Tag Archives: Harrison Ford

Tim Rose – His Star Wars Story

Star Wars as a saga has numerous characters who have left lasting impressions on us, the fans. However, there are some you could show to non-Star Wars fans and they would likely recognise them due to the cult fame they achieve. One such character was portrayed by our guest, Tim Rose.

Tim was responsible for bringing Admiral Ackbar to life in Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Tim was also the puppeteer of the awesome Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb in Return of the Jedi and fellow Mon Calamari, Shollan, in Rogue One. Basically, Tim has left an indelible mark on Star Wars history.

It’s a trap! I waited two paragraphs to write that – it was worth the wait. Yes, Ackbar is also responsible for a very famous internet meme, but as with all interviews on this site this story is about Tim, his journey and how he looks back on it all now. So, on we go to cover The Muppets, Guantanamo Bay torture techniques and disliking your writer’s choices of cosplay…

Welcome Tim!

Right so the long number on my card is…

I won’t start with that; I normally save it for the end! How are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?

I haven’t really noticed any difference. About 17 years ago I had to move out of London or I’d have ended up in jail for a road rage incident. I moved out to the countryside and bought a Victorian hackney coach driver’s house. It’s got paths through leading to a barn where the old owners would keep the coach and horses, and that’s where I set up my workshop. Lockdown or not my commute is past the raspberries and up to the workshop.

Starting at the very beginning, what was your motivation to get into the Film and TV industry?

I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I started university, I’d enjoyed my art classes and I had done a bit of drawing and writing but I didn’t really know how to apply any of that. At university I started to go to drama classes, and I liked it, but I didn’t enjoy the applause at the end. Anyway, we started doing renaissance fairs and while doing the fairs I decided to do a Punch and Judy show.

I discovered that with puppetry I could sculpt; I could write scripts; I could draw and perform. I could do all the things that I loved without giving anything up, so from that point I stuck with the puppets. The main guy on our TV sets at the time was Jim Henson and The Muppets Show. I used to sit in front of the screen and work out how he was doing it. After a year or so when I left university, I managed to get a job with Jim, which is why I’m in England now because this is where Jim did all of his work.

I suppose there is no avoiding that Star Wars has been a massive part of your life, but when you first got into it how did you feel at that point in your career?

I’d been working with The Muppets and I already knew George Lucas because he was always coming around to see what Jim was up to. What I actually loved the most was starting from a design concept and carrying it on all the way through to performance with the actual creature that I’d built myself. The only two places to do that were The Muppets or Industrial Light & Magic or Lucasfilm. When I got a job at Lucasfilm, I was very happy because I’d worked at the two best places to do what I wanted to do.

Going straight to the two companies that were ideal for you is quite something! Is it something that came naturally to you?

Although I have a university degree, I got my job because of what my father taught me when I was playing on his workshop floor. My dad was into models and radio-controlled airplanes and so I always knew about building things from scratch.

I always joke that if you were to put a label on me, which in school they try to do, I would have been labelled dyslexic. When it came to being a designer, my brain shot off in five directions at once and I actually came up with a lot of really original ideas because I was putting things together in a way no one had ever thought of before. Was being dyslexic a problem or was it an asset? Ultimately, I think it was quite a good asset!

When I worked on The Muppets they were starting to develop the robot side of the puppets to make them more technical. It always amuses me that everyone knows the word animatronics, but do you know where the word came from? I do not. Jim was American but did all of his work in Britain and at the time the film industry was going through a bit of a nosedive, yet they didn’t want anyone coming in taking their jobs from abroad. Jim was told that what he needed to do was give them a job title that doesn’t exist in England, so they called us ‘Animatronics Designers’ and we didn’t displace anyone because no one had that title in the UK…because we made the name up! It was a title that needed to be made though.

What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars, the one you look back on most fondly yourself?

I was just the right age that when the very first Star Wars movie came out, me and my buddies were teenagers. We would sit in the back of the cinema and pretend to fly X-Wings. We watched it over and over again. Two movies later, I’m saying good morning to Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, walking past the Millennium Falcon to go into my own spaceship – every day of it was fabulous. I don’t have a favourite story. I enjoyed the entire process from beginning to end.

