The Star Wars bit part actors who are now more popular than ever

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter


Almost every weekend, somewhere in the world, Star Wars fans don Jedi robes or put their hair in buns to head to a sci-fi convention.

As well as allowing devotees to indulge in their love of everything Star Wars, it also means jobbing actors who had parts in the original films are now more famous than ever among fans.

Speaking at the recent For the Love of the Force convention in Manchester, some of them spoke about life on the booming convention circuit and how the enduring appeal of Star Wars has provided an unexpected new career.

Dave Prowse

Dave Prowse is disconcertingly cheerful for the man who was inside Darth Vader's suit as overawed fans queue to tell him how thrilled they are to meet him. They happily pay £20 for his autograph - twice as much as the lesser cast members in the room.

"Every weekend I'm somewhere different in the world," he says. "I've got shows lined up in America, all over the continent - you name it, I'm going there.

"I'm more than happy to be recognised as being the ultimate screen villain of all time. I think it's a wonderful accolade to have. When I did the film, I never thought for one moment that it would snowball into what it has."

Prowse may have been inside the famous black suit, but his West Country accent was deemed unsuitable for the evil overlord and replaced by the voice of James Earl Jones.

Prowse puts the franchise's success down to its "very interesting characters" - one in particular.

"When you talk about Star Wars, you don't think about Harrison Ford, you don't think about Carrie Fisher, you don't think about Mark Hamill. All you think about is Darth Vader," he says.

"And being the actor who played Darth Vader, and doing nothing else but travelling around the world promoting Darth Vader, is absolutely wonderful for me."

Nick Joseph

At the end of Star Wars: A New Hope, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are presented with the Medal of Bravery after the rebel victory over the Empire. In the background, carrying Solo's medal, is Nick Joseph.

Now, he travels to conventions selling plastic replica medals. "You meet fans you've met before, you meet new fans, it's absolutely great," he says.

Joseph has also had parts in Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and EastEnders and has done a total of 17 conventions this year, with events in Florida and Mississippi already booked for 2016.

Does he still act? No, he replies - he is too busy doing conventions.

Anthony Forrest

When Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Sir Alec Guinness, used the Force to trick a Sandtrooper into saying "These aren't the droids we're looking for" in the original film, Anthony Forrest was inside that Sandtrooper's suit.

"I'd done a film just before that called The Eagle Has Landed," he says. "That was the same casting director and that was how I was called in to meet George Lucas."

Forrest is also a writer, composer and director and says the Star Wars connection is "a double-edged sword".

"You do the work and then all of a sudden you're part of something that's so successful," he says. "That's great because you've had that involvement but sometimes it gets hard to separate you as an artist from the work because you get known for the work.

"I think Alec Guinness had that - he'd done so many wonderful roles but in the general audience's mind they were remembering him as Obi-Wan Kenobi. That's the nature of the beast.

"It's nice to be part of something so successful but at the same time it has that backlash to it as well."

Michael Henbury

"I was an Ewok."

As claims to fame go, this one from Michael Henbury is hard to beat.

Henbury, who is 2ft 11in, was working for UK Customs and Excise in the mid-1970s. "One of my colleagues saw an advert in one of the national papers asking for little people to go for it," he says.

"They rang up without me knowing and then the production team rang me at work. I thought it was a bit of a wind-up, but it wasn't and that's how it started.

"Once I'd done Return of the Jedi, I got an agent, which led to me doing roles in Willow, Labyrinth, and Deathly Hallows in the Harry Potter series."

He was booked for almost 20 conventions this year "with the help of Facebook" he says. "I love going around other parts of the country, meeting people, talking about my little stories and it's nice to see smiling faces and happy voices."

Pam Rose

"I've done 32 events this year," Pam Rose explains. "I've already got 15 for next year and two for 2017. People are asking me to do shows and I say 'You have to book me early - two years in advance!'"

Rose played Leesub Sirln, an alien in the Cantina scene in the original Star Wars film.

"I was a girl called Weird Girl originally, then it was changed to Leesub Sirin and then to Leesub Sirln when my action figure came out," she says, wielding her own plastic replica, still in its box. "I think basically the Chinese spelt it wrong.

"I was filming for five days and I was quite lucky because I got two days' overtime just for the make-up, which took three hours a day."

Rose says she loves going to conventions to meet fans young and old. "You've got the older generation bringing their children and they're bringing their grandchildren into it," she says. "Doing the events is not like a job. It's a second life, really, for me."

Alan Flyng

"Sometimes I can be working two different conventions in two different countries in a weekend," says Alan Flyng, who is appearing in both France and Spain this week to mark the release of the new Star Wars film.

Flyng was employed on The Empire Strikes Back as a "utility" actor. "I was a stunt Stormtrooper, a Snowtrooper, Hoth rebel, a Hoth technician and anything else I was told to dress up and do," he says.

The actor particularly remembers one scene being filmed six metres off the ground, with access from only one staircase. "As usual the camera crew blocked [it] with all their magazines and lens boxes.

"So those of us who were in costume had to access the set by a double extension ladder, wearing everything including the helmets.

"It all became very dangerous because one guy did actually walk off the edge of the set when the camera operator told him to take two steps to the right, which he did."

Flyng says he gets "far more" convention invitations than he can take up. He says: "If I do a small club show I can actually sell more photographs than I can at a huge convention. At a huge convention like this you might have 25 signers. At a club show it might be just me."

Laurie Goode

"I played a Stormtrooper," recalls Laurie Goode. "Then after that I managed to get into the costume of a monster called a Saurin and I was also an X-wing pilot. But that was a fleeting appearance."

Goode pulled on the tight-fitting Saurin costume for the Cantina scene after the actress who it was originally meant for fell ill.

"The head was quite tight," he says. "I think it was originally designed for a woman and it was all very tight fitting. But she cried off sick and they wanted someone to take the place.

"They said 'If you can fit into the suit, you can come back next week'. I said 'OK, I'll give it a go' and I just about managed to fit into it."

Goode says he does conventions to "have a good laugh and meet all my old chums". He adds: "I'm actually enjoying it more and more because [interest] seems to be becoming greater with every year that passes.

"I'd like to have done something on the new film but it wasn't to be. I did make enquiries, but I think the whole regime's new now."

Peter Roy

"When we did Star Wars, it was just a job," says Peter Roy. "When we did the first one it was so successful they decided to do the second one.

"In A New Hope I was a rebel engineer and I got promoted all the way through to become Major Orlando Brit in Return of the Jedi. I got promoted in the three episodes."

Roy says he only got the original part because he was the right size for the costume. "I got the audition after I did the fitting. I had to do the fitting first," he says.

"I always say I only got the job because the costume fitted. It was a job. I only did it for the money. Anybody could have done what I did. I was just lucky."

Roy says he has done about a dozen conventions in the UK this year, as well as others overseas. "It's getting very popular in Canada and America, Malta of all places, Spain and in Germany it goes mad.

"I also do Doctor Who [conventions] because I did 18 episodes of Doctor Who. They seem to be more interested in Doctor Who in Switzerland and Germany than they are in Star Wars."

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