Sunday, 13 September 2015

Interview with the Author

Unfortunately, over the years there have been some myths created and some have the facts have been the subject of ‘Chinese Whispers’.
Alan will be the first person to admit he is a bit of a computer and internet dinosaur.
So, Alan agreed (in 2014) to this interview to try and dispel some of those myths.

‘Alan, tell us a little of your early life’.
‘On leaving school at fifteen, I worked as a radio & TV engineer before doing my National Service in the army. After demob I tried my hand at driving and became interested in amateur dramatics, in Tottenham. In 1962 I took a course in public speaking and a course in London at the Academy of Modelling. I then turned professional.

I started with film and TV extra work and got my Equity ticket. I did a four week fashion show at Olympia with four shows per day, six days a week. From that show, a contact took me to The Little Theatre Co. in St. Martin's Lane and I appeared in the play 'Hamp' six nights a week for three weeks - unpaid.

I had a go at 'panto' - Treasure Island in the Isle of White for four weeks.

In 1968 I did a commercial for Lucky Strike cigarettes. This went world-wide, but not Britain, and it won a Rose of Montrose award.’

‘How did you get started in the movie business?

I was a male model and it took 6 to 9 months to eventually get paid, so I looked into doing extra work and did that instead. In February 1970 I started with the Paddy Stone group in the film 'Scrooge'. In May 1973 I started a year of work on Space 1999. I also did the titles for 'Night of the Generals'.

Alan in Space: 1999

‘Turning to Star Wars, what parts did you play?’
‘I was a rebel commander escort to Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and a mechanic in another scene.’

‘How did you get cast for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?’
‘I knew Steve Lanning and Roy Button from Space: 1999, a series I was on with Quentin Pierre (who starred on all three Star Wars movies). One of the directors was David Tomblin and as they knew me, they asked for me.’


Quentin Pierre and Alan Harris (in ‘blues’)
as Sergeant Edian and Sergeant Merril

‘In The Empire Strikes Back your best known part is that of Bossk, the bounty hunter. How did you get this role? And tell something about these scenes?’
‘I was a stand in for Anthony Daniels already as well as a Bespin Guard. When Anthony had a few days off, they just got me to do other things when he wasn't around. Enter the lizard bounty hunter. On one occasion we were about 12 feet in the air on the set and Irvin Kershner originally wanted the camera to come off the main cast down below and come up to us. The camera came up and caught my claws so I had to curl them for future shots. My only visibility was through the nostrils, so being high up on a platform was a bit scary.’



Bossk, the Trandoshan Bounty Hunter
‘There have been a lot of stories and comics featuring Bossk and his background. Do you keep up with these stories?’
‘No. I have the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy that I read once and I bought a comic once.’

‘Did any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things happen on the set?’
‘With the industry being a serious business you have to get on with everybody and get on with the job so there’s no time or budget for messing about.’

‘Can you tell something about how Irvin Kershner directed you in Empire?’
‘When he directed me as a Storm Trooper I came out of sliding doors with a machine gun, turned to my right and fired my gun. He didn't want me to crouch for cover. He knew I was a fearful Storm Trooper and should stand up and be fearless.’

‘You were also the double for Anthony Daniels (as C-3PO). Did the two of you work together a lot? If so, how was your relationship?’
‘I wasn't ever the double for Anthony, I'm too tall. My main role was as stand-in for Anthony Daniels (C-3PO). I was his stand-in for lighting purposes with an old gold mask of his and a piece of elastic to keep it in place and eventually a gold jacket too. Being slightly taller than Anthony Daniels (C3PO), I had to flex my knees and bob down for much of the time, which was very uncomfortable.

We got on fine along with John Birkenshaw and Brian, a props guy nicknamed Toby, who was also on Space 1999 who both attended to Anthony. Despite some rumours, I was the only person to play Bossk in Empire.’

          


‘There were rumours that you were originally down to play Boba Fett. Is that true? What parts did you play?’
‘This is no truth in that rumour at all. What many people do not appreciate is that before even the first camera starts to roll, there are a many things that are tried to see if they will work and what they would look like on screen, and then they will be dropped, changed or improved when filming starts. I was engaged for the development of the costume and character for when filming eventually started. Three months before filming started, at the concept stage, they built the Boba Fett costume around me. I had forgotten about the photo with me in the Boba Fett costume until it merged a while ago and this is probably why some people have run away with the idea that I was to be Boba Fett. That was never the case. It was always Jeremy Bulloch’s part and nobody else’s.

Boba Fett was originally meant be a ‘Super Trooper’ and would launch from a space ship using the rocket that can be seen in his back pack, and be able to fire at the enemy on the ground.

I was totally unaware of the flamethrower built in the costume and when they tested it, it gave me quite a fright.’




‘You were the body double for Han-Solo in the carbonite. Tell us about that.’
‘Irvin Kershner had the idea. We were in the props room where they put a shroud over me and two drinking straws up my nose so I could breathe - very uncomfortable. When the plaster cast was dry they cut my face out and put Harrison Ford's in. Later, Irvin Kershner and I were looking at the finished product on the set and Harrison came over and said he was thinking of turning one of these into a coffee table. I don't know if he ever did.’

‘And what about Return of the Jedi?’
‘Again my main role was as stand-in for Anthony and because he was in most scenes, I had little chance of getting in and out of the Bossk costume as I would have to be on set most of the time. But I did have another spell in the 'whites' as a Stormtrooper. Bossk was demoted to the back of the shot and was played by Trevor Butterfield. Jeremy was again Boba Fett.’

‘Almost 19 years later you were the double for Terence Stamp (Finis Valorum) in ‘The Phantom Menace’. How did you land this job, so many years later?’
‘It's just that I looked a bit like him and originally I was his stand-in. His usual stand in had a bit of a health problem and suggested me for just two days. Then around a week later they asked me to double for him in a shot with young Anakin and the Queen. Ten days later they used me as a double and point my finger at something, I think it was a girl dancer on one side and some guy with a tube coming out of him on the other.’

‘When you were asked to take a part in Star Wars, did it ever occur to you that you were taking part in one of the most successful series of films to hit the cinemas?’
‘Absolutely not. I don’t think that anyone could have foreseen how successful the series would be and still making films more than 35 years later.’

‘How do you feel about the fact that your part as Bossk has given you Star Wars immortality?’
‘I'm very surprised as I only started ‘Signing’ 10 years ago. Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) got in contact with Chris Parsons (4-LOM). Jeremy remembered it was me in the Bossk costume. Then Chris got my number through the Union to start signings.’

‘What are you up to right now? And do you have new projects coming up?’
‘Not at all. I'm 76 years old. I effectively retired some years ago and I can't get up early in the morning for filming work.’

‘Have you enjoyed your career and do you have any regrets?
‘I have no regrets whatsoever at leaving my modelling and theatre career behind. I have enjoyed my film extra and stand-in career immensely. I feel lucky to have had a successful career, particularly through the 1970s and 1980s’.

‘Away from Star Wars what other parts have you played?’
‘At one point I was going from one engagement to another and it was only thanks to my wife, Wyn, that I was able to keep track of where I was meant to be the next day.’


You can find out more about his work away from Star Wars on the Filmography page.





You can see Alan being interviewed in Dallas, Texas in 2010 at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHo8-q_i4Ss





You can also see more about Alan at:
http://scifisignersunited.weebly.com/alan-harris.html

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