My good buddy Ian (known on this site as MISTER T!!) and I attended the LONDON FILM AND COMIC CON event this weekend and met Gary Kurtz and many supporting cast members from the Original Trilogy. Numerous first timers to the STAR WARS convention circuit were present and revealed some amazing new behind the scenes info. I thought I'd jot our notes down for everybody to see, as it doesn't seem that TITAN/THE OFFICIAL STAR WARS MAGAZINE could be bothered to send anyone to the event to interview any of them!!
Here it is. Enjoy!!
GARY KURTZ (PRODUCER-STAR WARS AND THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK)
The Producer revealed that, as well as his Second Unit work on the Blockade Runner for STAR WARS at ELSTREE, he also directed shots of Imperial officer/Stormtroopers on alert during the DEATH STAR attack and recalls filming the scenes where one of the gun emplacements blows up from Rebel fire. He may also have directed the scene where the TIE pilots rush to their fighter bays, but he can’t confirm for sure.
He re-confirmed that, due to lighting, film and technical difficulties, the JABBA THE HUTT/ DOCKING BAY 94 scene, despite no problems with the actor’s performances, was scrapped shortly after filming, and after three attempts to shoot the footage had been done with Ford, Mayhew and Declan Mulholland. This confirmation tells us that Lucas never planned to go back and have a stop motion puppet added on after filming. The footage had already been scrapped and the important plot info about the relationship between Han and Jabba passed on to Greedo in Post Production. Kurtz does not like that scene put back in the SPECIAL EDITON, finding it irrelevant.
Kurtz thought that the recent JW Rinzler MAKING OF STAR WARS book was okay for an “official” book-was surprised by some of the photo choices, however. He also revealed that at least half of the original on set photography negatives for the film shoot, including his and John Jay’s work, went missing/were lost, and that many of the photos we see in the magazines even today were first printed from the surviving high quality proof sheets!! The stolen duplicate transparencies from the STAR WARS offices in April 1977 were also never recovered.
For the re-mastering of STAR WARS for the SPECIAL EDITION, Kurtz recalls that scenes on the negative were so badly scratched that they had to use the best quality material possible from the remaining worldwide theatrical prints used in cinemas twenty years early. It was a difficult job finding good quality prints and Kurtz was heavily involved in this work-even loaning LUCASFILM his own personal print of the movie for one scene which was heavily damaged on the original.
Before RETURN OF THE JEDI, Kurtz had looked at the idea of the spacecraft visual effects for STAR WARS being done with early computer rendering, but in the mid 70’s, it just wasn’t possible and there wasn’t enough memory storage space in those early machines. Additionally, Kurtz cannot recall any experiments with Japanese Bakuru puppet-something that has previously been mentioned in STAR WARS lore.
Some of the end cast credits for the film are incomplete due to mistakes via the film’s original UK production office in 1976, which is why some actors aren’t mentioned (like who the actor was that portrayed Red Ten) and why some actors have incorrect spellings.
Backing up some of what George Roubicek revealed at CELEBRATION IV US, Kurtz confirmed that more incidental material on the Blockade Runner, for the beginning of STAR WARS, was shot during the Imperial attack than what appeared in the final film. What exactly that all was he can’t remember but more material was shot.
Kurtz is currently working on a new character drama set during WORLD WAR II, which he is very excited about and which should start filming next year. He’s also working on a new STAR WARS project, concerning the unsung heroes behind the scenes who worked on the first film, including John Barry, ILM and other people who haven’t received the credit they should have for the success of the original film. This will not be available commercially, but will be available to fans (probably as a DVD) at some point in the next few years. A book of Gary Kurtz’s on set photographs for STAR WARS and EMPIRE hasn’t been ruled out, though this is not a priority to Kurtz at the moment.
The REVENGE OF THE JEDI original storyline was a several page outline born from events that had been created from Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay for EMPIRE. It was never more than outline before he and Lucas had their falling out over the ROLLERCOASTER ADVENTURE movie that Lucas wanted the finale film to be, and which he perceived audiences would want to see, rather than the bitter sweet ending that Kurtz had originally planned for with Lucas. Kurtz also didn’t like the fact that the film was starting to be a giant toy movie/promotion.
PAUL JERRICHO (IMPERIAL AT-AT PILOT-EMPIRE)
The actor confirmed that he played the part for four days at ELSTREE on a full 360 degrees built set. As ever, the Stormtrooper costume was extremely hot and heavy to wear. And, as ever, the actors reacted to nothing on the view screen. His scenes were directed by Kershner.
CHRISTOPHER MALCOLM (ZEV-EMPIRE)
A really nice guy, at his first convention, the actor revealed that the replacement VISTAVISION camera used for Snowspeeder cockpit filming had previously been used on GONE WITH THE WIND- such was the film’s status that people on set would often come by just to touch the legendary camera that had filmed the movie!! As previously mentioned in STAR WARS AFICONADO, it took a long time to film scenes in the cockpit due to blue screen lighting problems. Malcolm also confirmed that actor Eugene Lipinsky did indeed play a Rebel Snowspeeder pilot whose scenes were cut from the film, but that’s all he could remember on that score (any one out there got any ideas as to who he would have played?). Malcolm may also have had a scene showing how he got his facial injury before being felled by a Walker, but, again, he can’t recall for sure anymore.
DEEP ROY (WALKING YODA-EMPIRE, NUMEROUS ALIENS-JEDI)
Not much info apart from the fact that he just loved working on EMPIRE and RETURN OF THE JEDI and had a great time with everybody. Adored working with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp on WILLY WONKA, which was one of the most demanding parts he’s ever played and also liked working with Gillian Anderson on THE X-FILES.
AL LAMPERT (COMMANDER JIR-STAR WARS)
Another really nice guy. When asked why it’s taken so long to attend a convention, he replied that he had never been asked!!! As far as he was aware, all of his scenes filmed were in the final movie and nothing was cut. His part in STAR WARS was just after he had competed work on SPACE:1999. Lampert was aware of the time pressure to try and finish the movie, recalled the slightly flimsy Blockade Runner corridor set, and remembered when George Lucas had to pull the pug when they run out of off money. Even at that time, the film had certainly not been finished in Lucas’s eyes.
VASS ANDERSON (REBEL TECHNICIAN-STAR WARS)
Only appeared as a Rebel technician in STAR WARS, he did not appear on EMPIRE. Was on set for a week’s filming.
SYD WRAGG (IMPERIAL OFFICER-STAR WARS)
Playing the officer who talked to Tarkin briefly before Princess Leia is brought into the war room, Wragg revealed that he did have a line of dialogue that he said to Peter Cushing before being motioned away. The line was something like “All Imperial ships are ready” he recalled. Wragg, having greatly enjoyed working with Ford, Fisher, Hamill and Peter Cushing, would also go on to work on several James Bond films, including the epic THE SPY WHO LOVED ME-released in 1977. Having taking up Karate, he also taught Gareth Hunt how to fight as Mike Gambit in THE NEW AVENGERS, as well as Joanna Lumley as Purdey (Wragg recalled that, being her first major TV role, Lumley was very shy at first). He also worked on THE SWEENEY teaching fighting moves to Dennis Waterman, who would later go on to MINDER, with George Cole, as well) and THE PROFESSIONALS TV series, again teaching the leads how to do Karate.
Wragg is also seen walking the corridors of the DEATH STAR in some scenes, like where Han and Luke escort Chewie, whilst disguised as Stormtroopers.
RALPH BROWN (RIC OLIE-EPISODE ONE: THE PHANTOM MENACE)
Unaware that his friend, Ray Winstone, had also auditioned for the part of Ric Olie and was considered for the pilot by Robin Gurland after previously thinking of him for several insect like creatures (??) for EPISODE ONE. Though he liked the filming experience (especially being in the fighter cockpit for the space battle scenes), and working with Jake Lloyd, who he thought was fun, Brown was not a fan of the finished movie or of the experience of working with George Lucas.
Prior to the release of THE PHANTOM MENACE, Brown, who had a film premiering at the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL, when asked by a journalist about working on STAR WARS told reporters that Lucas was “a man lacking in human decency.” When this quote ended up in the NEW YORK TIMES, Lucas and LUCASFILM were immensely unhappy with Brown, who would not be invited to the film’s London premiere.
QUENTIN PIERRE (NUMEROUS ROLES –STAR WARS, EMPIRE AND JEDI)
Having previously worked at PINEWOOD on both seasons of SPACE: 1999, which he found boring, Pierre would be hired to work on STAR WARS by Stunt Co-Ordinator Peter Diamond, and would also be Billy Dee Williams stand in on EMPIRE, and playing a Bespin security guard (one of the two who escorts the carbonised Han Solo to SLAVE ONE). For STAR WARS, Pierre would do a lot of stunt work as a Stormtrooper (there was, at first, some film scheduling problems with the SPACE: 1999 production office, but eventually things were sorted out). Pierre was also hired specifically by LUCASFILM for JEDI, and was also one of the Royal Guards for the film (he was one of them for the deleted scene in JEDI with Vader Force-choking Moff Jerjerrod as well). The Emperor’s Royal Guard costume was difficult to walk in and all the actors in the red robes had to make certain that there spacing between them so that they didn’t fall over each other. Pierre hinted that with his likeness on one of the action figure cards that there was a bit of a stink over the use of his image- it looks like he or his agent may have tried to get extra money for the use of his face.
MAROLYN TURK (BEEDO-RETURN OF THE JEDI)
A former double for actress Glen Close on British filmed movies including the two 10
1 DALMATIONS movies and HAMLET AND, and with 300 feature film credits to her name as a background artist, Marolyn, playing the Rodian Beedo, would strike up firm friendships with the majority of other actors in the masked costumes on the Jabba’s Palace set and would go on over the years to correspond with many of them regularly. Sadly, one close friend of Turks, who had worked on JEDI, sadly died.
The Rodian costumes, and several others, were originally built for men but the size 10 frame better suited the female form. To avoid claustrophobia, Turk would often push the eyes of her mask. Both Turk and the numerous other actors in the monster make ups got on extremely well with the main cast and, in between takes, Turk, with Mark Hamill, would come up with mind games to ease the boredom of setups.
STEPHEN SPEIRS (CAPTAIN TARPALS-EPISODE ONE: THE PHANTOM MENACE).
Impressed with his work in the London National Theatre’s production of GUYS AND DOLLS, Speirs filming duties as Captain Tarpals were very lengthy and in a manner not unlike the process that was used to film Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks on set (in those dark days before CGI characters had been firmly cemented on screen). Additionally, the voice over/adr work for the character also went on for a lengthy period, with new lines of dialogue and other character ideas for the character coming up. Steven enjoyed working with George Lucas.
WILLIAM HOYLAND (IMPERIAL COMMANDER IGAR-ENDOR GARRISON AT-AT-RETURN OF THE JEDI)
Hoyland recalls that he and Mark Hamill, in costume, got stuck for three hours in the specially built elevator in the studio soundstage to take the actors/crew to the walkway/gantry next to the AT-AT. The scene where Luke has handed himself over to the Imperials, with Hoyland presenting his lightsaber to Vader, was filmed by Richard Marquand. Due to the delay with the lift, however, the days filming was in serious danger of going over schedule, resulting in Marquand being a bit sharp with some of the other actors on the scene in the rush to get things completed. Hoyland recalls that Mark Hamill was extremely nice to work with.
JIM DOWDALL (STORMTROOPER IN STAR WARS, BESPIN GUARD IN EMPIRE STRIKES BACK).
Dowdall, whose work includes numerous JAMES BOND films, A BRIDGE TOO FAR (made after his STAR WARS filming at ELSTREE), and DOCTOR WHO, the stuntman/actor remembers how uncomfortable the Stormtrooper outfits were. Braving the rain on the 1977 Saturday morning of the UK cast and crew screening of the movie, Dowdall, almost reluctant at going, travels there on his new Harley Davidson and is soon amazed by the film, recalling that, with the opening shot, all of the cast and crew got up and applauded the incredible sequence. Unfortunately, he could not recall any of the possible scenes of Stormtroopers taking away/ killing the Bespin residents when they evacuate in EMPIRE.
