Saurin, Stormtrooper, X-Wing pilot (A New Hope)
Interview: May 2010
How did you get started in the movie business?
I guess the interest in Star Wars has been around for sometime, but I didn’t realize it existed until one day, out of the blue, Convention Guests contacted me with an offer of appearing at an event in Cheshunt. Since then I have attended various conventions in the UK as well as Germany and the Netherlands, and the two questions I’m frequently asked are: “How did you start out in the movie business?” and “How did you get to work on Star Wars?”
Well, I really didn’t have any aspirations to become an actor; I was more interested in playing music. I had mastered the guitar in my early teens, and set my sights on plucking the strings on stage, eventually forming a band with some guys who had attended Barbara Speake stage school; famous pupils include Sharon Osbourne and Free lead guitarist Paul Kossoff.
At one point I did some recording with an unknown drummer called Phil Collins, and we all know what happened to him! In those days there were bands everywhere, and you had to have a great deal of drive and someone with a knowledgeable head to guide you; something we never really acquired, but nevertheless, it was an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss.
So, enter Viktor Ritelis. Vik used to visit a sketch artist at the Fulham house where I then lived. He went on to direct TV films such as The Sweeny, Blake’s 7, and Secret Army. On the second occasion of meeting the guy, he offered me an extra role on a production he was involved in: Adam Adamant, at the BBC. Whilst doing the job, I discovered that most of the other background artists were working through an agency called Jeff Shane, which I promptly joined. I then became an Equity member and enrolled on the books of further agents.
If a film offer clashed with any kind of music I was involved in, I could always give that priority and turn the film work down. So it all fitted in quite nicely, but unfortunately members of the band eventually went their separate ways. One, Vernon Austin, re-emerged some years later playing lead guitar in The Leyton Buzzards; a punk band that appeared on Top of the Pops a few times.
Anyhow, as all that came to an end, I began landing some feature roles in commercials, which were well paid, but I still had the desire, and time, to be involved with music, so I set up a mobile disco with a wonderfully spirited girl called Chrissy McGowan, who was in her mid twenties. We used to run a competition for the best male dancer; the prize being a snog from Chrissy and, of course, the best looking guy always won! Although we had regular clients, the lugging of all the equipment about became an arduous task. Enthusiasm began to fade, and after eighteen months or so, we called it a day. Sadly, Chrissy died of TB a couple of years later.
So, that’s how it all started for me. I tried to get into music, but ended up on the film set!
You played three parts in Star Wars: A New Hope: Saurin, a Stormtrooper and an X-Wing pilot. How did you get cast for this movie and these parts?
As for appearing in Star Wars: A New Hope, I didn’t know I would be working on the production until the day before. I was a replacement stormtrooper for the late Peter Dukes, who had cried off sick, and as we had the same measurements, the agency sent me along. I didn’t know what I would be wearing until I went along to the dressing room, and searched for a costume that had Peter’s label on it. As I pulled this plastic armor-like outfit off the clothes rack, I thought: “Gawd, what’s this?”
According to my diary, I began filming in April 1976. I remember the weather was extremely hot. We were experiencing the type of heat we would normally expect in mid July. Anyhow, there were about twenty five of us stormtroopers hanging around the studio, sweltering under the white plastic, awaiting direction. There were also some rebel guards, I can’t remember how many, but fewer than the guys in white!
There didn’t appear to be any sense of urgency in the studio, and by mid morning only a few of us had taken part in two or three scenes.
I can’t recall exactly why, it might have been that we were making too much noise probable cause or that the first assistant thought the studio heat was too much for us. Anyhow, we were ushered outside, where we made ourselves comfortable on an area of grass adjacent to the set; removed the upper parts of our costumes, and began to soak up the sun. Each time a new scene required bodies, one of the assistants would venture out to our sunbathing spot, and ask for the presence of those that were needed.
It was, perhaps, the morning of the second or third day, when one of the assistants came to our sun field and instructed me, with some others, to go onto the set. I hadn’t been feeling too well, and as I stood up to don the upper part of my stormtroopers outfit, my stomach began to rumble. Oh no, I thought, diarrhea! One effort to release the flatulence and I’d be well in trouble! I made my way to the set, where I informed likeable assistant, Gerry Gavigan, of my predicament. Carry on, he told me, and as I exited the studio for the loo. I had to scurry, as large steps might have caused a disaster. I eventually made it to the loo, and breathed a deep sigh of relief, but I wasn’t yet free of danger. I jumped about in the cubicle as panic set in, trying to remember how to get the damn costume off! I could feel time was running short, but suddenly, I found the answer, prized it off, sat on the pan, and closed my eyes, with runs of sweat trickling down my face.
Anyhow, no sooner had I ventured back to the set, when I had to revisit the loo again. This was repeated two or three more times, so I eventually managed to get some medicine, and by the time we all had had lunch, my condition began to clear up.
Having returned to our sun-filled resting spot, I was called back to the set, placed in shot, and directed to march down one of the space ships passageways, to the left of others, towards the camera. As I was still feeling somewhat queasy, my concentration wasn’t at it’s best, and as I emerged from the tunnel, my helmet hit a section of the gantry. We all then, as directed, came to a halt. I waited for someone to shout cut, but no one did, so I assumed I was out of frame.
Now the question is was I the stormtrooper whom banged his head in shot? Well, I’ve been telling this story for years, but over recent times, I’ve been informed by various Star Wars enthusiasts that some others have claimed the incident happened to them in exactly the same way. It feels like my own story of events has boomeranged back to me.
Still, I’m not going say it was definitely me, and I can’t see how others can undeniably claim it was them. The helmets were difficult to see out of, and people were bumping around all over the place. It would have been indisputable had George Lucas, or his assistant, giving the guilty party a rollicking, as the person would have then been identified. So, whoever was the stormtrooper who bumped his helmet, and didn’t have an angry finger wagged at him, God only knows. One thing you can try, is to go onto YouTube, and if you think the ungainly stormtrooper is about to crap his pants, it’ll give you a clue as to where you can pin the donkeys tail!
Anyhow, I carried on filming up until the Thursday before Easter. As we wrapped, one of the assistants invited us all to go to a certain stage where, he informed us, there would be an Easter present for everyone. Well, I was in my mid twenties, up for a laugh, so sure, I went along!
As we entered the stage, we found ourselves staring at, perhaps, four tables similar to those use by decorators for pasting full of Easter eggs and cans of booze. It was all much of a surprise, because the whisper was that the film didn’t have much of a budget. Anyhow, I believe some music began pounding out, and the night went off well. A good beginning to the Easter break, I thought.
There is a story on the internet regarding your part as Saurin. The article claims that Saurin was not played by you and you weren’t in the Cantina scene. All the other sources that it was you in that scene, so I believe that. Still, can you comment on this?
Not so long ago, I received an email from one of the collectors, which stated there is a site that claims I didn’t play the role of Saurin in the Cantina sequence. The email contained the information from the site, which went on about someone who knew someone who worked for someone in the wardrobe department, well; something similar to that, and apparently my name doesn’t appear on any list of characters for the Cantina scenes. Now, I would assume these people are die-hard Star Wars enthusiasts, but it appears they know very little about the way filming works.
So, let’s go back to my first weeks filming. At one point Gerry Gavigan asked me what my measurements were. Having told him, he sent my along to the wardrobe department, as another replacement, for one of the girls who was to play the other Saurin. Again, for some reason, she was also unable to make the shot.
Anyhow, I managed to squeeze the helmet on, and also the upper part of the costume, but the bottom half was difficult, so the wardrobe people did a made-up, there-and-then, job on me. There is one photo in circulation, which was taken in the Cantina, where I can be seen holding my arm aloft. If you study at the bottom part of the costume, you can see it is bulky and ill-fitting around the waste, with large boots; not the finished article the designer would have been proud of!
Now, I reiterate, I had replaced Peter Dukes as stormtrooper, and now this girl, whose name I can’t remember, as Saurin. So do these people really believe that the wardrobe department are going to backtrack over every wardrobe list that has been drawn up, and cross off Peter Dukes, and this other girl’s name, and insert mine? Can we expect George Lucas to issue orders that, Laurie Goode’s name must be inserted on every wardrobe list in the UK and also any list that might exist in the USA! Get real people! Maybe these guys should set up a forum for Miss Marple!
Still, I relax in comfort knowing that they have their information on me wrong, so I suspect, they must have made mistakes on others. I’d be glad to hear of any other stories of mistakes they have made.
Can you share some memories regarding the filming of the Cantina scene? It is one of the most memorable movie scenes ever!
The filming in the Cantina was extremely uncomfortable. I thought the stormtroopers headgear was bad enough, but Saurins head was unbelievably stifling; barely able to breath, and what I breathed out, would remain in the helmet, to be inhaled again!
On my first days filming of the Cantina scenes, I remember sitting with Pam Rose, Leesub Sirln, wondering if I should introduce myself to the other Saurin, Barbara Frankland, but we were eventually placed together, and we spoke about the difficulties we had in breathing through the helmets. I explained that if you put a hand into the mouth, it would be better ventilation, which she did, and there are photos of her doing exactly that.
You were directed by George Lucas. What impression did he make?
I’m often asked about George Lucas, especially what it was like to work with him. We must remember George was in his early thirties, and at the time, still on the climb, so he was very patient about the filming, and let it take its course without any fuss. There was point when I felt a bit sorry for him. One morning, after a shot in the Cantina, an assistant made an announcement about a photo shoot. He said there would be a crew and cast photo session at lunch time, before the resumption of filming, and anyone who wanted to attend could do so. I assumed all the main actors and top crew members would be there, and thought it would be silly for me to bother, but on my way back from lunch, I spotted a group of about sixteen people having some shots taken. There was George standing in the middle of twelve or so background monsters, with three or four crew members, so I thought I’d be joining in. As I paced towards the group, with the photographers snapping away, I remember George looking around, as though he was searching for more high profile actors and crew members to join in, and finding their absence somewhat embarrassing. No sooner had I joined the group, when the photographer announced he ran out of film. I think I might have sneaked in on two shots, but I’ve never seen the contact sheets, so I guess Ill never know. Has anyone got them?
The third role you played was a Rebel Pilot in the briefing scene. What do you recall from that scene?
That’s that, I thought, job done! I didn’t really think I’d take part in the film again, but three weeks later I was called back. This time in my own name, Laurence Goode, and then I was back again in June, and for a further couple of days in July I think. At one point throughout that period I played an X-wing pilot. I remember thinking: Oh no, not that dreaded stormtroopers costume again, and was relieved to be giving an X-wing pilot’s outfit to wear.
You can play the guitar, wrote for The Beat Magazine and you were very interested in a career in music.
Suppose you could compose a song for the Cantina scene. What kind a song would that be?
It’s strange really, people now know about my past connection with music, and every time I attend a convention there’s usually someone who asks me a question about the subject. One I remember was: If you were to write a song about Star Wars, what kind of song would it be? Well, I’ve had this melodic marching song in my head for years, and it hit me one day, maybe I could write a stormtroopers Christmas song! The only trouble is copyright. Would our dear George allow it to happen? Maybe he would if it was a charity number. I’m sure we could get enough stormtroopers for the video. So, you see, I could end up in music after all!
Many thanks for the interview! I highly enjoyed your stories!