That’s still a good answer! I think if I were in your shoes it would be hard to choose one story…

What is fabulous about movies that you’ve worked on is that when you watch a scene, you don’t just see that scene in front of you. Your mind can see the camera guy, the sound guy, the lighting guy, the boom operator and you know it brings back the memory of the whole situation and the experience, not just that bit of film footage. It’s a really nice special thing about being on movies.

You’ve featured in the original trilogy and the new trilogy. For you, was there a different feel when you returned as Admiral Ackbar?

Entirely different! I wasn’t alone but I was heavily involved in creating the original Admiral Ackbar. There were two versions of him. There was the full body suit and a hand puppet head. Servos hadn’t gotten small enough, and because we hadn’t fully utilized how to use them a lot of the full body suits had cable-controlled heads, which is what Ackbar’s head was. With a person in there it doesn’t leave a lot of room for the mechanics, so I built a second version which was a hand puppet where I puppeteer the mouth and that left room in the rest of the head for the eyes to move. It allowed you to have a more animated character.

In the new movies I’ve got my carbon fibre helmet on, I’ve got 38 servos around my head, all chirping like budgies, and I don’t have full control of the performance anymore. I was much more personally involved in the original one.

You of course were the puppeteer for Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb also. Did you prefer the puppeteering side of it? Or does a character’s performance come through no matter how you are performing it?

I was at a convention in Australia. We had finished filming The Force Awakens but it hadn’t come out yet. I couldn’t talk about it even though everyone wanted to, so I decided to talk about what it’s like being in a full body suit costume. I realised what we put up with was not dissimilar to the torture techniques used at Guantanamo Bay, ha-ha. When you start sweating in there it’s a bit like waterboarding because the scrim in front of your face gets blocked with sweat; you get full-on sensory deprivation and your whole body goes over 100 degrees…

You are making it sound very appealing!

What’s enjoyable is creating the character and seeing what you’ve created. From that aspect, Salacious Crumb was much more enjoyable as he was just a hand puppet. I could put him on and just walk around and entertain the crew with him, ad-lib and joke.

Puppets introduce me to parts of myself I didn’t know existed. I’ve always considered myself to be quite a nice guy but Salacious was a right little bastard and when I had him on, I became a right little bastard too, ha-ha. I guess you, Mr Dressed-In-The-Carbon-Outfit, know the story with Harrison Ford? I do indeed. That took place when the carbonite scene was going on and so the second I saw you in that photo I thought, “That’s it I’m not doing this.” Ha-ha! I still react quite strongly to seeing any references to the carbonite scene.

I’ll make sure I don’t trigger any bad memories! Ackbar was voiced by Erik Bauersfeld, who sadly is no longer with us. When you are acting as a character with a different voice, do you work together much, or are they separate processes?

With Jim Henson, the two most crucial things for the life of any character were good eye focus and spot on mouth syncing. If you heard that character talking you had to believe those words were coming out of his mouth.

I found out from Mark Dobson, who did Salacious, and Erik, who did Ackbar, that neither of them were shown my performance when they did their voiceovers. When Ackbar says “It’s a trap!” his mouth isn’t in sync with the words even though when I did it, it was spot on.

Most people don’t notice. I was trying to sound like a man in his fifties but I obviously wasn’t at the time. It needed that final bit, the mature voice to sell the character. What I love about the puppet characters is not one of them is done by a single character; they are all a group effort to create something that’s better than the sum of the parts.

Do you look back on playing the character fondly now?

From a convention point of view, one of the big things for guys like David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) is they’ve always had to contend with that they weren’t the only guy to wear the costume. As time has gone on, at least I can say I was the only person to play Admiral Ackbar.

That’s true, there can’t be many people who can claim they are the only character in those suits…

I said to fans at the time, they are going to want a younger guy who can do it not an old man who needs to go for a pee. That actually did happen in Rogue One…I was Shollan in that one. We had gone for six hours solid without a pause break, and my character held up his claw and said, “I’m sorry but the old man has to pee,” and at that point we got a break.

