‘Who shot first?’ - the burning question for Greedo actor at Bury sci-fi exhibition
Actors from Star Wars and Batman helped launch the sixth annual Bury St Edmunds Sci-Fi & Action Exhibition at Moyse’s Hall Museum last weekend.
Paul Blake (Greedo in A New Hope), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi), Chris Bunn (the original Stormtrooper who appeared in the original trilogy) and Martin Ballantyne (one of the Joker’s henchmen in The Dark Knight) were on hand to meet fans at the event.
The Bury Free Press spoke to them about their memories of the films:
Paul Blake played the emerald-hued bug-eyed alien Greedo in A New Hope in a confrontation with smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
He remembers: “I got involved with it through Anthony Daniels who played C-3PO as we were working for the BBC in Jackanory.
“Every sci-fi film in the 70s was like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! so we weren’t holding out for our careers being made. No-one - apart from George (Lucas - the film’s creator) knew what was going to happen with Star Wars.”
With a franchise like Star Wars even background characters have their own mythos and Greedo’s reputation - despite just a few minutes of screen time and a hasty death after being originally shot by Han Solo (more on that later) - has grown in stature.
Paul says: “I’m an icon now - I’m very lucky really for such a small part and I’m sitting here 40-years later still talking about it. That’s purely because of George’s brilliance in writing the whole thing to begin with.
“This is what I will be remembered for even though I played Macbeth and been in the West End four times but I’m happy with that. To be remembered as an icon is pretty cool.”
‘Who shot first?’ was the question on everyone’s lips over the weekend though - referring to Lucas’s infamous tweaking of Greedo’s scene. In the original version of A New Hope, Han shot Greedo but in the special edition version of the film in the 90s, the scene was altered so Greedo fired at Han first.
The answer I give everyone is that it’s on the t-shirt ‘Han shot first’ so it must be true.
Paul laughs: “It’s the only conversation I ever have. The answer I give everyone is that it’s on the t-shirt ‘Han shot first’ so it must be true. I was there - I couldn’t have missed.”
When Michael Carter won the role of Jabba the Hutt’s right hand man Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi, the hype for what was then the final installment in the franchise was unprecedented.
Everything surrounding the film was a closely guarded secret - even its name.
He says: “I went off for an interview for a film called Blue Harvest. My agent had no idea what the film was about because no information was disclosed which wasn’t normal.
“I met with the director and he said it was a sci-fi film, it was the part of an alien, it would be a laugh and five weeks work - would I do it?
“I said I will and then he told me what it was but that I couldn’t tell anyone. I told my kids but told them not to tell anyone. My daughter came home from school crying her eyes out and said ‘I’m really sorry but I had to tell my best friend’.”
He had seen sequel Empire Strikes Back but not the first and ‘didn’t realise it was such a phenomenon’.
On working on the set surrounded by puppets, Michael remembers: “I would stand very still between set ups and a lot of the people thought I was another prop so they would try to lift me away.”
Chris Bunn was the man on whom the first Stormtrooper costume was based.
He says: “There was an agency, Central Casting, which cast every film within a 50 mile radius of London. I got sent down to Elstree Studios and was told to go straight down to the modelling shop.
“They made a plaster cast of my body and that was based on the stormtrooper.”
He remembers: “It was great - the costume was uncomfortbale though. It’s made of brittle plastic and used to pinch all of the joints.”
Chris went on to appear in all three films but didn’t anticipate how big the franchise would be when he first started.
“I didn’t have a clue,” he said. “I had a friend of mine who had family living out in America and he was telling me stories about his relatives going to see it about 10 times a week.”
He also appeared in bit parts in four Bond films - The Spy who Loved Me, View To A Kill, The Living Daylights and Moonraker.
Out of all of his work, Martin Ballantyne’s favourite project was working on The Dark Knight alongside actor Heath Ledger, who tragically died aged just 28.
“I got to work with (Christopher) Nolan who is an amazing director and Ledger who was a friend of mine,” he says. “We used to go out to have a ciggy together between takes. He was an amazing man.”
He also appeared in two Harry Potter films - first in The Half Blood Prince as Scary Face and then in The Deathly Hallows Part One as Mundungus Fletcher’s associate - as well as in the Golden Compass.
Martin says: “I started in amateur dramatics and mainly did theatre.
“I used to be 26 stone - I’ve lost eight stone now. When you’re 26 stone there aren’t many people of that size and you start cornering the market of playing bodyguards and doormen and that transposed over to film.”
The exhibition runs until November 15.