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
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?
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
(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
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
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
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?!"