ROBERT ENGLUND (WILLIE IN “V THE SERIES” AND FREDDY IN THE “NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET” FILMS)
As seen in a photograph in the MAKING OF STAR WARS book, Robert Englund visited the ILM team in San Fernando Valley, and was a friend of effects man Dennis Irving, the brother of Amy Irving-who would later marry, and divorce, Steven Spielberg. Englund would bring food over to the ILM team during their hard work at the Thanksgiving holidays, and was also a friend of Hamill- he and his girlfriend would let the young actor stay over at their apartment from time to time, as Hamill’s was in such a bad state.
Englund, auditioning for the part of the surfer character in APOCALYPSE NOW, turned up unshaven and wearing a tight military shirt, where, though passed on for APOCALYPSE with Francis Ford Coppola, was recommended to Lucas to try out for the Han Solo role as the actor looked quite tough.
JOHN FORGEHAM (THE OFFICER AT THE BEGINNING OF STAR WARS WHO, SEEING THE ESCAPE POD, SAYS: “THERE GOES ANOTHER ONE”)
Forgeham, whose career as an actor spans nearly forty years, got the part of the Imperial gun officer when his agent called him saying that there was a small part on STAR WARS. Knowing it was only a days work, and living in nearby Borehamwood at that time, Forgeham takes on the part arriving on the specially built set and reacting to blue screen, The scene, which was shot with another actor (whom Forgeham thinks he knew from working on the UK soap opera CROSSROADS (someone named David?)) was not shot by Lucas-Forgeham thinks it was Second Unit (probably the Monday after the July filming of STAR WARS was halted). After the filming, Forgeham was happy to frequent the well stocked ELSTREE STUDIOS bar!!!
Forgeham also confirmed that his friend Ken Hutchison was indeed in the movie-playing one of the Imperial officers in the conference room scene with Vader and Tarkin. Hutchison is also listed, according to Pablo Hidalgo as being present on the call sheets for the Blockade Runner filming-could he have played the same Imperial Officer in one of the cut scenes? As happened with other actors on the filming of STAR WARS, he may have been on the call sheet for that filming but might not have appeared that day (which was several months after the Cushing filming), replaced with another actor (like Al Lampert?)
At the convention, Forgeham went over to meet and shake hands with Gary Kurtz and was amazed by the worldwide STAR WARS fans in attendance to see him.
TRACEY EDDON (STUNT WOMAN-RETURN OF THE JEDI)
As well as being Leia and Threepio’s stunt double as Yuma, Eddon also unhappily played an Imperial Stormtrooper for one of the Endor battle scenes filmed at the Redwoods. She was coerced into doing it as they had run out of stunt men to occupy the suits, and, when putting it on, said she looked ridiculous.
Tracy Eddon’s father was the late Ed Eddon, who appeared in the Blockade Runner scenes in STAR WARS-Ed (Eddie) Eddon was the silver haired Rebel trooper with blue eyes who had two close ups before he was killed by Stormtroopers. Tracy’s mother is Sadie Edon, also a stunt woman, who was in STAR WARS, playing the cantina alien Reegesk.
Eddon, still a working stunt actress, enjoyed being on JEDI, working with the cast, and was impressed with the specially built Sail Barge set on location. She doesn’t recall playing an Endor Rebel Commando when I asked her-it may well have been Wendy Leech in the posed group photo taken on the DEATH STAR set with Mark Hamill.
Colin Skeaping played Luke for the scene where he and Eddon, as Leia, swing over to the Sand Skiff.
SADIE EDON (REEGESK-THE CANTINA ALIEN-IN STAR WARS)
Sadie, whose surname is spelt Edon, previously a regular stunt woman on the JAMES BOND films, remembers that the filming of her scenes on STAR WARS were one day only on the cantina set. None of the regular background artists wanted to wear the suit and Edon braved the extremely hot costume (she really couldn’t wait to get out of it by the end of the filming). She also recalled, however, that she was paid a good sum of money at the time for wearing the costume.
Sadie, now retired, thinks Harrison Ford is gorgeous!!