I have gotten to meet and interview the actor behind the mask of Boba Fett, Jeremy Bulloch, numerous times over the years. He has always been very friendly, sharing lots of stories, and he’s animated about them. A regular at many conventions to meet and sign for fans, Bulloch also loves to speak onstage, and he’ll get young people involved with him.
A few years ago I videotaped Bulloch seeking volunteers from the audience to help him with a Boba Fett project. He had his Boba Fett helmet and laser rifle on the stage, and called for about 15 young fans to help act out a scene. The scene was from The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader puts Han Solo in carbonite, and Boba Fett is worried Han Solo will die.
Boba Fett is the favored bounty hunter among Star Wars fans with a huge following. I have seen so many Boba Fett items that fans have gotten signed by Bulloch, not to mention costumes, tattoos and more. An empire of media and memorabilia revolves around the Boba Fett character, who made his debut in The Empire Strikes Back, and returned to an unfortunate demise in Return of the Jedi.
Bulloch appeared in 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but not as Boba Fett—he played Captain Colton. Recently, I interviewed Bulloch at the October 24-26, 2008 Chiller Theatre Convention in Parsippany, N.J.
Mark Gross: How did you begin acting?
Jeremy Bulloch: I began in drama school at age 12, actually because I failed an exam to get into sports. I really don’t remember why I went toward drama school, but I had a very good career as a young actor, from children’s films to a soap opera I did for years, musicals, and then suddenly, this Boba Fett role came along. It wasn’t a very big part—he only says four lines in the whole film. But there’s an old saying, “There’s no such thing as a small part.” So however you do it, if you have one word, and you play it well—there you have it.
Did you know what role you were trying for when you auditioned?
I knew it was the part of a bounty hunter, but I could have got the part of any bounty hunter, Zuckuss, Dengar, any of them. The actual interview was gentle and it was interesting trying on the suit—he told me to walk in it.
When you say “he,” do you mean George Lucas?
Yes, and George could have hired a stuntman to play this role, but he really wanted an actor to play him because there were a lot of bits where I had to hit marks without being able to see, so you count them off in your head. Then you know to lean to the left, or pull your shoulders back. And, before I even started the film, someone had shown me the Boba Fett character figure with that costume. It looked great—there was something about the outfit, and it looked like a good character.
What projects do you have coming up?
Well, when I get home back to England, they are going to be showing six episodes of a series I did called Starhyke, which is a crazy show where I played a doctor who is completely insane—you would never send anyone to him to be cured. I am curious to see what channel is going to pick it up. We actually finished it almost three years ago, and they’ve been trying to really push it there. It was low budget, but really fun to do. You have to be positive, so if it doesn’t make it to a major channel and goes straight to DVD, then so be it! Also, I just finished a series for the BBC called Bonekickers, and it should hit the United States in maybe about eight months.
You were also in two serials for the BBC sci-fi show, Doctor Who, in the 1960s and ’70s.
Yes. Actually, I just did an audio book for Doctor Who. I had to do all the voices. It was quite difficult to do all those voices because it was non-stop speaking. I’ll suddenly have to change over to the woman’s voice, and they’ll say, “Cut, your voice sounded too much like a man that time.” So it is quite intense.
What do you think of your fan base and signing autographs for them?
Fans are absolutely terrific. And when young kids come up, they don’t know what to say, so I have to put them at ease very quickly.
Tell me about your book Flying Solo? [A lighthearted autobiography, interspersed with stories of attending conventions.]
I put a lot into Flying Solo, which is signed and limited to just 2,000 copies—it’s really a collector’s item. I have also been giving thought about doing another book, which I might think about for next year.
Do you collect anything yourself?
I actually collect Boba Fett stuff.
Who would you want an autograph from?
Well, Gene Hackman, Robert Deniro, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, Halle Berry—people like that.
Just remember, if you ever have a price on your head, beware of that clever bounty hunter Boba Fett. He will catch you eventually, but not kill you, because as he said to Darth Vader “He’s no good to me dead!” May the force be with you!
Served up Rare
by LAWRENCE GROBEL
One of my favorite actors is Anthony Hopkins. Sir Anthony Hopkins. He has displayed extraordinary versatility in the range of roles he’s taken, from the decent, eccentric New Zealander whose dream it was to break a motorcycle speed limit on the Bonaventure flats in Nevada (The World’s Fastest Indian) to the repressed and reserved butler in The Remains of the Day to the representation of pure evil in his three Hannibal Lecter films (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon). Hopkins has given us performances that have chilled and thrilled and captivated us for all the years he has been acting. He’s played such controversial real-life characters as William Bligh in The Bounty, Richard Nixon in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, John Quincy Adams in Amistad, Yitzhak Rabin in Victory at Entebbe, Pablo Picasso in Surviving Picasso, Adolph Hitler in The Bunker and Richard Bruno Hauptman in The Lindbergh Kidnapping. More recently he appeared in The Human Stain, based on Philip Roth’s novel; Oliver Stone’s Alexander; Proof, based on the play by David Auburn; the remake of All the King’s Men; Emilio Estevez’s Bobby; and Fracture, costarring Ryan Gosling.
He’s been nominated for six Golden Globes, four Emmys, and four Academy Awards. He won two of the Emmys (for Hitler and Hauptman) and one Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs. Unlike some of his contentious peers like Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, who refused their Oscars on principles Hopkins never understood, Hopkins considered winning his Oscar as a greater achievement than being knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1993.
“Getting the Oscar was a great moment for me,” he has said. “It changed my life because it knocked a lot of myself down inside of me. Not crippling self-doubts, but doubts that I wanted to be rid of. I think praise is a very good thing to have in one’s life. It’s better than a kick in the ass.”
