Tag Archives: A New Hope

Andrea Wickman-Miller – Her Star Wars Story

Utinni! It’s time for your next Star Wars story readers and we have a great guest for you once again, Andrea Wickman-Miller. Andrea featured as a fan favourite of the worldwide Star Wars audience; she was a Jawa!

The diminutive cape wearers made scavenging cool long before Rey came along and featured early in A New Hope as we were slowly introduced to the wide variety of creatures that Star Wars would treat us to. Admittedly, Andrea has grown a lot since portraying a Jawa although it was hard not to as she was a kid at the time! Now a gym owner, Andrea takes us through her life now, skipping school to be a Jawa and a headless R2-D2…

Thanks for talking us through your Star Wars story Andrea, how have you been keeping busy through lockdown?

I own a gym in San Francisco that has been closed since March 14 due to Covid-19, so we had to switch to doing online training quickly. It was like building a new business in a couple of days! We have just recently been allowed to start training some clients outside as well, which has been great. I also have three kids ages 12, 14 and 16 and so I can honestly say I have never been busier!

What kind of work are you involved in these days?

I own the gym with my husband. I’ve been in the fitness industry for most of my life and always planned on opening my own gym. I was lucky enough to do this five years ago, up until now, we have been very successful. We are hoping to be able to weather this Covid-19 storm we are currently in.  I usually do a couple of conventions a year, but unfortunately this has also been put on hold for the time being.

I think you’ve told this story a fair few times, how did you become a Jawa as a kid?

I was living in Death Valley from the age of four until I was nine. When I was in second grade, seven years old, we had a strange request from a group making a film. They asked the school if it would be alright if they used eight kids in their movie and the school agreed. Remember this was late 70’s and I’m sure that they thought this would be a great experience for the kids. Boy were they right!

A few people working for the film showed up to school and measured several kids for height. I happened to be the right height that they were looking for, so I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen.

We were paid for two days of work, we received $25 in cash. Our first day we were taken to a hotel room to be sized for our costumes. The second day, we were taken out to the filming location which is very close to Artists Palette (Death Valley, USA). We carried R2-D2 up a hill several times, it was exciting and tiring!

Jawa’s at seven years old! How are your school reunions now?

I keep in touch with several friends from Death Valley on Facebook, but I left when I was nine, so no school reunions with this group unfortunately. I am now really good friends with another fellow Jawa actor, Tim Donaldson, we have done all of our conventions together. We are trying to get all of the Jawas together, but that has been challenging, as some of them can’t be found!

That sounds like a challenge! What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars? The one that you remember most fondly.

My fondest memory is the excitement of being picked and getting out of school! I remember how excited and nervous I was about putting on the Jawa outfit, I was afraid of the glowing eyes! One of the funniest memories now, is at one point when we were carrying R2-D2 his head fell off!

How was it wearing that costume in that heat? I assume carrying R2-D2 won’t have helped!

Luckily, this all took place in January of 1977, when the weather can get quite cold.

Going a bit deeper into how it affects you now. Why do you think there is so much interest even now so many years on?

Watching A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi in the movie theater is something that I will never forget. The fact that I can vividly remember watching A New Hope at the age of eight speaks volumes. The films were so different from anything I had ever seen. The lovable R2-D2 and the strength and beauty of Princess Leia and the overall excitement and intensity of this “space film” is every girls dream!

I have asked a lot of people involved in Star Wars this question as a collector of Star Wars merchandise myself. Do you wonder “why do people want my autograph”? 

Several years ago, when a collector reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in doing a signing for their group, I was really sceptical. I could not wrap my head around why someone would want my autograph. Now that I have been doing this for a couple of years, I totally get it. It’s a deep love for a movie and wanting to have a piece of it is exciting and fun.

Finally, you mentioned you attend a couple of conventions a year, how do you find attending them?

