Interview Date: 08/02/2011
Run Date: 09/13/2011
Looking at Jeremy Bulloch, you might not instantly recognize him as one of the more popular characters in the “Star Wars” universe, but that’s not entirely surprising, given that his face is covered by a mask when he’s playing the part of the infamous bounty hunter known as Boba Fett. Interestingly, though, you might well have seen Bulloch’s face in the films if you were paying close enough attention, as he’s popped up as two other characters during the course of the two trilogies. The “Star Wars” saga finally hits Blu-ray on Sept. 16, which is how we had the opportunity to chat with Bulloch, and since we had him on the phone, we took the opportunity to ask about a few other roles he’s played as well, including appearances on “Doctor Who” and “Robin of Sherwood.” Alas, our brief conversation – we only had ten minutes with him – meant that we didn’t get to touch on his work in the world of James Bond, but we did ask him about his work with another long-running British institution: Cliff Richard.
Jeremy Bulloch: Welcome to the dark side, Will! (Laughs)
Bullz-Eye: Why, thank you very much, sir! So how did you fall into the Lucas camp in the first place?
JB: Well, it’s like with anything, you know. As an actor… I’ve been acting since I was 12, and at the time, I was in a play, working in the theater, and then got a call. And it’s funny, because my half-brother, Robert Watts, was associate producer on the early films, and he said, “There’s this character, and I can’t really push you forward for it, but he’s called Boba Fett, and it’s two days work, but I think while you’re doing the theater it might be quite nice to be able to do this.” So I went to the interview with Gary Kurtz and saw George Lucas, but I think it boils down to the fact that I fitted the suit, really. It just fell into my lap. The costume fit perfectly, although it was very uncomfortable. But it was lovely to do. I mean, I certainly didn’t know it was going to be such a big thing. Even though the first film, “A New Hope,” had come out, I didn’t think that it could be any better with “The Empire Strikes Back.”
BE: I’m curious: you’d obviously had a fair career as an onscreen actor prior to “Empire,” and now here you were stepping behind a costume. Did it feel at all like a step down to hide your face for a role, or was it just an honor to be a part of the film?
JB: Well, that’s a good question, but, no, it certainly wasn’t a step down. I knew it was going to be enormous fun to do, because at the time, I had two very young sons, and they said, “Oh, wow, what’s this? Oh, that’s the ‘Star Wars’! Well, which one are you playing, then?” They didn’t know who Boba Fett was. Most people didn’t. But it certainly wasn’t a step down. I’d been doing television work, and, yes, this was a small part, but you know what they say: there are no small parts.
(At this point in the conversation, the battery in my recorder suddenly decided to go belly-up. Fortunately, I had another one handy, but as I switched the batteries out, an amused Jeremy remarked, “You really are a victim of the Dark Side!”)
BE: You’ve been to more than a few conventions in your time. Do you have any specific favorite appearances from those?
JB: The conventions are great fun, and what the 501st guys – the stormtroopers – are doing, raising money, every weekend they’re out somewhere and doing a fantastic job. Lots of people don’t realize what they do. But I think one of the funniest things was last year, when I was given a costume – or the guys from the Dented Helmet made me a costume, an absolute replica of the Boba Fett costume – and I wore it here in England for a function to raise money for charity, and I was walking around in a space centre in Leicester and pushing people out of the way, going… (Growling) “Get out of my way!” And people were just, like, “God, he’s rude! That’s terrible! He’s frightening the children!” So I suddenly thought, “Yes, Boba Fett is working again!” These children were all scared to death. But it was fun to do, to go back to what it had been like when I first put the costume on. There was some menace about him. The costume played the part for me, when you think about it. The ragged tunic, the dents in his helmet, and very few lines. A man of few words. That’s all he needed to do.
"It just fell into my lap. The costume fit perfectly, although it was very uncomfortable. But it was lovely to do. I mean, I certainly didn’t know it was going to be such a big thing. Even though the first film, 'A New Hope,' had come out, I didn’t think that it could be any better with 'The Empire Strikes Back.'"BE: Beyond Boba Fett, you did get to show your face in the “Star Wars” films.
JB: I did. Funnily enough, I played another part in the original trilogy. I’m grabbing Princess Leia into the elevator when she’s saying, “It’s a trap!” I played Lieutenant Sheckil. (Laughs) They gave me a name! I was just an Imperial officer. But on that morning, I remember I did a shot with the Boba Fett costume on, and suddenly I was called, “Quick, get to wardrobe, they’ve got no one to play this part! Get into the Imperial Officer’s outfit, Jeremy, quickly!” So that’s how that happened. I ended up playing three parts in the “Star Wars” films. (Laughs)
BE: So how did you wind up playing Captain Colton in “Revenge of the Sith”?
JB: Well, it was completely out of the blue. As we’re doing now, there’s not a day that goes by without someone contacting me, either by phone or by email or sending a letter, saying, “Can you please autograph this poster for me?” or what have you. So you’re involved with the whole thing, anyway. But then I’m with my wife, visiting my son, and suddenly the phone rings. And I thought, “Oh, God, even way over here…” But it was Rick McCallum, who said, “Hi, Jeremy, we’re coming back to England, we’ve got one or two things to do, and George wants to know whether you’d like to play this character. It’s very much a cameo role, but…” And it was lovely to go back and do it. It was very brief and done very quickly, but it still had that wonderful atmosphere of a “Star Wars” film.
BE: Prior to “Star Wars,” you were part of another famous sci-fi saga: “Doctor Who.”
JB: Oh, yes, “Doctor Who,” I have fond memories of… well, I did two stories. The first one was “The Space Museum,” and the sets were a little bit wobbly. We were always told, “Please be careful when you’re running and chasing after the Doctor. Don’t go into the wall, ‘cause it might fall down.” But I thought, “As long as the story’s good, then people aren’t going to worry about whether things aren’t quite working out in the sets.” And we had these guns with flashbulbs in them, and they said, “If the bulbs don’t work, just make a noise yourself.” So you’re doing it, and you’d have to go, “Bzzzzzzt!” (Laughs) And no one at home would know! It was virtually live, you know. Black and white in those days. And then moving on 10 years, I did “The Time Warrior,” as a sort of Robin Hood character. That was with Jon Pertwee, and that was… you know, several weeks of giggling an awful lot, and misbehaving and being silly, but Pertwee was such a wonderful Doctor to play with.
BE: And speaking of Robin Hood characters, you actually got to play Edward of Wickham in “Robin of Sherwood.”
JB: Yes, I did two seasons of that, and then we thought we were going to go on and do more, but we probably finished at the right time. But, you know, I went in to do one episode, and then they asked me back to do another one, and then another one, and then another one. And then they asked could one of my sons come to play my son on the show, so my youngest son did that. We kept that in the family as well.
BE: Do you enjoy doing the period pieces once in awhile, then?
JB: Yes, I do. I did “Mary, Queen of Scots” as well, and it was lovely, because you spend all day in these regal robes, and I was galloping around on horses. That was terrific to do. My career’s been a bit of everything, from comedy series to lots of different plays in the theater, touring the Middle East and Far East to show students around the world. I went to the Far East for seven months to do a program to teach people English, but I felt terrible when I arrived at the airport once and someone said, “Oh, Mr. Burroch! You rearn me Engrish!” I thought, “Oh, my God, I haven’t done a very good job.” (Laughs) The grammar was all over the place! But, you know, I’ve had a 54-year career so far, and I’m still working. I’ve done an episode of “Law & Order UK” not long ago.
BE: To close, I must ask you about your work in “Summer Holiday.” What’s Cliff Richard really like?
JB: (Laughs) Oh, he’s terrific. He’s a huge fan of “Star Wars.” He brings his nephews along. But he was great, ‘cause you sing along with him. Some people still come up to me and start singing, “We’re all going on a summer holiday…” It’s a bright and breezy, fun thing with guys and girls going down from London in a big bus to Athens, Greece, and they get into trouble. But it’s an innocent, fun film. Probably a little bit dated now, but that was an enjoyable time.
BE: Well, it’s been very nice talking to you, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to watch the “Star Wars” saga on Blu-ray.
JB: Oh, it’s very much the same for me as well. I can’t wait to see myself on Blu-ray! (Laughs)