Actor Derek Lyons talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his first job as an actor when he was cast in STAR WARS...
TV STORE ONLINE: How did you come to work on STAR WARS (1977)?
LYONS: I was studying drama at university and I had gotten a call from my agent and I was asked to go out to Shepperton Studios. I went out there and they took some Polaroids of me and then STAR WARS Assistant Director Terry Madden chose me for the part and I ended up taking two weeks off from my schooling to do it. I ended up being one of the two medal bearers in the final scene in the movie. The other actor that they chose to be in the scene with me was this guy named Robert, and I sadly can't remember his last name now. Robert was a ballet dancer but he wasn't particularly coordinated. When we started to rehearse that final scene in the movie Robert started tripping about. It was quite comical actually. It was like something out of Jerry Lewis movie. So they had to replace him. This was my first experience on a film set so I was very lucky to be there. The Massassi Temple Set was on H Stage at Shepperton Studios. It was a massive set. There were about two hundred supporting artists or background extras as you may call them dressed in all of those costumes as Rebel Guards and X-Wing Pilots and such.
TV STORE ONLINE: Being in that scene...It must have been an incredible vision to be up on that stage and look out at all of those people dressed in those costumes that we see in the final scene...Or was that an insert shot ?
LYONS: Actually...It was empty. All I saw was a half empty soundstage. There wasn't anyone standing there. They were all off having their tea. It really just depended on the angle that they were shooting. For example, when they were shooting the scene from Harrison Ford's angle you can see everyone in the background, so in that situation everyone was in place for the scene.
TV STORE ONLINE: Were there a lot of rehearsals for that scene?
LYONS: Yeah...Everything was specific. We had to hit our marks perfectly of course. Originally I was supposed to be in the middle of the scene and we had rehearsed it that way, but then I went off to lunch and when I came back they had asked me to change where I was with the other medal bearer. The medal that I carry in the scene was the one that was given to Mark Hamill, who of course was Luke Skywalker.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you get to spend any time with Mark Hamill?
LYONS: Yes I did. I got on with him very well because we found out that we shared the same birthday. Because of all of the supporting artists in the scene, the studio's canteen couldn't support everyone at once, so they put up some massive tents outside the soundstage. Behind the STAR WARS set, there were the sets for one of THE PINK PANTHER movies and also the set from the movie, OLIVER! (1968) One day we were having lunch and I told him that I was going to bring in my camera and take some photographs. So Mark and I and Peter Mayhew went and walked around those sets and I took some wonderful photographs...
TV STORE ONLINE: You got to spend time with Peter Mayhew as well then?
LYON: Sure. I had lunch with Peter Mayhew most days at the Shepperton pub. We had pub lunches outside as it was a very hot summer. He told me about his past and what he did and how he got the part of Chewbacca. He had told me about the size of shoes and how he used to be a porter in a hospital...
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you get to spend any time with Carrie Fisher?
LYONS: She was very nice. Harrison was very nice but he seemed sort of miserable. I was only eighteen years old when I worked on the film...And in that final scene...Carrie was very sexy. Her costume was sort of see through when you got close up to it and she wasn't wearing much under it. During the close-up in the scene, Carrie seemed to be in some discomfort with her foot. I was very shy in those days, but I offered to help her. She told me that her foot was hurting, so I got down on one knee and looked at her foot and I noticed that she had a splinter in it. So I removed it for her. She asked me what my name was and I told here. Then she kissed me on the cheek and said: "Thank you, Derek, that's very kind of you." I then went as red as the Emperor's Royal Guard!
TV STORE ONLINE: What's your favorite memory now of having had the opportunity to work on the first STAR WARS movie?
LYONS: Just that I was lucky enough to have been a part of it! My favorite memory would be just when I would arrive at Shepperton Studios and then walk onto the Massassi Temple set in my costume and makeup. It seemed so realistic and I became totally immersed in the STAR WARS universe.
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