I have only done a few conventions and had a blast doing them. My first one I was very nervous, like who would want my autograph? Will I be sitting at an empty table? I was pleasantly surprised to find that many people were interested not just in the autograph but my story as well. I have met so many wonderful people through conventions that all have one thing in common, we all love Star Wars.

Thanks to Andrea for joining us! Check out the gym Andrea now owns by clicking here and you can find her on Twitter and Instagram with the great username @hotjawa.

Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Did you enjoy reading this interview? Why not check out the story of Jack Klaff who also featured in Star Wars – A New Hope as X-Wing pilot Red Four, click here for more!

Jack Klaff – His Star Wars Story

Dear readers, you are back! A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one…

We’ve had a good run of Star Wars heavy stories thus far but on occasion the discussion can veer off into more of the theory behind the big hit of 1977. That’s what we have here today with our guest, Jack Klaff.

Jack is a stage and screen actor with performances ranging from bad guy Apostis in James Bond to starring opposite Richard Gere in King David to Rawdon Crawley in a TV adaptation of Vanity Fair but today we talk his role as X-Wing pilot Red Four…or do we?

The explosive (pun intended) part was short but Jack’s got a lot to say about the success of the film and we ponder some of the burning questions related to Star Wars. For example, what is the correct amount of times to have watched Star Wars? Or is it Stan Wars? How do we describe the films best? What’s a Space Opera? All this and more lies ahead of you and we hope you enjoy the read…

Thanks for joining us Jack, how have you been keeping busy through lockdown?

I have been keeping busy in a variety of ways. I have a new agent who is very proactive, two films are coming up one of which is dealing with politics in the 1970’s and another I can’t say too much about but still to be getting offers is great. I’ve also been writing; I’ve done an online Samuel Beckett play with a great South African actor called John Kani (most recently King T’Chaka in Marvel’s Black Panther) and on balance I really can’t complain. My wife and daughter are here, my son isn’t far away and I have a granddaughter so we are all busy and happy.

Great to hear! From an acting point of view, the arts have been in the news a lot recently due to the pandemic. What has this period put into the spotlight from your perspective?

It’s put in the spotlight the fact that writers, actors, dancers, performers and musicians really do depend on live performances. We have a neighbour who is a cellist and she’s been working consistently all of her life. I went around to drop off a loaf of bread the other day and she wasn’t there, she popped round to apologize because she had been working in a restaurant. I have another friend, I have done three productions at least with this guy, he’s done theatre at every level and he last designed something for the London Palladium which is a jewel in the crown of British theatre. He’s now moving up the hierarchy of Asda Park Royal.

That is where we are now, freelancers doing those kinds of jobs and don’t forget there are people who work at the box office, critics and others who depend on the live experience who are not earning…

It’s great that people have adapted and things are beginning to return to normal, for now at least. Your screen acting experience happened quite early, were you drawn into performing at a younger age?

I grew up in South Africa and I did a tiny bit of screen work there. I have always flirted a bit with movies, I was often told I was ugly actually…

I did a Law and Economics degree but went to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre school and I was taken into the Bristol Old Vic Company there but after a year I had no prospects. One day in June 1976 I was told to go Elstree Studios and be in this film. There was no audition and my agent thought it was called ‘Stan Wars’ due to a misprint.

Jack opposite Richard Gere in King David (1985)

I hung around for two days, the actual filming was me being blown up, shaken about and George Lucas saying good job and that was it. I had no idea until 1977 that this was going to be one of the biggest movies of all time and that people were repeatedly seeing it. People were telling me they had seen it eighty times and I thought that was a lot until an interview I did two weeks ago where they said, “Eighty are you kidding me, I saw it eighty times just in July 77”.

I went to the Royal Shakespeare company after that and while I was there it was the release of Star Wars and everyone made a fuss of it. People would come up to me after a show and say, “Oh Mr Klaff we really loved that Shakespeare…were you in Star Wars?!” and slowly but surely, I saw what the fuss was about. I took myself to see it around that time. Please don’t tell anyone except for your readers, I have never seen it since.

I’ll tell you one other thing just so you understand, I’m a professional writer and I got involved in storytelling in the 1990’s. I got some gigs teaching in very posh American Universities teaching storytelling and it’s wonderful whenever the students know that I was in Star Wars because they really pay attention!

I can tell them that the background of it comes from a book called ‘Hero of a Thousand Faces’ by Joseph Campbell and how influenced George Lucas was by the notion of a mythology, comparative myths and which myths go deep into our culture and psyche. That is one of the reasons why Star Wars has such a hold on people, it goes deep into the basic needs that people have for great stories.

In the context of the rest of your career, the Star Wars gig sounds pretty straight forward, just going in and sitting down, getting blown up…

It was simple yes. You alluded to the balance of work while we have been talking; I’ve earned well through film, television and writing and that pays for the next project that you get on with.

One of the things that fascinates me so much is what do professional actors such as yourself think about it now. You do all these other roles, acclaimed theatre performances and then five or ten seconds in Star Wars is what people want to discuss, including myself! Does that bother you?

Well no, the point is that it’s not all people want to talk to me about, but a substantial number of calls do come in. I’ll be honest, every now again I have exploited it…

A guy got in touch with me in the early noughties and asked if I had ever done any conventions and I rather arrogantly said I hadn’t and he said well there’s one in Coventry if you want to come along. They mentioned some nice people would be there, they didn’t push the boat out they just treated us really nicely. I met a friend of mine there called Angus MacInnes (Jon Vander/Gold Leader, Episode IV), Angus is an ex-restauranteur actually and we talked about restaurants and life. Anyway, when I was in Coventry, there was a queue! I spoke to my wife and kids and said I might do them from time to time. I don’t earn a fortune from it, but I sign and I have a good time. I earned really well in Dallas and New York in the past and that keeps things ticking over while I’m doing other things.

I don’t think that’s exploiting it though, there is a market for it. I do it myself, I have several autographs behind where I’m sitting right now. Star Wars capitalized on an audience that wanted or needed something like that at the time. It wasn’t that different it was just an opera set in space with the romance and the larger than life characters…

I’ve never heard that before, an opera set in space…well done you it’s the first time I’ve heard that! Sorry go on…

Do you think the original film was just something George Lucas got right at the time or do you think it could be replicated with another film?

There’s many prongs to this but one I already mentioned was that he really studied myths, he went straight for the traditional mythical structure. He followed Joseph Campbell and the comparative notion of it. When you go deep into an understanding of how myths operate it’s not just the Greek myths but the myths that are part of the culture of peoples around the world.

Each myth has the notion that someone’s in an ordinary world, a call comes, there is a resistance to the call, there is a mentor, a persuasion to get the person to come over the threshold. Once you have that then you are grabbing people, it’s something that goes deep inside us. It just so happens that George Lucas really followed the instructions. I’m not saying he did it by numbers, but he almost did and when you do that you are able to go deep inside people.

Harrison Ford is a marvellous actor, he has a lot of things that go with what makes a good screen actor, he is very contained and so on and most importantly in his case he has tremendous wit. Carrie Fisher was a wonderful person, very witty, I thought her hair was a bit ridiculous at the time, but it’s grown on people. Mark Hamill is a very good protagonist in mythical terms because off screen he was energetic, a very nice person but when he’s in the film you project onto him a lot of wishes desires and so on. So, you’ve got your protagonist, you’ve got your friend, you’ve got your mentor, your really serious villain and that’s a major thing. It’s religious and it has something of the western and opera in it. At the time it had state of the art technology, there was an excitement to it. The combination of the narrative and the depth of what people go for, what they want to hear in music, around the campfire, in movies, that’s very deep and a very solid narrative structure.

George Lucas was young and hungry and understood how he could catch the zeitgeist, in addition to that Alec Guinness always had the magic touch, he was in the news as the most popular actor at the time which I find fascinating. We are talking about an actor in the same era as James Dean and Marlon Brando. There was something about him as an actor, he was always involved in a great number of big hits. He was one of the most famous actors in the world in the 1950’s and then you have this incredible figure of Darth Vader voiced by James Earl Jones plus, puppets! You had this kind of opera meets western meets The Muppets.

Jack (left) in a cover shoot to promote Vanity Fair

That’s a good way of putting it! Finally, back to yourself, I guess your theatre work outweighs your work on screen, how do you reflect on that now?

Yes that’s right. I have done some arty movies and some not, I had a wonderful role with Richard Gere in King David. I can’t tell you how many TV jobs I’ve had…some have been virtually leading roles like Vanity Fair for example. I don’t want to sound defensive; I know I’m not a household name but I’ve done a fair amount of good television work.

People like me go from job to job, I have a literary agent, a script agent, an acting agent, I kind of have a booking agent for my solo work and I’m a self-starter so in any given week I don’t think you’d believe what I go through. There’s not a single role where I asked for it!

When you get to my age, I do a lot of solo work, I’m a storyteller but if you were to ask me to look back on my life’s achievements Star Wars would be part of it as it hit the zeitgeist. I’ve written quite a number of things that I am proud of too, but it isn’t over until it’s over and I hope that my future projects are what I’m proud of.

With that, we end a very interesting call as Jack heads to birthday celebrations. In the absence of conventions, you can contact Jack for autographs via Facebook here.

Did you enjoy reading this interview? Why not check out the Star Wars story of creature creator Nick Maley by clicking here. Nick was responsible for many of the Mos Eisley Cantina characters, The Wampa and Tauntauns as well as Chewbacca, Snaggletooth, Dr Evazan, Mynocks, Ugnaughts and a a character you may have heard of named Yoda.

Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Nick Joseph – His Star Wars Story

Rise of Skywalker is here for us amid the lockdown and wraps up the “Skywalker Saga”. It’s fitting then that we have an interview from the film that started it all, A New Hope.

In Rise of Skywalker (Spoiler Alert) our favourite Wookie, Chewbacca, gets a medal to correct one of the biggest issues in the very first film in which he doesn’t get one for his part in the Rebel victory. Nick Joseph, our guest today, is not the reason for that although he did have the role of handling the medals…maybe one was dropped? Maybe someone casually stole one? Is it because Wookies already stand out in a crowd? This is not a website to answer such questions.

However, Their Star Wars Stories does wish to tell the tales of the people involved in the franchise and in that respect, Nick Joseph is indeed the Medal Bearer we are looking for…

Thanks for talking to us, Nick. I’ve been reading up about you and your story after Star Wars is quite interesting, but let’s start at the beginning first. How did you get involved in A New Hope?

My agent at the time contacted me and said would I be interested in a cheap movie called Star Wars, it’s just a two-day shoot, so I said yes, naturally. I went along to interview for the character of the Medal Bearer in Mayfair, London and it was a really quick process. I got the part two days later.

What happened was we did all of the shots in the first couple of days and they called me back for doing the close ups. It was just a two-day job as a start but I kept being called back for more shooting. Looking back it’s funny, at the time when I was hired I didn’t know who George Lucas or Gary Kurtz were and look how well they did.

Since that your character “The Medal Bearer” also got given the name of Major Arhul Hextrophon and was part of one of the most famous scenes in Star Wars. How was it being a part of that?

I feel that I am very fortunate to have got that small part looking back at it all now, and the answer to your next question will go into detail on a very funny behind the scenes story of that scene. The character has had a lot of his own stories now and some fans even made a small movie about him where he is only one of three people to have found Master Yoda due to his role as a historian.

I have a regret about my time on the film, I wished that I had the contract instead of the buyout as payment. They offered us a contract which was a percentage of the movie sales or £600 and I took £600, which was a lot of money back then. I have never ever done that since.

