. I said “sorry” and then George Lucas said “what the hell are you doing, you should have gone left” but luckily the assistant director said he told me to. So, I was exonerated. So in short: the funniest thing was I nearly killed the star of the show. (laughs)
Without a lightsaber.
What do you regard as the best memory you have of your time working on Star Wars?
No one knew what we were doing. It was fantastic to film everything and I would do it all over again if I could go back. George Lucas and Gary Kurtz were like two young college guys making a movie with all these lovely actors. We didn’t know how big it was going to be. It went from a cheap budget film to 48 billion dollars later!
When did you see Star Wars for the first time?
That was two months after it opened. I sat in the cinema and loved it when those spaceships came from behind us. I was “wow, this is it”. The clever bit was, which I didn’t realize then, the way John Williams wrote the Star Wars theme. The first note of the Star Wars theme is the same as the last note of the 20th Century Fox theme. (Starts humming the Fox theme) So, the brain didn’t have to think. It flows if you know what I mean.
Now that’s some cool trivia.
Everyone at the cinema was happy. It had spaceships, swashbuckling pirates, swordfights. It’s what the world needed. Well done George Lucas.
You didn’t return in The Empire Strikes Back. How come?
Because I was doing other movies at the time like History of the World Part I with Mel Brooks, a movie I wanted to do. It was fantastic with those guys. I can proudly say I was in the first Star Wars, the baby of the franchise.
One of your characters, Kabe, got her name and backstory in the late 80’s and mid 90’s. Have you ever read her short story in the anthology book Tales of the Mos Eisley cantina?
No, I haven’t. I wasn’t aware of that.
Well, I can absolutely recommend it as it’s a great story.
I will definitely look for that! As I said that costume was so hot. You couldn’t breathe in it and it was so claustrophobic. It wasn’t something for every person. Still, it was an unbelievable time.
You were in your twenties back then right?
I was very young, yes. I’m still young now. (laughs)
(Laughs). That’s a great way to end this interview. Thanks!
Met dank aan Casper en Lemistore voor het mogelijk maken van dit interview!
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…
Exclusief interview met Daniel Keys Moran
Medio jaren 90 was het de Amerikaanse auteur Daniel Keys Moran die Boba Fett ‘nieuw leven gaf’. Voor de korte verhalen bundels Tales from the Bounty Hunters en Tales from Jabba’s Palace schreef hij hoe Fett aan de Sarlacc ontsnapte en zijn loopbaan als premiejager vervolgde terwijl hij ook met een verhaal aan Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina bij heeft gedragen.
Daar het gonst van de geruchten over een Boba Fett film was het dus hoog tijd om hem te interviewen voor deze site!
Interview met Daniel Keys Moran
I’d like to start at the very beginning: what got you into writing and how did your career take off?
I can’t remember ever not wanting to be writer. Wrote my first novel at 8 “Third Degree Magic,” the main two characters were me and my friend Steve. The bad guy was named “Diablo.”
Sent my first story off to a magazine at 13, “A Day in the Life of a Telephone Pole.” Wrote my first real novel at 15, an alien invasion western novel. Finally sold a story to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, at 18. Few years after that sold my first novel to Amy Stout at Bantam Doubleday, we’re now married and have five children together.
When and where was your first encounter with Star Wars? And what did you think of it?
My high school debate team won a pretty big debate and as a reward we were offered the chance to do several different things one of them was going to see this obscure movie called Star Wars at the Chinese Theater on opening day. I don’t think we were at the first showing I vaguely recall getting back to the school pretty late in the day but maybe the second or third showing. Pretty good chance David Gerrold (the writer of “Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles,” Chtorr, “The Man Who Folded Himself”) who later got to be a great friend, was in the theater with me when we watched it. He was also there for an early showing, that first day.
I was blown away. It was the first SF movie that managed onscreen the sorts of things I saw in my head when I read Edgar Rice Burroughs.
You wrote two short stories about Fett (called A Barve Like That and The Last One Standing), creating a lot of background for the character, who was especially back then a huge fan favorite. How did you approach this massive task?
It wasn’t a massive task. It was a short story and a novella, and while I put a lot of skull sweat into them, most of what I’ve ever written’s been a heavier lift. They were fun to write, aside from dealing with Lucasfilm. I put a pseudonym on “A Barve Like That” because I was cranky with Lucasfilm; they were mad about that. So it was a surprise to me when they had me write “The Last One Standing” I was pretty blunt by that point, having done two stories already and scratched the itch to work professionally on Star Wars. Wrote them an outline, told them they could have it or not have it but I was writing what was in the outline, and they said yes. So that was a surprise. Then they tried to excise what was probably my favorite scene in that story; Kevin J. Anderson stopped them, and I’m grateful for that. It was published as written, minus a few word changes here or there.
It’s one of my favorite stories. It came from Harrison Ford’s desire to see Han Solo die in Return of the Jedi “he’s got no Mama, he’s got no Papa, he’s got no story.” So I took that and ran with it. I did the first “Old Han” story as well as the first real Boba Fett story, taking them into the future and dealing with the loss of their youth.
You also wrote the tale of Kardue’sai’Malloc, the devaronian seen in the Cantina. What was your inspiration to write his story?
That was a pure “I want to write Star Wars” thing. Kathy Tyers had written an excellent story about the Modal Nodes, the band that plays during the Cantina scene I wrote a story that surrounded hers, about Kardue/Labria, who always seemed to me to be having an awfully great time in the bar that day. Turned him into a music collector who worshipped the Modal Nodes, and had a fun story about how he arranged to have them playing at the bar that day.
One of your Boba Fett stories and the Devaronian’s tale were heavily edited. In fact, the Fett story was published under your pseudonym JD Montgomery. What was exactly edited, and what was the reason?
Devaronian’s Tale wasn’t edited that much. Mostly they wouldn’t let me swear, or mention whores. I wasn’t thrilled with the changes, but they were minor.
I don’t know what happened with “A Barve Like That.” I agreed to do it, then they told me I couldn’t really write my outline, where Fett spent years down in the Sarlacc; he could only be down there for a day or two. So I wrote that story. Then they told me the Sarlacc couldn’t be intelligent, which was the actual center of the weakened story, so I took all the Sarlacc’s contribution to the story and gave it to one of Fett’s fellow prisoners “Susejo,” or O Jesus backwards. I’ve had people write me telling me they loved that story, and OK, but man, it was only a shadow of what it should have been. In its final form Fett falls into the Sarlacc, argues with a fellow prisoner, and climbs back out again. Eh.
How did you react to the news your stories were edited and why did you choose to have one being published under a pseudonym?
I behaved with forthright and reasonable bluntness. Later on I met one of the ladies who worked at Lucasfilm, and upon hearing my name, she took two steps backwards. So maybe my perception isn’t the whole of the story.
I always thought that back in the 90’s Lucasfilm didn’t want authors to write about the pre-A New Hope era because they were making the prequel trilogy. However, they let you write about Boba Fett in his younger days. Do you know why they approved that?
A couple of years after your Fett stories the movie Attack of the Clones showed the origins of Fett, contradicting your stories. How did you feel about this and which version do you prefer?
I prefer mine, of course. But it didn’t particularly annoy me. I don’t care much about canon, and my stories are still out there for anyone who wants to read them. And frankly, even within the universe of commercial fiction, Lucas was utterly contemptuous of his own early writing, when it came time to make the prequels. The idea that I should get annoyed about him ignoring mine? No.
In your stories Fett’s real name was Jaster Mereel, something which was later retconned and Jaster became another Mandalorian. Did you know about these retcons and do you like them?
I haven’t followed along with anything except the televised & movie material. Shout out to Star Wars Rebels, there that was a fine piece of work. Watched it with my youngest boy, start to finish.
There are rumors about a Fett spinoff. Any advice for Lucasfilm? You’re the expert!
I’ve had a guy at Disney email me a couple times over the years regarding Lucasfilm adapting “Last One Standing” into a Fett movie. Not asking permission, they own those works, just letting me know they were thinking about it. So that was kind. But after Solo stiffed, apparently there’s some question about the Fett movie being made.
As to advice for Disney? I thought The Last Jedi was brilliant, the first Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back I thought was a complete success on its own terms. Then I thought Solo was perfectly adequate and inoffensive, and as much as I love Star Wars, that’s a little sad. So for advice? Get the creative team behind The Last Jedi on your Fett movie, rather than the team behind Solo.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…
Exclusief interview met Rick Stanley (Cutthroat hunter)
In de herfst van 2017 kreeg ik een bericht uit Engeland: Rick Stanley, een Amerikaanse Star Wars vriend van me die daar woont wist te melden dat het hem gelukt was: hij was gecast voor de rol van Cutthroat Hunter in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Ik ken Rick al jaren, hij heeft me als oprichter van Sci-Fi Signers vaak geholpen en nog voordat ik het kon vragen gaf hij aan graag zijn verhaal te willen vertellen.
