As with any science fiction that requires people to don robot heads, rubber masks and other assorted prosthetic costumes, a lot of people have been in the Star Wars franchise without ever becoming instantly recognisable as they walk down the street.
Having said that, some characters are so key to proceedings that the people inside the suits have attained their own kind of stardom, of the sort that makes them irreplaceable, even when a new director takes over, as JJ Abrams has from George Lucas.
So, with the news that another of the original actors from the first Star Wars movie has signed up to reappear in costume the forthcoming Episode Seven, here’s a ripple of applause for the five of the franchise’s biggest and most faceless stars, all of whom are British.
Peter Mayhew — Chewbacca
The Hollywood Reporter announced yesterday that Peter will be making his return to the furry costume as the wookie Chewbacca. This is great news, given that his portrayal of the enormous bear-monkey was considered to be so unique by the production team that when a substitute was brought in to cover a period of ill health during the shooting of The Empire Strikes Back, they had to re-shoot all the scenes once he was better. Just as Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher is Princess Leia, Peter Mayhew IS Chewbacca.
Dave Prowse — Darth Vader
The most famous of our unfamous five, and as we’ve discussed before, a quietly insistent presence in some of the most notable films and TV shows of the ’70s. Dave had a falling-out with Lucasfilm over his payment for The Return of the Jedi, and it seems unlikely that he’ll also be making a return journey to a galaxy far, far away. Not least because, even if Anakin Skywalker makes a beyond-the-grave appearances, Darth Vader is most definitely dead.
Anthony Daniels — C-3P0
The only one of our list here whose voice actually made the final cut, and that’s because C-3P0 is British. Let’s face it, if you were building a protocol droid who’s a bit starchy and stiff, as a contrast to the roguish Han Solo, you’d make him a Brit too. Anthony’s prim tones are a huge part of his character’s appeal, and he’s played him across all the Star Wars movies to date and several spin-off media appearances, as well as appearances as Lieutenant Dannl Faytonni in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Consequently he’s been one of the most recognisable ambassadors for the franchise. It’s not been officially confirmed if he’ll be back in the new movie, but a Star Wars movie without Threepio does seem unthinkable.
Kenny Baker — R2-D2
Definitely the man with the hardest job in the whole franchise. Kenny had to try and make a white dustbin with a rollerball head appear to have characteristics: loveable ones, if possible. That he managed it from within the dustbin, with only squeaks and whistles to aid him, says a great deal for his skill as a performer. Artoo is the prime instigator of Luke Skywalker’s transition from frustrated farm-hand to rebel space pilot, and he did it on wheels, in a desert. Respect is due.
Jeremy Bulloch – Boba Fett
Jeremy—who Doctor Who fans can see in the Third Doctor Sontaran adventure “The Time Warrior”—wasn’t the only actor to play the bounty hunter that encases Han Solo in carbonite and takes him off to Jabba The Hutt in The Empire Strikes Back. In fact he was only cast in the role because he happened to fit the costume really well. That said, he very quickly worked up the idea that Fett should be quiet and still, radiating menace. He took his cues from Clint Eastwood’s cowboy epics of the ’70s, and was rewarded with a repeat role in The Return of the Jedi. Sadly, that’s where Boba met his end, and although the character returned in Attack of the Clones, he was played by Daniel Logan instead of Jeremy himself.
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