Friday, 7 September 2012

A Diamond Geezer...

Stunt Legend, Peter Diamond was a HUGE part of what made the Original Trilogy look and feel that way it did, real stunts and real fights performed by real people. From the earliest filming in 1975 to the last shot in 1981the Diamond family travelled the Star Wars road with Peter.

Frazer Diamond, son of Peter, was around the films that have gone down in history (also featuring in a small role as a Jawa on the Sandcrawler set and was gracious enough to sit down and share some of his memories with me.

These days Frazer is a well respected cartoonist and animation historian residing in deepest darkest Scotland and it was from 'Castle Diamond' that he shared this wonderful interview.

So dim the lights, take yourself a wee dram and journey with us back to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

1. What, if anything, can you recall about the Elstree shoot for ROTJ? (As a teenager at the time I can imagine that the sight of Carrie in 'that' bikini would be emblazoned on the memory) Did you get to see your dad putting Bob Anderson, Mark Hamill and Colin Skeaping through their paces on the cavernous Death Star Throne Room set? Are there any particular stories that you could share?

Sadly, I spent very little time at Elstree on ROTJ. Just a couple of days. I visited just after they'd shot Jabba's Throne Room scenes. I didn't see any of that filming, or that bikini(!) but I saw the sets, and all the behind-the-scenes construction, the creatures in the workshops and the rest, which was fascinating, of course. 

My father talked about the stifling heat on that Palace stage, in those crazy costumes and about his role as Lightbulb Man, all lit up like Blackpool Tower. He told me how dangerous that set-up was, with all those bulbs and wires. Even back then, he was pessimistic about the character actually appearing in the finished film. The character didn't come off very well, on stage or on camera. 

Elsewhere, I saw the sets for the Ewok Village, and Yoda's house, too - They they were filming there when I visited one day. I recall hearing Frank Oz before I saw him. That Yoda voice just stands out, doesn't it? And there was that magnificent, massive Shuttle Bay with its super-shiny floor. 

I looked on during the docking scene, stormtroopers everywhere, and the Royal Guards. When I was there my father met with Colin and Bob again to discuss the climactic duel. There was great secrecy about that. The script pages were Top Secret. I'm quite sure they had to prepare for a couple of different outcomes. Vader dying; Vader not dying, etc. Agh! - It's at times like this it would be great to turn to my father for clarification... But there you go... All those stories and memories were taken with him, alas...

2. For the first time on ROTJ the Main Unit shot in the US. Were you able to travel with your Father to Yuma and Crescent City? Again, is there anything particular from those trips that you can recall? For example, you mentioned that they had really clamped down on Security.

Best. Holiday. Ever. 

What else can you say? - We spent seven weeks on location with the cast and crew, from April. The Yuma sets were pretty tight, from a security point of view. They were in the middle of the desert, in sweltering heat, and that sail barge was a big, dangerous construction. It wasn't like being on a sound stage, or a traditional location, where you could tuck yourself away in a quiet corner and watch events unfurl, as I did back home. 

My father was reluctant to take us with him during shooting, and although I was hugely disappointed at the time, with hindsight I can completely understand where he was coming from. Of course, despite using the "Blue Harvest" cover name word had leaked out that this was the latest "Star Wars" film, so the location was besieged by enthusiasts with their dune buggies and motorbikes, eager to get a look. That didn't exactly help to advance my argument either!

Despite that setback, we spent a whole lot of time relaxing with the cast and crew at the Stardust Motel, after the day's shoot. I could namedrop that, in Yuma, we would hang out in the swimming pool area with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Antony Daniels - oops! - 'guess I already did (see below). They were very accomodating, and always super-friendly to us, even though they'd be working so hard all day in that blistering heat. 

I recall Mark Hamill's wife was pregant and the time, and he joked that he liked my name so much that they'd name their son after me. So - yeah - my head was in Cloud City most of the time!

There was also one magic day in San Rafael, after the shoot had wrapped in Crescent City. My father had brought us down the coast with him to start all the green screen filming, with the Speeder Bikes. Anyway, we'd all gone shopping and we were in one of those giant stores when a huge commotion broke out. Some of the shoppers had spotted Harrison Ford in the store, and everyone had immediately engulfed him. Seeking any port in a storm, he somehow made his way to us and used us as a kind of friendly shield to help him get out of the store in one piece - which wasridiculously cool for a kid my age, I can tell you...

