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Exclusief interview met Nick Kellington (Bistan in Rogue One)

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Nick Kellington

In Rogue One werd ‘space monkey’ Bistan geïntroduceerd. Een nieuwe soort alien die op Scarif verantwoordelijk was voor het neerhalen van een AT-ACT! De rol van Bistan werd gespeeld door de Britse acteur Nick Kellington.

In de promotiecampagne van Rogue One speelde Bistan een aanzienlijke rol; hij was in de ‘behind the scenes reel’ te zien, op artwork, hij stond op het podium tijdens Star Wars Celebration én er is zelfs een LEGO figuur van hem! Daar dit personage vanaf het eerste moment een enorme indruk op me maakte werd het mijn doel om de acteur achter het masker te interviewen.

Onlangs was het dan zover, waardoor ik nu het allereerste Star Wars interview van Nick kan presenteren. In dit (lange!) interview vertelt hij uitvoerig over zijn ervaringen en wordt een erg goed beeld geschetst over hoe het er achter de schermen aan toe ging.

Interview met Nick Kellington

Hi Nick, let’s start at the very beginning: How did you get into the movie business?

At school I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life but I did know that the drama classes were fun so that’s the path I followed. I studied Drama and Psychology at university after which a couple of friends and I started a street theatre company. We weren’t great but once again, it was fun.

I started going to auditions and workshops in Circus skills, Commedia dell’arte (an Italian Mask art form), Mime and Puppetry. The auditions were hit and miss but as an actor you have to develop a thick skin because that never changes. More often I found that the companies running the workshops would then hire me as a performer because they saw something in me. I learned so much “on the job” in front of live audiences. This led to more success in auditions and I started working as a jobbing actor on the stage, touring around the UK for a few years with various companies. Most of the shows were devised and involved physical theatre, clowning, dance, puppetry and mask work.

I knew nothing about the movie industry but I started going up for Creature roles on Television. I found that working in creature suits for children’s television drew upon the same skills I’d learned in theatre but also gave me new experiences working with animatronics, monitors and cameras. Most notably I play “Igglepiggle” on “In the Night Garden” and “Dipsy” on the new Teletubbies. These kids TV jobs definitely helped me move on to Feature Films.

I now work in both the movies and television as a Creature Performer and I love it. The work is hot, claustrophobic and can be painful, but it’s still fun!

In Rogue One you play the part of Bistan. Could you tell how you got this role?

The creature industry is a relatively small community. Even if you’ve never met someone, you do start to hear the same names mentioned.

At the time Episode VII was being made, I was puppeteering on a kids TV show called Strange Hill High and was about to go straight into filming the new series of Teletubbies. I’d heard rumours of a top-secret project that no one would talk about. In fact, the less information you could get about it, the more you felt it had to be the new Star Wars film. I’d put feelers out but security was really tight around the project and I simply couldn’t get seen for what turned out to be the The Force Awakens.

The following year I had a break in my schedule between filming series of Teletubbies so I asked around if anyone needed a performer for anything.

Reports in online entertainment news sites suggested that filming on Rogue One was to start soon so I figured all the roles would have been allocated to performers and I’d missed out on getting into Star Wars once again.

But out of the blue I got a phone call asking me to come to Pinewood for a meeting about an un-named project.

Not many people are expected to go for job interviews with no idea of the job they’re going for. But in acting if you get an invitation to Pinewood you just go. Pinewood is a remarkable place, it’s been at the centre of the UK movie industry for decades and it’s always exciting to be there.

When I arrived, even right up to the front door of the workshop, no one mentioned what the project was. I couldn’t believe it when, inside, there were amazing clay maquettes, costumes on stands, animatronic heads being worked on and most tellingly, R2 Units everywhere! My brain just melted! I was so happy.

It turned out that a friend, Vanessa Bastyan, who had fabricated some of the costumes for me on the TV shows I’d worked on was now running the creature workshop at Pinewood. Vanessa knew my work and she’d got me in there to meet the boss, Special Creature Effects Supervisor, Neal Scanlan.

They wanted to try me out for a “Space Monkey gunner” character they’d been working on. There was a chance this creature may have a more developed role to play and so they wanted an experienced performer inside. Fortunately for me, Bistan’s face is quite flat and the guys who were already on the crew were mainly western performers and to put it bluntly their noses were too big to fit inside his face!

I tried a face piece on and surprisingly, for something not built for me it fit. Neal seemed interested and said that it might work. I was then taken to try on the muscle under-skeleton and Bistan’s flight suit costume. At first the costume guys said I was a quite a bit shorter than what they’d wanted but, once dressed, my short legs made the creature look a bit more ape-like, also I’m actually flat footed which can sometimes make me walk a bit like a monkey anyway! Photos were taken and Neal said they’d review everything and would be in touch but could make no promises.

A few weeks later I was called back to Pinewood for the Creature Effects (CFX) “Show and Tell” day. This is when the finished creatures are presented to the film’s Director who decides if they’ll appear in the movie. It’s an important event for the team and the CFX crew would have been working really hard towards this day for months, designing and building the creatures.

This was my first time in the full Bistan costume including the contact lenses.

Nick Kellington

Gareth Edwards en Nick/Bistan op de CFX Show & Tell day.

We were on a big sound stage with tents scattered around for us to get dressed in. Creature after creature walked past me on their way to the performance space. They were all new designs and looked so cool. Eventually it was my turn and I was led on. My eyes were streaming from the contact lenses, which are hard and quite irritating. The stunt co-ordinator joked, “There’s no need to cry.”

“I’ve just been thinking about these kittens” I replied, “I can’t help it.”

I, or at least Space Monkey, was introduced to Gareth Edwards who starts examining Bistan and directing me. I remember Gareth asking me to walk a bit less like a monkey.

Then he put a camera on a group of us to see what the creatures looked like on screen. I was sat at a table with Admiral Raddus and the other two Mon Calamari officers from Rogue One. The performers inside them were Paul Kasey (Raddus), Aiden Cook and Tim Rose. We were asked to improvise a meeting in a war room, discussing tactics etc. I remember laughing inside my costume because Tim was playing his Calamari as a hippy pacifist saying stuff like, “Hey man, I think we should all just go home. I don’t wanna fight, let’s get a beer.” Tim’s very funny and naughty but he can get away with it because he is Admiral Ackbar.

Next I was given a laser rifle and they put fans and spotlights on me as if I was looking up at helicopters right overhead. Gareth filmed loads of close ups of Bistan’s face, exploring how my eye’s looked, how the paint job on the skin reacted under light, how the hair moved in the wind and how I performed.

All the time Gareth gave me directions as if I could see or hear enemies in different places. He’d tell me I was exhausted, totally demoralized or frustrated. The camera was really tight on my face and Gareth wanted me to work with tiny head movements or just my eyes. My facial animatronics weren’t operational at the time so it was all down to me.

Then I had to run around the set with the rifle, pretending to take cover behind walls and firing at imaginary foes. It was just like playing as a child except this was for Star Wars and I was in heaven.

The day went on and there were more lighting tests and photos. I didn’t know where I was going to be taken or what I was going to be asked to do next. At one point I did a stunt assessment in costume, pretending to fight loads of stunt guys with a stick/sword. On another sound stage I did a camera test in what turned out to be a U-Wing. They positioned me at the ship’s gun and we improvised an aerial dogfight, testing both the costume and myself and also experimenting with how they might film the sequence.

At the end of an intense day, whilst I was still fully in costume, Neal came up to me, shook me by the hand and said, “Congratulations Nick. Today you carved yourself a role on this movie.”

Nobody could see it but I had a beaming smile inside Bistan’s head.

Nick Kellington

Een maskerloze Nick met een ‘beaming smile’.

What can you tell about your costume and especially the head (it must have been filled with all kinds of electronics?)

Bistan was made by some brilliantly talented people who I must to give credit to. He is an Ivan Manzella design. Sculpted by Colin Jackman. Gus Hoegan created the animatronics. Elisabet Berggren fabricated the muscle body suit. Heather McMullan was the hair artist. Henrik Svensson did the paint job. Gary Page made the space suit, which was designed by Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon.

Bistan’s an awesome creation and when you wear the whole thing you just can’t help but move in a way that isn’t you, it’s so cool.

Well actually it’s really hot! Also if you wear it for too long you get masses of pain in your back, shoulders and neck but, for me, it’s worth it for Star Wars.

Once the animatronics are turned on all you can hear are the electric servos buzzing so you’re pretty much deaf. I have an earpiece through which I can hear my puppeteer who is operating Bistan’s face and Paul Kasey the movement director. I had two puppeteers for my scenes in Rogue One, Phill Woodfine who is a really experienced operator and Matt Denton who is also one of BB-8’s inventors.

You could argue that the puppeteers who operate the creatures’ faces from outside the costumes add just as much to the character as the person wearing the suit. Performing these designs of creature is a real team effort and when you work together lots you become a tight ensemble. That makes the performance feel organic and real.

As Bistan I wore extra large chimpanzee contact lenses that are hard and uncomfortable. When I’m wearing them under light they make everything look orange and fuzzy. On a dark set all you can see are silhouettes and no detail. The sets on Rogue One were very dark.

The muscle suit worn underneath Bistan’s spacesuit is a bit like a cross between a bulletproof vest and an American footballer’s shoulderpads. It gives him the correct body shape and moves as his muscles would under his skin.

Bistan’s head is extremely close fitting too because as well as using animatronics to move the forehead, muzzle and jaw, the creature’s face is blended directly into my face with prosthetic applications and paint around my eyes.

Mechanically it was a lot to fit into such a small space but it moves so beautifully and has a great range of expressions. It’s impossible to tell where the animatronics finish and I begin.

In Bistan’s case, having a human’s eyes with the animatronic face gives the character a real soul. We filmed a “Creature Shop” featurette for the Disney Channel in the workshop and I was being operated by Patrick Comerford, who also puppeteers the Admiral Raddus face. It was interesting seeing how even up close, without any filming lights or cinema magic, the presenters were still really freaked by how realistic Bistan looked, and our performance of course.

Could you share some stories regarding the filming of your scenes?

Filming the Battle of Scarif was awesome. For Bistan we filmed it in two parts.

Firstly, in the sequence where the U-Wing glides down and drops off the marines onto the beach, Matt Denton and I were actually in the U-Wing as they flew it over the battlefield from a crane. They’d built the beach with loads of sand and palm trees on an airfield just north of London.

We were filming with a 2nd Unit camera crew out of the gunner’s door. I don’t think you can see Bistan as the U-Wing glides down as he was on the far side of the ship but it was great fun flying over the action with explosions blowing up marines and storm troopers all over the place as they ran across the beach. It was quite a spectacle from above.

Funnily, I already knew one of the marines on the U-Wing, Andy Wareham, from years back. We’d worked on In the Night Garden together when we were just starting out. So you had both Igglepiggle and Tombliboo Unn flying into the Battle of Scarif on the same ship!

Andy’s a stunt man now for loads of big Hollywood films. Actually, I’m sure Andy said that another marine on the ship was the suit performer for one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in the 90’s so there’s another mash-up for you.

The second part of the U-Wing sequence was shot on a sound stage at Pinewood. Phill Woodfine was operating me that day from just off camera.

I turned up early for rehearsals and there was a large container mounted high up on hydraulics with massive grey flats all around it. The whole construction was as tall as the sound stage and it looked quite impressive. Then they turned the flats on and wow, it looked incredible!

The flats were actually huge panels of LEDs projecting aerial landscapes of what would turn out to be Scarif and the container was a U-Wing flight simulator. It was like an amazing theme park ride and felt so real once you were on board and it was moving.

Phill and I climbed on with a small camera crew and filmed the gunning scene with Gareth Edwards directing and even operating the camera at some points. We were locked in there with explosions and sparks flying everywhere. It was pretty intense.

It’s awesome to have been involved in filming the Battle of Scarif. There aren’t that many characters in the Star Wars cinematic universe that have been shown taking down an AT-AT and now Bistan has joined those ranks. It’s kind of a badge of honour.  Ok technically, I know these were AT-ACTs but you know what I mean.

There’s a Bistan action figure and even a LEGO minifigure (I have the LEGO one myself). When did you find out you were ‘immortalized’ as toys and what was your feeling then?

With the kid’s TV characters I’ve played I’ve had quite a few toys released of me already so maybe you’d think I’d be used to it by now?

Nope! I am totally stoked about there being Bistan Star Wars toys! It’s amazing!

I have a small collection of LEGO minifigures anyway so it feels brilliant to be able to add a LEGO Bistan to the display.

I got him the day he was released with the LEGO U-Wing Fighter set and built it pretty much as soon as I got home. It looks great. I’m also loving the Bistan Pop! Vinyl Bobble-Head, that’s very cool.

I’m extra excited this year though as I believe they’re releasing a 3.75” cardboard-backed Bistan action figure which, for me, is the holy grail of Star Wars toys! It’s especially exciting if you played with the originals as a child, which I did. I have to say, in the early press photos he does look a little like the lost member of the rock band KISS but I don’t care, it’s just awesome that it exists and I will definitely be buying one, probably more!

Nick Kellington

Bistan was prominently featured on some promotional artwork and made an appearance on Star Wars Celebration London (during a panel with Neal Scanlan). Was Bistan originally supposed to have a bigger role or more scenes in the movie?

