Jim Dowdall (Stormtrooper)

Jim Dowdall
Stormtrooper (A New Hope), Bespin guard (The Empire Strikes Back)
Interview: 2009

How did you get cast for Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back?

I am member of the British Stunt Register and was asked by Peter Diamond to come and do some ‘falling around’ in plastic armour for a film called Star Wars.

You played a Stormtrooper and a Bespin Guard, are there any other characters you played? And can you tell something about all the roles you played?

No, I only played those two roles. At the time, I really didn’t think anything more about it as it was just another job on a movie. All that running around with hot plastic armour which dug into your buttocks and the back of your legs seemed faintly ridiculous but it was a job! It was only when we went to the crew showing on a wet Saturday morning and saw the result with Dolby stereo on the big screen with that amazing opening shot that we thought that we were then involved with something that was very much cutting edge.
I think I was only there for a couple of days for the Bespin Guard sequence but I got to know Harrison much better as I stunt doubled him on Hanover Street and Force Ten from Navarone.

Which stunts did you do in the Star Wars movies?

Can’t be specific as we were doing a lot of running around falling off of various bits of set with bullet hits on the armour.

Can you tell any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things that happened on the set?

Only that we (including Harrison I think) all thought that this was a film that would not ‘fly’.

Being a stuntman on Star Wars, you must have worked with the late Peter Diamond. How was it like, working with him.

Peter was a real gentleman and somebody that knew what he wanted from you, was very specific and most importantly, was cool under fire and didn’t lose his temper.

Can you tell something about how George Lucas and Irvin Kershner directed the two movies you were in?

Not really. We were pretty much small fry and were just told what to do by Tony Way or Gerry Gavigan the assistant directors. We were very rarely addressed directly by the director as he was busy with the leads. I do remember being given specific direction as the Bespin Guard by Irvin Kershner as I had to react to the moves of Harrison and Carrie, but I seem to remember being in full ‘yes sir/no sir’ mode as Peter Diamond was also there watching every move. In those days, the etiquette was that stuntmen were usually directed by the stunt co-ordinator who was told by the director what was expected of us.

Did you get to meet the leading actors (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford) while shooting the film? How were they?

As I mentioned, I got to know Harrison much better during the course of the other films where I was his stunt double. The last time we worked together was on the boat chase for Indiana Jones and the last Crusade.

You have done several conventions. How do you feel about meeting the fans and signing photos?

I’m always amazed by the scale and the enthusiasm of the fanbase. At the first signing I went to which was in London I met a guy who had come over from Texas and a guy from Sydney Australia who were there specifically for the signatures and I felt surprised and flattered to be part of the Star Wars ensemble.

You mentioned it earlier: you were in another Lucasfilm production: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Can you tell something about making this movie? Did anything strange or unusual happen on the set, for instance?

No, not specifically, I just remember getting wet a lot and being blown up and making some good money for it. Vic Armstrong, an old friend, who was the stunt co-ordinator, was very keen on thorough rehearsals on all the films I’ve done with him so we were well prepared.

Being part of two of the biggest movie franchises ever (Indiana Jones, Star Wars), what are your thoughts with being part of the “legacy?”

See my comments earlier, but having done nine James Bond movies and many other iconic films, I can say that the Star Wars pictures were the first films that made me appreciate what CGI could do to enhance a good script instead of what it is used for a lot these days which is as an attempted replacement for a bad script/direction/actors (not necessarily in that order).