Mon Mothma (Return of the Jedi)
Interview: May 2006
Call me Caroline.
Ok, I will. Thank you.
Can you tell how you got the part of Mon Mothma?
I went to meet George Lucas and Richard Marquand in London and they offered me the job.
It went that easy?
Was Mon Mothma the only part you were offered? You weren’t considered to play another character?
Why would I play another character? I went to the interview just for that part. Well, as far as I understood.
I was in a television series working in Manchester. When they needed to make the costume that I am wearing as Mon Mothma, they came to Manchester to do a costume fitting in the hotel where I was staying. I was told to keep that a secret. I couldn’t tell anybody about the design. We even discussed my hairdo, but in the end my own short red hair was used. They thought it was just fine.
Your most memorable quote from the movie is “Many Bothans died to bring us this information”. When you said this, did you have any idea what you were saying?
No, I had no idea what a Bothan was. Then I discovered later of course. I didn’t understand the story, I didn’t know the story. I had just a page with my lines. Everything was secret and I had to sign for that. So I learned what I had to learn and I went to the studio and they told me my lines had changed. I had to learn new lines which was difficult as the language that was used is not the language we speak. After a day and a half there was the intimidating big scene with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and all the extras and the film crew. I worked in that studio many times because during the 60’s and 70’s many series like The Avengers were made there.
The Elstree Studios.
Yes, I was back on familiar territory.
You just mentioned Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Did you spoke with them between takes?
There was a bit where I was just sitting. Harrison came up to me and saw I was nervous.
You were nervous?
Wouldn’t you be?
Well, you’re an experienced actress.
Makes no difference.
Was it just because of Ford, a big name, being there?
No. It was because of the very difficult material. Difficult to remember, that was the main problem.
About the Bothans. You just said you found out later what they were. In the books and comics it was explained what and who they were. Also, Mon Mothma is still alive in these books. Do you keep up with this?
I’m sorry to say I don’t. The first time I went to a convention in the United States I discovered she’s a major character. She has a daughter, and quite some history. I had no idea. Also, I work quite a lot so it’s difficult to read all these books. I spend a lot of time on my work, my grandchildren and my garden; I grow vegetables. (laughs)
In Revenge of the Sith we see a younger version of Mon Mothma.
Yes, I didn’t see the movie I’m afraid.
I can’t answer that. I have a busy life I guess. I don’t go to every movie that’s released. Forgive me. (laughs)
Ah, I will forgive you!
I did see a photograph of the actress (Genevieve O’Reilly) and it seemed to me that she looked the same as I did back then. But I don’t know in which scenes she is.
Actually, a lot of her scenes were cut from the final movie.
Because they weren’t needed and the movie was too long I guess. Still, they are on the DVD.
What did you think of them?
I liked them!
I wrote to George Lucas to ask him if I could play Mon Mothma’s grandmother. I thought maybe she made an appearance.
You really did?
Yes, I really did that. I didn’t get an answer.
Besides Star Wars you played in Chekhov in Russian theatres, in the Russian language. Do you fluently speak the language?
(Says something in Russian)
I have no idea what that means.
(Laughs) Yes, I speak some Russian.
What is it about Russian that attracts you?
It’s a beautiful language and country. I have a feeling for it that I don’t understand. A passionate involvement. When I first arrived there in 1982 I was totally excited. It felt familiar, the country, the people, the way of life. It was as if I had a life there before. I’m serious. It was one of the most important things I have ever done.
You have also done a lot of television. Any favorites?
There is one called Brass. Have you seen that?
I’m afraid not. What year was that?
In the mid 80’s. It had a lot of comedy. Brilliantly written. A cult-comedy. I liked working for television as I could do that during the daytime. I had kids so I could see them after work.
This weekend you’re attending a convention and you will sign a lot of things. What is the weirdest item you’ve ever signed?
I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to sign something weird. Only a hat, T-Shirt, posters etcetera. But do you know, everybody here is so friendly! (looks in the camera) Thank you! I had a warm welcome and everything here is so friendly and good.
Are the fans in other countries different?
American fans are much bigger. (laughs). The thing about Star Wars is that they are stories about great myths of good and evil and as such it makes people think about it, whether they know that or not. That’s what being alive is all about. You always have choices to be good or bad. So, the movies are important.
You really like them then?
Yes. I think they are important as an influence for good.
Are you proud to have been in one?
Of course. Absolutely.
Ok, and what would you say is the highlight of your entire career?
Certainly the Russian period. Also My Fair Lady in London.
Can you describe your Star Wars experience in just one sentence?
It was hard while I was doing it, but I had many rewards from it afterwards such as meeting all the people I have met. I can think of no one except the pope who goes to so many countries to meet all those people from so many countries for a reason that doesn’t involve war or football. Peaceful.
How’s that? (laughs)
Terrific. That’s a wrap!