As I said earlier, I was partly brought in because there was a chance Bistan might have a bigger role to play in the film but you never know how storylines are going to develop.

I was lucky that the team who put together the “Celebration Reel” picked up on the on behind the scenes shots of me filming as Bistan in the U-Wing. Even though Bistan laughing didn’t make the final cut it’s just a cool image and it helped promote the film.

I did film more scenes on Yavin 4 but unfortunately those scenes were dropped. This isn’t unusual on big feature films. You just have to give the production the shots it wants and then hope for the best.

Fortunately Bistan, or Space Monkey as we knew him then, was particularly popular with the production crew because he looks so cool and there was always a little bit of a buzz when we were filming with him. Maybe this is also why he was asked to make an appearance at Star Wars Celebration in London. He’s definitely a crowd pleaser.

I just mentioned the fact that Bistan made an appearance at Star Wars Celebration in London. Was that you in the costume?

Yes, I was Bistan at Star Wars Celebration and I had a great time at the convention, thanks.

It was my first convention and once we’d finished our panel and interview I had the rest of the day there to enjoy myself. It was fun because I could walk around the convention and nobody recognized me whilst all the time I had this amazing secret that I was in Star Wars.

What did you think of the whole ‘convention experience’?

It was fantastic seeing so many fans enjoying Star Wars together, especially families who had all dressed up. I really enjoyed seeing how many fans were dressed as Rey. She’s a great role model. I’d be happy if my daughter is a Rey fan when she’s older.

The Rogue One Celebration Reel was due to be released that weekend and Bistan’s appearance was an extra surprise for fans as the panel was titled, “The Creatures, Droids and Aliens of Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016”. It’s still available on YouTube and anyone who is interested in how creatures are made for the movies should watch it.

The audience was one of the largest I’d ever performed to and Bistan got a great reception. Matt Denton was operating me again and he suggested that I pick up Warwick’s Ewok to have a look. When I threw it back to Warwick I didn’t know it was going to hit him! I did apologise afterwards but Warwick was totally cool about it.

Nick Kellington

Warwick Davis (links) kijkt toe terwijl Nick als Bistan tijdens Star Wars Celebration het publiek vermaakt.

What was the first time you saw a Star Wars movie and were you a fan before you got cast?

I’ve been watching Star Wars and playing with the toys for as long as I can remember and I do love it.

As a child I had a Star Wars spin-off storybook about the Millennium Falcon with an audio cassette tape narrated by C-3P0 which I played to death. R2-D2 would bleep every time you had to turn the page.

I had a few action figures of which the Hoth Wampa and Gamorrean Guard were my favourites.

On a family holiday in Swanage, sometime around 1984, I was allowed to buy one book in a seafront bookshop to read whilst we were away. I chose, “STAN LEE presents THE MARVEL COMICS ILLUSTRATED VERSION OF STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI” (In Full Colour) for £1.25 in paperback which I still have on my shelf at home.

Even now in my forties I secretly covet my friend Nik’s original Rancor Monster whenever I see it. I’m not a fan that knows every last detail about Star Wars but it was always a big part of my childhood.

Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s in the UK, it seemed that every public holiday they would show either Episode IV: A New Hope, Indiana Jones or one of the Superman movies on television, all three during the longer Christmas or Easter breaks.

I didn’t have Star Wars on VHS and there was no On Demand channels so it felt really special whenever the public holidays came round because I’d be home with my family and that’s when I’d get to see Star Wars.

Even though I accept that Empire is technically the best film of the original trilogy, A New Hope is still the most special to me perhaps because it’s been with me the longest. Actually, I love all three of them, you don’t have to choose!

My eldest brother took me to see Return of the Jedi at the cinema when it was first released. I must have been 7 or 8 by then. Apparently when we came out of the cinema I said, “When I’m big I want to be in Star Wars!” at least that’s what my brother tells me.

So thinking back to your first question, perhaps I did always know what I wanted to do with my life. It would just take 30 years or so to achieve it. Yes, I was definitely a fan before playing Bistan and I still am now.

I always enjoy the funny, remarkable and weird stories about the things that happened on the set. Do you have any?

My first day on a Star Wars set was at Yavin 4. Turning up, I wasn’t sure whether it would be mostly green screen or not. I was amazed to find that they’d built the entire Rebel Base on Yavin 4 in a giant aircraft hanger big enough to fly airships into. I think it’s one of the biggest buildings in the UK and at one point they’d built an entire block of Gotham City in there to film the Batman movies. Weirdly enough I also found out later that my dad had taken his RAF basic training there when he was doing his National Service as a young man.

