The first Return Of The Jedi action figure I ever saw was Logray. Well to be more accurate, I saw his card. One of my friends came back from Australia after a family holiday and brought the card to school to show off to everyone. Australia in those days was a fairy-tale place, that only the richest New Zealanders could visit. Having this prize when the movie was still many months away, was like performing a magic trick for all the other children. I stared at the card-back and tried to imagine who all the figures might turn out to be…goodies, baddies? And how soon could I get my hands on them all?
Thirty Five years later, I’m standing in London at a Showmasters event waiting for an assistant to speak with Mike Edmonds. He is talking with some fans, working the crowd as they say. I’m reminded of my earlier thoughts now, wondering who Mike might turn out to be. As far as I’m concerned he is a kindly old man who once dressed up as a teddy bear for my amusement. He turned to look right at me with the biggest grin. The assistant returns, ‘Mike will see you now.’
When Lucasfilm made the casting call to bring in all the Ewoks, were they giving out key roles during that casting call, or did they bring in lead Ewoks separately? No they were all cast together, all the Ewoks, and I previously did Empire Strikes Back where I played two of the Ugnaughts, alternating different costumes on different days. Robert Watts took a shine to me in what I was doing and when they cast for Return Of The Jedi he put me in the role of Logray, medicine man Ewok. I’ve since met up with Robert and Jeremy and we did a show on stage about Roberts life, and since I was asked to appear in that he must like me, and what I do.
Watching Return Of The Jedi, Logray seems to have more pull than Chief Chirpa, why do you think that is? I don’t know, when we filmed we presume any voices or noises are put on afterwards, you know. I think Logray came out more powerful perhaps. You seem to be calling the shots. Yeah, but there was no battle to sort out who’s the best or anything like that.
The costumes seem difficult to work in? The weight of it, with three layers, and restriction of the arm movements made it hard. When we got to the redwood forest the vines and roots were sticking up and tripping us over, but remember I was a lot younger then – I could cope with that. What about the eyes, could you see out of them? We could but the problem was they kept getting misted up. They tried various things and they found that washing up liquid was the best at keeping them clear.
There was a story that all of the Ewoks went missing one day, can you elaborate on that? I think some of them did, I know there was something up, but we were not all on there together. Some of them did, just bein’ a pain, hahaha. There was a different actor cast as Logray for the Caravan of Courage movie, were you not interested in returning? No, no I was doing Time Bandits then, I’ve done about fifteen movies in all.
Do you have any stories from the set? We were all there to work, you don’t clown about, you don’t fool around, you’re not allowed because it costs thousands and thousands of pounds a minute, whether you’re doing anything or not. If you did you’d be off the set!
Do you have any movies coming up? No I’m retired, I’ve got spine problems I cant walk. I’m sorry to hear that Mike. No I’ve had it for about ten years now.
I didn’t know what to say to that, such honesty is quite disarming so I gathered my notebook and thanked Mike for his time. Mike is actually the subject of a documentary about his fascinating career titled ‘Under the radar‘ from Red Stable Films which is hoping to have an updated version released in the future. Keep an eye out for it, the trailer is excellent.
Mike was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking with me, but business called and I had to let him return to the fans. Mike spoke in a serious voice, quite matter of fact, and packing up I felt my interview might not have been the highlight of his day. Mike surprised me as I went to leave, beaming that cheeky smile he said “Give my regards to your readers”. That at last was the answer to my question. It was then I realised who Mike Edmonds had turned out to be. A kindly old man who had given five minutes of his precious time to help a complete stranger. The world needs more people like Mike Edmonds.
Apart from the Time Bandits (alongside Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis) Mike portrayed Aughra in The Dark Crystal, and appeared in Flash Gordon, Legend, and Harry Potter. Mike was the voice of Jabba The Hutt in Star Wars Battlefront II. This is a spot of luck, because Mike also helped portray Jabba himself and can be seen in the Return Of The Jedi Documentary discussing creating Jabba’s emotions as displayed through his tail movements. Mike also steals the show in the music video for one of the best songs of the 80’s….Safety Dance. You, can dance if you want to.
Mike Edmonds photo : Under The Radar, Red Stable Films.