Alan Harris interview | Bossk | Star Wars

Alan Harris
Bossk, Sergeant Merril, Stormtrooper (The Empire Strikes Back), Stormtrooper (Return of the Jedi)
Interview: May 2010

How did you get started in the movie business?

I was a male model and it took 6 to 9 months to get paid, so I found out about doing extra work and did that instead.

How did you get cast for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?

I knew Steve Lanning and Roy Button from Space 1999; a series I was on with Quentin Pierre (who starred on all three Star Wars movies). One of the Directors was David Tomblin and they got me as they knew me.

Your best known part is that of Bossk, the bounty hunter. Can you tell something about the filming of these scenes? And how did you get this role assigned?

I was a stand in for Anthony Daniels already as well as a Bespin Guard. When Anthony Daniels had some days off they just got me to do other things when he wasn’t around. We were about 12 ft in the air on the set. Irvin Kershner originally wanted the camera to come off the main cast down below and come up to us. The camera came up and caught my claws so I had to curl them for future shots. My only visibility was through the nostrils, so being high up on a platform was a bit scary.

There have been a lot of stories and comics featuring Bossk and his background. Do you keep up with these stories?

No. I have the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy that I read once and I bought a comic once.

How do you feel about the fact that your part as Bossk has given you Star Wars immortality?

I’m very surprised as I only started signing 10 years ago. Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) got in contact with Chris Parsons (4-LOM), and then Jeremy thought it was me in the Bossk costume. Then Chris got my number through the Union to start signings.

Did any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things happen on the set?

With the industry being a serious business you have to get on with everybody and get on with the job so no time or budget for messing about.

Can you tell something about how Irvin Kershner directed you in The Empire Strikes Back?

When he directed me as a Stormtrooper I came out of sliding doors with a machine gun, turn to my right and fire my gun. He didn’t want me to crouch for cover. He knew I was a fearful stormtrooper and should stand up and be fearless.

You were the body double for Han Solo in carbonite. How did this came to be?

Irvin Kershner had the idea. We were in the props room where they put a shroud over me and two drinking straws through my nose so I could breath. They later cut my face out and put Harrison Ford’s in. Irvin Kershner and I looked at the finished product on the set and Harrison came over. He said he was thinking of turning one of these into a coffee table. I don’t know if he ever did.

You were also the double for Anthony Daniels (as C-3PO); did the two of you work together a lot? If so, how was your relationship?

I wasn’t ever the double for Anthony, I’m too tall. I was his stand-in for lighting purposes with an old gold mask of his and a piece of elastic to keep it in place and eventually a gold jacket too. We got on fine along with John Birkenshaw and Brian, a props guy nicknamed Toby, who was also on Space 1999 who both attended to Anthony.

Almost 19 years later you were the double for Terence Stamp in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. How did you land this job, so many years later?

It’s just that I looked a bit like him and originally I was his stand in. His usual stand in had a bit of a health problem and suggested me for just two days. Then around a week later they asked me to double for him in a shot with young Anakin and the Queen. Ten days later they used me as a double and point my finger at something. A girl dancer on one side and some guy with a tube coming out of him on the other.

What are you up to right now? And do you have new projects coming up?

Not at all. I’m almost 72 years old. I effectively retired seven years ago and I can’t get up early in the morning for filming work.