Anyway the new Yavin 4 was amazing, like walking into a childhood dream. They had re-imagined everything perfectly. The set design, all the SAs in retro costumes, even the analogue displays on computer monitors and little flashing lights, all perfect.

Best of all, there was a huge X-Wing right in the middle of the hanger. It was beautiful. I probably shouldn’t have but I walked straight up to the X-Wing and placed both hands on it, enjoying the moment saying to myself, “It’s real! It’s real!” If I had been in my normal clothes someone might have stopped me but as I was dressed as Bistan it was more like, “Ok . . . erm. Just let the monkey do what he wants.”

On another day back at Pinewood we were filming the War Room scene where Jyn Erso is attempting to persuade the rebels to go to Scarif, I was there with Matt Denton operating me.

We were all waiting for something technical to be sorted with cameras and they allowed me to remove Bistan’s head so I could have a breather. I still had my contact lenses in and as I’ve mentioned, I can mostly only see silhouettes.

I heard a voice from the person stood right next to me, “Hey Nick.”

I turned and leaned in to see whom it was to find I was stood right next to Gareth Edwards. He was clothed in an army jacket. Everyone on the Yavin 4 set, cast and crew, seemed to be dressed in either a flight suit or an army jacket. This meant that to me everyone’s silhouettes looked fairly similar so I simply didn’t know he was there until he spoke.

“Oh! Hi Gareth.” I replied.

I asked him how it was all going. He asked me what it was like in the costume and told me he liked the character. Everything was cool.

In fact, for me, everything was amazing! You see, probably every time I’d spoken to Gareth previously I was usually in the Bistan head and/or there was lots of work to do. Generally Gareth would need to shout instructions or speak to me via my operator’s microphone because I can’t hear anyone. Equally I would need to shout back from inside Bistan’s head for my voice not to be muffled. It wasn’t a dynamic conducive to small talk.

So, unusually, there we were, just chatting. Like normal guys . . . except I’m literally a performing monkey and Gareth Edwards is the director of a Star Wars movie!

Then Gareth said, “You know, we should get you a cameo.”

“Wow. Thanks. That’d be awesome.” I replied.

Out of nowhere a behind-the-scenes camera crew sees us talking and starts interviewing Gareth about Space Monkey and the moment is lost. Suddenly we’re ready to film again and so I have to put the head back on and obviously Gareth becomes really busy and I don’t meet him again that day.

Shortly after, production would be moving on to film the Jedha sequences out on the back lot. This would have been the ideal chance for my cameo but Bistan wasn’t on Jedha so I wasn’t called in for those days and it never happened. Gutted!

I’m sure Gareth had a million things to think about and, understandably, I was not high on the list. For the rest of my time at Pinewood I was always up to my neck in Space Monkey either in a crowd or filming my single shots on the U-Wing. I guess my cameo just wasn’t meant to be. With playing Bistan already, maybe I was being a bit greedy.

Nick Kellington

How do you look back on the whole Star Wars experience?

Recalling events for this interview does make me think, “Wow, that really all happened. That’s part of my life now. That’s just crazy.”

I totally love being a part of Star Wars. The filming of Rogue One and having the opportunity to contribute even a small bit of myself to that universe was so rewarding personally and professionally. Also, being surrounded by so many lovely, talented people whose work you respect was just one of the best experiences. My time there will always be special to me.

My last question: will we see you again in The Last Jedi or another upcoming Star Wars movie?

Who knows? Since Rogue One I’ve been back at Pinewood but on what? I cannot say. Plus I’ve learned that until you see a film in the cinema you never know if you’re going to make the final cut.

Also, technically, you will never see me because I work in creature suits for a living. Perhaps I might get my cameo one day, you can dream.


Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars Interviews

Geboren toen de opnames van A New Hope van start gingen. George Lucas cultist en aanhanger van Legends (1976-2012). Voormalig assistent van Anthony Daniels. Vader van 2 Padawans. Auteur van de 'Star Wars Interviews' boekenreeks waarvoor hij 175+ cast en crewleden interviewde. Staat in de credits van de boeken The Making of Return of the Jedi, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor, The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook, The Star Wars Archives en Star Wars Icons: Han Solo.

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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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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…

Star Wars Interviews

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Interviews

Exclusief interview met Rusty Goffe (Kabe, GONK droid, Jawa)

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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)

(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!


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Exclusief interview met Daniel Keys Moran

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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?

No idea.

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.


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Exclusief interview met Rick Stanley (Cutthroat hunter)

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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!!!


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