Jess (Return of the Jedi)
Interview: January 2021
Amanda Noar has worked extensively in film, TV and theatre, as an actress, dancer, singer and more recently as a producer, director and choreographer. At the age of 19 she was cast in Return of the Jedi and now, almost 40 years later, she is the producer/director of the North London musical theatre company Impact.
How did you get started in the acting business?
I always wanted to be a performer for as long as I can remember. I originally wanted to be a ballerina and so I auditioned and got into The Arts Educational School in Tring from the age of eleven. There, I was also taught all different styles of dance, and had voice and acting lessons too. This made me realize that I enjoyed all 3 disciplines of the business and wanted to explore theatre, TV and film.
My mum was also in the business. She was a Tiller Girl, so that must be where I got my ambition from.
In the early 80’s you were one of the youngest persons to get cast for Return of the Jedi? How did you get that part?
I was working with the choreographer Gillian Gregory on a show, Mack & Mabel at the Nottingham Playhouse, and she asked me to audition for the part, as she was the choreographer for that scene in the film. She knew I could dance and she thought I would suit the costume.
Were you a fan before you got cast? Had you seen the other two Star Wars movies? And what did you think of them?
I’d never seen either of the films before and had no idea about their popularity, although at that stage, they weren’t anywhere near as popular as they are now. I really wasn’t aware of what I was getting involved in.
What do you recall of the shooting of your scenes? I know it’s over 37 years ago, but anything you remember I’d like to hear.
I remember the set being extremely crowded, smoky and hot. There were runners there with oxygen hair dryers giving air to any of the characters that were in masks, but all in all it was an amazing experience. I didn’t know anybody on the set apart from Gillian Gregory, the choreographer and Femi Taylor. We had been in a play for the BBC a year or so before hand, called The Benefit, but everybody was extremely friendly and helpful, from the extras, main characters and everyone in the crew.
Can you tell any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things that happened?
Well part of my job was to squeeze Bib Fortuna’s flat balloons in his cloak, which had a tube attached to other flat balloons in his head, so every time I squeezed them it made his temples pulsate. I would say that this was pretty unique, strange and funny!!
Star Wars was the biggest movie of all time and you were cast in a sequel. What did you tell your friends (and classmates?) and how did they react to the fact you were in it?
At the time, it really was just another job for me. However, later on in my career, I have come to realize what a privilege it was to be on one of the most iconic sets and in one of the most iconic movies of all times. My friends nowadays cant believe I was in it. It’s a great talking point!
In the mid-nineties your character finally got a name: Jess. When and how did you find out your character got this name and how was your reaction?
I only found out relatively recently when I received an email, asking if I would be interested in doing a convention. I honestly thought it was a joke as I couldn’t believe anyone would be interested in meeting me. What an eye opener that first convention was! It was just a fantastic experience and the fans were amazing.
In 1990 you starred in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle with Anthony ‘C-3PO’ Daniels. Did that feel like a small ‘Star Wars reunion’?
Anthony and I had the BEST time working on I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle. We would literally giggle the days away. He was so lovely and we got on like a house on fire. It was a real moment when I told him that I was in Return Of The Jedi! He didn’t remember me and I teased him about it for the entire shoot of the film!
You have been in the convention circuit. What do you like the most about being a guest and what is the most remarkable or craziest thing that happened at a show?
It’s fantastic to meet so many people who are passionate about the films. It’s also great to catch up with old friends from that time in my life. The most remarkable thing about these conventions is the effort that the fans go to, with their most incredible costumes and robots. I sometimes feel like one of the fans, wanting to have my pictures taken with them. Honestly, I’ve had some amazing experiences at the conventions and looking forward to getting back to doing more.
How do you look back at Star Wars and in which way is it a part of your life today?
I really do have very fond memories of my time on the film and I’m so delighted to have been given the opportunity to be involved. It has turned out to be quite a big part of my life today. Going to conventions, sending off pictures and generally being a part of the Star Wars family.
I read that the most fan mail you get is thanks to your Star Wars part, even though you have done a whole lot more regarding TV, movies and theatre over the last four decades. How do you feel about this?
Out of everything I have done in my long, LONG career, this is definitely the one thing that seems to impress the most and generate the most interest. The reaction from everyone once they find out I’ve been in a Star Wars movie is amazing and I just feel grateful that people feel this way.
What do you regard as the highlight of your career so far?
That’s quite a difficult question because I have had such a varied career, both as a performer and now as a director and producer.
As a performer on stage, a highlight was playing Anita in West Side Story at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End and being taken out for dinner by Leonard Bernstein.
Star Wars has to be a highlight too but in retrospect.
As a producer/director it has to be a production I put on in 2019: Working – A Musical. It received rave reviews and I was very proud of my cast and production team.