"Barry Hollywood"The Bothan Spy's interview with Barrie Holland, published August 7, 2006
"You Rebel Scum."
Those three simple words are enough to bring people back in time, and is instantly associated with the Rebel's capture in the Endor bunker in Return of the Jedi. Such a simple phrase, but considered one of the most classic in a series of classic quotes from the Original Star Wars trilogy.
What then makes this line so memorable? A large part of that is in the delivery. That comes straight from the actor who portrayed that famous Imperial Officer, Lt. Renz, Mr. Barrie Holland. The Bothan Spy was fortunate enough to sit down with Mr. Holland and ask him to reflect on his movie memories. Mr. Holland was a very gracious person with a great deal to share and some very interesting notes on other aspects of his career.
You are known within the industry as Barrie Hollywood. Who first called you this, and was it related to any specific time or incident?
Because I had the knack over the years of picking up small speaking parts and special action sequences with famous actors , one of my friends with his great humor nicknamed me 'Barrie Hollywood' and it stuck. I used to have a lot of leg-pulling about it but it paid off in the end. I gave up trying to live it down and just went along with it and it stood me in good stead. I was even registered with one film agent as Barrie Hollywood because he had a dancer on his books who's name was 'Barry Holland' and I couldn't use my own name.
What were some of your early influences in choosing a career as an actor, and did you ever get to work with your childhood idols?
When I was a small boy my late father introduced me to the cinema and took me on a regular basis. He loved westerns and I soon became addicted to them as well. England was a very austere place in those days, during and directly after the second World War, and the only glamour one had was a visit to the cinema where you could forget about the aftermath of the war and dream on. I just wanted to be up there with Alan Ladd, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, Humphrey Bogart, having all that fun and fame and getting paid for it. It seemed light years away from the world which I grew up in. The main influences were from all of those old Hollywood movies of the forties when stars were stars and seemed to live in a magical world of make believe. You would come away from the cinema thinking you could be a cowboy, a pirate, a gangster and have all those adventures surrounded by all of those beautiful ladies ... whow! YES, I worked with Richard Widmark, Robert Preston, Vincent Price, James Cagney, Sterling Hayden to name but a few. Not one of them was ever a disappointment to me. To see full list please refer to my website: www.barrie-hollywood.co.uk. I would have loved to have met Alan Ladd, John Garfield, Burt Lancaster, George Raft, plus many others and all of those top cowboy heroes...like Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, John Wayne, Glenn Ford and Joel McCrea but unfortunately never did, despite all of those years in the business!
It wasn't a straight jump into films. You served both in the British military and at an automotive factory before you began your career in entertainment. How did you make the jump from these experiences into showbiz, and did they have any impact on the direction your career took?
I did some amateur stagework when I was a teenager before going into the Army for National Service and upon returning to civilian life I landed a position as Photographic Controller in the Publicity Dept of Vauxhall Motors where I arranged all of the car photography for brochures, posters etc and arranged TV Filmlets. I would book the models, photographers and locations and go out to get the job done. This gave me good contacts in London with top model agencies of the time and some years later on becoming redundant moved on into that field and then into movies. My Website, www.barrie-hollywood.co.uk, explains this in more detail.
Many people are probably unaware that you were a male model before you became a film actor. Can you describe that time in your life, and maybe share some stories for us?
