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Review: “Elstree 1976”

“Elstree 1976” (2015, 1h41m)

“It’s part of my life. Not my life.” – Pam Rose (aka Leesub Sirin)

The cloud of melancholy that hangs over the entirety of Jon Spira’s, “Elstree 1976” is an interesting choice for a documentary film about actors and extras who performed in the original “Star Wars” (1977).

Most Star Wars documentaries are filled with fans claiming they would be willing to part with a kidney for a chance to dress up in Stormtrooper armor or play one of the creatures from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Many of the participants of “Elstree 1976” seem nonchalant about their roles in one of the most beloved films in movie history

Not that anyone outright regrets having participated in the movie, but many are surprised that a few weeks of work on a movie set in the North of London forty years ago have connected them to an international phenomenon.

Some hoped being part of “Star Wars” would have launched their careers into larger roles in other films. Some did it for a laugh or to raise a family or fund a musical career.

Some of the actors had scenes cut for pacing (Garrick Hagon aka “Biggs Darklighter) or saw their role end up on the cutting room floor completely (Anthony Forrest aka “Fixer”). Some actors (Dave Prowse aka “Darth Vader”) have felt their importance to the film series diminished over the years from running afoul of Lucasfilm’s rules and regulations.

All the actors seem to have struggled in their careers with striking a balance between nurturing their artistic aspirations and making a living. Most found their casting in a fortuitous series of events. Either knowing a person in the production (Jeremy Bullock aka Boba Fett, the only “Empire Strikes Back” actor featured) or literally spotting a sign on a London street (Forrest).

When the subject of fan conventions arises, “Elstree 1976” doesn’t sugarcoat the opinions some of the actors have when it comes to uncredited extras participating in signing events or even suggesting a hierarchy where “masked” actors autographs should be less desirable than their bare-faced compatriots. This attitude has lead to some actor’s participation in conventions to be very brief, painful experiences.

One of the masked actors (Laurie Goode) has found his claim to fame being claimed by other actors. Apparently, there are several people who insist they are the Stormtrooper who bonks his head on the door to Death Star control room.

Dave Prowse seems circumspect about his experiences performing Darth Vader, but also more relaxed than in most interviews as of late. At age 78 (at the time of the interview) he looks frail, but also willing to put his anger about having his voice replaced by James Earl Jones and his accusations of poor treatment by Lucasfilm into perspective.

“Elstree 1976” is a fascinating collection of stories about “Star Wars” by people who were really there. It’s also about the struggle and realities of actors building careers under the shadow of a much larger work. These interviews are important missing pieces to the rich tapestry of Star Wars lore. This documentary isn’t afraid to show the realities of working in the film industry, even when it’s Star Wars.

“Elstree 1976” is available for purchase or rental at

-Robert Zachary

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