Mark Dodson interview | Salacious Crumb | Star Wars

Mark Dodson
Salacious Crumb (Return of the Jedi), Marauders, Ewoks, Teek (Ewoks: The Battle for Endor)
Interview: August 2010

How did you get started in the voice acting business?

There’s a long answer to that! I’ll try to keep it short. I went out to Los Angeles right after high school in 1978 and I wanted to work into film as a director/producer. I know that I couldn’t afford to go to college as my family didn’t have the ability to do that, so I thought I should start as a production assistant and work my way up. That was in the late 70’s when it was easier to do that than it is today. I went to Los Angeles and had various jobs to pay the bills. There, I met a woman called Rita Bozyk who worked for Lucasfilm, doing the toys. We ended up together and she was told that she was going to be transferred to Marin County. I moved with her there. They were looking for carpenters to work at the Kerner Company in San Rafael where they were building the sound studio Sprockets. I took the job, working as a laborer. Then, Ben Burtt was looking for a voice for a creature. He wanted to know if someone had a raccoon, as he wanted to record raccoon chirps. Rita and I happened to have a baby raccoon called Mabel as a pet. Ben came to our house to record, but the raccoon didn’t make the sounds he wanted. We asked him to leave the equipment so we could record it when Mabel would make the sound. I had done some voices since I was a kid and thought why shouldn’t I try and see if Ben can use it. I did some impersonations, recorded them, returned the equipment to Ben and said I did some voices. A week or so later he asked me if I wanted to try out for a creature. I went in and did some lines. I didn’t know what it was for. I didn’t get the part, but some of the raccoon chirps were used. My wife Rita asked me what the creature I tried out for was. I said I had to say some kids name “phone home” and some weird sounds. When we went to the screening of E.T. all of a sudden E.T. says “Elliott” and I said to Rita “That’s the part I tried out for!” Elliott was the kid’s name I couldn’t remember. Months later I let Ben know that if he had other creatures I’d love to have another shot. He called me later that he had some voices he was looking for, I went to the studio I had worked on as a laborer and I was given a script for the part of Admiral Ackbar. I was so nervous and green…and I didn’t do a good job. I told this to Ben and asked him if I could loosen up for a minute. I walked away from the mic and started cackling and screaming to get rid of the nerves. Ben said he might be able to use me for one of the creatures. Ben directed me and the voice I had to do was between a bird a rat and a monkey who just saw something funny. I did the laughing and then I had to do some screaming as if I was chased by a giant. He said it was great and he’d use it. I got a check and weeks later I went to the screening of Return of the Jedi. Then, Salacious Crumb comes on and started cackling. I told my wife “That’s me!” “What do you mean?” she said. I said that it was the voice I ended up doing. After the screening there was a nice lunch with cast and crew. I went up to Ben and asked him if I was that little guy next to Jabba. He said I was and asked if I liked it and if I heard some of the other stuff. I said that I thought my sounds were used for some of the Ewoks and he told me I was right. So, that’s how I got started.

Did you have voice acting role models? People like Clarence Nash, Mel Blanc or others?

When I was in fifth grade we had to do a speech on how to do something and I did a speech on how to do impersonations. I loved voices. I knew who Mel Blanc was. As a kid I was always into impersonations, fun voices, crazy voices, evil voices. My biggest role model would be Paul Frees. At the age of 9, in 1970, I went to Disneyland and we went to the Haunted Mansion. I remember asking a crewmember who the voice was and I was told it was Paul Frees. I thought it was the greatest voice I ever heard. I found out he was also the voice of Boris Badenov from Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Pillsbury Doughboy, many of the voices from Fractured Fairytales and the Disney rides Pirates of the Caribbean and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. I listen to his styles and try to put my own spin on them. I can’t sound like him, but it’s something to shoot for. The emotions in his voice are what I try to get close to.

On and your own site you are credited for Battle For Endor; a Star Wars spin-off movie that featured the Ewoks. Which characters did you voice for this movie?

For Battle for Endor I voiced the Marauders, some of the Ewoks and Teek. This came because Ian Bryce was a producer on this movie. Ian and I were friends and he knew I had done stuff for Return of the Jedi and he called me and asked if I wanted to do this. I said yes of course. I like doing the crazy characters, like Teek.

Can you share some memories regarding working on the Star Wars projects you did?

Besides working at the Kerner Company I also worked as a carpenter on the Skywalker Ranch. Because of my wife I was able to go to a lot of the screenings. My best memories are working at the Ranch, it was fun and amazing. They were building beautiful Victorian places and I was an apprentice carpenter on that. My time in the studio for the voices wasn’t long. My greatest memories are the comraderie, the feeling of family that George Lucas created. You really felt being a part of the family. It was the greatest place to work. We were treated well, paid well, fed well, the parties were great, the fourth of July party at the Ranch and the Christmas party in San Francisco…One of the most fun things I remember was the Christmas party in the year of Return of the Jedi, Ian Bryce saw to it I was at a table with Anthony Daniels. When we were sitting there, ready to eat, Ian said “Mark, I want you to meet Tony”. I said “Mr. Daniels, nice to meet you”. Ian said “This is Mark Dodson, the voice of Salacious Crumb”. Tony looked at me and with a voice of disgust, said “Oh, I hated you”. I was like ‘why does he say that?’ Tony went on: “You took my eyeball out and I hated that!” Of course, he was joking and we laughed about it. So, having C-3PO say he hated me is one of the best memories. Being an evil character you want people to hate you. We laughed, had a nice dinner, and danced. Of course, I didn’t dance with Tony! (laughs).

