I’ve known you for many years and you’ve helped me with a lot of interviews so this is weird and fantastic at the same time! You’re in a Star Wars movie! How does that feel?
It’s been a real pleasure Dennis knowing you all this time and it’s been an honor helping you out! You have done an excellent job with Star Wars Interviews over the years with all the many fascinating interviews you have conducted! It is strange because I never thought I would work on a Star Wars film and have the great honor of being interviewed by you! To say I was over the moon and floating on air when I found out that I was booked for one is a vast understatement! It’s unbelievable how hard it is to get on anything with the Star Wars name and I consider myself very, very fortunate!
When and where did you see a Star Wars movie for the first time and did you become a fan right at that moment?
Well that’s kind of a long story. I was almost 20 years old when A New Hope came out and actually didn’t see it until it was broadcast on HBO. In 1977 being the age that I was all I could think about were all the B science fiction films that were in abundance as I was growing up! I know it sounds sacrileges to say but I even thought the name ‘Star Wars‘ when I first heard of it sounded cheesy! All I could think of was pie plates on fishing lines. Even all the hype and hoopla didn’t influence me and there was plenty of it at that time! I’m from Orlando, Florida and what turned me around was in 1980 I went to work temporarily down in West Palm Beach for a company that an uncle of mine was vice president of. I only worked the week days and the company would offer to fly me back home or reimburse me for my petrol if I wanted to drive. Well one weekend I didn’t want to spend the time going back home so I just hung out and saw that The Empire Strikes Back was playing at the theatres. I went to see it to find out what all the fuss was about and was completely wowed by it and have been an avid fan ever since! I to this day still regret not seeing A New Hope when it was fresh in the theatres!
Your wife (Stephanie English) was in The Empire Strikes Back 38 years ago. What took you so long to get cast for a Star Wars movie? Seriously: how did you manage it?
Yes, it’s hard to believe that I saw my future wife Stephanie English in that movie theatre so many years ago in West Palm Beach! She portrayed a Hoth Rebel Technician at Echo Base. She has been working in the film business for 42 years. We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary actually on the other Star Wars day May 25th. We didn’t plan to have it on that day which was amazing it happened that way! Stephanie got me into film work shortly after we got married and I moved to London. The way it happened is Stephanie got an email from one of her agencies that she is with asking if she knew anybody who had an American vehicle. She responded saying her husband ‘me’ had a pickup truck. I brought my Ford Ranger pickup truck with me when I moved to London. I ended driving it in the Ridley Scott film The Counselor and that was my first film work gig. Since then I have worked on quite a few productions, mainly background but some featured and the one that I’m really proud of is a National Geographic movie documentary called The Jesus Mysteries where I played a main cast part as the apostle James the Elder alongside Nick Simmons who portrayed Jesus. Nick is the son of the founder and bass guitarist of the rock group KISS Gene Simmons. With getting on a Star Wars film or any film for that matter it’s really luck of the draw but I think it’s even harder because of the popularity of Star Wars and the same with films like the Harry Potter prequels. It’s mainly about your looks and what they are looking for to fill a role at the time. I was put up for Rogue One which I would have loved to have got on but to no avail! Now with Solo I was put up for it 4 times and the fourth time was the charm! I was very happy when I heard that I was going to be included into that “hive of scum and villainy”!
You run a great website called Sci-Fi Signers United where convention organizers can book actors from Star Wars and many other franchises. For the people who don’t know this site: what was the reason you started it?
Thank you for those kind words! Well actually a mutual acquaintance of mine and my wife started what was called the Sci-Fi Convention Signers Co-Operative and I helped run it with him until he decided to disband it. After that I started the Sci-Fi Signers United from scratch and kept the same spirit there! It’s a site where organizers can contact the actors and film professionals directly for shows and autographs without having to go through an agent. I don’t make any money from it. I offer it as a free service for the signers to help them out. A lot of them that are on it are mutual friends that Stephanie has worked with over the years and some of the new ones are friends I have worked with on other productions.
Since you’re Star Wars character now I was wondering if you’re about to enter the signing/convention circuit yourself now?
