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Interviews -
Face To Face With The Masters

Any citizen of the galaxy may be summoned to answer to the Jedi Council. Here you may read the transcripts of such sessions.

Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+

Michael Carter - Bib Fortuna

Special thanks to Ben Stevens of the Dallas Sci-Fi Toy Show for hooking us up with Michael. Also, thanks to Davin Felth for the Bib Pics!

Like a lot of our interviews, there's a story behind this one, too. We were hanging out at the Dallas Toy show where John 'Dack' Morton and Michael 'Bib Fortuna' Carter were the main guests. During a break, John Morton comes up to Darin and I and we start talking. (We have stayed in touch with John since our earlier phone interview, but this was our first meeting in person.) Anyway, he says, "You really need to interview Michael like you did me! He's got a lot of great stories!" Well, we didn't think we'd have a chance to talk to him, so we were not prepared at all for any interview. But the crowds were thinning, so we decided to go for it. But we had no tape recorder and no car. (Mrs. Chitwood abandoned us at the show without a car while she shopped. Durn it all!) So we begged fellow Star Wars fan Philip Wise to drive us to Wal-Mart. He did, we bought a tape recorder, and we went back to the show. Michael was signing the last of the autographs, so we pulled up some chairs and began to ask questions. Now if the questions and answers seem to be random, it's because he was signing autographs inbetween questions. So, here's the interview!

A&M:  How long did it take to do the make-up?

MC:  Eight and  a half hours the first day, down to 59 minutes on the last day, which was five and a half weeks later.  The special effects man got quicker and quicker with it.

A&M:  How heavy was it?

MC:  I don't know the exact weight, but it felt very heavy by about lunchtime.  The skull's domed, so it tended to feel very heavy.  I had a couple of dentist's chairs I could sit in to rest the dome.  Of course, it was glued to the bottom of my chest, so the whole of my neck and shoulders were under tension.  I had a lot of problems with my neck and my shoulders and my eyes.

A&M:  Did your eyes have trouble adjusting to the contact lenses?

MC:  I had an optician with me all the time who put them into my eyes.  They were hard lenses, which went right over the eyeball.  The guy who made them--I remember having the test for them--he was just in too much of a rush.  They weren't the right size, they were too small, so I ended up with a lot of abrasions of the cornea.  It was about a week after filming  before I could focus on the television or read.  The eyes recover quite quickly.

A&M:  We hear it was pretty hot, that a lot of people were getting really hot in the costumes...

MC:  Yeah, we were.  People were going around with these hand-held fans all the time.  The Gammorrean guards had a hard time.  The effect it had on me was that the makeup started coming loose as I sweated--as I began to heat up, and the glue would dissolve, so it was constantly being re-glued.  Yeah, it was hot.

A&M:  Did you go out to Arizona?

MC:  No.  They were going to take me out, but they decided not to, they really didn't need to.  I don't know if I could survive in that kind of heat--not wearing all that stuff.

A&M:  So you were in England the whole time?

MC:  Yes.

A&M:  Did you talk to any of the others--the main stars?

MC:  Carrie and Mark.  But Harrison Ford, no.  He came in about half-way through the filming.  He's very private.  Also, my character didn't have anything to do with Harrison's.  I played for Carrie and Mark.  Particularly Mark.  I had a very large dressing room, because of the makeup.  I had a dressing room which I never really used--the makeup room became my dressing room.  We had two coffee machines in there, so it became a drinking room for freaks.  We called ourselves freaks, you know, guys with two heads and blue suits.  But Mark used to come in there quite a bit because it was very good coffee.  And you had the men who worked on stage with him.  I knew Kenny Baker's sister, who used to be a photographer.  So it was kind of neat.

A&M:  What did y'all (yep, we're from Texas!) talk about?  The story?

MC:  No.  Small-talk, really.  As I said, it was very good coffee.  There's always coffee on tap on a film, but it's the worst coffee you've had in your life.  Also, there were magazines.  Not exactly the kind of things that everybody wanted to read, because they tended to be about elaborate makeup.  So the makeup magazines were like horror magazines, so it was quite morbid.  But it was kind of good to get away from the studio, and I needed to get back there just to rest my head.

