Frank Henson (Biker Scout)

Frank Henson
Biker Scout, Stormtrooper, Skiff guard, Rebel commando (Return of the Jedi)
Interview: June 2010

How did you get started in the movie/stunt business?

I started as a Film Extra and then moved on to Stunt Work as I was an ex-Para (former army parachute regiment) and racing driver.

How did you get the job as stuntman for Return of the Jedi?

I worked on the very first Star Wars with Peter Diamond and then he asked me if I wanted to go to the USA for Return of the Jedi.

Were you aware of te fact that you were going to work on a movie that was going to be a blockbuster just like it’s predecessors?

I think we were all aware that like its predecessors it would be a great movie.

You played various parts in Return of the Jedi; a Biker scout and a Skiff guard being two of them. How did they assign the parts of the Skiff guards? You weren’t masked for instance, while your colleagues Paul Weston and Dickey Beer did have masks on.

I was established along with Harrison Ford without a mask and from then on in it was continuity.

In Return of the Jedi you were part of the crew that went to Buttercup Valley in Yuma, Arizona, for the Sarlacc Pit scenes. I’d like to ask if you can tell about your experiences there and the shooting of those scenes.

I also went to the Redwoods and San Francisco. The problem was that on the second day Glenn Randall, the US stunt arranger, had the skiff around 14 feet up. Everyone had to jump off and land on the foam underneath. I went first because of my experience of parachute jumps, followed by Colin Skeaping. I tore my ligaments and Colin got hurt too and we both went to hospital. Then another couple of Americans went after us and got hurt. Then I was featured later on, in the skiff and offered 10 days work. Paul Weston broke his leg and also a black American stunt guy had a wire that went through his hand and cut it.

Which stunts did you exactly do in Return of the Jedi besides the ones already mentioned?

I did a number of scenes as a Stormtrooper, fought with Mark Hamill on the Skiff, falling into the Sarlacc Pit and fighting with the Ewoks, and the speederbike scenes with Mark and Carrie Fisher.

I always get the feeling that the Star Wars stuntmen were a close group who didn’t had a lot of contact with the other cast members since you were mostly directed by the second unit director or the stunt coordinator. What is your view on this?

We had quiet close contact with Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, often going out to dinner and onto parties.

For Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom you doubled for Amrish Puri (who played Mola Ram) in the famous bridge scene. Can you share some memories regarding your work for Indiana Jones?

On the big scene we had three different bridges. On the main one, that was 135ft up, I was with Vic Armstrong who was doubling for Harrison Ford. When we got back to England, Spielberg never liked me and wanted to do a close up with Harrison… and Harrison actually requested to Spielberg to do the fight scene with me instead on a bridge with a much smaller drop. Also, we had a third bridge in Sri Lanka.

What is the most dangerous stunt you have ever done?

Being fired in a car 70 miles per hour through in a building and then carrying on being fired over a jetty into the sea. This knocked me unconscious and I woke up an hour and a half later in hospital with loss of memory and 64 stitches in my scalp.

What do you regard as the highlight of your career?

Working with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum.