From Darth Vader’s helmet to Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, Star Wars has never failed to deliver unforgettable icons. One of the most enduringly popular – Boba Fett, with his distinctive Mandalorian armour and intimidating masked stare – captured the imaginations of audiences during the original trilogy in less than twenty minutes of screen time. We spoke with the man behind the costume, Jeremy Bulloch, about his cult favourite character’s appeal, the time he tripped Darth Vader and all the Boba Fett collectibles in Sotheby’s upcoming Star Wars-themed auction Return of the NIGO.
How did you come about playing Boba Fett?
My half brother brought the Boba Fett role to me. He asked me to come meet George Lucas – I thought I’d heard of that name before – and a couple other people. They said, “Welcome aboard. It’s not a big role, but I’m sure you’ll have a good time.” Back then I was a bit worried that I’d be late for a show I was doing in the theatre every evening.
Were you excited to join the trilogy with The Empire Strikes Back?
Yes, I was certainly a fan. Now my youngest granddaughter has been hooked. She keeps asking me, “Can you show the bit you’re in?”
Do you have any favourite memories from working on the films?
I can’t say it was my favourite, but when we were preparing for the carbon freezing chamber scene I trod on Darth Vader’s cloak and he fell. To see Darth Vader fall is quite funny.
Did anyone inspire your performance?
Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars. He walks around very slowly in a cape and it sort of flutters about. That is definitely Boba Fett.
And speaks very little. Boba Fett has about five lines total, right?
Exactly. I would look through my helmet visor thinking, “This is the smallest part I’ve ever played. Surely I’ll have more lines.” But in fact it’s better that Boba Fett does nothing. Standing still with that incredible cape and helmet and gloves is much stronger than waving a gun around yelling, “I’m Boba Fett the Bounty Hunter.” Plus, in the theatre I never stopped speaking. So it was a fun role.
Why do you think a character with relatively little screen time became such a smash success?
I just think it’s something about him. He’s a mystery. I once said to a friend of mine many years ago, “It’s funny with Boba Fett. He’s rather like getting on a bus while wearing strange clothes and then refusing to pay.” Right? Take the money off me if you can. He does what he wants.
Do you think the costume made a real impact on the audience?
The costume did it for me, really. I think when you see someone in those funny kneepads and the boots with little spears at the end of them, just one movement does an awful lot for the character. I suppose I have to thank Joe Johnston who designed the costume.
One of the pieces we have in the auction is a Boba Fett helmet signed by you.
Oh yes? I’ve collected a lot of Boba Fett stuff. My wife keeps saying, “For goodness sake you can’t keep walking around with that.” I keep it all in my office. A few weeks ago she collected something as well and I said, “You see? There’s something magical about Boba Fett.” Even Mrs. Fett is collecting.
What was it like the first time you saw yourself as an action figure?
Oh, that was terrific. I came running home. When we started filming they made some prototype. But this was different—it looked incredible. When you look at the way they make some of these models it’s just incredible craftmanship.
The collection we’re selling has over fifty Boba Fett action figures.
Yes, all the different editions and from countries around the world, like the Hungarian Boba Fett.
[Laughing] The Hungarian Boba Fett, that sounds good. I’ve got quite a few and I like to keep mine in my office. Occasionally you can turn around and say, “Thank you, Boba. Thank you for looking after my stuff.”
What is the craziest thing someone has asked you to sign at a convention?
I think it was in Wales last year when someone asked me to sign their arm. He rolled up his sleeve and there was a Boba Fett tattoo. I remember him saying that there was still a little bit he still wanted to get done, so I signed my name. The following week he was in London at another convention and showed me his arm again. It looked like sizzling flesh – he had tattooed my signature on. I said, ”Does it hurt?” And he said, “Yes it does!”
That’s very intense!
Yes! Little did I know after the release of The Empire Strikes Back how much it would snowball.
When did you first realize your character was a cult favourite?
When they rereleased the films on the main screen a couple years after The Return of the Jedi. There was a slight “Gasp!” as Boba Fett came on. If only I had that effect in normal life.
Have you heard about the rumours of a Boba Fett movie?
I think they will do a spinoff. I hope they do, because I would like to watch it. He’s such a good character. It would be nice to see him again. I’m sure something will happen.
Do you think Boba Fett will make an appearance in The Force Awakens?
I hope so! I know less than anybody in any universe. I much prefer not knowing what’s going to happen and then suddenly the wonderful John Williams music starts and the writing comes up. We haven’t got long to wait now.