Toby Philpott was one of the puppeteers who worked inside of Jabba the Hutt back in 1982 for a few weeks. His job was to control some of Jabba’s head, left arm, and tongue. Mike Edmonds, David Barclay, and John Coppinger (who was outside the costume, remotely controlling the eyes) rounded out the gang whose job was to make the audience believe that this slug of a puppet was real. The eclectic group pulled off the task with great success. Toby started out in the 1970’s as a street performer, fringe theater performer, and circus performer doing everything from acrobatics to fire eating to juggling to magic to unicycling and more. He moved on to film work through his contacts in the entertainment industry and worked on such great films as The Dark Crystal, The Company of Wolves, Labyrinth, Little Shop of Horrors, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and of course Return of the Jedi. He currently lives a peaceful life in England, working for his local library in the IT department and attends the occasional Sci-Fi convention as a guest when time permits, signing autographs and meeting numerous fans of the films he’s worked on. (Original posting: July 29, 2003)
Those of us old enough to have seen the original Star Wars film during it’s initial run have a fond memory to cherish. When the Flash Gordon-inspired, yellow text crawled its way up the screen, it began with, “It is a period of civil war,” and then continued on. There was no subtitle to the film since, we assume, no one really knew if it would be a hit or not. If you’ve seen the film since the 1980s, though, then you’ve most likely seen the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope added above the crawl. (For a GREAT article on May 25, 1977 and all that goes with it, please see May 25, 1977: A Day Long Remembered by Michael Coate.) Read More
Kenny Baker is the actor/entertainer who crawled into the R2-D2 unit for every Star Wars film thus far. Being three feet and eight inches tall never stopped Kenny from making it big in the entertainment industry. He was in several fantastic films including Time Bandits, Flash Gordon, Amadeus, The Elephant Man, and of course the Star Wars films. If all goes well, he should end up being one of the proud few who can claim that they were in every Star Wars film. He currently lives in England and is enjoying life relaxing between touring all over the world and appearing at various Sci-fi conventions, something he really enjoys. Kenny was kind enough to take some time out to answer a few of my questions. (Original posting: July 25, 2000)
“Hemorrhoids don’t concern me, Admiral…” That was something Dave Prowse said to me at a party after a sci-fi convention in the 1990s. He was telling me a story about how, on the set of The Empire Strikes Back, they couldn’t hear him very well as he spoke his lines inside the Darth Vader helmet. Everyone knew they would be dubbed later, so Dave thought he’d at least have a little fun with it and get a rise out of the cast and crew, replacing the word asteroids with something funnier. That should give you some insight as to the kind of guy Dave was.
I had the honor of giving Dave his very first website presence. He had put out the call to a few fans and somehow I ended up with the gig. From that day on, he treated me with the respect and dignity of a friend, and not just a person from whom he needed something. We spoke, interviewed, shared pictures, met at conventions, had dinners, and just talked and talked about everything. I met and became friends with his then manager Maxwell Patterson, who was also the loveliest of guys. We made a great little team. The site eventually moved on to someone a little closer to Dave in the UK and I was happy to hand them the keys. Dave thanked me over and over for the hard work and I never forgot it.
There will never be a more iconic moment for me in cinematic history than when Darth Vader first emerged through that smoky door in the original Star Wars film. If you’ve ever spoken to him, you know that he was also very proud of his roles in the Hammer horror films, A Clockwork Orange, and various other BBC shows, not to mention his bodybuilding career and his important role as the Green Cross Code Man, helping little kids cross the roads safely.
On November 28, 2020, Dave Prowse passed away. To him I say thank you for that villainous swagger and the ominous presence you brought to Darth Vader that’s been so important to all of us over the years. You will be missed.
(Original posting: June 01, 1998. This intro has been updated to account for Dave Prowse’s passing on November 28, 2020.)
Tony was the robot engineer who created the many R2-D2 units for The Empire Strikes Back. He also worked on other films like Moonraker, Superman II, and Dragonslayer. Tony contacted me many moons ago and told me that if I ever wanted an interview to just ask. So needless to say, I asked and therefore, I received. (Original posting: December 1, 1997) Read More
Dan Madsen is a publicist/marketing/public relations at Independent consultant working with fan based media. He is the former Founder/President/Publisher at Fantastic Media and created/produced the global official fan clubs, magazines, and merchandise for the Official Star Trek and Star Wars entertainment franchises under license from Paramount Pictures and Lucasfilm Ltd. He’s a humble, friendly guy and even had a cameo in The Phantom Menace. Dan took a moment to answer a few of my questions about fandom. (Original Posting: July 18, 2006)
If you know your Star Wars history, you’re aware of the importance of Marcia Lucas. If you don’t, go do some research. Though George Lucas was the initiator of the universe we love so much, it would not exist as it does today without the influence of people like his ex-wife Marcia Lucas, Gary Kurtz, Ralph McQuarrie, and so many others who gave George Lucas the direction he needed at times, in order to produce one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. Read More
Love ’em or hate ’em (and just admit that you love ’em already), you have to admit that Disney knows how to run a company. They’re like the Google of the entertainment industry, which is odd to say out loud since they were around long before Google. Founded in the 1920’s, they’ve done nothing but dominate and grow in the fields of film, television, publishing, music, theme parks and more. When Robert Iger took over the helm in 2005, the company took even bigger steps to cement its place as a leader in entertainment by purchasing companies like Pixar ($7.4 billion in 2006), Marvel ($4.24 billion in 2007), and of course Lucasfilm ($4.06 billion in 2012). Read More
There is a special feeling I get during the week leading up to Memorial Day. It’s not because of the unofficial summer kick-off or the three-day weekend, but because I’m always reminded of those special summers of the past when a Star Wars movie was released.This year, the reality of being two years away from a new Star Wars film really sunk in. Soon, those famous yellow letters will crawl their way up the screen and a new chapter of the saga will unfold. The younger generation of fans are quite lucky compared to those of us who had to wait from 1983 until 1999 for a new film. News about this new trilogy is going to start flowing soon but Lucasfilm and Disney are going to keep us plenty busy until then. I’m going to do my best to keep you updated, starting today.
J.J. Abrams: From Trek to Wars
Episode VII director J.J. Abrams’ newest movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness was released a short time ago. I won’t get into the plot or critique the film. I will talk about the direction, however. Overall, I felt that Abrams did an excellent job in handling the characters and he kept things moving well with a fairly good balance between action and dialogue. Abrams has said in the past that his true love is Star Wars and I hope he proves it and lets the action scenes build as opposed to the quick-fire editing of Star Trek. In Trek, the edits were very fast with hardly enough time to see what was going on. With Star Wars, I’d like him to allow specific shots to be on screen long enough to take everything in. I feel he did an excellent job with Super 8 so I am hopeful that he will use a similar pacing style.
It’s also been reported that Abrams will have creative control and receive profits from merchandise, spin-offs, television and theme parks. He seems to have taken a page from the George Lucas playbook on that one, and wisely so. It was mostly due to Lucas’ similar deal that he was able to fund future films. Disney has been sending out surveys asking people if they’d be interested in a Star Wars Theme Park. There’s a rumor going around that they might open another new park some time in the next decade out in California and a new Star Wars area might be added to this or perhaps the existing Adventureland. I hope they add a Mos Eisley Cantina restaurant!
Rebels & Underworld
The new animated series Star Wars Rebels was recently announced. I wonder if this series will play nicely with the long rumored live action show they’re calling Underworld. The live action show (that doesn’t center on the Skywalkers) also takes place between the two trilogies of films. As of now, the show is being “reevaluated” for development. I wonder if they’ll use some of the scripts for the animated series. Will they develop and produce two shows that take place in the same time line? Will they have crossover references? The opportunity to bridge the time-frames and use lots of familiar characters is a great way to re-introduce the Original Trilogy to fans old and new while gearing up for Episode VII. What do you think? Leave some comments below.