3. Were you aware of any friction between the UK stunt guys and the US guys over the US crew's rather cavelier attitude to health and safety?

Certainly, it was there. I recall there were a number of hushed-up conversations being had around the Yuma motel, especially after the stuntmen were injured. But my father never spoke of any of this in front us.

4. It's known that you appeared in the first SW movie as a Jawa in the scenes shot at Elstree, were you featured at all in the Hoth scene in Empire or anywhere in Jedi? If so, where can we find you?

Alas, I didn't have any appearances in Empire or Jedi. I spent a fair amount of time on the sound stages during the filming of Empire, certainly. I was there when they filmed the Wampa sequence in the cave, with Luke hanging upside down. I sat in all day, on that one, perched on a poylsterene boulder, observing. 

There was some stuff on the extraordinary Dagobah set, and then the climactic duel on the weathervane in Cloud City, and the training and rehearsal that went on around it. So there are lots of vivid memories for me there, and on Jedi, as I've been telling you. And - hey! - at the end of the day, I've got that appearance in "A New Hope", topping-off my Star Wars memories, so I can't have any complaints, can I?

5. Your father's work is a major part of the Star Wars legacy and Lucasfilm seem to be doing all they can to sweep the hardwork of the 'background' boys under the carpet. Is this something that you would agree with?

I don't think it's quite like that. They may have based themselves over here, with a predominant UK crew, but at the end of the day, these are Big Hollywood Films, and Hollywood wants to take care of its own legacy. It's the home of film, that's how it presents itself to the world, so there's always going to be that bias there. 

It's not like they've failed to aknowledge anyone completely. My father went to Celebration, he's on the documentaries, in the books, etc. I do think it's funny that, nowadays, everyone gets a big fat on-screen credit, even the trainer's dog. 

My father worked on so many feature films and television productions over the years for which he didn't receive any credit at all. I'm trying to piece together his life and works posthumously, for his web site, and I can tell you it's a nightmare to identify just what he did and where. Iif you think about the Original Trilogy, today he'd have to have all those extra credits for the additional characters he represented. Oh, and I guess I'd have to get one too!

6. Did you, although you were young, notice any change in the general mood of the set after Gary Kurtz left the film after the first couple of weeks? People have said that the whole ethos of the production changed once George arrived in the UK to 'oversee' production. Did you then, or now in hindsight, notice anything.

To be frank, no. My father never really brought that kind of detail home with him, and I think I was too young to pick up on that, anyway, in truth. I was a kid, and from a kid's perspective, all I can I can tell you is that Gary Kurtz's Christmas Party in 1981 was the business. 

He had this magnificent tree in the hall, covered in dazzling white lights and candy canes. I'll never forget that. Real Americana, that. Oh, and I got an original Jawa figure, but I lost his damned cape. It's the one that's worth a fortune, nowadays...

7. Robert Watts. Everyone seems to have a story about Robert Watts, can you recall anything about him from your time spent on the sets during the production of the Original Trilogy.

Lovely man. Always very friendly. But again, you're asking me for memories I have of him back when I was a kid.

I worked with him properly a few years later, after I left school, on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". I was employed briefly during the live-action filming, as a trainee puppeteeer in the Ink & Paint Club scenes, although I use the word "trainee" very loosely because I had no training or real ability for the role. I then went on to work for Disney, in Camden Town, assisting the Roger Rabbit animators for a year. He was there often, and again, he was a nice guy and I don't recall anything specifically out of the ordinary to share with you...

8. Were you ever tempted to take up the call to join 'the Biz' yourself as a stunt performer or co-ordinator?

The stunting side of things wasn't really for me, sadly. 

It's a tough career choice nowadays, with so many people fighting for a few scraps of work. When my father started it was so much different. There wasn't a profesional body in charge, no stunt register, and indeed there often wasn't even a stunt arranger employed on productions. 