You are featured in a Star Wars movie and a Star Wars spin-off movie. How come you didn’t get a part in the latest Star Wars animation series: Clone Wars?

Well, if you were the voice director I probably would have by now. I took time away from voice over to work in the radio business. It was steadier work. I started a radio company that lasted about 15 years. As I got away from it I didn’t make myself that available, people didn’t know how to get a hold of me.
I was running the company, writing comedy, producing, doing everything. It was steady work and I like that. I’m not someone who likes to sit and wait for the next job for too long. I met Matt Wood and talked with him a few months ago. I told him I’m out here again and back to do voice work and if he needs me for Clone Wars I’d love to be a part of it. So who knows? Matt, if you see this, remember me!

How do you look back at the things you did for Star Wars and Ewoks?

I look back at it as some of the best times of my life, with a lot of affection. It was my start doing voiceovers. I met great people, worked with George Lucas, I ended up being a part of something I think is going to live forever and I’m humbled by it. I can’t believe I’m a part of it. Quite honestly, if it wasn’t for Star Wars, Ben Burtt and George Lucas I’d be another voiceover guy nobody really hears of.

After Return of the Jedi came Gremlins and Gremlins 2. Can you tell how you got cast for these movies? I understand it was Steven Spielberg who wanted you?

Well yes. Chris Walas and Tony McVey were the monster makers that made Salacious Crumb and they were brought in by Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and Mike Finell to do Gremlins. When they were working on the movie they had a meeting. I’m told that it was Steven who asked who the voice of Salacious Crumb was. Chris, who was a friend, said he knew and it was me. They asked if he knew how to get in touch with me. Salacious kind of looked like the gremlins and had the style of voice they wanted for Gremlins. Chris had my number and I had told him at one point that it would be great if they made a movie were Salacious Crumbs planet was involved. Chris called me and said we needed to get together. He reminded me of what I had said and told me there was a planet with many Salacious Crumbs and it was called Earth. He asked me if I was interested, which I was. I then went to Mark Mangini’s studio and did some wild lines and was told me they would use my voice. I also heard Howie Mandel and Frank Welker were going to be involved. I was a big fan of Frank, so I was like ‘Wow, I’m going to work with these guys!’ That was exciting. So, Salacious led to Gremlins.

What do you recall from your time working on Gremlins and Gremlins 2? I bet it must have been fun working with Howie Mandel and Frank Welker.

It was a lot of fun and exciting. Any time you’re working on a Spielberg movie you know it’s gonna be good. We watched a rough cut of the movie at Warner Bros and the next day we started recording, It were three 6 hour days of doing about 10 seconds at a time. It was done improve; here’s a scene, here’s a gremlin, what does he sound like, and go! We did it ‘to picture’. Gremlins 2 was even more fun because Howie, Frank, Kirk Thatcher and I were in the studio at the same time. I got to be many gremlins and mogwai including Daffy, Lenny and George. Daffy was a whole lot of fun to do because he’s so crazy. I modeled him after Daffy Duck; they pitched up his voice a bit. The recording took about a week, 6 hours a day of screaming, cackling, laughing and being crazy.

Which character you voiced is your favorite?

This may be the politically correct answer but it’s true: they’re all favorites for different reasons. Salacious Crumb is my favorite because of the Star Wars fans; they keep him alive. It was my first thing that got some notoriety. Daffy was the most fun because he has a big part in the movie and he’s a fun character. Last year I did a voice for the Silverwood theme Park, for their Halloween park which becomes Scarywood. I was the ghost host there and did a whole lot of voices for that. I got to do the Paul Frees style of ghost host. I modeled it after what Paul did for the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

Suppose you had the chance to pick any character you’d like to voice. Which character would you choose, and why?

That is a hard question. I’d love to do some of the Transformer voices. I guess if I could be anyone wouldn’t Darth Vader be the one you want to be? But who could do it better than James Earl Jones? I love the dark characters, so pretty much any dark character is my favorite.

What are you currently up to? Do you have new projects?

Yes, I’m on my second season of a show for the Outdoor channel called Bow Madness. I’m the narrator for that. I’m also going to do another hunting show called Natural Born Killers. That can be seen on the Pursuit channel. Also, I’m one of the promo voices for NBC Universal Sports, I do commercials all the time and I audition almost every day. You know, in this business you wake up and don’t think you’ll work that day. Then you get a call and all of a sudden there you are. I’m hoping to get such a call for Clone Wars one day!

(editors note: 5 years after this interview Mark got the call from Lucasfilm…and was hired to do voice work for The Force Awakens)