"Going About His Business"The Bothan Spy's interview with Anthony Forrest, published September 19, 2008
Mr. Forrest is best known to Star Wars fans as 'Fixer', or rather 'The Fixer', as the character was cast. In a cut scene from the beginning of A New Hope, Luke rushes to Tosche Station to tell his friends Fixer, Camie, Deak and Windy about the space battle he just witnessed through his macro-binoculars. While this scene never saw the silver screen, Anthony did appear in Mos Eisley as the Sandtrooper sergeant inquiring about the droids. Both roles have left their mark on Star Wars history. Without further ado, let's meet Fixer himself!
Welcome to The Bothan Spy and thank you again for taking the time to talk with us. Your career has encompassed acting, directing, writing and composing, to name just a few aspects. Let's start at the beginning. Did you initially set out to become an actor? What was your first big break?
It's my pleasure. When I read all the things I'm involved in, it must seem a little confusing to people. So let me start with the major transformation that brought me to acting.
When I was young I was really into sports. My big dream as a kid growing up was to play professional baseball, but that unfortunately never came to pass. As a young teenager I was diagnosed with tuberculosis in my kidneys. I had pushed myself too hard. That, and a combination of an earlier TB vaccination, apparently created the problem. So, that was the end of that period.
I was lucky to grow up in a house where the arts; music, theater, poetry were a source of entertainment. So I explored those interests. I was very into classical music, especially the contemporary composers. In high school, I was in the drama club and performed in plays and variety shows and played in bands with friends. My first break came when I was 15. I did a two hand play at the Israeli Pavilion in Montreal. It was emotionally demanding, challenging and rewarding. That experience fueled my passion for acting. I developed a love of Shakespeare and an appreciation for the beauty and power of the English language.
Who were some of your influences growing up? What artists, past or present, inspire you today?
My influences growing up were really my family. I say it now in reflection on the life I had as a kid, because I've really come to appreciate how those early years as a child have a profound impact. My dad never failed to get out his guitar and entertain friends and guests with a song or recite a poem. Even into his 80's, he had an incredible memory for poetry. My mother was a wonderful seamstress who could design and make clothing without a pattern. She also had a very good singing voice. My mother's family was originally from Wales and the Welsh are famous for their choirs. I also had my older sister Liz, who was playing guitar and singing in folk clubs and coffee houses. There was a point when I was a teenager that we had half a very psychedelic rock band living in our house. It was the sixties. Every so often I would take off from home with my musical instruments and hitchhike down to New York City and stay with friends and busk in Washington Square Park to make money to eat. My parents were conservative liberals if there is such a thing.
Two actors that inspired me when I was younger and still do today are Richard Burton and James Cagney. I recommend taking a look at some of their work for anyone thinking of exploring acting. And, as an overall artist, Orson Welles has it going on ... on multiple levels of creativity. When anyone asks what's my favorite film, I have to say Chimes At Midnight. It’s a wonderful example of early maverick independent film making. Shot in 16mm, on a very small budget, it has an amazing cast and Orson Welles directs and plays Falstaff.
I understand you had an encounter with a Beatle?
Yes. I was 17 at the time and John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in Montreal on their Peace Campaign. Bill Duquet, a friend from high school, and I played hooky from school and hitchhiked into the city. I was determined we had be there.
Eventually, through sheer belief, I phoned the Queen Elizabeth hotel and spoke with John and Yoko's assistant, who said if we were from the press we could come by. When we got there, through bullshit and playing the harassed journalist who's late for an interview, I got the hotel manager to take us past security and up to the floor where it was happening.
Masquerading as a couple of high school journalists we spent the afternoon meeting all sorts of interesting people who had come into town to be part of the event and eventually were part of the interviews being conducted with John and Yoko. Somewhere there's a picture of me sitting on the edge of the bed next to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Let's talk about Star Wars. How did you land the role of 'Fixer' in A New Hope? Can you tell us a little about your experiences on the set?
I was living in London ... having been in a BBC TV series Anne of Avonlea. My agent was contacted by Irene Lamb, the casting director, as they were looking for American or Canadian actors. I went in for the casting and that's when I first met George Lucas. I was called back a number of times and eventually the call came through that I had been offered the role of Fixer.
Even though the film was being funded by a major Hollywood studio, it really felt like an independent film. Perhaps it's because we were on location in Tunisia, or the fact that there wasn't a bus load of producers standing around doing nothing. It was a tight experienced crew and George had a real vision of how he wanted it to look and feel. He might not share it with everyone, but he knows what he's after. He's a story teller.
Did you know before you saw the film that your scenes were going to be cut from the film?
No. Otherwise I would have demanded to meet with George and the editors. How could they? The Fixer had the coolest clothes and he had a hot chick. Only joking. The interesting thing is that the scenes even though they aren't in the film, they have become a real talking point thanks to the fans.
Did you spend any time with George Lucas or the other actors? Any insights or stories you can recount?
I spent some time talking with Gil Taylor, the cinema photographer. He had worked on the Beatles movie A Hard Days Night, so there was a John Lennon connection. I hung with Mark Hamill a bit. We'd meet up in the bar for a drink ... wondering where all the girls were. Garrick Hagon would usually join us. The hotel was pretty quiet; not a lot of tourists. I had fun with Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis. We'd joke around, silly stuff. I like to laugh and they made me laugh, real entertainers. I think everyone was there for the right reason. They cared. They wanted to do a good job and make a good film. There weren't any million dollar salaries with superstar demands. For the size of budget and vision that George had, especially technically and as a story teller, it went beyond people's expectations.