My father was there at the very beginning. He learned his craft from Errol Flynn and Yakima Canutt, (he got his big break on "Knights of the Round Table" at MGM Elstree in 1953). He was part of the small team who set it all up.... I steered myself towards the creative side... But I must say, I do sometimes stop and consider the way things have panned out. 

My father came from that classic swordfighting tradition. He presented his swordplay with a glint in the eye. He revelled in the old swash and buckle. It's an artform that's all-but died, sadly, now that he and his great workmate Bob Anderson have passed on, and perhaps I should have seen this earlier and done something about it. Maybe I should have taken up the sword...

9. Moving off Star Wars and your father for a moment, you worked for a time for one of my all time favourite film companies 'Troma' in their UK office. What was working for 'Uncle Loyd' like? Did you have much interaction with the US office or were you pretty much left to your own devices as long as you didn't spent any money? Do you have a favourite Troma movie from the 80's staple and do you keep up to date with the offerings from the Troma stable?

Ah! - Troma! - How dare you mention that word in my prescence! - That was the oddest of jobs I've had, and I have a very odd CV indeed. As I recall, I went to Cannes at the turn of the 90's, with a rash promise of mine ringing in my ears. I was working in the photographic department at Elstree Studios (Elstree Stills), and I'd been invited to spend a fortnight at the festival as a minion, working for the British Pavillion set up. I'd told my friends that I was going to go down there and blag a bigger job, somehow - more for a laugh, than anything - but I did just that. I walked into the Troma suite in one of the Hotels, got talking with Lloyd and goodness knows how, but I wound up working for them as their UK representative, a couple of months later.

They were tighter than tight with me, financially. But that's how they succeeded, and it was a great educational time for me. They kept me on my toes, making sure I kept plugging away. There was no slacking, let me tell you, even though we didn't speak every day. And when Lloyd came over to promote the Troma Tour I'd put together and conduct a slew of media interviews, well, that was a full-on period. It was mad, actually. I could go on to tell you about how I rampaged up and down Dean Street and through the Groucho Club, dressed as a mutant squirrel - but I'll spare you the details!

I see they're in the news again now, with the launch of their own YouTube channel. So they're still in the mix, thinking ahead. I know I jest, but they're smart, those guys. They held rights to Miyazaki's films way before Disney and Pixar stepped in board. I remember them promoting "My Neighbour Totoro". I mean, that was well ahead of the curve. And they had that stop-motion series "Crapston Villas" too, if I'm remembering things correctly. A UK toon, that one. I've still got to index that one, over at Toonhound...

10. Finally, your father was well known throughout the fan world and through his work as being a big, generous man, frequently treating people as though he'd known them for years and remebering peoples names and occupations years after meeting them for the first time. There is still a big hole in the convention circuit. Do you think this is how your father would like to be remembered ? Or was he at heart more of a private person?

The whole Convention thing came along at just the right time for him, I think. He had a long career, and had been working non-stop throughout. I don't think he'd ever paused to consider the body of work he'd been involved him. The conventions helped his assess this in a new light, and gave him a chance to talk about it with people who enthused about his achievements. 

It harks back to what I was saying earlier, in that he'd started out in a world where technicians like himself rarely even got a credit. The rise of the Sci-Fi convention, Comic-Con and its ilk, and the meteoric arrival of the Internet has turned all that on its head. I'd say it's the same for all creative media nowadays, and the folks involved. The days when you simply toiled away quietly, writing your next bestseller or whatever, are long gone. You have to get out there and sell yourself, even if it goes against your grain. Writers, in particular, have my great empathy given that the whole process of writing is so very insular and introspective, by nature... But I'm digressing... From my father's perspective, you have to remember he trained at RADA, he was an actor at heart. So the conventions gave him a chance to perform to a responsive audience. 

He never really brought that side of things home. He kept himself to himself when he wasn't working. But that was so rare, of course. He was always off filming something, somewhere. Actors have that notion that they have to keep working, in case the calls dry up. It's why they often make such rotten movies. And it was exascerbated for my father, because he was often employed for such a short time. One day, two days, and on to the next job. Never turn anything down. That's what he did for five decades.