Electronic Arts now has a contract to produce video games for Lucasfilm/Disney now that LucasArts has been shut down. This gives me a little hope that we’ll eventually see things like Star Wars: 1313 or maybe a next generation version of a Knights of the Old Republic title. It seems that EA knows what the fans want. At a recent Stifel 2013 Technology Conference, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen addressed a certain title fans have been clamoring for for a very long time: a new Battlefront title. He said, “The opportunity to do a new Battlefront, for example, which is one of a very popular Star Wars games, or some of some of the other traditional games that were made is very exciting.” More updates on EA’s plans will be announced at the E3 Conference in June 2013.
That should be enough to get everyone excited and talking for now. Lets hope that at the Star Wars Europe Celebration the new President of LucasFilm, Kathleen Kennedy, gives us a special announcement or two. Leave some comments below and if you have news, feel free to submit it to us.
Download: Star Wars Sequel by Leigh Brackett
The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980 and even as a 10-year-old, I remember reading about an early version of the script written by a Sci-Fi author and screenwriter named Leigh Brackett. She turned in a first draft and passed away from Cancer in 1978. This draft was based on a story outline from George Lucas.
From there, as the story goes, Lucas tried his hand at a draft or two but then turned those drafts over to Lawrence Kasdan who ultimately penned the script, although Brackett was still credited. It’s unclear as to the reason why, but it’s assumed that this was a professional courtesy since not many people really knew if any of her work ended up in the final version. Many interviews with Lucas and others who had seen the draft implied that it beared very little resemblance.
For years, this elusive draft seemed like a “holy grail” of sorts to Star Wars aficionados. In 2010, however, I was shown a scanned version of what appeared to be this draft by Brackett. It came complete with handwritten notes, crossed out words, and matched up with just about every description of the actual thing you could think of. If it was a forgery, it was an elaborate one.
At Starwarz.com, I also host a site called Starkiller. This small group of people specialize in Star Wars scripts. Being that I’m a member, we posted the script online and it’s the most popular download on the site.
At first read, you do get the distinct impression that it’s very different, but it’s mostly the dialogue. Many of the concepts and scenes are still intact.
SOME noticeable differences include:
- Han is never frozen and there are no bounty hunters like Boba Fett
- Lando has a different last name (Kadar) and a lady friend
- Planet names are different or changed around
- Yoda is called “Minch”
- Han is sent on a “mission” to speak to his powerful Step-father (which is supposed to be part of the next film)
and the biggest one of all…
- Darth Vader and Luke’s Father are TWO DIFFERENT characters
Luke’s father, simply referred to as SKYWALKER in the script, shows up in ghost form along with Ben while Luke is being trained. What’s more is he also tells Luke about his sister – who is not Leia. Her name is Nellith. Luke takes the oath of the Jedi along with his Father, Ben and Minch (Yoda).
It’s clear that Lucas wasn’t sure on the direction he was going with the whole Anakin/Vader story yet. It makes you think about Lucas’ explanation of how the whole saga was always supposed to be about Anakin Skywalker. When Empire was being made, it seems he had no idea about this. Nor did he know that Leia would be Luke’s sister, which explains his non-reluctance to having them romantically linked in the film. Was he shooting from the hip then, and is he now rewriting history?
Other than that, you’ll see that the general framework and outline from Lucas is pretty much there. Not much of Brackett’s dialogue remained but some of her spirit did.
For fans, this is a great find and a great read so I’m happy to be able to share it here as well as over at the Starkiller site.
Enjoy reading it and please leave some comments.
Download: Star Wars Sequel by Leigh Brackett
In an article on Businessweek.com, George Lucas dropped the closest thing to confirmation that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher will reprise their roles as Luke, Han, and Leia in Star Wars: Episode VII.
Here’s an excerpt:
Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”
The rest of the article details the selling of Lucasfilm to Disney. It contains a lot of history you may already know, but it’s worth a read if anything to see how things operate behind closed doors at big companies.
