Tom Egeland (Hoth trooper)

Tom Egeland
Hoth trooper (The Empire Strikes Back)
Interview: February 2010

How did you get cast for The Empire Strikes Back?

During high school, I registered with a Norwegian movie company as an extra. I did a few commercial and movie parts – as an extra – when the company called me and asked if I wanted to play in Star Wars. I was flabbergasted. I lived for a year in the USA in 1977-78, and I still remember the awesome experience of seeing Star Wars in a Denver cinema in 1978. So when I was asked to participate, even if it was just as an extra, I was delighted. Today, 30 years later, I may admit that I had a fake doctor’s certificate issued because I had to stay away from school during some exam days. Shooting Star Wars was way more fun.

What do you recall of the filming of your scenes?

Oh I have many fond memories. Most of the time we hung around waiting. We stayed at a sort of youth hostel at Finse, and after breakfast we were dressed up in our Hoth rebel costumes and given make-up. Then we were driven up into the mountains in snow mobiles. They had erected some canon towers, but most of what you see in the movie (The Empire Strikes Back) was digitally edited into the movie afterwards. The director told us to pretend we could see gigantic robots (the AT-AT’s) and space ships attacking us. Most of the explosions were added later, but they did use some explosives on the set. We ran a lot, and were ordered to “die”. The lunches were magnificent: fresh hamburgers brought up from the hotel. I remember watching for half a day the preparations to blow up one canon tower. I can see that exact explosion in the movie, and it lasts for about half a second.

If I’m correct you weren’t directed by Irvin Kershner (who directed the movie), but by Dave Tomblin, the first assistant director. How did he direct you and the others?

I really don’t know. The movie company hired a Norwegian sub-sub-director, Ola Solum, who was a Norwegian movie director on his own rights, to handle us extras. I remember an American yelling orders, but as far as I recall, Ola Solum was the one explaining to us what to do.

Did you get to meet ‘the big stars’ like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, George Lucas and Carrie Fisher, and if so: what impression did they gave you?

Not at all. I don’t even think they went to Finse. I had a very distinct impression that the ones working at Finse were the second-unit.

How do you look back at your part in Star Wars? With pride? Or was it just a job for you?

It was great fun. And it’s neat to have been a part of. Last Christmas I insisted my youngest daughter, Astrid (16), watch the movie with me. Well, it wasn’t her cup of tea. But most people are utterly impressed when I mention I “played in Star Wars“. I think I’ve signed more autographs as a Star Wars “actor” than as an author.

You are quite a successful writer these days. In fact, you have written a Norwegian Da Vinci Code style book called Relic, before Dan Brown’s novel was published! How do you feel about this? Pure coincidence?

Oh yes, it’s pure coincidence. We did the same research and wrote out novels more or less simultaneously. My novel was published in 2001, The Da Vinci Code in 2003. Dan Brown’s success did help me launch a worldwide success, and I’m now published in 20 countries. The novel in question, Relic, will be out in English this summer.

Your book Ulvenatten made it to the big screen. An possibilities there will be more of your novels turned into a movie?

Oh there are always plans, but none very concrete as of yet.

Have you ever thought about writing a science fiction novel? You were in one of the best science fiction movies ever, so it wouldn’t seem strange to me.

My last novel, The Gospel of Lucifer, actually has a sci-fi kind of ending. And yes, I’ve given it some thought.

Looking at the future: what are your plans? Do you have new projects on the horizon?

I’m currently writing on a novel that will come out this fall, and I’m working on a movie script -not based on any book- that will hopefully go intro production this summer.