I have BB8 to thank for coming back as Ackbar. The person doing BB8 was Brian Herring and we first worked together on Spitting Image in the 80s. When they were doing The Force Awakens he was in charge of getting the performers for the characters and he kindly said, “Tim’s not dead yet, he should do Ackbar.” I was at a convention in Australia and he asked me to sign something so I could talk to him. It was an NDA from Disney and he asked if I wanted to be Ackbar again and I said, “Of course I do!”

The next thing I did was pump up the tyres on my bike because as I’ve already said…full body suits. At my age you could die in there, ha-ha!

I’ve seen you at a couple of conventions and you seem to still get a lot of joy from meeting the fans. Does it bother you to be known for Star Wars, or is it something that you still get enjoyment from?

It just shows what a good actor I am, ha-ha. That’s not true!

I hit my mid-life crisis…why didn’t I listen to my mother and become an architect instead of running away to the circus and all that. CG was coming in and work was getting less and less. It was really when I started doing the conventions and meeting all the people that we had quite an amazing long-term effect on that I fully appreciated that I hadn’t been wasting my time after all. I’ve gotten to go to so many parts of the world. I used to travel all over the world making the movies. Now I travel all over the world talking about them…

You can check out more of Tim’s stories on his official website as well as purchase official autographs by clicking this link.

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

Miltos Yerolemou – His Star Wars Story

What do we say to the God of Death? We’ll figure it out, we’ll use Force! Wait, that’s not how the Force works…

You are not reading wrongly folks, we have ourselves a real crossover in this Star Wars Story as we are joined by Syrio Forel, Jedi to Arya Stark, the Padawan in Game of Thrones, and part of the Maz Kanata scene in The Force Awakens that jumps us straight into a whole new bunch of weird and wonderful characters in the sequel trilogy.

Miltos Yerolemou shot to fame in Game of Thrones Season 1 as master swordfighter Syrio Forel before joining Star Wars for a part that was sadly cut down quite a lot, but awesome nonetheless. Miltos joins us to go through his Star Wars Story as we chat through talking to droids, being wowed by animatronics and yes of course, Mr Syrio Forel because we shouldn’t forget, the First Sword of Braavos does not run!

Welcome Miltos, delighted to speak to you! I am keen to talk to you about Star Wars obviously but there’s a show you were involved in that it would be silly of me to not talk about. Are you happy about the legendary status Syrio Forel has achieved with Game of Thrones fans?

Always much better to play people cooler than yourself! There’s no doubt about it that the people who taught Arya Stark are the ones who are influential to her story, being there right at the beginning feels really good.

We had no idea what that show was going to be when we were filming that first season. We knew HBO was making it and that had such a fantastic reputation to make really good work, but most of us in that first season hadn’t read the books yet so I went to Waterstones to buy it ahead of my audition as I wanted to take it seriously. My first introduction to seeing how big it may be was seeing it was number one in the fantasy and science fiction section.

It was such a long audition process and I think they kind of saw every actor in the UK! Of course, as an actor you feel proud. A lot of the time you do a lot of stuff that no one will end up caring about but suddenly when you do something that excites people, you see its lasting legacy and its effect on the fans; that makes you feel very proud.

Miltos, alive in Star Wars, not so alive in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones almost has as many fan theories as Star Wars and there’s a lot regarding the fact that you aren’t even dead. So Miltos, let’s clear it up, are you dead?

I’m pretty sure I’m dead, as dead as the dead characters in Star Wars! I always talk about Syrio in an over-blown way. I see him like Obi-Wan Kenobi in that he started the protagonist’s story off and they carry on following the path that you set them out on.

The ambiguity of what happened with Syrio Forel was really deliberate. I spoke to George R.R. Martin about it and the echo of the teaching where she says the lines over and over again in the books, that teaching is very similar to Obi Wan and his lasting presence with Luke Skywalker.

Well that sets us up to talk about Star Wars quite well! Following Game of Thrones, along came a part in The Force Awakens. How did that happen for you?

Nina Gold was casting it and she did the casting for Game of Thrones. I was in America at the time touring Midsummer Night’s Dream and my agent called up and said Nina had sent my tape off to J.J. Abrams because he was looking for character actors to play space pirates.

I didn’t really audition to be honest, but it was two weeks at Pinewood – that was all I knew. It was done under incredible secrecy, sitting in a trailer with your name and a made-up character name, no scripts and going having your costume fitting. Initially it was exciting but after a couple of weeks it was so frustrating and you are thinking, “What on earth am I going to be doing?” and no one told you until you showed up to do your shooting.

When you get to see the design of your character that is just the best day. You’ve been sat with this idea of being involved in something without knowing anything about it and then you know what you are going to look like at the very least. You are looked at like a mannequin, this character has orange plasters on his fingers and across his nose, and he’s got this tube going up his nose, and I remember being told, “We don’t have to do the tube up the nose,” and I said, “Are you kidding? That’s the best thing about the design!”

Your character was called “Bar Patron” which is very unusual in Star Wars to not get a complicated alien name; he should have a name! Did he get one?

They probably saw the rushes and wondered who the hell I was! I’m not sure why he never got a name to be honest.

You probably remember a really big monster (Grummgar). A gangster kind of dude who was an animatronic creation and the whole scene was supposed to be that I would have a fight with him; I was going to ask for my money and he was going to have a go at me.

In the end we ran out of time to do it and it never got shot the way J.J. wanted to shoot it. There’s a very brief scene of me trying to have an argument with him as Finn (John Boyega) is leaving, and that’s the only bit we got of it. We were running out of time and of course we weren’t the principal part of the story at that point. J.J. wanted us involved and we were not supposed to be extras, we were supposed to be there playing characters, so he was really frustrated that we ran out of time.

That scene needs to turn up in The Mandalorian or Obi Wan or something! What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars?

J.J. told me he wanted me to stand in front of this gangster and I hadn’t seen this animatronic monster before. J.J. said, “You say something and he says something…in fact he’s not going to say anything at all because we are going to dub it later.” There are three guys inside operating it so we didn’t rehearse it.

I hadn’t even seen it move I just thought it was going to be still but then “Action” is called and it starts picking up a glass of brandy to drink it and gargling away. I’m staring at it going, “Oh my god, that’s amazing!” and then I hear “Cut, cut, cut…you are supposed to be having an argument can you do something quite demonstrative” and I said, “I just hadn’t seen it before, that’s amazing,” to which he says, “Yeah, yeah yeah…I know, let’s do it again.” It was all so rushed!

Every time the animatronic paused and it was time to start it would just start moving again. It was one of those ridiculous moments where you realise why acting is difficult with monsters.

Miltos vs Grummgar, the fight we never knew we needed

It was really great being on set. You’ve got people inside tiny droids, practical animatronics, the whole bar was built with hundreds of people in there. I couldn’t tell what droids had people in them…I just felt like a child, not believing any of these amazing creations.

At one point I was having a conversation with a droid thinking there was someone inside it, the guys behind were operating it and making it respond to me and completely hoodwinked me!

That kind of explains why Bar Patrons get so mad about Droids in Star Wars! Are you a Star Wars fan yourself?

Yeah, me and my partner Holly are huge fans of Star Wars. She’s been to Star Wars Celebration and met Carrie Fisher dressed as Hoth Leia. She has the most beautiful photo of them together. On the sad day when Carrie Fisher died someone from the BBC found the photo of them together and she ended up going on BBC Radio Four to talk about it with Anthony Daniels; that’s her claim to fame now.

Clearly you need Star Trek, maybe Walking Dead or Westworld on your CV, but you aren’t far short of being an ultimate convention all-rounder! As an actor in Game of Thrones and Star Wars do you get drawn to that genre easily or does it make you want to diversify?

I really like science fiction. I got really excited as there was a part on Foundations on Apple TV and I went up for that but sadly it didn’t go anywhere and I was so gutted, I really wanted to walk round a studio pretending I was in space.

