YS.COM: What does Star Wars mean to you? What did you think about it when you first saw it?
G.H.: Star Wars means something different to me with each year that passes. When I first saw A NEW HOPE in 1977, I was blown away by it, like the rest of the world. You must remember that there had been nothing like it at that time. It was like a Cowboy film, but set in space. Very exciting. Little did I know that 5 years later, in 1982, I would work on the third Star Wars film! Today, Star Wars means even more to me, but I'll talk more about that later.
YS.COM: How did you get involved with the Star Wars saga? How did you become Mon Calamari Officer? What did you feel about it when you first hear the role?
G.H.: My first acting job after leaving Drama School in 1977 was in a mime show called PRUFROCK. We did real plays, comedy and drama, but we didn't use words: all the acting was done with our bodies, so we had to be able to show emotions, without the use of words, using just our bodies, acting in a physical way.
A mime teacher and director called Des Jones saw me in that play, we kept in touch with each other, and he rang me in 1982 to tell me about his latest job: he had been asked to put together a group of performers to audition for the new Star Wars film, to be called REVENGE (yes, REVENGE) OF THE JEDI, and he asked if I would like to audition for it. Of course I said yes! We knew the first 2 Star Wars films had been huge successes, and that ROTJ would be too.
Des told us that they needed 9 performers who could act without words, performers who could bring their characters to life using just physical movements. So a bunch of us auditioned, and eventually 9 of us were chosen. Maybe you don't know how, or where, we are in the film's credits. We're near the very end of the credits, after Ewoks, under the caption Mime Artists.
I was chosen to play Squid Face. Only later, when the vintage action figure came out in 1983, was he given the name Squid Head - and even later, around the year 2000, he was given the name Tessek.
I was told that he would be my main character, but I would also play a non-speaking Mon Calamari.
Once filming began, I got to know various members of the production team very well, including a man called Stuart Ziff, who is credited in the film as Chief Articulation Engineer - in other words - he made things like Jabba work). One day, he heard that George Lucas wanted to try some experimental additional scenes - with dialogue - between Admiral Ackbar and a speaking Mon Calamari. Stuart suggested me for the part, and that's how I came to be a speaking Mon Calamari!
I was very excited to be given this speaking part, but these scenes were experimental, and I wasn't surprised that they weren't in the final cut of the film, because my Mon Calamari mouth didn't move very well. Here are the 2 pages of script I had to learn, and the 2 call sheets, naming me as Officer, Aid and Controller;
You'll notice that the call sheets show everything that will happen that day.......not just filming, but also things like - fight rehearsals for Mark Hamill and a still photo session for Harrison Ford.
The yellow call sheet means it was a second unit shoot, usually directed by an assistant director, but because these scenes were the Battle of Endor scenes, George Lucas directed them himself - because they were blue screen scenes and only he knew what would eventually replace the blue screens - ie shots of the battle.
YS.COM: You are one of the few actors that played both a good and a bad guy. You have also become Tessek, the Quarren from Jabba's Palace. The Quarren are also known to be an enemy of the Mon Calamari. How did this conflict feel?
G.H.: It felt fantastic! Usually an actor only plays one part in a film, but I got to play 2 parts. And actors like myself like to play a wide range of roles, so it was a gift for me to be able to be both a good Guy AND a bad guy. You're right, the Quarren and the Mon Calamari are enemies, but they share the same homeworld - Mon Calamari, a watery planet, so I now call the 3 of us - Tessek, the Mon Calamari Officer and myself - the CalamariMen!
YS.COM: If we compare both your roles, have you ever had a moment on the set that you can not forget about?
G.H.: Yes, the time I kept my glasses (spectacles) on under my Tessek mask. That was a big mistake because they (my glasses) soon became covered in moisture (condensation) , and I couldn't see a thing! It was very dangerous because I couldn't take the mask off and I almost fell into the Rancor Pit.
The big difference in how I played my 2 characters was the physical shapes I gave each of them: Tessek was very upright and stood tall, whereas the Mon Calamari Officer was round-shouldered and had a bent back.
YS.COM: How was your relationship with Timothy Rose, who played Admiral Ackbar? Do you stil see each other? Has anything interesting happened while working with him?
G.H.: Yes, Tim and I are great mates. We get on very well together. We saw each other quite a few times after working on ROTJ, and 3 years ago we had the most fantastic time when we toured Japan together, signing and meeting fans.
The Japanese fans are very clever: they downloaded the experimental scenes we filmed in 1982 and brought them - AND our Admiral Ackbar and Mon Calamari Officer action figures, and asked Tim and I to act out those scenes, using the action figures! I attach a photo of that. It was great fun to do scenes in 2004 that we first did in 1982!
I've seen Tim often since then, most recently at Celebration 4 in Los Angeles.
YS.COM: Which one is your favorite; the Mon Calamari Officer or Tessek?
G.H.: I would have to say that Tessek is my favourite. After all, there are several Mon Calamaris, who all look alike, but there's only one Tessek! No one walks like him, or hides in corners like him! Also, I played Tessek for about 3 weeks, whereas I play the Mon Calamari Officer for about a week.
YS.COM: The great Battle of Endor scene. Could you tell us about the shooting of this scene? Did the excitement of the scene grab you?
G.H.: Actually, it was many scenes, filmed over about a week. Yes, these scenes were very exciting to film. As I said before, we filmed against blue screens and the battle sequences were added much later. So we had to use our imaginations a lot; we had to imagine all kinds of battle scenes and react as if we were being bombarded by bombs, lasers and spaceships! We were given very basic directions, like, "Run to the left! Now run to the right!" In the photo, I am the Mon Cal to the left of Ackbar.
From a practical point of view, life as Tessek was much easier, because I had a helper and a dresser to help me in and out of my costume - as you see in the photo - and to help me keep as cool as possible. But they were no helpers on the Bridge set, so we got very hot in those scenes.
YS.COM: It seems that some of your scenes were cut from Return of the Jedi. Could you briefly tell us about the scenes? Has any of the Tessek scenes been also cut?
G.H.: As I've said, my speaking Mon Calamari Officer scenes were experimental, so they're not really "cut scenes"; I would call them "un-used scenes".
As in any film, there were lots of shots of Tessek that didn't make it into the final cut. And I remember several still photos I had taken as Tessek that I have never seen, such as when Princess Leia strangles Jabba on the Sail Barge. They took a photo of me standing behind her as she strangled him. Maybe that photo will turn up one day.
YS.COM: Can you tell us about your experiences from Jabba's Sail Barge scenes?
G.H.: Filming the Sail Barge scenes was much easier than the Jabba's Palace scenes. There were about 150 people on the Palace set - actors, mime artists, puppeteers, extras, crew, directors, wardrobe people, etc etc etc - and it was not a big set. And there were lots of powerful lights and smoke machines, so it was very, very hot in there.
There were fewer people in the Sail Barge scenes, so it was easier to film in there. I remember rehearsing one scene that didn't make it into the film, where some of us had to bump into Kenny R2-D2 Baker who was carrying a tray with drinks on it. But when we bumped intro him, the drinks flew everywhere and made a big mess, so they decided not to do that again.
YS.COM: You seem to be very interested in the background stories of your characters?
G.H.: Yes, I am. You must remember that after I made ROTJ in 1982, I hardly thought about the film again for years - until fans started tracking me down (thanks to the internet) and asking me questions about filming ROTJ. This was in 2003. I met some of the fans, and they told me things I didn't know. They told me that Squid Head now had a name - Tessek - and a new action figure. And they also told me that Tessek's brain is still alive! For over 20 years, I had thought that Squid Head died in the Sail Barge explosion, but I didn't die! The fans told me to read Tales From Jabba's Palace to find out exactly what Tessek had been up to stealing Jabba's money and so on. You'll have to read the book to find out the rest!
Did you know, for example, that Tessek was Jabba's accountant? True!
YS.COM: There seems to be a confusion among the fans about Tessek. Some fans call him Squid Head and some of them call him Tessek. Can you explain us why?
G.H.: As I've said, until the new Hasbro action figure came out, he was called Squid Head.
But some younger fans don't know the vintage action figure, and therefore don't know the name Squid Head. Some older fans refuse to call him Tessek! To them, he will always be Squid Head!
So when I sign photos or action figures, I use BOTH names "Tessek, Squid Head". That way, everyone is happy.
YS.COM: Lets ask the same question that we asked to Toby Philpott. The cinema industry is in constant development and masks & puppets are becoming history. They are replaced with digitally created images. The most recent example is from Episode III, the costume of Mon Calamari senator Mena Tills is covered with the latest animatronic technology. What do you think of masks & puppets replaced with digital images?
G.H.: I hate it! I think if you take away human beings, you take away warmth and all human qualities that make the audience get involved in the plot of the film. It's very impressive to see huge armies of clones or robots on screen, but you don't care about them, and you don't care what happens to them, because they are cold and there was no feeling and human emotion inside them.
Good puppeteers always act THROUGH the puppet. What do I mean by that...? Well, if you look at the face of the puppeteer who is operating the puppet, his face is always acting the same emotions as the puppet. Though you don't see the puppeteer's face on screen, you do see the feelings and emotions he put into the puppet. It's these human emotions that the audience responds to. If you use CGI instead, the audience is left cold - because there are no human emotions to respond to.