The saddest thing for me now, looking back, is that those convention appearances still only brushed the surface of his incredible body of work. I've recently been delving through a box of his old television contracts, accumulating information for his web site that I'm overhauling. I've unearthed contracts for 260 different productions. That's mind-boggling, and remember, this is just his TV work. You've got to add all his film credits to that list - MGM classics, Hammer Films, Carry-ons, Lucas & Spielberg - his theatre work for the Royal Opera House etc., and adverts and appearances... Those TV contracts alone include a slew of one-off plays, mini-series and pilots for the BBC that have since been wiped or lost. Historians would give their right arm for the memories he had. 

He's taken so much information away with him. I just wished he'd slowed down enough to sit down and identify everything!

I would personally like to thank Frazer for taking the time to speak to me and should you want to check out some of Frazer's work you can visit his website

Monday, 6 August 2012

Words from The Unknown Soldier - Alan Flyng Interview

This post begins a series of interviews with the people behind the movie. I'll feature cast, crew, fans and everyone else inbetween. This inaugaral interview is with the ubiquitous Alan Flyng, Actor, Costumer and Raconteur Extraordinaire.

Alan Flyng in Return of the Jedi

Always frank, always entertaining Alan is one of those very rare people who will tell you what is really happening, not what you want to hear. Grab a cup of tea and settle down for an interview that it is informative, insightful and maybe a little inflammatory. This is Alan in fine form...

1. Aside from your work on two of the Star Wars movies (that we'll get to in a while) you have had a lengthy and varied career in the film and TV industry in the Costume and Wardrobe side of things and worked with many legends in your time. Do you have a particular favourite memory that comes to mind about any of the projects? Any particularly difficult project?

 I have indeed worked on some great films and quite a few humdingers of 'cheapo rubbish' - it's the nature of the game. 

On my first full picture behind the camera, I worked with Glenda Jackson and Jon Finch on a film for the nascent Channel 4, called Giro City. Filmed mainly in South Wales, I ended up giving Glenda piggy-back rides up and down slag heaps to keep her clean for filming at the top; I fitted my first mirkin on her too, amidst hysterical laughter and a lot of experimentation and I stood by in a bed scene with hypodermics ready to jab Jon Finch's bum should he go into a fit, as he is epileptic! 

The stories are legion and my memories will one day hit the printed page when I am no longer a target for being sued! (Alan Laughs). 

Difficult films have included action features like Submerged with a very corpulent Steven Seagal, filmed in Bulgaria, where I was held a gunpoint by his idiot local mafia 'bodyguards' as I tried to fit him for the film in the Hilton. Another was the Frankenheimer film Ronin with a frankly difficult Robert de Niro, who made the film twice as hard as it needed to be on a daily basis. 

I believe I am credited since Return of the Jedi with 45 further films behind camera, but there have been scores of others which haven't reached distribution. This too is common. After all, IMDB only lists films which make the cut and get a theatrical release.

But I think my favourite memories are reserved for a slightly obscure TV mini-series for American TV called Ellis Island. It concerned the immigration to the US of a disparate group of characters from all over the world, following them through from 1908 to the mid-thirties. I had a really hard job looking after a horde of principal men on that one on my own. 

In those days of unionised filming, men did not dress women, nor visa versa, as today. I looked after and cherished my daily duties looking after Richard Burton, Stubby Kaye, Peter Riegert, Ben Vereen, Milo O'Shea, a very young Liam Neeson, a young Chris Muncke (Capt. Khurgee from A New Hope), Shane Rimmer....and even a self-important extra called Derek Lyons (Medal Bearer from A New Hope), just one of thousands used on the film.

2. Your first brush with the worldwide phenomenon that is the Star Wars Saga came, if I'm not mistaken in 1979 when you donned the stark white armour of the Stormtrooper to appear in Empire Strikes Back. How did this job come about and which scenes were you called to appear in?

I was called by Central Casting to attend an interview and fitting at Elstree for the part of a stormtrooper, to appear in the carbonite chamber in close company with the main cast. There were hundreds of people in and out of that film all the time, but this was a reasopnably long contract and meant good money under direction, instead of being in the background. 

I have never been worried by the distinction of extra, supporting cast or actor - I save that for those who seem to hardly ever work and who stand on their dignity as 'real' actors. After all, it was work and I was under no delusions that it was anything else! The scene dragged on as the set was a high scaffold rostrum and access was difficult. Also, for their own reasons, the powers that be decided to vent real steam underfoot throughout, which dissipated rapidly unless the stage doors were kept closed, making the entire situation extremely hot and uncomfortable.

 As the days wore on and the logistics of moving the camera in a confined space with steam all around
 (which is no good for cinematographers!) giving us all sweat rashes, we were often relaxed from the set, at which times we were told to go back to wardrobe and change costume. They used us whenever possible to do filler cuts in other scenes and sets - frequently not explaining what for - so I ended up as a Hoth rebel in the vast hanger set carrying a big box with straps with Richard Bonehill, in the ice tunnels as a snowtrooper (and I still cannot tell you where I appear, as one tunnel after another was used from every angle and direction and they were cut into the film wherever such a shot was needed) But the main reason for being there was for the carbon chamber and I was mighty glad when it came to an end.

3. It was however in Return of the Jedi that you get some 'face-time' in the final battle scene. Not only 'face-time' but also an actual featured line. Again, what were the cicumstances that lead to this? I understand that you also again pulled the white armour back on for a couple of scenes, namely, the massive Death Star Hangar Bay and the handing over of Luke Skywalker. Is this correct?

       It was an accident that I appeared in Jedi, I was not cast for the part, but asked to take over from another actor, whose nerves got the better of him making him stammer and stutter with a lisp. A whole morning had been wasted trying to get this one line out of him clean enough to use as a guide track for re-voicing. 

I was asked to do the film a favour and got it in one. That's it. One and a bit hours from start to finish.
The next day I was in Wales with Ken Colley, strangely enough, as the scene at Elstree was between him and me - or at least my line was delivered to him - when they phoned my new film and asked me to come back as they had a 'hair in the gate' - in this case that meant soft focus. Unfotunately, I was already in Wales and working for another nine weeks, so I had to decline. That is why all images of me are in soft focus. 

4. Can you share the details of the filming of the scene on the Executor? Were you directed by Richard Marquand or David Tomblin?

The favour I was doing appearing in that role was a personal favour to David Tomblin (2nd Unit Director on Jedi) and he marched me all around the outside of the set having me shout out the line in rapid staccato fashion with variations on the line, including, 'Sir, we've lost our forward bridge deflector shields'  'Sir, we've lost our forward deflector shields' and 'Sir, we've lost our bridge deflector shields'  amongst others. 

I think it was meant to re-assure Richard (Marquand) that he would get his line clean and then I went into wardrobe, dressed first in a Death Star black one-piece, went onto set and was sent back to change into drab olive Imperial Officer uniform three sizes too small for me, and we got it done!  

Polaroid from Alan's Private Collection (Thanks to Alan for allowing usage)

5. Are you still aware that your character remains un-named and more importantly, un-action figured despite seemingly every background character and their droid being named and immortalised in plastic? For a character that is majorly featured doesn't this seem odd to you?

Hahaha! Yes, I am. 

Star War fans constantly ask when I am going to get a name - a question I even jokingly put to Steve Sansweet in Dallas at Fan Days last year - and I tell them I haven't a clue! I suppose, as I didn't emerge onto the convention circuit until 2009 and I was already listed on Wookieepedia as the 'Unknown Imperial Officer', that is how I have stayed. 

Also, for the process to scan a face for modelling, they want a good, clear image to work from, and mine is still a bit of a blur. If I get a name, fine, but if not, I will still be known as the Imperial Officer - Executor. It is not that important.

6. Could you have imagined at the time on that cold day in February 1982 that over 30 years later you would still be talking about this appearance?

 Absolutely not! It was a brief appearance, well paid and a last hurrah before camera before I started my career in Costume, in earnest. It had been unexpected and a nice little bonus! I remember it was February 6th, 1982 and my contract on Giro City began on the 7th... 

