Colin Hanks talks STAR WARS
By Bonnie Burton
Actor Colin Hanks, best known for his major roles in Roswell,Orange County, Band of Brothers, King Kong, Mad Men, The House Bunny, The Great Buck Howard and most recently The Good Guys, chats with StarWars.com about why The Empire Strikes Back is one of his all-time favorite movies, how much fun he had standing in line for Star Wars movies, and why Boba Fett should have come back from the dead in the Special Editions.
What is one of your fondest Star Wars memories as a kid?
I remember going to Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, California and waiting in line to see Return of the Jedi. I have very vivid memories of my mother reading to me what Jabba the Hutt was saying in the subtitles. I was already a pretty big Star Wars fan at a young age. If I look at the original run of Star Wars toys, any of the bounty hunters or Admiral Ackbar, those are the toys I had. I remember being super stoked to get Ewok toys too.
Were you pro-Ewok?
As a kid I was very pro-Ewok. When the movie came out I thought they were great; it was funny. It made me laugh. But now I skip to the fight with Palpatine. That’s the weird thing about Jar Jar. Everyone was so quick to forget all the grief Ewoks got in the earlier films.
Which of the films is your favorite?
The Empire Strikes Back, hands down! To be honest, Empire is right up there with my top five favorite films of all time. I get that question asked a lot in interviews at press junkets and I always shy away from answering it because I love so many movies, it’s hard to choose. But Empire is in my top list because I really do think it’s a flawless movie in and of itself. I don’t even think you have to see the original Star Wars to appreciate Empire. My wife is one of those people who hadn’t really seen Star Warsbefore and I wouldn’t hesitate to have her watch Empire first.
What is it about Empire specifically that resonates with you?
It feels like more of an adult film. As a 33-year-old man, it has more drama to me than A New Hopedoes. I always feel that Empire is the best, then A New Hope, and then Jedi. Each film serves its own cause, but Empire stands on its own and also does its part to tell the greater story in the trilogy. Empireis the film that raised all the stakes in movie-making and storytelling.
One of the things I learned in working with Peter Jackson on King Kong is to pay attention to where the tension is coming from in the story that you’re telling. The tension is the thing that engages the audience in a way that makes the audience want to know what’s going to happen and try to guess what happens next. You have to get the audience involved. And Empire is the movie that does that the best. It has the best tension. Revenge of the Sith had Empire elements of that as well, because you knew what was going to happen but you didn’t know how.
I’m actually really looking forward to getting my hands on The Making of The Empire Strikes Back book! I’ve got one photo that I got from Quint at Ain’t It Cool News of Luke and Vader right before Luke decides to jump. What I love about the photo is that it’s a great document on how they made the movie. It shows Mark Hamill hanging off the gantry on Bespin, and underneath him is a bunch of mattresses. I make movies, so I know they use padded stunt pillows or pumped up landing pads. But in this case it was just a bunch of mattresses, and there’s a dude’s head poking up above the mattresses in the photo. I’m a geek for that photo. So I can’t wait to see the book.
How many times to you watch the Star Wars films?
At least once a year, if not more. It depends how sick I get over the course of the year. I often feel like watching Star Wars, whether I’m home sick or not.
Have you ever met George Lucas?
There was a MTV TRL screening at Skywalker Ranch for Attack of the Clones. He was very nice and cool. I’d never been to Skywalker Ranch before and it felt like I was going to Graceland for geeks. There’s a definite aura to the place. As you drive to Skywalker you see things that you think George must have been influenced by when making his films. I’m originally from Northern California, so I wish I could be based out of San Francisco and still do what I do. That would be my dream.
So I went up to George, after going on a tour of Skywalker Ranch which is so beautiful and perfect, and told him “I’m so inspired to work harder so I could maybe one day have a place as beautiful as this,” and did a full-on geek out. And he was very nice and said, “Thanks,” and then he just sort of walked away. Luckily, that wouldn’t be my only conversation I’d have with him.
Have you read any Star Wars books or comics?
I’ve read Tales From the Mos Eisley Cantina on the recommendation of my friend and fellow Star Warsfanatic Caleb. He said it had all the characters from the cantina before and after the scenes in the movie. So that was the one book that I’ve read. I think it’s cool. As a fan, I think it’s great that you’re able to dig as deep into the stories as you want.
Which Star Wars character is your favorite?
Boba Fett is just awesome. Everything about Boba Fett in the Original Trilogy, with the exception of the way he died, is super cool. I was one of the guys who sincerely hoped in the Special Editions that there would be a shot of him flying out of the Sarlacc pit in his jetpack. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
There are fans who truly believe Boba escaped, off camera. Personally, I don’t think a character is really dead unless you see his head rolling past the screen.