What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars?

Something that may be of interest is that during the medal scene someone farted and not just a small one but so loud that we all cracked up. We had to restart shooting that scene five times because we all cracked every time the doors opened for Han, Luke and Chewie to walk down.

My best memories are working with Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, we had a few funny moments filming that scene. I was speaking to Mark, Mark started smiling, the next thing Carrie threw water over me saying she got her own back because I had mentioned she looked like a throwback from Victorian times. Carrie was a great girl, very funny, witty but you would never turn your back on her as you didn’t know what was coming next.

Oddly, you are not the first interview on this site to say that Carrie Fisher messed with you! Personally, you went on to have a few roles in Doctor Who. Were you drawn to Sci-Fi roles at the time?

I did have a few roles in Doctor Who, with Tom Baker in “The Leisure Hive”, Peter Davison in “Black Orchid” and “Terminus” and with Colin Baker in “The Mark of the Rani”. Tom is the only Doctor I haven’t done a convention with, actually.

I wouldn’t say I was drawn to Sci-Fi but I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I look back at the acting work I did very fondly, and Star Wars and Doctor Who were definitely my biggest roles, but for me Star Wars will always be most important. I just like to do comic cons and conventions now. I was supposed to be in Guatemala actually and had 26 planned throughout the course of this year.

Not exactly a bad couple of acting jobs to say that you had there, Nick, you should be very proud of those roles. I want to go back to what I mentioned at the start…due to the size of your role you lost touch with the Star Wars community. Apparently, you were tracked down by Star Wars and Empire producer Gary Kurtz. What is the story there?

Yes I didn’t know a great deal about the convention scene linked to Star Wars until Gary got in touch and asked if I would like to attend “Empire Day” at Elstree Studios, which is a reunion event for those who worked on it. I went along with very few expectations and oh boy there were so many fans there interested in me, I was so surprised! I must have signed 1,000 photos that day and that was the start of me really loving this convention scene. All I can say is thank you to the Star Wars fans for their enthusiasm and passion.

As the event finished, I saw Gary and I said to him, “How on earth did you find me?” and before he could answer I said, “Well thank you, I’ve loved doing it”.

You are a big hit on the convention scene. How do you feel about attending events like that?

I feel very honoured to be invited to Comic Cons, conventions and private signings. I have travelled the world from the USA to Australia and many countries in between. As you know all events have been cancelled at the moment, which is a huge shame, so I hope we are doing them again in 2021.

Why do you think fans like meeting you?

Fans know exactly what you’ve done better than you know what you’ve done yourself! I love it, you can have a good laugh and a joke with people. I get people contacting me asking where I may be next to purchase autographs and things like that. Fans are the people who keep inviting you; it’s like a big Star Wars family and it’s wonderful.

I saw you have reproduction New Hope medals when you attend conventions. They must be popular?

Just this month I’ve sent them to China and Russia. They are reproductions of the actual medals. A good story related to that; I have a friend called Matt who lives in Brisbane with his family, he went on holiday to Florida to see a friend of his who used to work for Lucasfilm. They were talking and Matt mentioned me and my role. His friend Tony said he knew of me and gave Matt the actual Medal of Yavin given to Han Solo in A New Hope to pass onto me, which is really lovely.

With the unfortunate circumstances that we are in, do you have any updates for fans?

I have nothing in the book now because due to the virus they are all cancelled or delayed. I can’t wait to meet fans again as I enjoy it so much, but anyone interested can get a hold of me on Facebook or my signing shop in the meantime. I’m always happy to hear from the Star Wars community.

Contact Nick directly on Facebook here and in the absence of conventions you can check out his online autograph store here where you can buy a replica “Medal of Yavin”.

Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Did you enjoy reading this interview? Why not check out the Star Wars story of Kenneth Coombs, an incredibly experienced actor who had a role as an Imperial Officer in Return of the Jedi. Read more by clicking here.