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« on: March 14, 2011, 07:16:33 PM »

ALAN FLYNG


Last weekend I got to conduct an interview with Alan Flyng, who played a Stormtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back and an Imperial Officer in Return of the Jedi!




How did you get your brief speaking role as “Unidentified Imperial Officer” in Return of the Jedi?

"I was not scheduled or cast for the role until the very day of shooting, and even then, only by a pure fluke of fate! I had been in the business quite a few years at this point, but had been stage acting, singing, and designing for stage as well. I had already decided to specialize in costume and, to that end, had secured a contract on a film commencing the 7th of February 1982. I was leaving the studio on the 6th, when I was called over to speak to Return of the Jedi’s 1st Assistant Director, who I knew well. He explained they were in a fix and what was I up to? The top and tail of it all is that I went in and in the space of just over an hour filmed that scene with Ken Colley. The next day in Wales, I welcomed Ken to the set of his next movie, which happened to be my first in the costume department. Weird, but true!"
 
What do you remember from your experience on the set of Return of the Jedi?

"It was quite rushed, as it was all ad hoc, but I was introduced to the director, the producer, approved, and then rushed into wardrobe to be dressed. I was initially dressed in a black Navy technician’s outfit, as seen in a fitting Polaroid which is out there on the net, but when I went on set, I was sent straight back to be dressed in Imperial Officer’s garb. It didn’t fit well, as I was a muscled sort in those days and I didn’t dare lift my arms too high or breath too deeply, as the seams were creaking! But I was made to march about all around the sound stage shouting out this line again and again, as fast as I could deliver it, until I was breathless and sweaty. Then straight onto set and into position and told to turn and look up, then deliver that line; no rehearsal. The camera turned over, and I started the action. There I saw Ken Colley above me, whom I had fitted out in costume for another film the week before! There is a look of surprise initially on my face, but I got it done. I stayed to shoot the reverses, giving Ken an eye line to work to, as is good manners, and left. Short and sharp!"
 
Do you consider yourself a Star Wars fan? How excited were you to have a speaking role in Return of the Jedi?

"I am a bit of a fan! I had no time to think about getting excited or nervous really. I had had no involvement with appearing on camera filming Return of the Jedi at all, but walking into the wardrobe and meeting old friends there and others on the set, in front of, as well as behind camera, made the whole thing comfortable, if not a little strange!"
 
Which Star Wars movie is your favorite?
 
"I love The Empire Strikes Back, as I do also Return of the Jedi. I am not a great fan of the Prequels; that may be because of my age, or having developed a critical eye doing so many films as a technician, but I think the whole CGI thing took a lot of immediacy away from the action and the scripts suffered too."
 
You also played a Stormtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back. Which scenes can we look for you in?
 
"I was a Stormtrooper in the carbonite chamber mostly. I was already a well-built sort who wore armor like it was moulded onto me. So I was cast to be in proximity to the actors and interact with them. But, on days that were light of action for me, I often was fitted as a Snowtrooper, Hoth Rebel or any other character lurking, running, falling in the background, as required. So I have the dubious pleasure of saying I chased myself up and down ice tunnels in the Hoth base, but you would have to use stop-action pausing to find me! I was on that for weeks."



 
Is the Stormtrooper outfit as uncomfortable as it looks? How long did it take to get all the armor on?

"The suits we wore arrived in sheet form and had to be cut out, and straps attached by the wardrobe. The plastic used was not as flexible as that found today, and was comparatively much thinner and subject to splitting and shattering. I got through loads of pieces and ended up with cuts and scars from digs and scrapes, which I still bear today. Getting into it was no problem. We had dressers who were used to levering us into it and shoving us out the door quickly. I cannot say how long it took in terms of minutes, but I can say we tended to try and delay getting trussed in only to sit in a hot studio waiting on lighting for an hour or more! Lighting in those days was very hot! Temperatures were frequently over 100 F, and that’s without armor!"
 
Why are Stormtroopers such terrible shots?
 
"We could see virtually nothing! A new lid was fine, but some bright spark decided to try and get rid of marks and scratches with brass polish, so we looked through finely abraded lenses with the effect of petroleum grease smeared on. Very disconcerting when running! Shoot straight? You couldn’t even see the target! No wonder that poor guy ran head first into a stanchion!"
 
Were you involved in designing the costumes for either of the Star Wars movies you were in?
 
"I was involved in making up extra Death Star uniforms in my workrooms, as I had spare capacity, but that was all."
 
Are you aware of the costuming error in Return of the Jedi involving the Imperial Officers’ rank badges? (Every badge is identical regardless of rank.) How do you think this detail was overlooked?
 
"Yes – it is a little weird! I had a badge with three red and three blue pips, but I had no idea what rank I was! I think it was all a bit arbitrary and the uniforms were fitted and refitted again and again onto actors and extras alike! So I guess it was expediency, never thinking that the film might stand the test of time as long as it has!"
 
How long have you been going to conventions? What’s it like to meet the fans and sign autographs?
 
"I started with conventions in November 2009, at the invitation of an old friend, Derek Lyons, who had been in A New Hope when just 17 years old. He had been doing them for a couple of years and it was Facebook that reunited us as friends! I thoroughly enjoy meeting Star Wars fans, who are usually surprised to find me asking them more questions than they have for me! I am terrible at signing quickly and getting through queues, as I like to stop and chat and have pictures taken, as much as the fans want one of me with them! I am a bit of a nerd too, I suppose. I also hate signing badly or seeing someone try to tuck a picture away in a plastic sleeve before the signature is dry – so I tend to guard it and put it in myself. Money doesn’t grow on trees and for an extra 30 second wait, I think the fans appreciate it."
 



What has been your most interesting experience designing costumes for movies?
 
"That is really a hard question to answer! I have had the distinction of working with the greats and chatting with legends in between shots, such as James Cagney and Donald O’Connor, Sir John Gielgud, Peter Cushing, Lucille Ball, Michael Douglas, Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Steven Seagal, the list is really endless! You can see that if you go to imdb.com and use the facility of checking who I have worked with (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0283404/) – it goes into 50 or 60 pages of names close-typed. I suppose my favorite has to be the first I designed. It was a comedy spoof horror film and was remarkable for the fact it brought together a list of iconic actors, who all knew and had worked with other in various combinations, but never all together. It was awe-inspiring to me to have Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, John Carradine Sr, Richard Todd, Sheila Keith, Desi Arnaz Jr and more all looking to me to costume them and deal with them personally. They spent a lot of their time playing tricks on each other and hamming it up behind each others’ backs! I spent eight weeks in hysterics watching their antics and collaborating in their jokes! I also had to do a lot of special effects work on that one including making a harness and axe to have imbedded into Christopher Lee’s chest. I look back on that with fondness and wonder at how green I was!"
 
Are you working on any exciting projects right now?
 
"I am waiting, like half the industry, on the go-ahead on starting another project. In fact, there are four in the offing, but it will depend who gets the go-ahead first which one I do. I cannot tell you anything, as they are not announced yet. In the meantime, I paint portraits and landscapes and attend conventions."
 
What do you think makes Star Wars so popular? What’s so great about it?
 
"The whole premise of Star Wars is to present a magical combination of myth, fairy tale and action thriller. They are full to the brim of innovative and ground-breaking effects produced by some of the world’s most talented technicians. Action, romance, dark and light, good and bad and some astonishingly good actors, and all realized on a cosmic scale! What is there not to like? And I was involved with two of them – how lucky was I???"


Interview by David Delgado.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2011, 07:45:40 PM by David » Logged

David Delgado
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