(Photo: Everett Collection)
Jeremy Bulloch was an established British actor when he took a role that required him to mostly just stand still. That role, of course, was as Boba Fett in 1980′s The Empire Strikes Back and, later, Return of the Jedi, and it’s the work for which Bulloch, now 71, remains best known. He has no complaints about that.
“After God knows how many years in this profession, over 50 now, it’s one role that I will never forget,” Bulloch said during a phone conversation from his home in London this week. “And I just think I was terribly lucky.” (A young version of Fett was played by Daniel Logan in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.)
In honor of May the 4th as well as the release this Friday of Elstree 1976, a documentary about the supporting actors and extras in the original Star Wars films, the galaxy’s most famous bounty hunter spent a few moments talking about the Fett phenomenon and fans who turn Bulloch’s autograph into boss tattoos.
When did you first realize Boba Fett had such strong appeal to Star Wars fans?
I think I realized there was something about the character of Boba Fett when they re-released the films in the big cinema. It [first] played, Empire Strikes Back played: “Oh, that was good.” But then when they re-released it quite a while later, suddenly I thought, “God, he’s got nothing to say, Boba Fett. But he’s quite fun just standing there, doing nothing.” And it came across much stronger than I thought.
Do you think the costume is a major reason he captured people’s imagination?
You’re absolutely right. A lot of people don’t mention that, but the costume does it for you completely. Well, not absolutely completely. But you stand there and you look at the costume, the cloak: Fistful of Dollars, Clint Eastwood, moody, cool. Just standing there, it’s far more — you know, [instead of] sort of running around, “I’m Boba Fett,” doing those silly things, it’s best to just stand still and then wait for the reaction.
Jeremy Bulloch today (Getty Images)
Was the costume comfortable to wear?
No. [Laughs] Not at all. It really was the most uncomfortable clothes I’ve ever worn in anything I’ve done. At the end of the day [when you took off the costume], you went, “Oh thank goodness for that.” It would sort of grate wheels on your skin. But what you don’t do is complain about it. You just get on with it.
The great thing about being under that mask or that helmet is you can chat away to yourself and no one can hear you. It’s perfect.
Is there a difference between the questions you get from younger fans versus the older ones?
The younger guys, probably from 9 to 15, they say, “I could beat Boba Fett.” And I say, “No, you can’t.” And you have this game: “I can beat Boba Fett.” [In scary voice]: “I’m Boba Fett: you’re next.” It draws people to you. This is what I think is such fun about the character: You can frighten people, but in a friendly way.
In the Elstree 1976 documentary, you tell a story about trying to sign a fan’s Star Wars poster and having the ink run all over it. Do you have any other autograph “horror stories”?
There was one, not horror story, I just thought it was amusing. Someone came up and said, “Mr. Bulloch, could you sign your name on my leg?” And I thought, “Oh golly, what?” I said, “Well, that’s a bit silly.” This was a big event, lots of tattooing artists and lots of people getting their tattoos done on their arm. But this was on the leg of this guy. And I just signed “Jeremy Bulloch.” He came back late in the afternoon with this sort of sizzling flesh. He’d obviously had it done, and it looked terrible. But then later on, it was getting better, and it started to look like a great piece of artwork. But that was really strange.
So your signature was the template for his tattoo?
Yes. There was already a Boba Fett helmet. He’d had that tattooed some time ago. He wanted me to sign it, to say that’s the person. That was quite amusing.
As you know there are plans to make a Star Wars movie that’s just focused on Boba Fett. Have you talked to anyone about that project or other upcoming Star Wars movies?
You hear they’re going to make a spinoff or whatever they call it. And that would be nice. It won’t involve me. I think anybody who plays it, a younger person — I mean, I could still do it if I put a helmet on, dive through a window a couple of times. I think it’s great that they’re doing it, because I think people want to see Boba Fett in his own movie really.
Watch an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ trailer: