It was a combination of events. I had already been involved in drama and variety shows in high school in Montreal. A friend who lived down the street, his dad worked at the National Film Board, and asked me if I’d like to play a role in an anti-drug campaign film the NFB were working on. I guess I fit the part with long hair and spaced out. I heard the government showed it all across Canada in schools trying to scare kids… I don’t think it worked. I enjoyed the creative process and took the acting further working in children’s theater, doing workshops and also joined a classical theater group (Phoenix Theater) run by Maxim Mazumdar; he was a real inspiration to work with. I had also done a play at the Israeli Pavilion in Montreal with director Bill Millard. Although when I went to college I studied music composition, having grown up with music all around me and in the family, I used back up my sister who performed in the local folk coffee house scene in the 60’s, and on Sunday’s I would play at the folk mass at the local church in Valois. There were a lot of pretty girls who went to church. Movies really came later when I moved to London, England, although I had probably seen several hundred black and white films, as my mom would let me stay up to watch the late, late movies on TV to keep her company when I was younger. James Cagney and Richard Burton had a big influence.
Can you tell how you got cast as Fixer and a stormtrooper for Star Wars: A New Hope?
Well the casting for Fixer was pretty much by the book. Irene Lamb was casting and I was called into meet with George Lucas. We met a few times, I read a couple of scenes from the script, there wasn’t a screen test or anything like that. Then my agent called to say I had been offered the role of Fixer. The part of the Sandtrooper was really a last minute request from George, as he needed someone to play the scene with Alec Guinness. I was at the hotel when they came to get me, the next I knew I was on the set in a Sandtrooper costume and working with Alec Guinness. As an actor he was a true Jedi and gentleman.
Your scenes as Fixer were recorded in Tunisia. Can you share some memories regarding those scenes?
The shoes or boots they had me wear as Fixer I was told were designed by George, I could hardly walk in them; he wouldn’t get a job at Nike. Playing a small role is harder, as you have so little to work with. You have to convey everything about a character in a moment, so the scene works and rings true.
When the movie was released all of your Fixer scenes were cut. When did you find out they weren’t going to be in the final movie and what did you think of this?
Welcome to the Movie Business. I think I have more footage on cutting room floors than on screen; I seem to end up in scenes that are considered padding in a lot of movies.
Besides Fixer, you were the stormtrooper that stops Luke, Ben and the droids in Mos Eisley.
You even get to deal with Ben’s Jedi mind trick. What do you recall from the filming of this scene that featured the legendary Alec Guinness and the then unknown Mark Hamill?
Well Mark and I had got to know each at the hotel, but working with Alec Guinness out of the blue, that was very special. Even years later when we were both working at the BBC on different projects he remembered, and we would chat. I remember George wanting more dirt on my costume and doing it himself. George has great detail in his work, he was so immersed in the story and what he was looking for visually, something he didn’t always share, but he knows what he wants and stays true to his vision.
You started signing and doing conventions a few years ago. Before that, it was sort of a mystery where ‘Fixer’ was. Did you stay ‘quiet’ on purpose and what made you decide to ‘enter the fan world’?
Yes I did stay quiet, I am quite a recluse, but mainly because I had 4 young children, who lead incredibly busy and active lives. Conventions happen on weekends and my kids and their activities came first. They grew up and my time became more flexible. The fan world has been an education and great experience in connecting with people. You can learn a lot from the fans about more than just movies, but their feedback etc.. is very special as an artist.
What expectations did you have of the movie when it was filmed?
None really… as an actor… you work, you give it everything you’ve got and go home. Movies are in the hands of the director/writer and his team of they should be, not the executives and bean counters. Star Wars went that extra step in daring to be original.
What is the best memory you have regarding Star Wars?
Mark and I coming down the baggage shoot at Heathrow Airport with Star Wars stickers stuck all over us.
Since the 80’s you have been busy making music. You even have your own label called Fixer Records (I suppose that’s named after a certain character?) What inspired you to go into music?
I was playing music way before my acting and movies… I’d go crazy without it and did for years. No matter how I’m feeling, I can pickup a guitar, and write a song about it or jam for awhile and feel better…
Which artists or bands have influenced you music-wise?
Frank Zappa, Buffy Saint Marie, the Doors, Stravinsky, John Adams, Elgar, Jeremy Steig, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and many more…
What are your plans for the future?
I’m launching my own music website AW Forrest as a free download, donate site… and completing my feature film Bob’s Garage.
Please finish the following sentence: “When I look back at my work on Star Wars, I…”
Hope my small contribution helped make a difference in creating the magic…