Back in 1967 when I left my public relations position at Vauxhall Motors, I moved into the world of modelling because of the great contacts I had made during this time. I was taken on the books of a couple of top model agencies in the West End of London. I actually did a six-week course at the then London Academy of Modelling to learn how to do fashion shows properly (in fact I eventually went to teach for them on a part-time basis several years later). Over the years, I did fashion shows and photographic modelling. For a list of some of my work during this period please refer to the end of my website. It was also a lot of fun particularly being surrounded by those beautiful gals!!! Looking back I think sometimes it was a bit pretentious! A lot of my friends not in the business used to pull my leg about it but at the end of the day I had the last laugh! It was money for 'old rope'...just standing around 'posing' but it eventually opened up the door to enable me to get into the film business and become am actor ... which was all I ever wanted to do. Of course, like film auditions, you didn't get every job you went for. There were probably as many disappointments as there were successes. But I loved it. During my years at Vauxhall, I was known as 'The Tailor's Dummy' because I was always dressed up like 'James Bond'. I used to wear a different suit every day for two weeks and then start again. Whereas most of the other executives would wear the same old tired suit day in and day out. It wasn't a show-off thing, it was just me feeling comfortable ... but it got me noticed! I was always very influenced by all of those old forties actors with their D/B suits and pocket handkerchiefs. You can blame Alan Ladd for that! Ha! Ha! I remember once in 1967 I was going around seeing photographers in London and I didn't bother to call in to see my agent of the time ... coming home later, hot and bothered, my girlfriend of the day told me that the agent had been trying to get hold of me all day long. So the next morning I rang him early and found that he had wanted me to do a fashion show in Germany for four days. The air tickets were on his desk but as he couldn't contact me so he gave the job to another model. I was very disappointed at the time but I found out later that day that my passport was out of date ... so that would have been even more embarrassing. You must realize that in those days, before the barriers were down in Europe, you couldn't get a passport renewed at short notice like you can today. Either way I would have missed out.
One can assume that if nothing else, modelling would give you an advantage entering the film business, as it is partial training in learning how to look before a camera. Are there any other ways in which modelling benefited you in the transition to film work?
There is no doubt about it that modelling can be very beneficial in the transition to film work. It was for me anyway. You learn how to carry yourself properly and to always be upright and not slouch ... great deportment ... and gave you good dress sense and the ability to wear clothes with ease and to always look smart. It taught you how to coordinate clothes so that everything matched and it gave you a lot of confidence in front of other people and the Camera. Also, it was a great teacher in how to look at the camera. The British actor Dirk Bogarde once said in a radio interview that Alan Ladd taught him the secret of film acting ... that it was the way in which you looked at the camera! One learns all the time in this business but having worked in public relations, the other side of the camera, photographic and fashion modelling and films and television, there is no doubt in my mind that working in all of these areas has contributed to my ability to obtain some measure of success in my chosen career.
What was your first film, and can you recall any stories you would like to share about that experience? What was your role in that film?
I went to a casting for a model agency for a small part in The Greek Tycoon as a party guest on a yacht to do a scene with Anthony Quinn but there were some internal politics at the time and it didn't materialize ... so much for great acting! Ha! Ha! Turned out the assistant director had stuck a friend of his in before I got there. often, it's who you know ... but truthfully, I was quite annoyed at the time and had a row with the assistant director ... didn't do me any harm though, I have always been very professional (although I had a lot of fun) and like to be treated as such. I will not take second best from anyone.
In Return of the Jedi, you play an Imperial Officer in the bunker on Endor named Lt. Renz. Your screen time was short, but you said one of the most remembered lines in the trilogy when you captured Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca, and said the immortal line "You Rebel Scum!" Can you describe any memories of filming that scene?
It was a lot of fun to do but required very precise timing as it was a small set and it took one and a half days to shoot. I remember Harrison said, "let's go and have a coffee and discuss how we should do this." As there were too many 'Chiefs' telling us how to do it from the cameraman to the director to the assistant director, etc. I had to run onto the set with seven stormtroopers (although in the new version you only ever see five). I have to be there when he turns to catch another satchel bomb but turns into my gun instead. If I get there too late, he turns into empty air. If I get there too early, my gun is in his back. He is on the move remember ... not just standing there waiting for me. Also, all of my stormtroopers are having to take their marks. Their general vision is impaired like a horse wearing blinkers so they are relying on me to get it right. I had a timing light and it would buzz and I would count to so many seconds and then run into the set with my men. You are also working to the camera frame and if you get the wrong position, Harrison may step back out of frame or vice versa. Not a long sequence, but a very difficult one to get right. All was well in the end. When we first rehearsed and I said "You Rebel Scum", Harrison said, "What did you call me?" and laughing, he playfully slapped my face lightly ... the rest is history.
That line has become such an enduring piece of dialogue that LucasFilm actually put a trademark on it. What kind of feeling does this create? It must seem very surreal at times.
I must admit I never thought all these years later that it would become a 'Cult Line'. It was just another job at the time. As the great James Cagney once said, "To put the groceries on the table." It is weird how things come around isn't it?
You obviously spent time working directly with stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Peter Mayhew. Are there any interesting stories concerning them that our readers may find interesting?
Sorry, but none that I can think of. I remember Carrie was very nice ... as was Mark Hamill and everyone else. Of course I see Dave Prowse and Kenny Baker and some of the other main actors quite often at the celebrity shows ... great guys. Although I did meet Peter Mayhew for the first time in years at a Lucasfilm party in Indianapolis, U.S.A. at C3. I hadn't spoken to him for twenty three years.
Return of the Jedi was a very tightly closed set, with George Lucas going so far as to use the fake name Blue Harvest during filming to deter fans and media alike from interrupting production. Have you ever worked on another film with security this tight and did it make filming awkward at all? What are your memories of George Lucas?
I never met George Lucas while filming Return of the Jedi but I did meet him the following year while I was working on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1983 at EMI Studios, England. I stopped him in a corridor during a break in filming (I worked on it for two weeks) to ask him if I could get any photographs taken on the set of Return of the Jedi the year before (1982) by the stills photographer (which I had been promised but did not materialize). He was great and arranged for me to get two sets of rare pics taken during filming. He is very quiet, modest and a perfect gentleman ... a thoughtful man with charm and courtesy.
While instantly familiar, the scene in the bunker is not the only one in which you appear. You also accompany Darth Vader in a scene on the Death Star and are present during the arrival of the Emperor. Were all of these shots done in a short time, or were you called back several times during production to film these? In the Emperor's arrival scene, it looked like there were a lot of extras in stormtrooper costumes and it took place in a large hangar. How many extras were on hand just to shoot that scene and was the hangar built to full scale (or was it only a partial set)?
From what I remember, they took several days to shoot. I think it was a very large stage and there were many 'extras' in costumes. Sorry, but it was a long time ago and I can't recall much about the set only that it was enormous with lots of Officers in the grey uniform and stormtroopers.
Star Wars was just the tip of the iceberg in a long list of films you appear in. I would like to ask you some questions about the many other movies you have played parts in.
Return of the Jedi was not the only time you worked with Harrison Ford and George Lucas on a film. You had a small part in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which you portrayed the man who boxed up the Ark in the American warehouse. It continued in Temple of Doom when you played a bar patron who kicks the diamond from the reach of Kate Capshaw and a musician who had to jump out of the path of the runaway gong, and concluded in The Last Crusade where you played a Nazi customs official at the airport. Can you describe your experiences on the sets of the Indiana Jones trilogy? Is there a different feel when you are returning to a familiar franchise to shoot sequels, or does each film feel as fresh as the ones that preceded it?
Each one feels different to me. My favorite was working on Temple of Doom as I spent two weeks in the night club at the beginning. The first week was on the first unit with Harrison and Steven Spielberg and the second week was on the second unit with director Frank Marshall doing bits and pieces. I had met Frank on Raiders of the Lost Ark four years earlier and it was he who gave me the job of kicking the stone away from Kate Capshaw. Once again it was a difficult piece of timing. He is a very pleasant director to work with. As is Steven Spielberg, who I have had the pleasure of working with four times, on the Indiana Jones trilogy and Empire of the Sun. Both of these directors treat all artistes with great courtesy and it was always a pleasure to meet and work with them. Directors do not come any better ... believe me.
You have worked in over 200 films to date. Among these are some true fan favorites and classics, such as Batman (1989), The Greek Tycoon, best picture Oscar winner Chariots of Fire, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Aliens, A Fish Called Wanda, Superman I, III, and IV, and several James Bond films. Which film are you most proud of personally and do you have any stories you would like to share concerning these?