7. Having worked on two Star wars films did you notice any distinct shift in the 'management position' between the two films taking into account the differing directors. It's a held belief that Jedi despite it's expansive look was done a little 'on the cheap side' was this something that you would agree with?

I honestly cannot venture an opinion on that, as I was there but briefly. My friends in the crew told me of the strictures of budget that made it difficult knowing what was going on a lot of the time, but it had no effect on me personally. 

8. Over the last few years you have become a very well received regular on the Convention Circuit travelling all over the Country and the World to meet Star wars fans of all ages. Presumably this is a very enjoyable experience? Do you have any particular stories to share?

I know it sounds a cliché, but I am blessed to have been dragged out of relative obscurity again to do this. I love meeting real fans of film, as I am, how could I have been in the business so long without being one too? 

I have made a myriad of real friends all over, whom I value as true friends. I am not rich, far from it, but I have my own house and life and a memory-packed past which I enjoy people asking about. I am sometimes indiscreet talking of situations that have arisen in my film career, but otherwise I would be still acting in my interactions with others. That's me. (Alan laughs).

There have been a few minor horror stories along the was with conventions, as you know Mark,Swansea was one (The now Infamous Starmania Show - where a scant couple of the guests were paid and the 'promoter' disappearing), the hotel with the sign demanding visitors take off their work boots before entering the bar was one and the reception desk behind one inch closely set bars spring readily to mind. The hotel room with a vast bathroom with pipes unattached to taps! Other rooms in which I have slept on the floor, as the beds were narrower than my shoulders... and yet, I have enjoyed all of it as an ongoing adventure and a constant reminder to never stop laughing!!!

Alan poses with costumers and Alan Harris (Bossk/Bespin Guard) at a show in October 2010

9. For the people that don't know, you are an active supporter of the worldwide groups of costumers who 'troop' at the various shows and for various causes. Why do you think that more Star Wars guests don't embrace it as much?

To me, it a a natural thing to interest myself in the costuming side of it all, as that has been my life the last thirty years, but I am also a serious admirer of well constructed and cut costumes, which not only compare favourably to the screen costumes, but also often stand up better than the originals to close examination! 

To a few, making such costumes if a joy, but to others a steep and sometimes fraught learning curve. That is why I identify with everyone who assumes a role and dresses accordingly - they all combine both sides of my career in their fantastic work! And then there is the charity aspect - very dear to my heart!!!

10.  As one of the founders of the Sci-Fi Signers Co-operative (  enabling show and signing organisers all over the world to arrange an appearance from any of the actors on the roster can you explain briefly how this works and why you felt that it was necesary?

 It is a very simple idea I had when I encountered a handful of real  rip-off merchants, exploiting not only the minor signers out there, but also the public! I have had agents in my life who have been my best friends and others I would gladly have pushed out of a skyscraper window! Sadly, this handful belonged to the latter type! The fact they called themselves agents was a travesty! So, I cast my eye around and looked at how this had come to pass. The co-operative website grew out of that.

It enables signers to have their own web-page outlining their career in brief, with the addition of photo-galleries personal to each and the possibility of having their own individual autograph page featuring photos available. By putting an email contact form on each page, it makes it possible for the public and convention/signings organisers to contact the signers direct into their private email inboxes. 

Their private addresses are not there for sale to subscribers, their emails are not listed on the web for troublesome contacts from difficult people to exploit and they are in full charge of their exposure at all stages. It has cost me virtually nothing to set up but time and commitment. It works and works well. 

I asked Rick Stanley, husband of the lovely Stephanie English, if he would like to help me as co-administrator of the site, when he came to England following their marriage in Florida. Rick had successfully run the web forum Takers Prop Lair for some time and was happy to agree, for which I am very grateful!

Alan as a Stormtrooper in the Carbon Chamber in The Empire Strikes Back

I'd like to thank Alan for taking the time out of his schedule to answer some questions for the blog. To keep up to date with Alan's Convention Schedule or to obtain his autograph  you can visit Alan's website at or

Alan's confirmation of Tomblin's involvement with the scene and also of the date tells us that already, within two weeks of the shoot beginning the Second Unit were having to cover shots at the weekend (something quite unheard of in 1982) to stay on schedule which confirms some information that I had heard.

