Lt. Renz (Return of the Jedi)
Interview: June 2010
How did you get cast as Lt. Renz in Return of the Jedi?
I was working on Return of the Jedi as an officer in various scenes with Dave Prowse and others when the Assistant Director came up to me and said that the Director Richard Marquand wanted to speak to me on the set but first I had to change into the black Imperial Officer uniform in the wardrobe department.
Richard then asked me if I would like to do the part of Lt. Renz capturing Han Solo in the bunker. Of course, I accepted. I didn’t have to audition for this as I had worked with Richard a few years earlier as an officer on Eye of the Needle and he remembered me.
I was supposed to do a ‘special scene’ with Donald Sutherland on that film but after rehearsing they realized I was too high a rank to do the scene on a train. I was to walk up the corridor looking into a compartment at Donald with a curious gaze (while looking for a seat) as if I had discovered he was the Nazi spy hiding from the authorities but of course as a Lt. Commander in the Royal Navy I wouldn’t be doing that as I would have had my own private berth with my own personal aide. The train was packed with private soldiers/sailors and I was the only officer on board.
I guess I was lucky with that Lt. Renz scene as I was in the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’! I think that they were pleased with my small performance and that the final cut shows that. I had studied film acting for years and I always was convinced that the best film acting is not in the amount of dialogue you have but in how you can convey the essence of a scene in a short moment in time. I feel that in that brief moment I came over as a forceful officer who with a ruthless manner summed up the power of the Empire. It was a great line of course, which helped. The rest as they say is history.
You have achieved Star Wars immortality thanks to the line you Rebel Scum. There is even a website named after that line!
What do you think of the fact that line made such an impact?
I have to admit that I was surprised by the success of that piece of dialogue and years later it has become a ‘cult’ line. The scene has now enabled me to have a mini-bust made of Lt. Renz (courtesy of Philip Wise, Rebelscum.com and Lucasfilm) which is the first talking Mini-Bust of any Actor in the Star Wars Films and says “You Rebel Scum”! It is also the first Imperial Officer mini-bust apart from the late Peter Cushing and the first bust to go out to fans with an autographed Card.
Harrison Ford slapped you (as a joke) in the face when you called him Rebel Scum during the shooting of your scene. Can you tell something how the shooting of that scene went?
Yes, when I first said that line Harrison Ford gently slapped my face saying “Nobody calls me that”! or words to that effect. It was a difficult scene to do as it was a small set and I had seven stormtroopers with me who also had to hit their marks. It took one and a half day’s filming just to complete that small scene. I had a timing light and tried to run in on different beats, from 1 to 10. I think in the end it worked out at about 8 beats (seconds) before I ran in with my stormtroopers close behind. It was a lot of fun to do. Remember, he is moving around and you had to be there at the precise moment he turns around to catch another satchel bomb. Sometimes we got there too late and others too early but it all worked out in the end.
Regarding Harrison Ford, besides Return of the Jedi you also worked with him on the three Indiana Jones movies. How is he to work with?
Harrison Ford is very nice and polite but very quiet. He doesn’t talk much off set and is difficult to engage in long conversations. He is very professional and likes his privacy. The last time ever I had a small conversation with him was in 1987 whist filming The Last Crusade. I have a nice picture of myself with him taken on The Temple of Doom and some other nice signed pics, some of which he did for my son, one which says “Barrie, “You Rebel Scum”! Harrison Ford”.
What do you regard as your best memory from Return of the Jedi? Did any funny things happen on the set?
My best memory of course was getting slapped by Harrison Ford during the first rehearsal of that scene. I don’t really have any other interesting memories from Return of the Jedi, I have a photographic memory but you must remember it was nearly thirty years ago now and I worked in 200 films and TV series in my time. I remember I did a lot of scenes with Dave Prowse and a few other officers marching around, greeting the Emperor, etc.
Can you tell something about how Richard Marquand directed Return of the Jedi?
All I can say is that he was very approachable and would listen to suggestions about how to do that scene. He was very quiet and professional not like some other directors who get angry at the slightest ‘hiccup’ on the set during filming.
Sadly he is no longer with us and passed way at the age of 49 in 1987….we were both born in the same year: 1938.
You have been in movies that featured big name stars like Vincent Price, Harrison Ford, Robert DeNiro what is your secret that managed you to get parts in those movies?
I loved working in films and I was always smartly turned out and very professional. As I have mentioned before I studied film acting which is totally different from stage acting. A good film actor is not necessarily a good stage actor and vice-versa. I was always very confident working in front of the camera as I had been a photographic/fashion model for some years previous to my film career doing general magazine/newspaper advertising, TV commercials and fashion shows. On leaving National Service with the army back in the late fifties I worked in the publicity department of Vauxhall Motors in Luton and was responsible for all of their photographic work for TV, magazines, national press and car/van brochures. I would select locations, book photographers, book models and go off on a ‘photographic shoot’ to get the job finished. It was a great job which taught me a lot also about camerawork. I was my own boss but the ‘ball stayed in my court’ so I was responsible for getting the job done correctly. I had to pay attention to detail before seeing the publicity manager with the finished results. Many a time I had a ‘telling off’ from the boss for some mistake during filming…ha! ha! But I was young and rebellious in those days!!! At one time I was on a photographic job in London and the car had a badge on it whereas it shouldn’t have been there…he said that I was probably too busy as usual ‘chatting up the model girl’ (PROBABLY TRUE!) instead of paying attention to details!!! I eventually got into the modeling world with a top London agent back in the late sixties. I had made many contacts in this area during my Vauxhall years. Funnily enough, if I had never worked at Vauxhall I would probably have never been Lt. Renz all those years later. It is a strange life isn’t it.