They were mostly just other small acting jobs. There was a lot of work around in those days and you tended to go from one film to another at short notice (unless you had bigger roles which might take a couple of weeks to shoot). Batman was probably my favorite as I had a dialogue scene with Billy Dee Williams and the late Pat Hingle in Wayne Manor. I live literally 30 yards away from the back entrance to Hatfield House in a 16th Century building. As you probably know, Hatfield House was used for the interiors of Wayne Manor in Tim Burton's film. Whereas the exteriors were filmed further up the county of Hertfordshire at Knebworth House because of the gothic architecture of the building giving it an ideal look for Wayne Manor from the outside.
Obviously, with so many films to your credit, the list of top stars you have worked with reads like a who's who of Hollywood. Among others, you have worked with Alan Ladd, James Cagney, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Vincent Price, Meryl Streep, Sophia Loren, and Kim Basinger. Who is the person you have most enjoyed acting with, and have you retained any friendships over the years as a result of working with them?
I did work with all of the above with the exception of the late Alan Ladd who was my boyhood favorite and who had written to me for years when I was younger, before his untimely passing at the tender age of 50. It was always a big disappointment for me that I never met or worked with him. He was such a great guy ... so faithful to his fans. Not many actors were like him. He was a great role model for me to remember how to treat all the fans when I go to shows. I have several really personal letters from him in the fifties plus many private family photos you never see printed anywhere ... and other memorabilia. He was a truly great Star and a very underrated film actor ... never given the credit he deserved. Other favorites from the above list would be Vincent Price who was another of the best actors you could ever meet. What a nice man. We had a lot of fun together during a week's filming on The Monster Club in 1980. He used to make me laugh, particularly early in the morning at the studio, as we shared the same make-up artist ... the late Roy Ashton (another very pleasant man) There was only Roy, Vincent and myself in the make-up room and Vincent would tell all of these funny stories. It was a fun film to work on. I kept in touch with Vincent until his passing in 1993. He was a wonderful actor. It was one of my fondest memories ever of all of the films I worked on. Anthony Hopkins is another favorite of mine having worked with him five times over the years in: The Elephant Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Good Father, and another TV best-seller ... the title which escapes me for the moment. I had some very interesting conversations with him as to how he would approach a particular role ... a very pleasant man ... we are the same age. Meryl Streep was very nice but I just had a small conversation with her in between scenes. Sophia Loren was fabulous and a very gracious lady. I was madly in love with her image for years. She is as beautiful in real life as she is in films but beautiful inside as well as out ... one of the best actresses I ever had the pleasure to work with and meet. What real man could ever forget her in El Cid. How I used to envy Charlton Heston. And there I was sitting next to her on the set talking about movies...WHOW! What an experience! Finally, I did work with the late great James Cagney for three weeks on Ragtime. I had the pleasure of being taken to meet him in the restaurant at Shepperton Studios in England in 1980 for a private conversation. He was the chief of police in the film and I was one of his Pinkerton detectives. He was a real class actor and a great favorite of mine for years. Other great favorites, who I was lucky to meet and work with, were Robert Preston, Steve Forrest, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, James Mason among many others over the years. I had some great conversations with all of them but let's not forget the ladies ... Joan Collins was great (we share the same birthday). I have already mentioned some above but there were many others ... see my website.
I notice that you have mentioned the late Paramount Film Star Alan Ladd several times in this interview. He seems to have had a great influence in your life and in your career choice. Did you know that his son Alan Ladd, Jr. was instrumental in backing George Lucas to get Star Wars into production, and that without his help it may have never happened?
Yes, I did. It's very strange how my liaison with Alan Ladd over the years has come around. I had been a big fan of his since I was a boy in the forties (having communicated with him personally for some years during the fifties and the early sixties) and now forty two years after his passing I am now appearing as a 'guest actor' courtesy of his first son Alan Ladd, Jr. So once again, the name 'Alan Ladd' has had an affect upon my life. Even by pure coincidence, my area postcode is AL 9 5 AL ... WEIRD! I once had a car reg. no. A328 G LA ... once again, pure coincidence! His 'ghost' appears to be looking over my shoulder! Who would have ever thought all those years ago that his influence would one day be instrumental in getting me recognition in the film world as a 'celebrity actor'?
Thanks to Barrie Holland for taking the time to take part in this interview.