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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

BEHIND THE SCENES: RED FLIGHT AT ELSTREE


In his cramped cockpit at Elstree Studios, during the height of the soaring 1976 British summer, actor Drewe Henley (still being annoyingly mispelt as "Drewe Hemley" in the original STAR WARS end cast listing as of the 2011 restored Blu-ray!) films his scenes as Red (originally Blue) Leader of the key X-wing squadron attacking the Death Star.

Below are a selection of cockpit images of the fighter pilots taken by Script Supervisor Ann Skinner during that shoot, which were displayed at last year's BFI exhibition and are now back in their Special Collections. Sadly not included in the exhibition but also shot were colour cockpit Polaroids of Jack Klaff as "John D", Robert O'Mahoney as Red Ten, and a pilot specifically marked as Red Twelve, who I cannot confirm was actor John Chapman (who played the character for the background Rebel briefing room scenes) as the image was ultimately too blurred below the helmet. However, when matched with what's seen in the finished film, the unique helmet markings of Red Twelve definitely confirm that this pilot's fiery death was substituted over Red Ten's (O'Mahoney) during the US editing of the trench run sequence in post production.

Red Leader (Drewe Henley). 
Red Two- Wedge (Denis Lawson).
Red Three - Biggs (Garrick Hagon).
Red Six- Porkins (William Hootkins).
Red Twelve's (actor unknown) demise, used for Red Ten's onscreen death during the film's editing.
A shot of Wedge's helmet on the set.

With the droids accompanying the pilots, Skinner's hand-written continuity notes indicate Red Ten had a B/W domed droid, John D's was script-noted as having a "scar" and was a white top droid with R5 head, and Porkins (also referred to in the continuity script as "Piggy") had a white Artoo with taller type head- 2 red stripes around the top. There was also a cream/green-painted Artoo head listed. Skinner's continuity script additionally has Red Twelve's "standing by" confirmation line.

With thanks to Ann Skinner and the BFI Special Collections.

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