YS.COM: As an actor who took part in the classic trilogy, you have witnessed the technological improvements from past to this day. In comparison, what would you think about the new trilogy?
G.H.: Well, before I answer this question, I want to say that I think George Lucas is a genius. The vision he had , to create the huge Star Wars saga and universe, and to have it survive all these years, is mind-blowing.
Having said that, I have to say honestly that the new trilogy leaves me cold. Yes, they are technically brilliant, and yes, I enjoy watching them, and yes, Episode 3 is a fantastic film which makes "the circle complete'. But I don't CARE about the characters the way I still care about the characters in the Original Trilogy. Even though I was on set and in scenes with Harrison ford and Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, when I watch the Original Trilogy today, I still care about Han and Luke and Leia, and I care about what happens to them. I don't feel this about the characters in the new films........I'm not entirely sure why, but I think it's because there is too much cold CGI in the new films.
YS.COM: How was your relation with George Lucas?
G.H.: Richard Marquand directed RETURN OF THE JEDI, so George Lucas wasn't on set very often. He could have stayed on set all the time, but he didn't. He didn't interfere with how Richard Marquand directed the film.
But, As I've said before, George Lucas did direct the blue screen Battle of Endor scenes. Not many people know this - and a lot of people don't believe me when I tell them this! But if you want proof that this is true, you will find it on page 141 of the excellent 1983 book THE MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI, where it says that GL worked on the battle scenes.
We who were Mon Calamaris in those scenes didn't have much contact with GL; he gave us our directions through his assistant. And the directions were very general, as I said before. He was always very calm, the kind of person who knows exactly what he wants to achieve, and how to achieve it.
YS.COM: In years, Star Wars fandom has become an international phenomenon. What are your thoughts on this?
G.H.: Well, as I told you before, until a few years ago, I didn't know that there was such an incredible Star Wars Fan World out there! It amazed me, and it still amazes me. I absolutely love it, and I love meeting fans all around the world. I'm part of this world-wide phenomenon myself now, and I adore it. There are many established fan groups around the world - but there are also new, exciting, things happening...
I would like to give you an example of a convention I have been to recently - Dagobah 2007 in Poland. No Star Wars actor had ever been to a convention in Poland before, so I didn't know what to expect. Well, it was fantastic, the fans were warm and inviting and they knew all there is to know about Star Wars. It was a unique event as it gave SW fans a chance to meet each other and to meet SW actors, and also to help a sick young boy called Wojtek achieve his wish: to be like Lord Vader. It was great that he achieved his wish. It was an honour and a joy for me to work with the Polish Outpost to help this dream come true.
Another unique thing to happen in Poland is Obi-Wan Kenobi Street! We think this is the first ever street named after a SW character! A local councillor, himself a SW fan, had the name changed legally. We visited this street with many SW fans, as you'll see in the photo. It was great fun. I can't wait to get back to Poland.
YS.COM: This one is about collecting. As we see you already have the figures of your own characters. Do you have any interest in collecting other than these? If so, what do you collect?
G.H.: Yes, I have the vintage Squid Head figure, and the latest Tessek and Mon Calamari Officer figures. I'm not a collector myself, but I do now have quite a collection of things, many of which you'll see on my website - things made by fans for me, like the Tessek bust and drawing, and the marvellous Tessek figure the Polish Outpost had made for me.
I also have an impressive collection of Garrison, Outpost, Rebel Legion and other patches and coins, some of which you'll find in my website.
YS.COM: What is your next project? Are we going to see you in the new live action TV show?
G.H.: Next week, I have one more days' filming on a TV show I filmed earlier this year, where I played another sailor - like the Mon Calamari Officer!
And I recently filmed a TV commercial for chocolate.
Will I be in the new SW TV series........???!!! Who knows? If it's made in Australia, it will probably have Australian actors. I live in London, and as you can see, I'm still very much a busy, working actor.
YS.COM: Have you ever been to Turkey before? Maybe we could have a chance to meet you in a convention?
G.H.: No, unfortunately I've never been to Turkey, but I think of it like Poland - unexplored territory, which I would love to visit one day! That would be fantastic.
YS.COM: We guess that you had the chance to check our website. What do you think about it?
G.H.: Yes, I've seen your wonderful website and I congratulate you on it. I'm always amazed to find new groups I've not seen before, so I'm thrilled to have made contact with you.
YS.COM: Finally, what is your message to Turkish Star Wars fans?
G.H.: I wish all Turkish fans the best of everything, I hope very much that we meet one day. Until then, there's only one thing I can say:
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!