I hope to cover this in detail with producer Robert Watts shortly.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Meeting Jabba's Motley Men...

As a Star Wars fan of some years standing I am immensely privileged to be in a position to know some of the talented performers of the denizen's of Jabba's Palace on a personal basis.

This may not seem like a big thing to some people but to the 8 Year Old Mark that still lives inside of me I can assure that to him it is a VERY BIG THING.

The very best thing about these wretched villans from all over the galaxy is that underneath the rubber masks and the costumes they are all, without mention, incredibly nice chaps. Every single one of them is happy to answer my endless questions about the making of Jedi, to relate stories from the set or just from the business in general. As I said in my last post (which due to computer crash taking all of my files was way back on 22nd January) it really is a pleasure and privilege to sit and chat with these men.

Over the last 12 months or so we've been lucky enough to able to get a smattering of the many and varied performers in Jabba's palace together at a few shows to sign autographs and meet fans and hopefully, with a weather eye on the 30th Anniversary next year we'll be able to do it all again.

However, I am ALWAYS looking out for new names associated with Return of the Jedi so if you come across them, shoot me an e-mail, I'd love to meet them.

In the next article I'll be dissecting the Jabba's Palace scene further just so, for those of you with merely a passing interest can see just what, and who, was involved in bringing one of the most famous scenes in cinema to life.

For now, please enjoy some photos of yours truly with Jabba's Crew as they are today.

Gerald Home (Squid Head) & Mark

Gerald also played a Mon-Cal Officer aboard Home One in Return of the Jedi.

Sean Crawford (Yak Face) Mark & Tim Dry (Whipid)
Simon J. Williamson (Max Rebo/Gammorean Guard/Mon Cal Officer) & Mark

Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna) & Mark
Trevor Butterfield (Bossk) & Mark

Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) & Mark

Absolute Gentlemen, every one of them.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

From Nought to Three-Hundred - Part 1 - The Print

As a fan of the Star Wars films one of the very best things that you can get the chance to do is to meet the people involved in the creation of the films from Production Staff, Crew, Supporting Artists and members of the Cast.

I've found that, for the most part, people associated with the movies are happy to talk about their time on the films, can shed new light on something or even add a new name to the cannon. I always try to add to the ever expanding collection of signatures and always try to get new or at least different images for them to sign.

As part of this Blog I'll be speaking to a lot of people involved in one of the best sequences in the saga, the Speeder Bike Chase on Endor. Sadly, one of the key people is no longer with us, the much missed Peter Diamond (Stunt Co-Ordinator for the Original Trilogy) but thankfully the majority of the other people who worked on this sequence from it's beginnings all the way through to it's appearance in the final film are still available.

As I speak to them I'll be bringing their insights to the Blog under the banner title of 'From Nought to Three Hundred' and also be asking them to add their signature to the image that I've made up to commemorate this.

I hope you'll join me on this journey.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

It's a trap...

A money trap that is.

In the early to mid 1980's the absolute nadir of entertainment was an amusement arcade. Flashing electronic cabinets that would swallow your hard earned pocket money as fast as you could funnel it in for all too brief gratification of beating the level or, at the very best, impressing a girl with your video game skills.

One of the few 'pusher' companies for this addictive drug were Atari who as well as keeping you entertained at home with their 'state of the art' 2600 home gaming machines were also providing games (or 'Cabinets') for a plethora of venues.

My own personal mecca of arcade goodness cam in the foyer of the 'Arena' skating rink in Bury, North West England. Never has there been such a 'hive of Scum and Villany'.

In Summer 1984 the wrappings were taken off a shiny new machine to replace an overused and half-destroyed 'Pac-Man' game.

Return of the Jedi had come to the arcades and I too could now play as my favourite characters against the evil forces of the Dark Side.

Despite being the third film in the trilogy it was actually the second arcade game with the 'Empire Strikes Back' game following on a year later.

Using the tried and tested scrolling shoot-em-up formula that had worked so well with games in the past, this time however instead of left to right it scrolled diagonally across the screen  from bottom left to top right. A multi faceted intricate game of all encompassing levels this was not but it was incredibly fun.

In fact, there was no actual levels. More like scenes that would endlessly repeat (at random and with slightly increased difficulty) until you ran out of lives or got bored, whichever came first. The scenes were :-

No. 1 - Speeder Bike chase on Endor as Princess Leia. The goal is to reach the Ewok village alive by dodging Biker Scouts and traps set by the Ewoks.

No. 2 -  Scout Walker chase on Endor as Chewbacca. The goal is to reach the shield generator again avoiding traps, Biker Scouts and rolling logs  

No. 3 - Millennium Falcon attack on Death Star as Lando. The goal is to reach and destroy the Death Star power reactor whilst being pursued through the innards by TIE fighters.

No. 4 - Pretty much reverse of No. 3 this time your goal in the Millennium Falcon is to escape from exploding Death Star.  

You can watch two of the scenes (1 and 3) here :-

As you can see, we were not talking about the same level of detailing and graphic capabilities that we are now used to in everyday life (Thank you Uncle George) but at the time, I can assure you it was fairly impressive.

Adding to the excitement of this machine was the controls. This was no longer just a stick and buttons. This felt like you were at the controls of an X-Wing Fighter with a dual handed approach.

However cool this looked and handled. This was, unfortunately, one of the first things to break and frequently frustrated arcade owners would be seen rifling through the owners manual and either attempting to fix it themselves or to order a new part.

The owners manual itself is lovely piece featuring very detailed exploded diagrams and parts lists as well as the no doubt much used New Part Telephone Order Line.

One of nicest things about these cabinets (and why they make such great, not to mention expensive, collectibles) was the side art on the machines and Return of the Jedi was no exception.

Not to mention a lovely backlit Marquee sign for the front of the machine with the lovely logo calling you to come and spend your cash.

There are still a few of these machines still kicking around in various states of repair so if you've got a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand sitting in you pocket burning a hole and you'd like something a little bit different you could keep your eye on auction sites for one of these puppies.

Man...I wonder how much money I did actually shove into one of these...I dread to think...

Finally for the techies amongst you here's waht the machine was using to provide those glorious images and sounds :-

Main CPU : M6502 (@ 2.5 Mhz), M6502 (@ 1.512 Mhz)

Sound Chips : (4x) POKEY (@ 1.512 Mhz), TMS5220 (@ 672 Khz)

Technical Information taken from

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Jabba ain't so bad...

Since the Blog went up I have received really nice messages from Toby Philpott and John Coppinger, both of whom were very closely associated with the creation and operation of that vile slug, Jabba the Hutt.

I have been provided with some call sheets from Toby (which just at a cursory glance have provided some wonderful information - some of which has shed light on a previously dark corner of my ROTJ knowledge) and has linked to the site from his website.

John has very graciously provided lovely, large links to the Blog from his own personal website.

I'd like to thank both gentlemen for their support and hopefully you'll be seeing interviews with them both very shortly.

Photo taken from Toby Philpott's Website - link above

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A long time ago...Well, 30 years ago...

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of day one of principle photography on 'Return of the Jedi'. Here's the Lucasfilm Press Release from Monday 11th January 1982.

The first scene in front of the cameras was Scene 44 (The Sandstorm on Tattoine) shot on Stage 2 and would be the very last time that the full size Millenium Falcon prop would be used before dismantling.

The scene was subsequently deleted from the movie but can be seen on the extras of the new Saga Blu-Ray boxset.

There was 17 Camera sets-ups for the scene which shot for 9 hours and amounted to one and a half minutes of screentime.

Here's the day's shooting progress report :-

Mark Hamill was the only actor to perform all the way through the first shooting day of the Trilogy. On Star Wars' day one in Tozeur on Monday 22 March 1976 he shot for 12 Hours and 50 minutes resulting in 2 minutes and 43 Seconds of finished film and on Empire day one in Finse on Monday 9th March 1979 Mark worked for 10 hours 50 minutes for nine shots and approximately one and half minutes of finished footage. *

Whatever the result, Return of the Jedi was off the starting blocks and into Production

*figures and information taken from 'The Making of Return of the Jedi' by John Phillip Peecher 

The scene itself can be found HERE