You have worked with both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. How were they to work with?
Steven Spielberg was one of my favorite directors to work with of all time.
He always treated the crew and actors, etc with great respect and was always a pleasure to meet, work with and talk to. I worked with him four times. On the first three Indiana Jones films and then Empire of the Sun. I was never directed by George Lucas and only met him once back in 1983 whilst filming for two weeks on Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. I bumped into him in a studio corridor and had a nice conversation. He arranged to get me some publicity stills from Lucasfilm in California from my scene in Return of the Jedi which I had filmed the year before in 1982. I have some great pics now which were taken on set during filming. Thanks to Mr. Lucas’ generosity! They were never published and apparently I have the only copies available now as they cannot find the originals in Lucasfilm. He is a very quiet man, very nice and very courteous. I have never met him since.
You were in all three Indiana Jones movies. In which scenes do you feature?
In Raiders of the Lost Ark I was a warehouse man who paints the stencil number on the last crate at the end of the film. I did this on Second Unit under Frank Marshall’s direction but Steven Spielberg had to come over from the main set to watch me do this before he would allow it to be filmed. My hand is now famous. I think that was my left hand as I write left-handed. My right hand was already famous for shaking hands 79 times with actor Warren Beatty over two days whilst filming on Reds in 1979. Ha! Ha! He was also the director of that film. A very pleasant man also to work with. One of the best!
On Temple of Doom I was a night club guest at the beginning and also played a musician who runs into the path of the giant gong which Harrison is hiding behind as he makes his escape from the club. This wasn’t easy as the floor was covered with balloons and they were very difficult to run over, so in the end I had to dive in front of the gong otherwise it would have hit me!!!. You can just see a blur of a figure in the film doing this. That was me!! phew!
I was also one of two night club guests who had to kick the diamond away from Kate Capshaw as she is on the floor during the guests all panicking to escape.
My friend and fellow actor Lenny Bond was the other guest and we had to pass each other running backwards and forwards across the set catching the diamond with our feet just as she was about to pick it up. But we had to make it look natural not as if were playing football with each other. It was delicate scene to do because you had to be careful you didn’t trip over Kate or tread on her fingers as others were running past trying to escape and could have pushed you into her.
She was Steven Spielberg’s wife (I think they were married at that time?) and we didn’t want him coming after us…ha! ha!…You might say that it was ‘A Close Encounter’…if you get my drift.
(Editor’s note: Spielberg and Capshaw met thanks to this movie and got married after the movie)
In The Last Crusade I was just a Nazi Customs official at the airship booking desk. Nothing special.
I recall two stories you once told me at a convention: the first is a story about Spielberg wearing a tie around his head during The Temple of Doom, and the other one is about cameraman Alan Hume giving you the nickname Rebel scum. Can you tell these stories to the readers?
No, he wasn’t wearing a tie around his head but like some of the other crew members had a balloon floating above his head which was tied to a piece of string around his waist. It was an in-joke. This was during the filming of Temple of Doom on the first unit.
As regards my nickname “Rebel Scum”! by the famous cameraman Alan Hume. He was of course the lighting cameraman on Return of the Jedi and I had worked with him many times over the years. Another nice man with no ego and every time I turned up on a set he was working on he would shout out “We’ve got ‘Rebel Scum’ with us today”! Ha! ha! We had many laughs over that during the later years. He is as good a cameraman as you will ever meet…if not the best!
Being part of two of the biggest movie franchises ever (Indiana Jones, Star Wars), what are your thoughts with being part of the “legacy?”
I am amazed and honored as I said earlier. This one film has gained me more recognition with the fans than I would ever have thought possible more than any other film I ever worked on…….apparently, I have now been immortalized as a Star Wars character Lt. Renz with my Mini-Bust! I’ll be honest with you, all those years ago it was just another film job to earn money to help me support my family. But as fate turned out I was in ‘the right place at the right time’!
As the late famous actor Robert Mitchum is supposed to have said: “It sure beats working!”
What are you up to right now? Do you have new projects coming up?
Not much really as I am retired these days. I am 72 years old now, looking 22…I wish…but I occasionally do Star Wars/Celebrity shows around the world
where it is my pleasure to meet the fans and tell them about my experiences.
I have been lucky as I have now been to 38 shows around the world over the past five years as a guest actor…but if it wasn’t for the fans supporting the films in the first place I wouldn’t be there, so you have to give something back!
Thanks for the interview!
I hope that I haven’t bored all of “You Rebel Scum” out there but it has been a pleasure to do this interview…don’t take it too seriously.