The Force awoke on May 25, 1977 when Star Wars (since rechristened Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope) debuted in theaters, creating a far, far galaxy that moviegoers still eagerly travel to today. But the first stirrings of the franchise were felt 45 years ago in the summer of 1976, when George Lucas was in the middle of a difficult shoot at London's Elstree Studios that included a rebellious crew, skeptical actors and elaborate special effects sequences that were being worked on right up until the movie's release.
That fraught period in Star Wars history is preserved in Jon Spira's revealing 2016 documentary Elstree 1976, which features rare archival footage from the set, as well as interviews with the bit players and extras who have since become superstars within fandom. Five years ago, when Spira's movie was first opening in theaters (it's currently available to rent or purchase on most on demand platforms, and can also be streamed on Kanopy), Yahoo Entertainment spoke with two of those latter-day Star Wars stars: Garrick Hagon and Anthony Forrest, each of whom can boast to being in one of the most famous deleted scenes in movie history.
The missing sequence features the stage-trained Hagon as Biggs Darklighter, friend and mentor to the movie’s young hero, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), while journeyman actor and musician Forrest assumes the role of Laze Loneozner, aka Fixer, an ace mechanic and another one of Luke’s few close pals on the backwater desert planet of Tatooine. The actors flew to Tunisia to take part in the Tatooine portion of the shoot, before production re-located to Elstree.
Needle drop to 1:30 to see Fixer and Biggs’ scene and 2:40 for a Luke and Biggs reunion:
In Lucas’s shooting script, Biggs and Fixer appear early on in the film, before Luke meets the two droids who will launch him on his path to Jedi-hood. (Koo Stark also appears in the sequence as Fixer’s girlfriend, Cami Marstrap.) While C-3PO and R2-D2 are still plunging to Tatooine in an escape pod, Skywalker speeds over to Anchorhead’s power station to check in with Fixer and discovers that Biggs has temporarily returned home after training at the Imperial Academy.
And he’s got a confession: He’s going to join the Rebel Alliance, news that triggers Luke’s admiration and jealousy. “I’m stuck here,” the moisture farmer-in-training complains to Biggs, in the same whiny tone he uses when talking about picking up power converters. “Maybe someday,” Biggs replies about his friend’s future. “I’ll keep a lookout.”
“I’m sure George had his reasons for cutting that scene,” Hagon told us in 2016. “I miss it personally because we spent a lot of time doing it. And the dialogue in that scene is good dialogue! I mean, it was hard to say, but it was good. It goes into areas of Luke’s life you don’t know unless you’ve read the book.” (The Star Wars novelization, ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, as well as the original Marvel Comics adaptation preserve the scene with Biggs.)
And it’s not as if Biggs is gone from the movie completely; he turns up at the end just in time for the Battle of Yavin, flying — and dying — alongside Luke on a Hail Mary mission to blow up the Death Star. (Once again, though, a more extensive conversation between the old Tatooine buddies was cut from the film.) Forrest appears in the theatrical cut as well, albeit not as Fixer. At the last minute, the actor was asked to don a Stormtrooper helmet and perform a scene opposite Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. That scene? Let’s just say it’s one of the most oft-quoted movie moments ever…
"That's been copied so many times by other movies, but also fans as well," Forrest said in 2016. "There wasn't a lot of direction from George: he just wanted to make sure the "Move along" moment was there in terms of the gesture. It was all pretty well laid out and set up to shoot, and in my mind it didn't seem to take too long to do it, but then I hadn't been sitting around all morning on the set waiting to shoot!"
In honor of Star Wars Day — and the 45th anniversary of the film shoot that literally changed Hollywood as we know it — here's a look back at our interviews with Biggs and Fixer where they discuss their journey from the cutting room floor to becoming fan favorites.
Once upon a time in Tunisia
Forrest: When you’re on location, you feel the sky, the atmosphere — you’re right in it. I joke about the fact that when we first arrived in Tunisia, I was thinking about Lawrence of Arabia. I hadn’t been in that part of the world before, so it was a whole new experience. Shooting on location gives you the generosity of scope; studio work is a challenge in order to get the juices flowing.
Hagon: I’d already spent some time in North African countries; I’d been in Morocco for six months shooting a film, and then another six months in Libya. So I felt at home in Tunisia. I remember others complaining about the heat, but to it me it was like old times, because I’d been sweltering in the desert for months! It was also the first time I met Mark Hamill, and we had a really good time together doing some stupid things. We went off-set when we shouldn’t have been doing it. We were just young actors having a ball in a place we didn’t expect to be.
Forrest: I think I’m to blame for instigating [the off-set adventure Hagon refers to]. I was the one that ordered the horses. Again, it was my Lawrence of Arabia moment. [Laughs] I saw us galloping across the desert on these Arabian stallions. I don’t know how I managed to do it, but there were people around who provided these rides for tourists, so I managed to rope us into that. Had the insurance company known, they probably would have shot me on the spot.
Hagon: When Mark and I first met before we started the film, he told me, “You’ve got the best part. You die.” And I actually think that’s true! I had a very good part, and dying on film is not a bad thing, because you get all the sympathy [from fans]. Fans always tell me that they really miss the deleted scene with Luke and Biggs and wish it were back in there. Some have even cut their own versions of Star Wars [which include that scene] and send them to me! Of course, later on, I wished I hadn’t died. [Laughs]
Suiting up as a Stormtrooper
Forrest: The scene was very much set up to shoot when I arrived on set that day. I don’t know the actual details of what transpired to call me in. I have a feeling it might have been a request from Alec Guinness or George Lucas, who may have wanted to have someone actually perform the scene and make it feel real. They were still dressing me while I was walking over to shoot, and the props department had to tape parts of the armor onto me. Those suits weren’t made for running around in, not like the ones they have today. People who have Stormtrooper costumes like the 501st Legion can troop for hours in them.
Alec Guinness made me look really good. I think he absolutely understood what a clutch moment that was, because it’s the first moment that you see the power of the Force. I was used to being in those clutch positions, too. When I was young, I wanted to be a baseball player, and the one thing I could do was hit. So I was always the guy who got called in to pinch hit when my team needed a run. For me, playing that scene was like pinch-hitting; all of a sudden, you’re thrown into a situation and have to come up with the goods.
A few years later, I was working at Ealing Studios in London and Alec was shooting something there, too. I was sitting in the dressing room, and he came in and sat next to me. He remembered everything about our moment in Tunisia! He was an incredibly generous actor.
From actors to action figures
Hagon: I’ll tell ya one thing: I’m very proud to be part of all this. It’s taken me places I wouldn’t have gone and I’ve met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met. And you know, Biggs himself has been enhanced by all the comic books and games. I especially like Dough Wheatley’s drawings in the Dark Horse comic series; those pictures of Biggs are romantic and macho, far more than me on screen in the original film. They give me these great muscles and legs! [Laughs] And I recently learned that there’s a Biggs Pop Vinyl figure. I love it! Bring on more marvels.
Forrest: There’s a Fixer action figure, which is extraordinary. It’s unusual for that to happen, which just shows you what fan power can do. I’ve always had an idea about what happened to Fixer and Camie, which is that they were forced to flee, because being friends of Luke’s put them in danger as well. So they flee across Tatooine and end up in places like a dewback graveyard. I saw this whole other adventure in terms of what happens to them. Fans really seem to like Tatooine and that whole environment. You can even see in The Force Awakens how eager they were to get back to desert locations.
Close encounters of the fandom kind
Hagon: [Stormtrooper stunt performer] Bill Weston and I were once on stage together at a convention in Dallas, and an Air Force pilot who had suffered from Gulf War Syndrome wanted to sit between us for an hour. I thought, “This man has been in action, and god knows what he has done in his plane.” I felt very honored to have him sit between us. Generally, the fans are not as geeky and odd as people think they might be. They’re awfully generous all over the world.
Forrest: I was in Las Vegas once, and there was a Star Trek convention going on. A couple of people who were not part of Star Trek were invited to participate, so I was there. And this one guy saw me, realized who I was, and fell down in front of my table, crying. There was something so emotional for him to have that experience. All I could do was go around and try to hug him. All I could think was, “Wow.” Moments like that show the impact of what you’ve done on other people.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: