Tag Archives: Mark Hamill

Paul Warren – His Star Wars Story

“I like that Wookie,” to quote Maz Kanata, as she pines for good old Chewie. But here’s a question, would Maz have been so keen on our favourite walking carpet if he had followed his original design?

In The Force Awakens we are introduced to a creature named Varmik, a Hassk thug brought to life by our guest, Paul Warren. Varmik is an interesting character as was he was based on 1975 Chewbacca concept art by Ralph McQuarrie.  The legendary status of McQuarrie’s design and illustration work was a motivator for director JJ Abrams to bring Varmik to life in the movie.

Impressive character back story aside, we are here to learn about Paul’s Star Wars story. It’s the usual stuff, doubling as Harry Potter in Order of the Phoenix, playing a skinny Captain America, Zombie in World War Z, young Magneto in X-Men: First-Class…

Okay, so it’s not the usual stuff…it’s a great story and one that’s bound to carry Paul on to even bigger things. Anything else? No? Let’s get into it…

Thanks for talking us through your Star Wars story, Paul. How are you keeping at the moment?

Hello! Well, all my work for the year has been cancelled due to corona virus, so it’s been incredibly difficult, as it has been for many people. Having your income and industry wiped out overnight is very surreal.

It’s very stressful for all at the moment! For someone with your experience, in your position how do you de-risk in your career and make sure there are other sources of income?

It’s a good question. As jobbing actors we would normally do other work between film jobs in tough times. Something like bar work or sometimes maybe a signing convention somewhere in the world. That is obviously not an option now. I’m still trying to figure it out, but yes, it’s very tough times for all.

We should get onto some lighter topics… You got into film initially by appearing in Children of Men, which is a seriously underrated film by the way, and doubling for Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter. How did that take you all the way into the Star Wars galaxy?

Children of Men turned out to be a very gruelling yet incredible experience. It was my first film and I had no idea that the very long and cold shooting days were unusually tougher than most films. It was a very technical film, which required everyone to be on their game. It was pretty intense on set, but Alfonso Cuaron is a master filmmaker, so being able to watch him direct everyday was a free film class in itself.

I was on the film for a few months, networking and getting to know people in the industry. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was creating opportunities for my future career. One job just seemed to lead to the next and before I knew it, I was given mostly creature work. The more I did the more I was getting known for it.

And looking at your journey into Star Wars, I noticed you’ve got a very interesting credit to your name. You were also “Skinny Steve Rogers” in Captain America: The First Avenger, is that right? That must have been quite an unusual role to get!

I was one of them, yes. It was very cool to be a small part of a very big visual effect.

The main double was Leander Deeny. I was skinny Steve in the pre-production VFX tests. I was also on set as a visual reference for the recruitment scene, along with Leander, who was the body double for the remainder of the film.

Due to The Force Awakens being the triumphant return of Star Wars, there was obviously a lot of excitement for those involved. Were you a fan of the films yourself growing up?

I was around four when the original film came out. I’ve been a fan of Star Wars pretty much my whole life, so when I got the call to go in and talk with the creature department on The Force Awakens, I almost lost my mind ha-ha!

I get a buzz from the stories hearing about how actors and performers discovered what roles they were going to get in the film, and I can only imagine what that feels like. How did you find out who your character was going to be?

I had no idea who I was playing until Neal Scanlan (Star Wars CFX supervisor) pulled out a Ralph McQuarrie book and was showing me the cantina alien painting from 1975. I’m a massive fan of McQuarrie’s work and I had that picture on my wall at home!  Neal explained that JJ Abrams really loved it and wanted to bring the character to life in the film. So that’s what we did on the day; we tried to bring the painting to life in that steady cam shot into Maz’s castle.

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

The day I was shooting my Varmik movement for the steady cam shot was the day Mark Hamill and Kenny Baker were on set to watch. That was very exciting and nerve-racking! At one-point Mark came over to chat. He was just as lovely as you would hope, and he loves all the alien stuff. He would visit often to geek out. We spoke about how the animatronic head worked, how I was providing the movement and a puppeteer was operating the facial expressions remotely. He was genuinely fascinated by how it all worked.

Mark came to the creature department on the The Last Jedi, too. There is a scene in the documentary ‘The Director and the Jedi’ on the Blu-ray where Peter, one of our creature performer pals, is apologising to Mark for not knowing it was him (Mark Hamill portrayed tiny casino drunk, Dobbu Scay, in The Last Jedi). What you don’t see is that shortly before that, Mark was talking with Peter and I just off the set. Peter hadn’t even realised it was Mark the whole time as he was inside his creature costume and could hardly see or hear a thing! He couldn’t believe it after when I told him it was Mark Hamill. 

How did you feel personally playing Varmik in that scene?

A little bit of everything, actually. Mainly I’m focused on trying to give the director what he wants, to deliver a performance that fits his vision. That’s what my job is essentially. That said, I was smiling a lot inside the creature head throughout most of the shoot.

Varmik must have been a cool character to be given for a fan of the films. He’s based on the original Chewbacca designs and, the crowning glory, he has his own action figure. Do you feel close to the character now?

Varmik was very cool to portray. I had a copy of the 1976 production image it’s based on signed by Ralph McQuarrie on my wall before I worked on Stars Wars. It’s almost as if it was meant to be…

It might sound silly to some people, but one of the things that I feel is a major accomplishment as a creature performer is playing a character that was made into a toy. There is an action figure and a Funko pop currently. I love all that stuff.

Does Star Wars top the other roles you’ve had to date?

It’s definitely going to be a tough one to beat.

When you got called back for The Last Jedi to be a Dowager alien, did returning have a different feel or the same levels of excitement?

I was honoured and flattered that I was asked back to portray another character. It was a slightly different challenge for me this time. I was inside the large creature in my normal clothes, puppeteering her head and movement from the inside.

Daisy Beattie remote puppeteered the creature’s pet pug ‘Gary’ from behind the set with Chris Clarke, who was remote operating the dowager’s face. It was hard work, but a lot of fun working as a team to bring her to life. Meeting Rian Johnson was also a highlight. He’s a lovely guy and a brilliant director.

How do you feel about your experience so far with the Star Wars galaxy and the appreciation you get from Star Wars fans?

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to quite a lot of comic cons. Overall everyone has been so nice. I love travelling around the world and chatting with people about the films. The ones that don’t like The Last Jedi have no problem telling you that, ha-ha! I think The Last Jedi is a masterpiece. I think it’s a beautiful and brilliant film and deserves more love…

Couldn’t agree more, and thanks, Paul, for your time talking to us. Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Chris Parsons – His Star Wars Story

I am wondering why are you here? Because you are looking for another Star Wars story? Found one you have, I would say! This story has quite the price on its head, too

The Empire Strikes Back brought with it a group that would change Star Wars folklore in a very short amount of screen time, the Bounty Hunters.

A mysterious group, their scene with Darth Vader presented a threatening and engaging line-up and made for one of the most memorable scenes in The Empire Strikes Back. Contrary to Admiral Piett, we did need their scum. Among them was 4-LOM, played by our new guest Chris Parsons who not only featured in that role but had multiple other appearances within Star Wars, including acting as a double for C-3PO!

What does a feared Bounty Hunter and a lovable interpreter have to tell us about his time in Star Wars? We better get straight to it! Chris thanks so much for speaking to us, how did your involvement in Star Wars come about all those years ago?

It all came as somewhat of a surprise. Having done what I now believe to be pick-up shots on the original, I was asked to attend an audition at EMI Elstree with no indication of what it was for. When I arrived at the studios, I was shown into a dressing room and on the bed was the costume of C-3PO. The production wanted someone to play a double for Anthony Daniels’ character on The Empire Strikes Back.

Other artists had tried before me and either didn’t fit in all of the costume or mostly could not deal with the head pieces being screwed together, which made it impossible to get the costume off without any help. I decided then and there that this costume would not beat me, and I subsequently got into it with the head secure.

I then perfected the walk and learned to do the voice of what is now the iconic C-3PO. As filming progressed, I must have proved my worth to the second assistant directors (Roy Button and Steve Lanning) as the two of them allowed me to portray ten roles in total over the original three films, one of these was the Bounty Hunter 4-LOM who has been very good to me. Without a doubt, I owe my current privileged fan interest to be down to Roy and Steve, who were in my opinion the two best in the business at the time, and both have gone on to great achievements.

Chris as E-3PO

You had a lot of involvement in it and Empire is one of the biggest films of all time. How do you feel about appearing in that now that you look back on it?

At the time of filming Empire, I think everyone working on it felt it was something special to follow the original, but I had no idea quite how big a following this film would attract over the many years since its release.

Apart from the actors, of course, it was down to the crew and in particular the magical director that was Irvin Kershner, who is sadly missed, so of course the fact that I was involved in this film portraying many characters is a sense of great satisfaction to me.

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

One of my best stories involves the late, great Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. During the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, I was wearing an all-in-one black leotard which was the base clothing I wore when portraying C-3PO or my other droids. I had left one of the stages and was on my way to a dressing room up a flight of stairs. I was near the top when Carrie and Mark, who were on the way down, thought it would be funny to mess around with someone they knew, a young teenager dressed in only a black leotard.

Their plan was to try and de-bag me. They laughed as they set about their evil task and I fought them off with vigour, conscious of the fact that these two people were leading actors in the film and if I had hurt them in any way, there would have been hell to pay and I probably would have got the sack! I’m pleased to report that I won the day with my garment left intact.

I doubt many can say they’ve been attacked by Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia; they must have been wonderful to be around. One of your more famous characters, 4-LOM, has built up quite a cult following, as have so many of the Bounty Hunters. Have you followed his story in other mediums?

I’ve read about 4-LOM in the paperback books and look forward to seeing if he appears in the new Mandalorian series. This new series is of great interest to me and I would like to reprise the role of 4-LOM if the opportunity came my way.

Chris has spoken, Jon Favreau, let’s get it done! Do you own many of his action figures?

Around my home I am fortunate to have I think at least one of all the various 4-LOM figures made, although I’m sure a few have escaped me!

Does working on Star Wars make you want to continue working in that genre, or branch out more?

Working on Science Fiction films is enjoyable but when you play the type of characters I did, they do not really test you as an actor. It would be interesting for me, now that I am a lot older and more experienced with life, if I could play a hard man in a similar way to someone like Vinnie Jones or Ross Kemp.

There would probably be a market for 4-LOM in Afghanistan or 4-LOM’s Football Factory, regardless I think it would be great to see more of you. You’ve been in some terrific non-Star Wars films including Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Shining. What has been your favourite film to work on outside of that galaxy?

I have been very lucky to have been involved in some other extraordinary films even with my personal limited exposure. One can sometimes sense that the film will be of interest to the fan base, such as Yentl, whereas others I have worked on seem to have lacked that all-important spark of interest.

Aside from Star Wars, one of the most enjoyable films I’ve been involved with is another classic, Quadrophenia. I was in various locations with different scenes and you could really get into the character you were playing.

Sounds like we would need a whole new interview for that! To finish up, do you have further acting plans? 

I have my own business interests but seeing as fans at conventions kept asking me if I had any interest in future acting, I’ve decided to renew my acting memberships and acquire a new agent with a view of securing new parts.

Keep an eye out for Chris in the future – we will keep our fingers crossed for an appearance in The Mandalorian, with hopefully no disintegrations.

Working with an established artist, Chris has commissioned an exclusive 18″x 12″ limited edition 40th Anniversary print of 4-LOM, which would have been available at conventions, you can contact Chris directly here if you are interested in adding this to your Bounty Hunter collection!

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

Blues Harvest – Their Star Wars Story

Welcome back readers, this is an unexpected pleasure, we are honoured by your presence.

Dispensing with the pleasantries, this time around we have a different group of guests bringing you their Star Wars story. Your eyes do not deceive you; ‘group of guests’ is correct or more accurately, a band! This site isn’t only to tell you stories of people involved in the filming of Star Wars but also fans with an interesting story or two to tell. Blues Harvest are a band made up of Nick (Lead vocals), Adam (Guitar), Andrew (Keyboards), Jess (Bass guitar) and Andy (Drums).

Blue Harvest was the working title of Return of the Jedi and carried the working tagline “Horror Beyond Imagination” in order to keep filming as secret as possible, a convenient title to make use of for a blues playing band! Name-puns, Mark Hamill endorsement and more is covered as we chat all things Star Wars music!

Blues Harvest, welcome and congratulations on being the first fans to feature on the site, and a fantastic group of fans you are too! Andy, you are the drummer in the band and have the pleasure of being spokesperson on these questions, what is your band’s connection to Star Wars?

All five members of Blues Harvest are huge Star Wars fans as well as musicians. Outside of the band we all live fairly Star Wars filled lives, from collecting figures to hosting panels at conventions and even writing and illustrating canon Star Wars content. Our frontman, Nick Brokenshire, is a comic book illustrator and has penned several tales for IDW’s ‘Star Wars Adventures’.

Impressive, most impressive. So how did your band come together?

In 2013 there was an opportunity for some musicians to perform at a ‘Dinner with the Stars’ event for Burnley’s ‘Star Wars Fan Fun Day’ and at the time we were a group of friends who met regularly to record a geek podcast so the idea came out of discussions on that show. We had the idea of forming a band to play a selection of classic blues and R&B songs with ‘a Star Wars twist’ and Blues Harvest was born.

We still perform some of the songs we re-wrote for that first show, namely Death Star which is based on Eric Clapton’s ‘Crossroads’ and Obi-Wan Kenobi, based on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.

Your band’s name will raise a few smiles in the Star Wars community, what made you settle on that name?

We went through a lot of puns at first, ‘Chewie Lewis and the News’, ‘Boba Fett Shop Boys’ and ‘Abba the Hutt’ were all contenders. But since we play Star Wars blues songs, we got to the original working title used during the filming of ‘Return of the Jedi’ and added the letter s. Now if anyone asks, I tell them we take our name from season one, episode 12 of the Ewoks cartoon named ‘Blue Harvest’!

Alternative band names from the Ewoks cartoon; ‘The Travelling Jindas’, ‘Rampage of the Phlogs’ and ‘A Gift for Shodu’, seriously if anyone is in the market for band names the 80’s Ewok cartoon is where it’s at! So now we know how you came to be, what’s the band’s best Star Wars story?

‘Rampage of the Phlogs’ didn’t fit on the Clapperboard

We’ve had lots of amazing Star Wars experiences but for us the highlight has got to be Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. We had the distinct honour of being invited to perform at ‘A Night at Canto Bight’ – a multi club bash with 3,000 Star Wars fans in attendance. During the show we invited several special guests onto the stage to join us as we kept the party rocking, including our buddy ‘Darth Elvis’, Jett Lucas (Son of George), Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger, Star Wars Rebels), Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla, Star Wars Rebels), David W. Collins (Star Wars: Resistance) and a #MysteryPorg who is a Star Wars celebrity whose identity remains hidden, for now.

You have a bunch of honorary band members there and the list keeps on growing! I understand Jerome Blake (Mas Amedda, The Phantom Menace) and Laurie Goode (Hrchek Kal Fas, A New Hope) are also on the list of Star Wars personalities to perform with you. Who made the biggest impression?

The first celebrity to join us on stage made a huge impression on us, Stephen Costantino. Stephen played a Gamorrean Guard in Return of the Jedi, and in real life plays a mean guitar! He was a guest at an event we performed at and accepted our offer to join us on stage; he enjoyed the experience so much that we organised a second impromptu show whilst he was still in the UK. For us this paved the way for a multitude of guests who have since become ‘honorary band members’ and he’s welcome to join us for a jam whenever he likes!

Your material is getting diverse and because of your convention links you got to sing “Ghostbusters” with Ray Parker Junior, what were the excitement levels for that like?

Performing with Ray was one of our shared highlights as musicians. The Ghostbusters theme is a song that’s so well known, especially amongst the geek community, and being able to play live with the man himself was an absolute dream come true.

Other than that we’ve also been able to explore music from other franchises such as the Marvel movies; one time we had an amazing opportunity to perform The Avengers theme at Disneyland Paris, we’ve also performed songs from Back to the Future, I think we have to give thanks in part to the awesome ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ soundtracks for the varied opportunities.

We understand you have a special Star Wars fan, pretty much the master of Star Wars fans…what’s it like to hear feedback on your music from Luke Skywalker himself?

We rewrote the lyrics for The Kinks ‘Waterloo Sunset’ to ‘Tatooine Sunset’ and we had an idea that Mark Hamill might one day hear it but had no idea he would respond so quickly and so warmly!

He absolutely loved the track and tweeted us saying “Magnificent! I now declare this as my official, unofficial Luke theme song!” Reading that pretty much blew us away… Luke Skywalker himself has heard our music!

Blues Harvest: Endorsed by Star Wars royalty!

This is about as close as Their Star Wars Stories will get to interviewing Mark Hamill and we are OK with it. Back to music itself, Star Wars has created such close associations with characters based simply on music, how as musicians do you feel Star Wars achieves that so well?

Two words: John Williams. Without him Star Wars just simply would not have been nearly as successful. The themes he’s effortlessly developed make us love the characters in that galaxy far, far away, from Luke’s theme in the original movie through to Rey’s theme in the sequels. We love performing some of these themes on stage and introduce them in our music where possible.

To finish, a quick game of Kiss/Marry/Kill here with 3 of the most recognizable tunes, Duel of Fates, Binary Sunset and Imperial March?

Tricky question, let’s say we would kiss Imperial March and marry Binary Sunset. We would kill Duel of Fates, because it’s music to kill a Jedi to!

Blues Harvest regularly play in the UK and you can read more about them by clicking here.

Check out their appearance at Star Wars celebration, Chicago here.

Blues Harvest perform the Ghostbusters theme with Ray Parker Junior here.

Enjoyed this story readers? Are you a fan with a cool story to tell? Tweet us @TheirStarWars and let’s have a chat! Until the next time readers, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.