I just want to work with really cool people, directors and writers who I really admire. I like the variety and being challenged to something outside of my comfort zone.

Where can fans meet you next or what can they see you in next?

I’ve got a cool part coming up in the sequel to The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Samuel L. Jackson where I play an Italian Mafiosi who gets his henchmen to try and kill him, but as you can imagine it doesn’t go according to plan.

Working with Samuel L. Jackson I feel like I can retire now…being called a “Motherf***er” by him, that’s a bucket list item ticked off! That’s out this year if the cinemas open again!

A pleasure to hear from Miltos, it was great to hear his stories! All Star Wars Stories will not be ending with Mace Windu swearing at them, I’m afraid that’s not something we can guarantee, but we do look forward to seeing Miltos when the cinemas open up to us again.

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

Alan Austen – His Star Wars Story

Long have you waited for the next instalment and wait no longer, Their Star Wars Stories Strikes Back with the first of many interviews from the original trilogy.

We don’t need to see our guest’s identification though, he appears many times throughout arguably one of the greatest films of all time, so many times in fact that we had to make him list them.

Our guest is The Empire Strikes Back’s Alan Austen, so let’s open the blast doors for him and talk Snowtroopers falling over, extremities of Harrison Ford being cold and a certain famous scene where we address the rumour that Alan was in Carbonite or a Stormtrooper or both!

Absolute pleasure Alan and thanks for giving up your time, we have a lot to get through with your involvement in The Empire Strikes Back, how did it all start?

I joined the Film Artists Association and Central Casting a month or so before the film and as part of the process you were supposed to phone in every day to check for work. They were always quick as they had thousands of members calling them and one day they said can you be at Elstree Studios at 6 in the morning for a film called ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, it was my first job through them and happened really quickly.

I hadn’t seen the first Star Wars film at this point but Alan Harris (Bossk), who sadly passed away recently, took me under his wing on my first day. As I got more into it, I started making friends with the other guys and some of us are still friends to this day. It was a big learning curve for me and every film I did after that was a bit of an anti-climax to be honest, you kind of go on set thinking “Where’s the magic?”

Does it take some pressure off that you hadn’t seen Star Wars? I can imagine now people walk onto a Star Wars set feeling an immense amount of duty. Did that make it easier for you, would you say?

With hindsight I think it did. If it had been the phenomenon that it is today maybe I would have felt differently. It’s a similar situation to when I did Raiders of the Lost Ark the following year. If Steven Spielberg had been the Steven Spielberg that he is today, I don’t know if I could have done it.

It was a gradual introduction to the Star Wars universe, we were dressed as Hoth Rebels and had to just run past a camera, and that’s when I first got talking to Harrison Ford. Obviously, I knew who he was but he wasn’t the box office sensation that he is today. This was him finding his feet, too. We were able to talk on a very casual basis; I wasn’t awestruck at all.

What would you say is your best story from working on The Empire Strikes Back?

Oh, so many! I was in the tunnels of Hoth with Harrison, just he and I during one of those long waits pacing up and down between takes. It was really hot on Hoth! We were dressed up for arctic conditions with lights all around us in the Spring of 1979 and I said “Harrison, is it warm enough for you?” and he said “Kid, I’m sweating my balls off!” Harrison is a funny, witty guy who would throw his own stuff in there.

I can’t really come up with a best story although there’s a shot of Carrie Fisher laughing that was a behind-the-scenes shot which is a story I will tell in a book I am writing. The greatest thing about working on Empire was some of the friendships I made, John Mogridge (Hoth Rebel, Snowtrooper, Stormtrooper) is still a great friend and we met on set. John and I were the Stormtroopers who placed Han Solo into Carbon-Freeze during the “I love you, I know” scene, that was a stressful few days! You could barely see through the helmets, but it was such a crucial scene to be involved in. We were both picked out to do that as we had developed a bit of a rapport and we didn’t want to get it wrong. It was the end of July 1979 and a lot of people had come and gone by that point.

Going back to what you said about Harrison throwing his own stuff in there, the original line was supposed to be “I love you too” and he famously improvised that right?

I think he probably said the other line a few times, we did so many takes of that scene, more than I can count but he cut it down to “I know”.

Did I not read that you were also Han Solo in Carbonite? You would have been in the scene twice!

I’ve seen a lot of confusion about this. We’d all finished on the film and the sets were being broken down, the main cast had returned to America and I got a call from Central Casting in September of 79 and they said can I go back on Empire. They told me they wanted me to double as Harrison Ford, I thought they were joking but sure enough I got dressed up as Han where they had me twiddling knobs, flicking switches, swivelling round and stuff like that.

Because of Star Wars lifelong friendships were formed and for that I will always be grateful. One standout moment though, there’s too many!

You are making me want your book now Alan! You pop up everywhere in Empire Strikes Back, which role was your personal favourite?

The Snowtrooper scene could have been very different!

Stormtrooper without a doubt. I was a Hoth Rebel to begin with, then they dressed us up as Snowtroopers for a short time. There are a few photos of us all falling into a heap, the guy in front tripped when we enter with Darth Vader and we all crashed into each other! After that I was a Stormtrooper, a Bespin Guard, an X-Wing pilot briefly, not a very flattering photo of me doing that by the way! Mainly it was a Stormtrooper, a lot of running about, firing blanks and chasing after Carrie, it was all a lot of fun.

I saw you got drawn back into acting via the convention circuit, how do you find attending these events?

They are wonderful! John and I often get booked together; no-one knew where John was for a while but now we are back together and we get booked together. We love meeting the fans, we enjoy telling our stories. I’ve done quite a few in Germany now and we go down well over there. I’ve nothing but praise for conventions, they are brilliant!

It’s a wonderful thing isn’t it that so many people want to engage with you due to Star Wars no matter what the size of the role is, I’m not sure how many other film franchises can claim to have that lasting effect.

It’s the enthusiasm that comes across. I watched all the films but I didn’t for years. I didn’t go to the cinema to watch it and I turned down Return of the Jedi (Your writer makes a surprised noise!) I don’t know if that was a good or a bad decision. They wanted me to be a Stormtrooper again, but they were clear that there’s not much work on it and I had other things going on, so I turned it down.

I saw through attending events that you appeared in “Salient Minus Ten” the award winning short that brought you back into acting in 2017, how was it to be back in front of a camera?

Salient was more reactionary acting, I hadn’t been in front of a camera for 10 years at least and it was like falling off a log, a bit rusty obviously. Someone must have liked my performance as I got a best actor award although I haven’t seen what the competition was like! I think when you do something for the best part of 30 years it becomes second nature, you walk onto a film or TV set and you know what to do.

Could a future Star Wars project tempt you into the bigger screen?

100% I would be there although I wouldn’t do it as a background artist. In 1984 I started getting a lot of good stuff on TV and then Absolute Beginners came along and I discovered lots of my old friends were on that. The surprise was it was a David Bowie film and I’ve got to say it was the happiest film I ever worked on. I had about a month working on that but after that I said that was it, no more supporting roles in films. Salient Minus Ten was the next scripted role that came along and I was very happy to take that on.

But you got to meet Bowie which must have been a real honour, I’m staring at a portrait of him on the wall as it happens! Where can fans meet you next?

I’ve just shot a short film called “The Other Soul to Evie” by Martin Daniels, who is quite an up-and-coming director. It’s about mental health and I’m playing the father to two adult children, a son and a daughter, and the trailer is available to view on YouTube. I’d like to work with Emma Dark again and follow up Salient Minus Ten when she’s ready.

I’m out doing a lot of conventions, Holland in April, Germany and Folkestone in May and following that Los Angeles in December. I try to do as many reputable conventions as I can, so I hope to see fans there!

Thanks to Alan for the excellent story, hope you the dear readers can catch Alan on his convention travels and check out the trailer for “The Other Soul to EvieOn Youtube by clicking here! Until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.