In onderstaand interview doet hij zijn Star Wars verhaal uit de doeken: van trouwen met een Britse actrice uit The Empire Strikes Back tot een site voor Star Wars acteurs opzetten tot zelf gecast worden voor Solo!
Interview met Rick Stanley
I’ve known you for many years and you’ve helped me with a lot of interviews so this is weird and fantastic at the same time! You’re in a Star Wars movie! How does that feel?
It’s been a real pleasure Dennis knowing you all this time and it’s been an honor helping you out! You have done an excellent job with Star Wars Interviews over the years with all the many fascinating interviews you have conducted! It is strange because I never thought I would work on a Star Wars film and have the great honor of being interviewed by you! To say I was over the moon and floating on air when I found out that I was booked for one is a vast understatement! It’s unbelievable how hard it is to get on anything with the Star Wars name and I consider myself very, very fortunate!
When and where did you see a Star Wars movie for the first time and did you become a fan right at that moment?
Well that’s kind of a long story. I was almost 20 years old when A New Hope came out and actually didn’t see it until it was broadcast on HBO. In 1977 being the age that I was all I could think about were all the B science fiction films that were in abundance as I was growing up! I know it sounds sacrileges to say but I even thought the name ‘Star Wars‘ when I first heard of it sounded cheesy! All I could think of was pie plates on fishing lines. Even all the hype and hoopla didn’t influence me and there was plenty of it at that time! I’m from Orlando, Florida and what turned me around was in 1980 I went to work temporarily down in West Palm Beach for a company that an uncle of mine was vice president of. I only worked the week days and the company would offer to fly me back home or reimburse me for my petrol if I wanted to drive. Well one weekend I didn’t want to spend the time going back home so I just hung out and saw that The Empire Strikes Back was playing at the theatres. I went to see it to find out what all the fuss was about and was completely wowed by it and have been an avid fan ever since! I to this day still regret not seeing A New Hope when it was fresh in the theatres!
Your wife (Stephanie English) was in The Empire Strikes Back 38 years ago. What took you so long to get cast for a Star Wars movie? Seriously: how did you manage it?
Yes, it’s hard to believe that I saw my future wife Stephanie English in that movie theatre so many years ago in West Palm Beach! She portrayed a Hoth Rebel Technician at Echo Base. She has been working in the film business for 42 years. We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary actually on the other Star Wars day May 25th. We didn’t plan to have it on that day which was amazing it happened that way! Stephanie got me into film work shortly after we got married and I moved to London. The way it happened is Stephanie got an email from one of her agencies that she is with asking if she knew anybody who had an American vehicle. She responded saying her husband ‘me’ had a pickup truck. I brought my Ford Ranger pickup truck with me when I moved to London. I ended driving it in the Ridley Scott film The Counselor and that was my first film work gig. Since then I have worked on quite a few productions, mainly background but some featured and the one that I’m really proud of is a National Geographic movie documentary called The Jesus Mysteries where I played a main cast part as the apostle James the Elder alongside Nick Simmons who portrayed Jesus. Nick is the son of the founder and bass guitarist of the rock group KISS Gene Simmons. With getting on a Star Wars film or any film for that matter it’s really luck of the draw but I think it’s even harder because of the popularity of Star Wars and the same with films like the Harry Potter prequels. It’s mainly about your looks and what they are looking for to fill a role at the time. I was put up for Rogue One which I would have loved to have got on but to no avail! Now with Solo I was put up for it 4 times and the fourth time was the charm! I was very happy when I heard that I was going to be included into that “hive of scum and villainy”!
You run a great website called Sci-Fi Signers United where convention organizers can book actors from Star Wars and many other franchises. For the people who don’t know this site: what was the reason you started it?
Thank you for those kind words! Well actually a mutual acquaintance of mine and my wife started what was called the Sci-Fi Convention Signers Co-Operative and I helped run it with him until he decided to disband it. After that I started the Sci-Fi Signers United from scratch and kept the same spirit there! It’s a site where organizers can contact the actors and film professionals directly for shows and autographs without having to go through an agent. I don’t make any money from it. I offer it as a free service for the signers to help them out. A lot of them that are on it are mutual friends that Stephanie has worked with over the years and some of the new ones are friends I have worked with on other productions.