I thought it would be really insanely cool if Lando puts his foot on the gas, they fly out and Jabba’s big cruiser blows up and it stays for an extra second and you see Boba flying straight up and out of there. That would have been a really great shot, but I guess that wasn’t brought to the meeting that day.
Are there any characters that you really think should have had more screen time?
The one character that really comes to mind is Wedge because it would be interesting to really get into his back story. I’d love to see more about the bounty hunters too.
A lot of side characters get the best back stories from shows like Robot Chicken and Family Guy.
I remember after seeing the first Robot Chicken: Star Wars special I was texting Seth Green that he was making punch lines about the fact that it sounds like the Jawa is saying “martini,” and I thought that was only something me and my sister talked about. I just watched the Family Guy: Star Warsspecial for the first time and I loved that they do a call out to the Robot Chicken: Star Wars special at the end.
Is there a topic about Star Wars that you and your friends debate?
We debate about the Prequels and that they were meant for kids and not the adult fans as the target audience. Anyone over the age of 21 with vivid memories of the Original Trilogy didn’t like the Prequels because it didn’t fit in with their adult sensibilities. I’d have plenty of conversations with my friends who would complain about the Prequels, and I would have to say, “Guys, they’re kids movies! They’re meant for kids.” At the end of the day, George Lucas needed to tell the full story from Point A to Point Dark in these movies. Kids enjoying the movies are more important than a 33-year-old man like me enjoying the movies.
What are some of the best debates you hear from fans aboutStar Wars?
One discussion I heard the other day was if Darth Vader has other outfits we never see? Or if he even wears underwear since he’s mostly a cyborg as opposed to all human?
Ha! No, he has just the one outfit, but he must have multiples of everything, right? Underwear, I’m not sure about. By the way, this is the best Star Wars conversation I’ve ever had. What’s another good debate topic?
Ewoks eat people. Han wasn’t on a stick over a fire to keep him warm.
True but we don’t actually see them eat humans. They use the stormtrooper helmets as musical instruments at the end.
But they could have eaten the stormtroopers before they turned their armor into drums. Plus I believe the Expanded Universe addresses stormtroopers as a dinner delicacy.
Now see this is where the EU can get hairy.
Ha! I’d say the movies are… well… I don’t want to say Old Testament vs. New Testament. But if I’m going to make this comparison, which is totally ridiculous, the films are the Old Testament and anything else is the New Testament. And then I’m sure someone would argue that the Original Trilogy is the Old Testament and the Prequels are the New Testament.
And the EU are the lost scrolls?
So do you have any fond memories as a fan regarding the Prequels?
I’m about to wave my freak flag now. I had already seen The Phantom Menace at a screening in Los Angeles, and yet I spearheaded a campout in the line at Westwood to purchase tickets for a screening a week later. I spent the night in line and had so much fun camping out for little over 24 hours. So basically I was camping out for a movie I had already seen. Ironically, at one of my first movie jobs, the first night of shooting was the same night of The Phantom Menace screening I had gotten the tickets for and I wasn’t able to go. So some of the actors and I went to the 5:30am screening later.
Of course, by the time Revenge of the Sith came out I could just walk up to the theater and buy tickets without having to camp out for them. And I enjoyed that movie even more. But camping out was really a lot of fun because I had gone with friends and it was so laid back. It was one of the best G-rated nights in college I ever had.
Did you ever dress up in costume in line, or just Halloween?
No, I never did that. Even as a kid I don’t think I dressed up as a Star Wars character. I was never good at planning my costume with any passion or vigor. I do remember dressing up for a Halloween party as a ghost and my parents just gave me a sheet with eyeholes in it which just made me look like a member of the Klu Klux Klan. There was a vampire year, and a cop year.
Speaking of your cop year, you most recently played Detective Jack Bailey in TV series The Good Guys. Watching the show, the characters almost remind me of Star Wars characters — the sassy female Lieutenant Ana Ruiz, the maverick Detective Dan Stark who doesn’t listen well to authority figures, and your character almost has an innocent Luke Skywalker vibe to him.
I’m always cautious in any role I play not to sound squeaky like Luke Skywalker in the movie. Whenever I’m doing ADR I always say, “Let’s calm down the Luke Skywalker and bring in a little bass in my voice. I don’t want to be whiny Skywalker, I want to be cool Skywalker dressed in all black.
In a lot of ways, Dan Stark is Jack’s Obi-Wan. But I don’t think Jack is eager to learn Dan Stark’s Force. And just the phrase “Dan Stark’s Force” is really frightening and makes me shudder.