No, it just wouldn’t be my cup of tea to do it. I really enjoyed going around the country with Stephanie when she was signing at shows but she is retired from doing them now and it wouldn’t interest me at all to do it myself. I will consign it to good memories of fun times! We both want to concentrate on the film work and I’m content just keeping the Sci-Fi Signers United running!
Back to Solo: please tell everything about the character you played and in which scenes you were in.
To start off when I went for my fitting I asked what my character was called and was supposed to be and the wardrobe guy said I was playing a reprobate a ‘cutthroat hunter’. I said well that sounds pretty cool! I was wearing a dark beret, a blueish grey long sleeved shirt, a dark suede coat that came down below my knees and it was left open with a wide belt wrapped around it with a large rectangle silver belt buckle and I had a leather ammo pouch attached to the belt. My trousers were baggy and black almost like cossack trousers. I also wore tall brown boots with greyish colored boot guards wrapped around them. To top it off I had an orange neck scarf that the wardrobe lady would make a point tying it in a French knot. She called me her little Frenchman every time I would go to change in to costume! From the day I got fitted to my last day on it I got French resistance comments and even one of the costume designers was amused by it when we were lined up my first day on set for a costume check! I also got a lot of Che Guevera comments because I guess I kind of looked like him with the beard and beret. I had a prosthetic scar on the left side of my face. It was a really cool getup! I was there for the Sabacc table scenes, the droid arena scenes and several bar area scenes! It was a really big and amazing set and spent I would say about 80% of my time on set. Some films you can spend hours in the green room or holding area before you are called to set but that wasn’t my experience on this one. I felt lucky when I was able to get outside to have a cigarette break I was on it a week and did 12/13 hour days each day. I was exhausted but man it was worth it! Also one of the days I was there they took me to a different part of the studio and did a 3-D scan on me in costume and also I did an action photo shoot doing various poses.
You were on the set with most of the main actors like Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover. How were all those stars on the set and behind the scenes?
All of them were absolutely awesome and what an honor it was for me to be amongst them with the many others who were there with me also! Man I’m still pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t all a dream! They all nailed their parts brilliantly and it was an honor to be able to witness that first hand and be a part of it all!
Could you share some good anecdotes regarding your time working on Solo? The more the better of course!
Well let’s see… there was one time when we were waiting for them to set up another shot on a different part of the set I decided to rest my weary legs after standing up most of the day and took a seat on Han’s sabacc table stool except I was sitting backwards to the table with both my elbows propped on the table with my legs stretched out and crossed in front of me. The only others that were sitting in that part of the room with me at the time were Therm Scissorpunch and his alien buddies! Another time I was waiting again for them to set up a shot and I was sitting on the stairs facing the bar area and the girl taking care of Joonas Suotamo stood directly in front me and had his Chewbacca mask in her hands but she was holding it behind her talking to somebody in front of her. She backed up a little too close to me and it started brushing me in the face so I had to move and find a different spot! My wife Stephanie dropped me off at Pinewood Studios each day in the morning and picked me up when we wrapped for the day and I would always sit at a bench next to the security office waiting for her to roll up in the car. The second day I was really tired because I hadn’t had much sleep the night before and also the night before that. I just wanted to get home, take a shower, get something to eat, go to bed and start it all over the next day! I completely forgot to have hair and makeup remove my scar after I derigged. When I sat down on the bench waiting for Stephanie a young woman was sitting on the bench also. After a while she looked at me and asked me if I was a stunt man. I said no why? Then she said how did you get that scar? At that moment I realized that I forgot to have it removed. I told her I was working on a film and it wasn’t real. She then asked me what film I was working on and I told her I couldn’t say! I thought that was pretty funny!
You joined Solo after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were replaced by Ron Howard, a real veteran director. How was he to work with and how does he distinguish himself from other directors?
Wow!!! What an honor it was to be directed by the legend who is Ron Howard! I would call him a director’s director! It was a pleasure to see him work and do his magic! He is a very hands-on director and knows exactly what he wants! He is also the first Oscar winning director to direct a Star Wars film! I grew up watching him on the Andy Griffith show and when I was a teenager watching him on Happy Days and the George Lucas masterpiece film which is American Graffiti!
What are the chances we will see a Rick Stanley action figure in the future?
Hahaha!!! Well they do have the scans and photos so they have the tools to make it possible! A person can only hope!!!