You also played a Sandtrooper in Mos Eisley Spaceport. In the famous scene, you are the victim of Ben Kenobi's Jedi mind trick. How did you get this part?
I was at the hotel, waiting for the day to arrive to film the Fixer scenes and Robert Watts came and said George wants to see you. So, we drove out to the set. When we got there, George came up to me with a script in his hand and asked if I would do him a favor and play the scene with Alec Guinness and Mark Hamill. He explained you'll be wearing a Stormtrooper costume so no one will know. Remember, I still had to film the Fixer scenes. I said, "Let me call my agent and my lawyer, perhaps we can negotiate." The truth is I dropped down on my knees and kissed his feet. "Play a scene with Alec Guinness, are you kidding me? Here take my right testicle." The rest is history; George has my right testicle in a jar in his office. Only kidding.
You interacted with Alec Guinness in this scene. I imagine it was quite something to work with him. Did the filming of this scene take long or was it a quick shoot? I understand all the Stormtroopers voices were dubbed later for the movie. Did you actually have to speak any lines during the shoot?
For me, Alec Guinness was a very generous and kind actor. He knew I was walking in cold. You have an emergency situation. You focus and you deal with it. I think we shot the scene in a matter of hours or less, I can't really remember how long it took, but it felt like it went pretty quickly.
Yes, they were dubbed. I did do the lines when we were filming. They would later use those lines and my voice as a guide track for timing and performance purposes in post-production.
Following your appearance in Star Wars, you had some success in the music industry. In the early 1980's you worked with 'The Mood', who were signed to RCA Records. You were The Mood's record producer and played grand piano for a number of the tracks. Their song Don't Stop charted in the US Top Ten Charts and Number 1 in the first UK Dance Charts. Could you tell us a little about your career in music and your role as a record producer?
Music has always been a part of my life, so working around London I got involved in putting on concerts and created a nationwide 'Battle of the Bands' that was sponsored by TDK tapes and RCA Records. The finals of the show were aired on BBC television and we had judges like Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones, Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy and John Entwhisle from The Who. It was really from that involvement that led to the invitation to produce The Mood for RCA. I was lucky enough to work out Trevor Horn's, Sarm Studios in the East End of London. It was a small studio but produced some of the top records of all time, such as Video Killed the Radio Star. The engineers were excellent and technically the studio was cutting edge for its time. I learnt an enormous amount about music editing and sound engineering.
You've also been involved in writing, could you tell us about that?
My writing has been mainly original film scripting and plays. Although, there are, like many writers, the unfinished novels on my computer. Actually, this year I will be publishing one of my plays The Suicide Clause and I have a 3D vampire comedy film project Fang Chewy that is in the works.
What current or upcoming projects can we look forward to seeing your work in?
I have just released my debut album, PANTHEONS OF THE TRIBE. It's mostly instrumental electric rock guitar against my classical composition ... great for cruising down the highway to. You can hear samples of it on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby etc.
Distrust, a short film I made last year, just played the Santa Cruz Film Festival and has picked up some awards.
I also have an indie low budget feature film BOB’S GARAGE that I've written and directed and am scoring the music for. That will start with film festivals and hopefully move to DVD. It's a dark comedy and has a lot of swearing so don't take your kids. And I have just completed writing the songs for a new album entitled Now, which is really a singer/songwriter album and lyric orientated.
You've worked on a number of projects that could be called cult favorites, such as Space: 1999, The Spy Who Loved Me, La Femme Nikita, and Star Wars. Are you at all surprised the amount of attention you get from the fans for such seemingly small roles?
Yes. But that's what's great about fans of particular genre movies: they care about everyone who is involved. They sit and read the credits right to the very end. Film making is a collaborative effort. Some people have more responsibility. Some have more demands placed on them. It takes the work and dedication of a lot of people pulling together to win the game. Movie buffs and film fans are in there cheering for the whole team. From the costumes, to the props and sets, to the music its all part of the magic and end result.
Now that you've attended some conventions, including the massive Celebration IV in Los Angeles, what do you think of the convention experience?
I enjoy traveling and meeting the fans and hearing their personal stories and their particular interests ... whether it's collecting or costuming.
I think the convention experience is a lot of fun. It's a live event and that's important. I think in the future we are going to see more effort being put into the staging of the events, lighting and music etc., themed conventions like theme parks could be the next generation of conventions.
This month I am headed to Japan for the big Star Wars Celebration there. That should be an exciting experience.
What does the future hold for Anthony Forrest?
I'm becoming a lot more courageous when it comes to letting my work, be it writing or music etc., be released for the public to share. I'm very self–critical, always polishing and trying to improve it. I have so much that I've quietly been creating over the years that with the new distribution channels and internet, the possibilities for creative artists has really expanded. And, I think the time will come when an interesting acting role comes along I can sink my experience into.
Lastly, any words of advice or wisdom for your fans?
Love your family, cherish your friends and never let an actor or musician date your daughter or borrow your car. Lastly; when life is throwing all sorts of crap at you, throw custard pies.
Thank you Anthony for your time and consideration. It's been a real pleasure learning more about you and your career. For any of those of you who attend conventions, be sure to stop and say 'hi' to Anthony. He's quite friendly and I'm sure would be eager to meet a few Bothan Spies. Also, please stop by Anthony’s website www.anthonyforrest.com to find out more about his upcoming projects. You can also listen to his new CD and obtain autographs.