Star Wars interview: Garrick Hagon

One on one with Biggs Darklighter, the fanboy’s favourite

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Already a veteran actor by the time he appeared in A New Hope, Garrick Hagon was dismayed to discover two of his three key scenes had been removed by the time the film made the cinema, as his character of Biggs Darklighter was deregulated from being Luke Skywalker’s childhood friend to merely another orange jumpsuit to buy the moisture farm at the Battle of Yavin. Steadily though, Biggs has made it back into canon – his reunion scene in the hangar of Yavin 4 was restored in the 1997 special edition, albeit with some dialogue altered, his back story explored in comics and books, and even his family are a key part of the Expanded Universe. Now all that remains is to see whether the Tosche Station has made it back for the Blu-ray…

Why do you think the Tosche Station scene has become such a big thing for fans?

“I think it’s just because it isn’t there! There are quite a number of deleted scenes but this is quite a long bit and I think they just want it to be there – I don’t why, because a lot of them have read the original book and they’ve seen pictures and so on, and of course now they’ve seen scene itself [as of the 1998 Behind The Magic CD-Rom], and there are some cuts – there’s one in Germany, where fans have put the scene or some of the scene back in. Gary Kurtz did a talk – I think it was Guardian lecture, he told me this a couple of weeks ago – he gave a Guardian lecture and he was asked this question – ‘Why wasn’t the scene put back in?’ or ‘Why was it cut originally?’ – and he gave quite a lengthy exposition about the narrative, how they wanted to follow C-3PO and R2-D2 into the film, and not get involved with a whole other storyline that really wasn’t leading to the central action with Han Solo and Leia and so on. Right at the beginning, after I’d seen the film for the first time and realised that my scene was out, or our scene was out, I think Gary was the first person I bumped into outside, in the foyer of the cinema [laughs], it wasn’t necessarily a happy meeting but we’ve become friends since. As to why people are interested in it, I think it’s because it’s a character they haven’t been able to explore, except in the books and the back stories, you know. In a way it was kind of a nice relationship that Mark and I had, that the characters had, and Mark and I as a team had in that scene, so there’s a fondness for it.”

Does it surprise you how invested people are in this character and exploring his universe?

“It always does, it always surprises me, and it’s very gratifying. It’s nice to know. I’ve had fans write small books about ‘me’ and ‘my’ family, and there is of course stories about ‘my’ father and Gavin and the other members of the Darklighter family, but it’s always nice to feel that the character lives on in a way. And certainly in terms of the merchandise, it’s been helpful that the various models have come out and maintained an interest, there’s even a little baby one that came out a couple of years ago, a little LEGO, and all sorts of stuff, because I happen to have a moustache I’m recognisable. I have been asked if it was part of the character and did I get rid of that after I did the film; it wasn’t just for the film, I had it on for a number other jobs. But yes, it’s the only moustache in the series… at least for a while anyway.”

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How did you did you first get involved in Star Wars?

“Just along with all the other actors in England who were up for it, there were a group of American actors in the film who lived and worked over here – quite a number. Most of us would have gone up through the casting director, Irene Lamb, and because I happened to be slightly known, and had a good agent, I went along to see George like all the rest of them. It was a nice meeting and we talked mainly about the film I’d done in Morocco [filming Mustapha Akkad’s Muhammad biopic Al-risâlah/The Message] because Morocco at that time was heavily used in film, and I’d been there for six months doing a film largely in the desert. Course, George was thinking of Tunisia for his locations, so we talked about that, and when it came to costume it was slightly Arabic so far as I had a cape, a nice black cape in that scene. And of course the costume was put together very well, it’s eclectic, it’s got a Russian shirt and a bit of bomber jacket, and leather pants from god knows where from the Angels wardrobe. As to why I got it, I had a good interview and I had a good track record in terms of my earlier work over here, and George apparently marked us all on a score of one to ten, and I had a high enough mark to get Biggs. It was a fairly straight forward actor process – you go to an audition, I didn’t have to read, and you talked to the director – luckily you see the director, nowadays you’re just put on tape. I had a very personable meeting and that’s it, I suddenly found myself in Tunisia, going down in a plane with Koo Stark [Camie in the Tosche Station scene] and Anthony Forrest [Fixer in the Tosche Station scene], and from then on in we were just on an adventure. Mark [Hamill, Luke Skywalker] met me door when my car arrived  at a resort hotel, Mark came out and I had a reunion with him, he said, ‘We’ve got this scene together and it’s going to be fun’, and all that stuff. And then we proceeded to have fun – maybe too much fun, it seems to me, because we had some quite heavy nights and we went riding up and down the beach on horseback, which we should not have been doing at all. When you’re on a film, you don’t go off and ride crazy Arab horses up and down the beach, but we did [laughs] and Mark was with us, so god forbid he should have ever fallen off. It was good – what crazy, crazy fun we had.”

Was there a strange atmosphere when the film was starting and people didn’t necessarily know where it was heading?

“We were just on a gig, we were on a gig in the desert. It was very hot and it was like any other film – I’ve been on a number of films on location, except with this one we didn’t know much about how it would turn out. I had no idea. Also, although I had the whole script of course, I wasn’t that familiar with science fiction and certainly with all the strange creatures they talk about in the script, it all seemed quite weird to me. I’d done a Doctor Who [as Ky in 1972’s ‘The Mutants’], but that wasn’t quite anything like this. It was all very exciting, we were young – well, quite young, Koo was the youngest and then I think Anthony was a bit older – we were having an adventure. When we got to the scene itself it was quite difficult to learn – I wasn’t too sure, I think I walked up and down the beach a lot trying to learn it because it wasn’t that easy, some of the dialogue was [laughs] fairly classical dialogue – it had quite an interesting turn of phrase and not always the easiest. I guess I learned it, maybe I didn’t learn it fast enough, I could’ve done it quicker – I’m not sure. Just working on the scene with Mark was a happy memory, it was a hot, friendly time.”

You must have been struggling in Tunisia with a jacket and a cape on!

“It was all part of the job, and you were working very early in the morning. And don’t forget I’d been working on a film in heavy Arab costume, and the Arabs wear more clothes in the heat, so the cape was fine – especially because it was a black one. I’d been wearing Arab clothes in the desert for the whole twelve months, right in the middle of the desert in Libya [on The Message] so I was kind of used to it by then.”