There have been plenty of iconic movie moments set at pizza parlors (Do the Right Thing, Mystic Pizza) and featuring pizza delivery guys (Home Alone, Fast Times at Ridgemont High). But when it comes to characters made out of pizza, there is only one reigning Hollywood king.
So on this fateful #NationalPizzaDay 2016, let us take a moment to recognize Pizza the Hutt, the greasy tub of carbs, cheese, and machismo immortalized in Mel Brooks’ beloved 1987 Star Wars sendup, Spaceballs.
Pizza, of course, was a riff on George Lucas’s big-boned baddie, Jabba in Return of the Jedi — though we’re guessing that unlike the wink-wink sponsor-bowing of Wayne’s World, Brooks and company didn’t receive any kickbacks from the pizza chain it cribbed his name from.
Like Han Solo in Jedi, Spaceballs hero Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) is deep in debt (1… million… spacebucks, to be exact) to intergalactic gangster Pizza the Hutt (voiced by the perfectly cast actor-comedian-chef Dom DeLuise). Hutt henchman Vinnie (Rudy DeLuca) tells Lone Starr and his Chewbacca-esque sidekick Barf (John Candy) that they need to pay up soon, “or else, Pizza, is gonna send out for you.” (Okay, so maybe his threat game wasn’t fully on-point. But have you ever seen a villain who lets his sidekick eat part of him? Didn’t think so.)
Though DeLuise voiced the character, he was actually played by a man named Richard Karen, according to one of the film’s effects maestro, Rick Lazzarini. Lazzarini said Karen refused to put the gooey costume back on when Brooks needed reshoots, so Lazzarini volunteered to do it himself.
Pizza’s total screen time in Spaceballs is brief but unforgettable. So we’ll be thinking of you today Pizza. You may have gone and eaten yourself when the going got tough — another first for a movie villain! — but you’re still awesome sauce to us.