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Garrick Hagon Discusses Filming A New Hope

Star Wars is the greatest movie of all time, no contest.  How has it affected your life being involved with this masterpiece?

Well it’s got me around the world a bit, that’s the main thing, and I’ve met a lot of lovely people, the cast and the fans.  It’s a long time ago, but it maintains its heat and I’ve enjoyed a lot of different places I would never have visited if I hadn’t been in Star Wars.  I enjoyed Japan very much, and  Albuquerque with it’s incredible landscape.  It was an adventure for me to go up in a balloon and go out to the Georgia O’Keeffe country.  I always try and give a couple of days extra to really visit the place. I’m on my way to Moscow for the first time so that should be really interesting.

Do you have any experiences to share from the filming of the movie? What movie?  we laughed and Garrick moved on quickly.  “It was exciting to go to Tunisia, to be in that kind of environment.  Mark and I, and Anthony of course had a great time fooling around on the coast.  It was exciting to be in a science fantasy, I’d never done any science fiction, or anything like a Lucas script before.  All of it was exciting, and it was wonderful to work with Mark, and such a great team of people.  Most films have an aura of their own, an excitement of their own.  It’s always a different experience and most of them are good.

Was it difficult with the heat and distance to the sets in Tunisia?  No, I had just spent a whole year in the desert in Libya and Morocco, so the heat didn’t bother me. I spoke a little bit of Arabic, so it was like an extension of the film I’d just done.  It was an interesting location on the coast, and it still exists, the Mosque in which we did the cut scene.  Gary Kurtz, the producer and I went back with Jason Joiner (both partners in The Kurtz Joiner Archive) to shoot a documentary in the very location, it was kind of nostalgic and a lot of memories came back.

Would you like to see the Anchorhead scenes restored to the movie in some way? Of course I’d love to see the scene there because so many people come and ask me about it, and most of them would like to see it within the film.  George felt it was slowing the action down in the beginning of the film, it’s about four minutes which in film terms in a two hour film, it’s a long scene, a lot of talk.  I think action was more important at the beginning of the film.  Now films can go three hours and nobody complains.

In terms of your character as ‘friend of the hero’ you had quite a fleshed out backstory, appearing in several places throughout the movie up to your final sacrifice.  Did George explain any ulterior motive to giving you so much backstory compared to the other pilots, we don’t know who they are for example.

I think he was a motivating force, like an older brother who tries to convince him to do the right thing to grow up, go to the academy and get out of the farm.  The backstory was in the script, George didn’t have to do a lot of explaining.  I knew I had a death scene, Mark said ‘you got the best part, You die!’, I remember him saying that.  Deaths are usually pretty exciting in a film, especially if you don’t know there’s going to be eight more films!  I like the arc of my character and the fact that he is such a good friend.  Mark, as Luke, and I had a very good relationship.

anchorhead biggs luke porkins darklighter

Watching Biggs and Luke on screen they have a very believable friendship. Mark exuded that kind of enthusiasm and friendship.

Do you have any stories about George Lucas as you observed him making Star Wars. I would love to be able to read his lips in a bit of video, somebody sent me.  George was talking, his wife was on set –  to the group of us, Mark, Koo and I.  I just can’t tell what he’s saying, as a matter of fact he didnt say very much.  He was a technician working with actors that he didn’t know so well, so he let the actors do a lot on their own.  In terms of personal stories, I wouldn’t have many.  He wasn’t an overbearing director, he gave you a lot of freedom.

Did he direct you with gestures? He was a long way away in the cut scene, and when I was in the cockpit he was on the floor and I was above him.  He said very little, ‘Do you know the lines?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Go ahead!’ Garrick chuckled.

biggs luke porkins garrick hagon

You mention the cockpit scenes.  Star Wars is the dawn of modern special effects.  Everything prior to that you look at it…and you don’t want to look at it   What was it like sitting with a plastic bucket on your head, trying to envision what George had dreamed up? It was all pretty much Ad-Hoc, you did what you wanted to do, nobody was pointing to the sky.  There was a kind of light going overhead, crossing your eye-line. So you knew you were in action because you were shifting in terms of the sun. It was all very ad-lib at that point and very crude.  We had none of the technical advantages they have these days.  It was a rudimentary platform we were on , being shaken by the crew below and I was punching some kind of Texas instruments toy for my control panel in front of me.

We made it up as we went along, do what you like, look around, look there, look down.  George wasn’t providing specifics, I just did what seemed right. How the shots came together so well in the digital process later, it was just an amazing bit of work, the attack on the Death star.  It’s one of the best sequences in any film.

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How did you feel when you arrived in wardrobe and saw the orange jumpsuit?  That came later, that wasn’t the exciting part.  The exciting costume was the one on Tattooine when John Mollo put together the cape, the Russian shirt, the boots and the trousers, that was romantic and kind of fun.  He was just compiling it as he went along. He just pulled things up and said ‘How about this?  ‘Yes, good’.  And so I emerged with a very exciting romantic costume.

It’s very reminiscent of McQuarries art, it looks like ‘space-people clothes’. It also had a touch of the Japanese influence in a way, and Russian movies as well.  There’s a lot of nationalities involved in that costume, because the cape was like a Moroccan cape and I bought one in the Suk in Marrakesh.  All of that came together in the spur of the moment, John Mollo (costume designer) was inventing it which was exciting, I enjoyed that.

I think you could describe it as dashing.  “Dashing okay, there you go, i’m a dashing pilot, haha!”

Currently Garrick is appearing in the Animated series, Gumball on the Cartoon Network, and has recently provided voices for a number of video games, and appeared in Doctor Who, Batman, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory among many others.

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