A&M:  Did you do a lot of theater work in London?

MC:  Yeah, I've done an awful lot of theater work for the National Theater in the West End, and I'm theoretically going to be directing something when I get back.  We're scouring Russian plays--unperformed Russian plays and we've got a couple of Russian experts who are looking at them for us, in Russian.  I've written a film script.  I was asked to write a film script about Red Indians, or Native Americans, in space.  So it's a science-fiction thing.  The producer is in Chicago at the moment, working on a British TV series.  This (the sci-fi script) is going to be shot a  lot in Canada, so he's asked me to raise some investment, and I have no idea of how to go about it.  I'm just phoning different people trying to get in touch with them--Native Americans.  Oddly enough, the Canadian and Ontario film boards thought they might promote it because it showed Native Americans in a good light. 

(Later on, he told us more about this script)

It's a very short story which will be elaborated into a script.  The producer is really into Indian culture.  It's all about abstract questions regarding the absolute exploitation of the universe.  It's got a bit of an eco-subtext to it.  A clash between the material world and the world that's not wholly materialistic.  There are these kind of space-mercenaries, which are the Native Americans, and they're drawn between the old ways and the new ways.  We'll probably film in Canada because the landscape is right, although the openings got a desert sequence.&nb$ It will require hundreds of Native American actors.
So I'm kind of across the board a bitdoing a bit of acting and I write a bit.  I had a film mad about seven years ago, and I'll theoretically be doing television.

A&M:  Did they dub your voice later on?

MC:  Yeah, I think they did.  I presume they did, it sounded like my voice.  The dubbing was done in LA.  The language was Huttese.

A&M:  Was it based on any real languages?

MC:  Well somebody said--I don't know if it's true--that it was a Mongolian dialect run backwards.  What they were doing in those days was coming across dialects from these obscure parts of the world and sort of running them backwards and writing it out phonetically.  So, initially the lines had meant something, but all we got was Huttese.  My first line was "Te wanna wanga."  I can hardly remember any of them.  I tried to create a meaning for them.  I had a long scene with Mark Hamill when we walked down the corridor that was cut from the original which was all in Huttese.  We each had our lines down, but it was very difficult to tell when the other had stopped speaking, so I'd be craning my neck around to watch his mouth.  When he'd stop moving, I'd say my line.  He was doing exactly the same thing.  I had to shout at him, I remember, and when I shouted all my teeth came out in his face.  But the scene we eventually shot was with both of us speaking English on the stairway.  I don't think it was my voice but that it was someone impersonating my voice.  You don't know what you're going to do in the part until you see yourself made-up.

A&M:  We noticed you used a lot of facial experssions.  Did you find it difficult to express Huttese?

MC:  Not if you invented what it meant.  I tried to think of what the lines meant and wrote them out.  I'd speak to Richard Marquand and ask him if that was right, and he'd say "yeah, that's fine."  So if you yourself actually know what it means, then you can express that.

A&M:  Guess you didn't have to get your lines straight exactly since it was a made up language...

MC:  The professional in you always insists that you get it absolutely dead right, you know.  I did get them right.  It's always difficult to learn a jibberish language.  I had to do that one time on stage.  I think it took me longer to learn that part than it does to learn Shakespeare.

A&M:  Have you followed the character at all through the comics or the novels?

MC:  No.  My son got a copy of the novels.  People have told me a lot about it.  I've learned more about Bib in the last three months than I knew when I played the part.

A&M:  How old is your son?

MC:  He's now 19.  He got all the models when he was younger.  The Millenium Falcon, and the AT-ATs, the X-wing, and all that.  I think my daughter is 18 months older than he and he had a Chewbacca, but she wasn't as interested.  Three months before shooting began we had to start the makeup work and I had to go up so that they could try something on me.  There was an original batch of about 100 sweatshirts made, but I was given one, and they were "Revenge of the Jedi" shirts, before they changed the name.  I gave it to my son and he used it as sort of a security blanket and it's covered in teethmarks.  He's still got that.

A&M:  Did you keep any props from the film?

MC:  I tried to keep the eyes but the optician broke them after filming.  I did keep one fingernail.

A&M:  Do you still have it?

MC:  No.  I don't know where it is. When we told him that Mark Hamill still had a rubber frog from the set, he said that there were also real frogs in the bowl.  They could only stay out for two or three minutes at a time.  There was a frog handler there who took really good care of them.  The frogs had it better than the actors!

A&M:  Do you have any humerous stories from the set?

MC:  The first line I had when the droids entered was "Te wanna wanga," you know?  And that was the first shot I did in a Star Wars film with all these millions of pounds of set around me.  And with the eyes I couldn't really see--I had tunnel-vision  so I couldn't see the line on the floor and didn't know where to stop.  So they nailed a length of wood down so that my foot would hit it.  Soon as my foot hit it, I knew I was in the right position.  So we shot the scene, they said action, I waited a couple of beats and turned and started to walk.  My foot hit the batton, but hit it too hard and so as I fell over I shouted "Te wanna wangaaaaaaaa..!"  Quite a few things happened.  With so many people in strange costumes, accidents were happening all the time.  People facing the wrong way.  Kenny Baker in R2-D2 was always scooting off in the wrong direction, and he could never hear what was being said, as people were banging on the droid's head.  I often couldn't see the actors to whom I was supposed to be speaking, and I was sort of guided around.  A few humorous thing happened which I probably shouldn't repeat.

A&M:  Maybe with Carrie Fisher and the gold bikini...? (I feel obligated to point out that it was Darin who asked this! - Scott :)

MC:  Carrie and that gold bikini, now there was a sight for sore eyes.  Poor girl, she was chained to Jabba for days, weeks and looking kind of forlorn.  And you'd get ignored sometimes.  Because my head was very heavy, between shots I used to stand very still and absolutely straight so that the head was balanced on my spine and I looked a bit like a statue.  So people would talk about me as if I wasn't there...looking at my face and saying "my God, look at that!"  while I was standing there.  Carrie was a lot of times forgotten, but every now and then someone would come by and offer a cup of tea.  It's not as though we were being neglected, its just there was no time.

A&M:  What was it like working with the big Jabba puppet?

MC:  It was interesting.  There were about eight people operating it.  The only difficulty was that the voice was read by somebody offstage.  So you had this enormous puppet with a thin little voice.  We shot some things which were never shown on film, such as when Bib was drunk.  I was sitting with Salacious Crumb and a girl who was one of the dancers and Salacious drinks my beer and throws up.  George thought it was very funny, but it got cut because it was just too much.  The girl picked to sit with me was repulsed by my appearance.  When she was brought to me she was almost shaking.  She was horrified by the makeup.  Also, what you didn't see in the film is that the tentacles could pulse, and the makeup man was making them pulse, and she was hysterical.  After a while she began to relax a bit and realize that there was a human being underneath all this rubber.  Later she would do things for me such as bring me coffee and hold the cup for me--I couldn't hold anything with the makeup on my hands--and I would drink it through a straw.  We sort of got to know one another, and her last day's filming she asked to see the makeup removed, so I said it was alright.  When the makeup was removed, I would generally sort of scratch my head for a minute and a half.  She was standing directly behind me watching in the mirror as the makeup came off.  So the makeup artist tore off the makeup and I bent my head over and scratched my head for about a minute and a half, and raise my head and she said "Oh, it's YOU!"  Dissapointed a bit. (They had met each other before - A&M)

A&M:  We heard that you didn't know you were going to be in a Star Wars film to begin with.

MC:  No I didn't.  I went for a part in "Blue Harvest."  My agent said she didn't know what it was about.  I went for the interview and Richard Marquand was very vague about the whole thing and he actually offered me the job as I was walking out.  And I said "O.K. I'll do it" not knowing what it was.  He said it doesn't start filming for about four months.  So he said "sit down and I'll tell you what it is--it's the next Star Wars film, but don't tell anyone" so I immediately went home and told my kids and told them not to tell anyone.  My son actually managed to keep quiet, but my daughter came home crying from school.  She'd had to tell her best friend and she thought the Lucas police were going to be around to arrest her.

A&M:  So have you seen the Special Edition and what did you think?

MC:  Yes and I thought it was very good.  It was the first time I'd seen Jedi really since it came out.  I saw it on the screen and the only thing I could think was "my God, I look young!" even under all that makeup.  My son didn't see Jedi for years because when he went with me to see the opening, he was so terrified that he dove down behind the seat.  So he saw the film, but didn't really see me.  He saw it years later on video.

A&M:  When we saw the special edition, we noticed a big, red tongue thing hanging from the ceiling in the background in Jabbas palace.  As it turns out it was there all along but we missed it up to now.  Do you know what that was?

MC:  I vaguely remember that.  I don't know what he was.  He probably ended up in my dressing room, because that's where all the freaks were.   The first morning of filming it was a very bad car day.  There was a bad winter storm which hit England and left 8 inches of snow, which is unheard of in England.  I was being driven to the studio and a double decker bus smashed into our car.  Mark Hamills driver went to pick him up, left the car running since he was only going to be gone a moment, got Mark Hamill and came back out and the car had been stolen.  The Mercedes which was going to be Harrison Ford's was picking someone else up and the engine blew up.  A bad car day.

A&M:  What have you been up to since Return of the Jedi?

MC:  I did a film called "The Keep" afterwards, I've done a lot of British TV, a show on HBO, the National Theater, I've been to Moscow, I've worked in the theater in Japan, Switzerland, Greece, Georgia, just the general life of a British actor.

A&M:  Being in touch with the British actors, have you heard anything about the prequels?

MC:  They're very secretive.  The Lucas people are quite secretive.  For example, the first day that I got the full makeup on, I had to go out to the soundstage to have a lighting test. They had made me up in the front of the studio instead of the normal dressing rooms.  So I had to get from the front of the studio to the soundstage, which was about a hundred yards.  But they were concerned that someone might have a 1000mm lens and snap a photograph of me.  I couldn't get into a car because of the head.  So in case someone took a photograph of me, they asked if I would wear a garbage bag over my head.  So I got a garbage bag over my head and was led to the stage.  After the lighting test, I had to put the garbage bag back on and be led back.  My first public appearance was as a mobile garbage bag.  I met an actor who said he had been penciled into the film (the first prequel).  I asked him what he was playing and he said he had no idea.  He played a part in a Chekov we did with a Russian director, I can't remember his name.  He was actually my understudy.  All I know is what everyone else has heard.

A&M:  We've heard that Oliver Ford Davies may have a part.

MC:  Oh, Oliver Ford Davies, ohh!  He does a lot of work, he's about middle-fifties, a quite upper-class Englishman.  Well that's good.

A&M:  Do you know Ewan McGregor?

MC:  I don't know him personally no, but I know who he is.  He's about to become the most famous actor in the universe.
No we haven't heard anything more than you have.  The only thing is my daughter is 21 years old and is about to start her final year getting her degree in design at the Glascow School of Art, which is a very good school in Great Britain.  Her best friend was doing some work on the costumes for the first (prequel) film.  She met George Lucas.  She went back to Glascow, and I had given my daughter a shirt with a painting of Bib on it.  She was wearing it one night when she went out for a drink with her friend.  Her friend said "Why are you wearing a Bib Fortuna T-shirt?"  My daughter said, "well that's my dad!"  This girl couldn't believe it because she had been lengthening my costume.  She'd spent six weeks working with a full life-size photo of me beside her desk, not knowing this was her friend's father.  I think they're going to be using my costume for the new movie.  There might be creatures like Bib.

That pretty much concluded our interview with Michael Carter. Later that afternoon, Ben Stevens handed us a wad of money and said, "Take Michael and John Morton out to dinner. I can't come." He didn't have to say another word! We took them to a genuine Texas steakhouse. I wanted to take them to a Chinese food place so we could put a bib on Michael and give him a fortune cookie, but that idea was dropped. Michael was very pleased, what with mad cow disease in England and all. It was definitely hard to find good steak in England! Michael said, "What's next, mad chicken disease?!"  

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