I got to know Hopkins just after he was knighted and presented with his Oscar for playing Lecter. His on-screen time in Silence of the Lambs was twenty-seven minutes, yet his presence was so pervasive that his award was for Best Actor, rather than Supporting Actor. I met him at hotels in Beverly Hills and in Santa Monica and we spent long hours discussing his personal and professional life. He was fascinating to talk to, full of energy and opinions. I must admit, having seen him as Hitler and as Hannibal the Cannibal, I approached him with some trepidation. I really didn’t know what to expect. He was friendly, but a bit wary at the time. He really wasn’t all that fond of being interrogated. It’s one thing to talk to a reporter about a current movie or art project, but quite another when that reporter wants to dig deeper, get more personal, and try to lift the lid to get beneath the often well-honed surface. Hopkins surprised me with his candor about his childhood, which he was willing to discuss in heartbreaking detail.
“I was an idiot at school,” he said. “I didn’t know what time of day it was. We lived in the rural part of an industrial steel-working town. And when I first went to school, I was in a completely alien environment. I can remember the smell of stale milk, drinking straws and wet coats, and sitting there absolutely petrified. And that fear stayed with me all through my childhood. That gnawing anxiety that I was freaky, that I wasn’t really fitting in anywhere. I didn’t know what was expected of me. I couldn’t achieve anything, and I couldn’t accomplish anything. I wasn’t popular at all. I never played with any of the other kids, didn’t have any friends. I wanted to be left alone right through my school years.”
Just as surprising was what he had to say about actors and acting. “What’s so special about being an actor?” he said. “Actors are nothing. Actors are of no consequence. Most actors are pretty simple-minded people who just think they’re complicated.”
But that was in the early nineties, before Hopkins had married for the third time and mellowed a bit. In 2004 I interviewed him again when he was promoting Proof. I asked if he was no longer restless. “No,” he answered. “I’m happily married now, and I’ve changed a lot. I don’t want to sit in a trailer and work long hours anymore. I play the piano. Read. I’m painting with acrylics now. I have a small show of my work in San Antonio. Go to restaurants and let my wife do the ordering. I very much stay at home. Which is good.”
I wondered if he had read any books about mathematicians, to prepare for the role of a brilliant mathematician in Proof. “No,” Hopkins said, “but I’m a pianist, so I do have an attraction to math, even if I don’t understand it. I’m slightly obsessed with numbers and dates. I can work out, mathematically, certain dates. Today’s the 28th of June, a Tuesday. There’s also a 28th of June on a Tuesday in 1955, exactly fifty years ago. I can work out what dates fall on what days through the ages. I worked this out in Chicago. My wife was asking me, “Are you counting on your fingers?” I can remember dates of years throughout my whole life, and what day they fell out on, what I was doing. So I suppose I have locked in my brain somewhere a mathematical talent. I don’t use it because I don’t need it.”
When Hopkins was a boy, he once wrote to Humphrey Bogart, asking for an autograph. Bogart sent him a photograph. He once asked and received an autograph from his fellow Welshman, actor Richard Burton. The third actor he wrote to for an autograph was Charlie Chaplin, who sent one to him. “They were prized from the time I had them until I lost them,” Hopkins recalled. And he’s never forgotten what it feels like to want someone’s autograph. “When people stand in line at a premiere,” he says, “I try to sign as many as I can.”
Hopkins has a confident, beautiful signature. When I asked him to sign a copy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, which Hopkins made memorable as the butler Stevens, Hopkins wrote: “Dear Larry, I think we should take breakfast in the drawing room. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins).” In James P. O’Donnell’s The Bunker, he inscribed it in character, using the same initials as Adolph Hitler: “All orders must be obeyed without question at all. A H” And when I handed him my copy of Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, he wrote: “Next time we meet Larry will be in England for a few dinners of raw liver fava beans and chianti. So until then—pleasant dreams. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).”
Just from these inscriptions one can see that Hopkins is a playful, confident, complex person. And yet, when it comes to acting, the pragmatist in him always made it sound simple: learn your lines, show up, get on with it. But was it really that easy?
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “The hardest part is putting off the procrastination. I take the script and sit down with a bunch of pencils and markers and go through it very thoroughly until I feel relaxed inside, that I know what I’m doing. I turn up prepared. That’s what I do. I learn the script. Then I go through the preparation, the wardrobe, and I know where I am and what I’m going to do. But once they start rewriting on set, I say no. ‘No, no. I’ve done my preparation, don’t start rewriting it now. I’ll have to take another three weeks off.’ I always make sure that the rewrites come in time so I can learn them. I worked on a film once with Chris Rock [Bad Company]. The producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, would rewrite stuff. I said to him one day, “Why do you do this? To torture us? I just want to let you know when you send me these new pages I throw them in the trash.” People were shocked: “You talk to Jerry Bruckheimer that way?” Yeah, screw it. If he sends me pages on the day we’re shooting, they go in the trash can.”
When I saw him more recently, he was filming Slipstream, a small movie blending fiction and nonfiction, reality and illusion, which he wrote, was directing, starring in and had composed the music for. He seemed happy and self-satisfied. He loved being so totally immersed in all facets of moviemaking. And he was preparing for a showing of his art work in a gallery in Texas. He showed me his drawings, which were small and well done, mostly of landscapes and flowers. He said he used photographic paper, which gave them their shine. He drew with a kind of Sharpie pen, with various colors. He said his last exhibit had sold out.
He spoke about how he felt invigorated doing his art, composing music, making a personal film. “Everyone has genius within him,” he said. “It just has to be explored.” And then he confessed to changing his attitude about his profession. “I used to always put down actors and acting, but I realize now that when I said that, I was protecting myself, saying it before someone else could say it and hurt me.”
Hopkins turns seventy in December, 2007. It’s taken him a long time, but he’s finally beginning to mellow.