British actor Garrick Hagon reflects on his time as Biggs Darklighter in the original Star Wars movie — and being famous for having most of his scenes cut…
In the age of the Star Wars revival, where the films are abuzz from day one, creating huge lines outside cinema screens and even bigger figures at the box office, you can’t help but wonder how actor Garrick Hagon feels about it all. He was cast as Biggs Darklighter in 1977’s A New Hope, and was one of the pilots that died in the climatic attack on the Death Star.
But there was a whole back story for the character that was filmed, with Biggs revealed to be a childhood friend of Luke Skywalker’s in a scene on Tatooine meant for earlier in the movie, and later they are reunited before heading off for the final battle. Unfortunately for Hagon, director George Lucas wielded his cutting-room scissors, reducing Biggs to few mentions, some brief glimpses and an explosion somewhere in space.
In a time before DVD or Blu-ray, rumours spread among Star Wars fans of the deleted footage, and Biggs grew a steady following. Today, the scenes can be watched on YouTube, while Hagon himself attends conventions all over the world, receiving praise regardless of his limited screen time.
How do the fans react to you at conventions?
Biggs is a well-liked character. He was a great pilot and a good friend to Luke, so I think he has a lot of respect among the fans. They know about the deleted scenes, and then a lot of his background has been filled out even further, particularly in the Dark Horse comics.
And there are Biggs action figures…
There are. I can think of five available currently, with the Black Series, the Lego sets, the 12-inch figures – and that’s just Biggs in the orange pilot uniform. It took a while, but Hasbro has released one of me in the outfit I wore in the deleted scene, with the cape. And there was a convention recently where somebody showed me a Toys R Us exclusive they had of Biggs’ Red 3 X-Wing fighter. I don’t actually collect figures of myself, but that I would have liked.
How did you end up getting the part originally?
We all had auditions, but I remember it being very casual. I sat down with George [Lucas], and he didn’t really say an awful lot. There was no talk of the character or the scenes, so none of us had any idea what we were getting into. He told me we would be filming in Tunisia, so I said I had been to Morocco, and I think we formed a relationship from there.
So when did you first meet Mark Hamill, who your deleted scenes were with?
That was in Tunisia. There was a set built for Tosche Station, which is mentioned in the final cut, and I was there with a handful of other British actors playing Luke’s friends. Mark was not experienced in film, but he was in TV, and he was very sharp and quick, and very friendly and welcoming. He was excited to be the lead, and it was just fun… we probably partied way too much, but we were by the beach, and Alec Guinness was on the set, which was amazing.
All of the younger actors must have looked up to him…
Yes, and that was the thing, to have this great actor giving it a mark of quality. I’d actually worked with him as a child, when I was getting into stage acting in Canada, as he had come over to play Richard III. If he remembered me, he didn’t let on.
The scene you shot in Tunisia, you’re like a big brother to Luke…
Yes, it’s Biggs telling Luke he needs to get off the farm and join the Rebels, so he gives him the idea, but you don’t see that in the final film. He then meets up with Luke again at the Yavin base before the attack on the Death Star, where you see how close they are, and some elements of that were left in, but you don’t know where it’s come from.
Considering their friendship, Luke doesn’t show much remorse when Biggs dies…
[Laughs] He has some feelings of anxiety as I go down, but I think his attitude was, “I don’t have time for this, I need to get on, blow up the Death Star.”
What was it like shooting the Death Star battle?
Those scenes and the Yavin base were all back at Elstree Studios. We had one X-Wing cockpit that we would take turns to crawl in and out of to be filmed. It was quite a primitive setup, and all of the effects were done later. What they did there was amazing.
Were you disappointed to have been cut out of the completed film?
Oh yeah, of course. But it happens a lot, you get over it. Often I see actors go to premieres and wonder where their scenes have gone, but because of Star Wars I get to travel the world and meet all kinds of people, and I’ve been in lots of TV and film since.