Vedain (Return of the Jedi)
Interview: December 2006
What got you started as a stuntman?
I started in the early days as a model. My agent sent my as an understudy to Roger Moore for The Saint series. I had a part then. They thought I did it so well and asked if I could double for someone else. I had never done stunts, but I was very physical and thought why not? I had to ride bikes for stunts and became his stuntman. It was never my plan to become a stuntman, but I was lucky enough to work for series like The Avengers. This started my career.
This was in the late sixties I guess?
Yes, late sixties, early seventies.
In the early eighties you did stunts for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Which stunts did you exactly do and in which scenes can we see you?
I was many Arabs. I was also a German in the back of the truck that carried the Ark of the Covenant. When Harrison Ford takes over the truck and knocks down the driver we decide to move along the side of the vehicle. I was one of the Germans that gets hit by a tree and falls down. The rest of the time I played soldiers that get shot down. When Karen Allen is in the cockpit of the plane that fires, I was in the truck that drives by and gets shot. I also doubled Anthony Higgins (Gobler) in the command vehicle that gets knocked over the cliff.
For Return of the Jedi you played the part of Vedain. How did you get that specific part?
It was just luck. I was going to double for Harrison Ford as well. The set me up as Vedain in the rehearsal of the skiff scene where I had to fall in the Sarlacc Pit. I was doing the fight with Billy Dee Williams…
…and you broke your leg when you fell off the skiff.
Yes, the wires broke. As the harness snapped, Williams’ stunt double tried to grab the cable and it cut through his hand. Instead of just me falling we both fell and he landed on top of me and I broke my leg.
And that was the end of Return of the Jedi for you?
Yes, that was it. It was unfortunate as I was going to double for Harrison and I would have loved to do that.
Were you also cast to play other parts? A stormtrooper maybe?
I was, but we never got to do that.
I heard you still have the plaster, signed by a lot of cast members.
Yes. (looks surprised) Who told you that?
Well, you once told this in a documentary for the Sci-Fi Channel. You were interviewed along with Frank Henson (editors note: another stuntman) and I got it on DVD.
Is it a special keepsake from the movie?
Yes, it is. Carrie Fisher signed it and a lot of backstage people.
How was the atmosphere on the set back then, back in 1982 in Yuma, Arizona?
It was very good. Everybody knew obviously that we were in a successful movie at that time. Spirits were high, it was a good feeling. We were going to George Lucas’ apartment at the hotel to watch the shots we had done. It really was a good feeling. Richard Marquand, the director was also excellent.
And the other actors like Harrison?
Definitely. When I broke my leg Harrison used to take me to the town to do shopping if somebody wanted something. I was on crutches then. The shop assistant asked him: “You’re Harrison Ford, right?” He said: “No, I’m his double. That’s Harrison Ford over there.” And he was pointing at me. I don’t think they believed him.
And how was George Lucas to work with?
George was very serious and quiet. He knew what he wanted and what he was after. You can’t visualize things when you’re on a set. He can.
Back when Return of the Jedi was released your character didn’t have a name, he was just a Nikto skiff guard. Many years later he did get a name: Vedain. What do you think of this?
We were called Nikto’s on the set. It is nice to have a name and get recognized all these years later.
You have been a stunt coordinator on many big movies. What is your own personal favorite?
To this day Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my favorite movies. I had to work hard for two months in the heat of the desert. In that time it was quite something to work with Steven Spielberg as he was quite enthusiastic. It was also very funny seeing the big guy with the sword getting shot by Harrison. It was great being there.
Besides Indiana Jones and Star Wars you have done a lot of work for James Bond movies and you have worked with four different James Bond actors: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. Who is according to you the best Bond?
He was the first, and the best, Sean Connery. I think Pierce Brosnan, who is a friend and I know him for many years, comes closest. He has what Sean had and what Roger had. He has humor and a dark side, a certain viciousness. Pierce is a very good second next to Sean Connery.
Have you seen the new one? Casino Royale with Daniel Craig?
No, I think I’ll see it next week. (editors note: the interview was done a few days after the cinema release of Casino Royale)
It’s great, and Craig is terrific.
Timothy Dalton wanted to do the same type of Bond character as they are portraying him now. He had just taken over from Roger Moore with all the humor and glamour. Timothy wanted to have his nose bleeding and make it dark and dirty. The Bond people then said that Bond wasn’t like that and wanted to keep it as it was.
Well, twenty years later they got wiser! Many thanks for the interview!