Jeremy Bulloch looks back at French farces and Boba Fett

05:00 AM, May 02, 2013

Jeremy Bulloch spent a lot of time hanging around in a jet pack as Boba Fett in "The Empire Strikes Back." Lucasfilm/


Written By by Brian Truitt, USA TODAY

When it comes to gaining fame for being barely on screen, Jeremy Bulloch is about as cool as the Star Wars bounty hunter he played, Boba Fett.

People say, ‘Don’t you mind?’ I played Hamlet when I was 17 and everybody tries to do Shakespeare, and it was lovely. People prefer you as Boba Fett, so that means that they prefer that I had a mask on and wasn’t performing on stage,” the British actor says, laughing.

But I’ve had a terrific career from the age of 12, and I’m still working. You never give up — it gives you up.”

Bulloch, 68, has enjoyed watching Boba Fett grow in popularity over the years among fans as a character and icon in George Lucas’ Star Wars universe.

His favorite of all of the films is still the one where his bad guy first appears — 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back — but he remembers Return of the Jedi, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on May 25, as the one when he had the most confidence in the role.

When filming Empire, the mask he wore, while iconic, also made him overly cognizant of where and how he moved. And even by Return of the Jedi, he’d still get nervous underneath the memorable outfit.

You think, ‘I hope I don’t bump into the wall. Oh crikey, there’s someone in the way.’ You were mumbling to yourself, no one could hear you, but it was amazing, whether you wear a mask or not, the confidence that flows,” Bulloch says.

You say to yourself, ‘I was Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back.’ “

Putting on the famous jet pack didn’t make him feel transformed and awesome initially. Instead, the first thought he had was, “God, this is really heavy. I’m not going to go through the day with this surely.”

While filming Empire, he recalls wondering if Lucas was serious about having him stand around for hours on end.

If you leaned back slightly you could actually topple over because (the jet pack) was top-heavy,” Bulloch says. “You put it on, you hold the gun and you could see yourself getting so weighty. But the vanity of actors, when you looked at yourself in the mirror in the morning, I thought, ‘This costume looks fantastic.’

It did an awful lot for the character, too, he adds. “So it was up to you then to just do very subtle movement. There’s no point in waving a gun around and saying, ‘I’m Boba Fett.’ That’s a bit weak. The best thing to do is almost do nothing. Less is best, really.”

He also found a dichotomy between that and his night gig performing in a Franch farce at a British theater after he’d finish Empire filming for the day. The play featured him speaking nonstop for more than two hours, which made up for the fact that, as Boba Fett, he was the strong, silent type.

I’d go home and say to my wife, ‘What a terrific play. Applause all through it. It was fantastic.’ Then you’d get in the car at 4 o’clock in the morning, have a cup of tea, say hello to the guys and you’d get no response — not even a round of applause.”

It was during that time when he also realized what being Boba Fett was doing to his body.

When I was getting into the costume for the theater, I’d look at my arms and the kneecaps and they were just red raw,” Bulloch recalls. “You’d be very stupid to go up and say, ‘Oh George? Is it all right if I have a bit of a rest? I’m awfully injured here.’

You can’t say that when you’re Boba Fett. Just get on with it.”

Star Wars has always been very special to Bulloch. His two sons, now grown-ups, visited the studio when their father was filming and held C-3PO’s mask. Today, the grandfather of 10 does as many fan gigs and convention appearances — like Star Wars Celebration Europe in Germany in July — as he can.

Everyone is so polite. And I want to try and stay in character and be rather nasty,” Bulloch says, laughing. “I’ll never forget Star Wars. You can’t. It’s in your head probably every day.”