Since you’re Star Wars character now I was wondering if you’re about to enter the signing/convention circuit yourself now?
No, it just wouldn’t be my cup of tea to do it. I really enjoyed going around the country with Stephanie when she was signing at shows but she is retired from doing them now and it wouldn’t interest me at all to do it myself. I will consign it to good memories of fun times! We both want to concentrate on the film work and I’m content just keeping the Sci-Fi Signers United running!
Back to Solo: please tell everything about the character you played and in which scenes you were in.
To start off when I went for my fitting I asked what my character was called and was supposed to be and the wardrobe guy said I was playing a reprobate a ‘cutthroat hunter’. I said well that sounds pretty cool! I was wearing a dark beret, a blueish grey long sleeved shirt, a dark suede coat that came down below my knees and it was left open with a wide belt wrapped around it with a large rectangle silver belt buckle and I had a leather ammo pouch attached to the belt. My trousers were baggy and black almost like cossack trousers. I also wore tall brown boots with greyish colored boot guards wrapped around them. To top it off I had an orange neck scarf that the wardrobe lady would make a point tying it in a French knot. She called me her little Frenchman every time I would go to change in to costume! From the day I got fitted to my last day on it I got French resistance comments and even one of the costume designers was amused by it when we were lined up my first day on set for a costume check! I also got a lot of Che Guevera comments because I guess I kind of looked like him with the beard and beret. I had a prosthetic scar on the left side of my face. It was a really cool getup! I was there for the Sabacc table scenes, the droid arena scenes and several bar area scenes! It was a really big and amazing set and spent I would say about 80% of my time on set. Some films you can spend hours in the green room or holding area before you are called to set but that wasn’t my experience on this one. I felt lucky when I was able to get outside to have a cigarette break I was on it a week and did 12/13 hour days each day. I was exhausted but man it was worth it! Also one of the days I was there they took me to a different part of the studio and did a 3-D scan on me in costume and also I did an action photo shoot doing various poses.
You were on the set with most of the main actors like Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover. How were all those stars on the set and behind the scenes?
All of them were absolutely awesome and what an honor it was for me to be amongst them with the many others who were there with me also! Man I’m still pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t all a dream! They all nailed their parts brilliantly and it was an honor to be able to witness that first hand and be a part of it all!
Could you share some good anecdotes regarding your time working on Solo? The more the better of course!
Well let’s see… there was one time when we were waiting for them to set up another shot on a different part of the set I decided to rest my weary legs after standing up most of the day and took a seat on Han’s sabacc table stool except I was sitting backwards to the table with both my elbows propped on the table with my legs stretched out and crossed in front of me. The only others that were sitting in that part of the room with me at the time were Therm Scissorpunch and his alien buddies! Another time I was waiting again for them to set up a shot and I was sitting on the stairs facing the bar area and the girl taking care of Joonas Suotamo stood directly in front me and had his Chewbacca mask in her hands but she was holding it behind her talking to somebody in front of her. She backed up a little too close to me and it started brushing me in the face so I had to move and find a different spot! My wife Stephanie dropped me off at Pinewood Studios each day in the morning and picked me up when we wrapped for the day and I would always sit at a bench next to the security office waiting for her to roll up in the car. The second day I was really tired because I hadn’t had much sleep the night before and also the night before that. I just wanted to get home, take a shower, get something to eat, go to bed and start it all over the next day! I completely forgot to have hair and makeup remove my scar after I derigged. When I sat down on the bench waiting for Stephanie a young woman was sitting on the bench also. After a while she looked at me and asked me if I was a stunt man. I said no why? Then she said how did you get that scar? At that moment I realized that I forgot to have it removed. I told her I was working on a film and it wasn’t real. She then asked me what film I was working on and I told her I couldn’t say! I thought that was pretty funny!
You joined Solo after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were replaced by Ron Howard, a real veteran director. How was he to work with and how does he distinguish himself from other directors?
Wow!!! What an honor it was to be directed by the legend who is Ron Howard! I would call him a director’s director! It was a pleasure to see him work and do his magic! He is a very hands-on director and knows exactly what he wants! He is also the first Oscar winning director to direct a Star Wars film! I grew up watching him on the Andy Griffith show and when I was a teenager watching him on Happy Days and the George Lucas masterpiece film which is American Graffiti!
What are the chances we will see a Rick Stanley action figure in the future?
Hahaha!!! Well they do have the scans and photos so they have the tools to make it possible! A person can only hope!!!
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…