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Garrick Hagon pilots his X-Wing into the Battle of Yavin as Biggs Darklighter (Photo: LucasFilm)
It’s rare that actors owe their fame to having their big moment left on the cutting room floor. But that’s the case with Garrick Hagon and Anthony Forrest, each of whom can boast of a role in two of the most famous deleted scenes in movie history. In 1976, the British-born performers journeyed to Tunisia to play small, but significant roles in a scrappy sci-fi movie called Star Wars. The stage-trained Hagon had been cast as Biggs Darklighter, friend and mentor to the movie’s young hero, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), while journeyman actor and musician Forrest assumed the role of Laze Loneozner, a.k.a., Fixer, an ace mechanic and another one of Luke’s few close pals on the backwater desert planet of Tatooine.
Needle drop to 1:30 to see Fixer and Biggs’ scene and 2:40 for Luke and Biggs:
In Lucas’s shooting script, Biggs and Fixer appear early on, before Luke meets the two droids who will launch him on his path to Jedi-hood. While C-3PO and R2-D2 are still plunging to Tatooine in an escape pod, Skywalker speeds over to Anchorhead’s power station to check in with Fixer and discovers that Biggs has temporarily returned home after training at the Imperial Academy. And he’s got a confession: He’s going to join the Rebel Alliance, news that triggers Luke’s admiration and jealousy. “I’m stuck here,” the moisture farmer-in-training complains to Biggs, in the same whiny tone he uses when talking about picking up power converters. “Maybe someday,” Biggs replies about his friend’s future. “I’ll keep a lookout.”
“I’m sure George had his reasons for cutting that scene,” Hagon tells Yahoo Movies. “I miss it personally because we spent a lot of time doing it. And the dialogue in that scene is good dialogue! I mean, it was hard to say, but it was good. It goes into areas of Luke’s life you don’t know unless you’ve read the book.” (The Star Wars novelization, ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, preserves the scene with Biggs.) And it’s not as if Biggs is gone from the movie completely; he turns up at the end just in time for the Battle of Yavin, flying — and dying — alongside Luke on a Hail Mary mission to blow up the Death Star. Forrest survives in the theatrical cut as well, albeit not as Fixer; at the last minute, the actor was asked to don a Stormtrooper helmet and perform a scene opposite Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. That scene? Let’s just say it’s one of the most oft-quoted movie moments ever…
Both Hagon and Forrest are among the talking heads in the new documentary, Elstree 1976, which revisits the making of the first Star Wars through the eyes of the bit players and extras. (It’s hitting select theaters and VOD on Friday.) In separate interviews, we spoke with them about going from the cutting room floor to the convention circuit, the longevity of Biggs and Fixer in the larger Star Wars mythos, and that time they rode horses through the Tunisian desert.
On becoming fan favorites:
Hagon: I’ll tell ya one thing: I’m very proud to be part of all this. It’s taken me places I wouldn’t have gone and I’ve met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met. And you know, Biggs himself has been enhanced by all the comic books and games. I especially like Dough Wheatley’s drawings in the Dark Horse comic series; those pictures of Biggs are romantic and macho, far more than me on screen in the original film. They give me these great muscles and legs! [Laughs] And I recently learned that there’s a Biggs Pop Vinyl figure. I love it! Bring on more marvels.
Forrest: There’s a Fixer action figure, which is extraordinary. It’s unusual for that to happen, which just shows you what fan power can do. I’ve always had an idea about what happened to Fixer and Camie [Fixer’s girlfriend, played by Koo Stark], which is that they were forced to flee, because being friends of Luke’s put them in danger as well. So they flee across Tatooine and end up in places like a Dewback graveyard. I saw this whole other adventure in terms of what happens to them. Fans really seem to like Tatooine and that whole environment. You can even see in The Force Awakens how eager they were to get back to desert locations.
Garrick Hagon without the Darklighter mustache (Photo: Garrick Hogan)
On filming in Tunisia:
Forrest: When you’re on location, you feel the sky, the atmosphere — you’re right in it. I joke about the fact that when we first arrived in Tunisia, I was thinking about Lawrence of Arabia. I hadn’t been in that part of the world before, so it was a whole new experience. Shooting on location gives you the generosity of scope; studio work is a challenge in order to get the juices flowing.
Hagon: I’d already spent some time in North African countries; I’d been in Morocco for six months shooting a film, and then another six months in Libya. So I felt at home in Tunisia. I remember others complaining about the heat, but to it me it was like old times, because I’d been sweltering in the desert for months! It was also the first time I met Mark Hamill, and we had a really good time together doing some stupid things. We went off-set when we shouldn’t have been doing it. We were just young actors having a ball in a place we didn’t expect to be.
Forrest: I think I’m to blame for instigating [the off-set adventure Hagon refers to]. I was the one that ordered the horses. Again, it was my Lawrence of Arabia moment. [Laughs] I saw us galloping across the desert on these Arabian stallions. I don’t know how I managed to do it, but there were people around who provided these rides for tourists, so I managed to rope us into that. Had the insurance company known, they probably would have shot me on the spot.
This is the Anthony Forrest we’re looking for (Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
On Biggs’ fate in the Battle of Yavin:
Hagon: When Mark and I first met before we started the film, he told me, “You’ve got the best part. You die.” And I actually think that’s true! I had a very good part, and dying on film is not a bad thing, because you get all the sympathy [from fans]. Fans always tell me that they really miss the deleted scene with Luke and Biggs and wish it were back in there. Some have even cut their own versions of Star Wars [which include that scene] and send them to me! Of course, later on, I wished I hadn’t died. [Laughs]
On Forrest winding up in Stormtrooper armor:
Forrest: I have a lot of luck, I tell you! No, it was a big surprise for me, but at the same time, the scene was very much set up to shoot when I arrived on set that day. I don’t know the actual details of what transpired to call me in. I have a feeling it might have been a request from Alec Guinness or George Lucas, who may have wanted to have someone actually perform the scene and make it feel real. They were still dressing me while I was walking over to shoot, and the props department had to tape parts of the armor onto me. Those suits weren’t made for running around in, not like the ones they have today. People who have Stormtrooper costumes like the 501st Legion can troop for hours in them.
On working with Alec Guinness:
Forrest: He made me look really good. I think he absolutely understood what a clutch moment that was, because it’s the first moment that you see the power of the Force. I was used to being in those clutch positions, too. When I was young, I wanted to be a baseball player, and the one thing I could do was hit. So I was always the guy who got called in to pinch hit when my team needed a run. For me, playing that scene was like pinch-hitting; all of a sudden, you’re thrown into a situation and have to come up with the goods. A few years later, I was working at Ealing Studios in London and Alec was shooting something there, too. I was sitting in the dressing room, and he came in and sat next to me. He remembered everything about our moment in Tunisia! He was an incredibly generous actor.
On their most memorable Star Wars convention fan encounters:
Hagon: [Stormtrooper stunt performer] Bill Weston and I were once on stage together at a convention in Dallas, and an Air Force pilot who had suffered from Gulf War Syndrome wanted to sit between us for an hour. I thought, “This man has been in action, and god knows what he has done in his plane.” I felt very honored to have him sit between us. Generally, the fans are not as geeky and odd as people think they might be. They’re awfully generous all over the world.
Forrest: I was in Las Vegas once, and there was a Star Trek convention going on. A couple of people who were not part of Star Trek were invited to participate, so I was there. And this one guy saw me, realized who I was, and fell down in front of my table, crying. There was something so emotional for him to have that experience. All I could do was go around and try to hug him. All I could think was, “Wow.” Moments like that show the impact of what you’ve done on other people.