It also talks about how Lucas was on the fence about whether or not to hand over his outlines for a sequel trilogy – outlines he has claimed many times never existed.
At first Lucas wouldn’t even turn over his rough sketches of the next three Star Wars films. When Disney executives asked to see them, he assured them they would be great and said they should just trust him. “Ultimately you have to say, ‘Look, I know what I’m doing. Buying my stories is part of what the deal is.’ I’ve worked at this for 40 years, and I’ve been pretty successful,” Lucas says. “I mean, I could have said, ‘Fine, well, I’ll just sell the company to somebody else.’ ”
Once Lucas got assurances from Disney in writing about the broad outlines of the deal, he agreed to turn over the treatments—but insisted they could only be read by Iger, Horn, and Kevin Mayer, Disney’s executive vice president for corporate strategy. “We promised,” says Iger. “We had to sign an agreement.”
When Iger finally got a look at the treatments, he was elated. “We thought from a storytelling perspective they had a lot of potential,” he says.
So, I’ll be the first to say it: Here’s where the fun begins!
When I first heard about Order 66, the number intrigued me. Why would George Lucas choose the number 66 to represent this genocidal order? Let’s take a look a possible explanation.
In Biblical numerology, the number 6 can be used to represent spiritual imperfection in man, the devil, or the spirit of the devil in mankind. It is an imperfect number. Hence, the reason 666 is considered to be the Number of the Beast (well known to Iron Maiden fans).
The number 666 (originally 616 in early texts) in Biblical terms is the “Unholy Trinity” or also the perfection of imperfection, just as 777 represents the “Holy Trinity” or actual perfection and holiness.
The number 11 in Biblical terms represents disorder, disorganization, imperfection, and disintegration. So 6 X 11 (imperfection X destruction) equals Order 66. The evil in man (The Sith/Darth Sidious) combined with destruction (of the Republic) is exemplified in this number.
This same formula can be used to represent the 66 books of the King James Bible but without as serious an end result. The spirit of Satan (6) X destruction (11) = Satan destroyed by God’s Word (66).
Lucas has been known to reference all kinds of historical, spiritual and religious imagery throughout his career. It would not surprise me to find out there was something behind the number 66.
On the other hand, it could all just be a freaky coincidence and the number 66 could refer to the year of a car or something.
There’s no doubt that Yoda was one of the greatest Jedi Masters of all time. A lead Council member, instructor and a fierce yet reluctant fighter, he went toe to toe with the most formidable of opponents. Unfortunately, Episode III saw him retreating into exile to bide his time until an opportunity arose to set things right. Let’s take a look at some of Yoda’s deleted shots and scenes.
There are many phases associated with making a film. First there’s the preproduction phase, where much time needs to be invested otherwise you’re flying blind for the rest of the production. There’s the actual shooting of the live action, known as the production phase, which is where you capture your vision on film. Then there’s the postproduction phase, where everything comes together and you use your skills and talents to create an end result that’s pleasing to not only you but hopefully to everyone who sees it. In between those three phases, however, lie many sub-phases too numerous to mention here. From writing and casting to lighting and cinematography to editing and looping dialogue; the process can be very involved but it’s that end result, the zenith of the director’s vision and the crew’s hard work, which makes it all worth it. Getting to that point is the real challenge. Read More
There are countless books out there about George Lucas and his rise from film school know-it-all to cultural icon, and even more books about how Lucasfilm came to be and how it changed the world of filmmaking. I’ve read a good number of these books and then stopped reading them because they seemed to paint the same picture with a slightly different brush. All the main points were there and while some of the small details were different, something was always missing from these books. I could never quite figure out what it was, but they left me with more questions than answers more times than not. I think it might have been the fact that they focused so much on Lucas himself and that all the bit players who made things happen never got the recognition they deserved. Their importance cannot be understated. Without each and every Lucasfilm employee, especially in the early days, the company would not be where it is today. Read More