Longtime readers of StarWars.com will already know this story. Parts of it were recounted in the official Homing Beacon email newsletter back in September 2004, and then a few months later on the ol’ user blogs that used to be hosted on this site. But since neither of those archives are readily available, and since I’m overdue for a blog post, I figured I’d retell the story of how I found the enigmatic briefing room Wedge Antilles from Episode IV. Also, this is an excuse to launch a semi-regular series of blog posts that have to do with little mysteries I’ve helped solve in my time here at Lucasfilm.
“That’s impossible, even for a computer,” says a disbelieving Wedge Antilles, pooh-poohing the only chance the Rebels have at destroying the Death Star. The ever-chipper Luke Skywalker suggests that it’s not that bad at all, and there is our introduction to the Star Wars cult legend, Wedge Antilles.
How do we know that’s really Wedge? Well, the script says so. And, thusly, the novel and other spin-off books say the same thing. And that’s Wedge’s voice (David Ankrum) coming out of the dark haired man’s mouth. But that’s not Denis Lawson playing the scene. It took a total of three actors play Wedge in Episode IV — Lawson, Ankrum and, what was for a time a mystery: the actor who played the helmet-less Wedge. Since the 1990s, fans took to calling this briefing room Wedge “the fake Wedge.”
But who was that actor?
I remember when I was first exposed to this fact. While I was freelancing for West End Games in the 1990s, editor George S. Strayton clued me into the fact that the briefing room Wedge was a different actor because George was involved in writing flavor text for Decipher Inc.’s Star Wars Customizable Card Game, and when it came to the Wedge card, the freeze-frame of Wedge made obvious the fact that it wasn’t Denis.
At this time, some postulated that the actor was in fact Jack Klaff, an actor in the credits described as playing Red Four, John D. But it’s not Klaff — this theory was spread by the belief that Klaff is not otherwise in the film, but Klaff is in there. He’s the red-helmeted Rebel pilot who blurts “I’m hit!” before his fighter is shattered into a thousand phosphorous pieces by a TIE fighter. Klaff’s accounted for.
So who was the Wedge actor?
In the fall of 2004, as I was gearing up to go to Shepperton to cover the Episode III pick-up photography for StarWars.com, I figured I’d arm myself with some background information on Shepperton and its Star Wars history, just in case I was stumped for story ideas when trying to meet my daily blogging deadline.
In looking for info to dig up, I was able to secure the daily production reports from the filming of Star Wars, in order to pay special attention to the days shot at Shepperton back in 1976. I noticed the Rebel briefing scene was shot at these studios, and the report listed the names of a number of actors required for that day. In this case, actors meant anyone with a speaking part — not extras. The “Fake Wedge” would definitely qualify.
I perused the names: Mark Hamill, Alex McCrindle, Angus McInnes, and Colin Higgins. All of them were accounted for in the credits except for Higgins.
Now, the Colin Higgins I was familiar with is the writer of the cult classic Harold and Maude. Could he be the false Wedge? I asked George Lucas, “Is this the Harold and Maude guy?” and he chuckled, saying “No.” But off-hand, he couldn’t recall who Colin Higgins was.
So, I went to the trusty Internet Movie Database, and did a search for Colin Higgins. Not surprisingly, so hardy an old-world name pulled up no less than four Colin Higginses.
Time to investigate further. He had to be fairly young at the time of shooting, since the script described Wedge as 16. He was undoubtedly British — almost all the pilots were, with their voices dubbed over with American accents during postproduction (as stated before, David Ankrum is the voice of Wedge.)
But the entries didn’t provide that kind of info. A dead end… but wait. One of the actors named Colin Higgins had an eye-catching credit. He played the character “Tak” in an episode of the British Sci-Fi series, Blakes 7.
Not that strong a lead, but I figured if any Blakes 7 fan worth his salt had a fan site on the Internet, he or she would have listed that Colin Higgins played both “Tak” and “Wedge Antilles.” Googling for Blakes 7 didn’t provide any link to Wedge… until I found the piece of evidence I was looking for… a picture of Tak.
And thus, I found the fake Wedge Antilles, as seen in the briefing room. Thanks to my discovery, Wedge fans had a new piece of trivia, which made its way into his IMDb page. Also, Colin Higgins soon began appearing at Star Wars conventions, having been rediscovered as part of this most influential movie.
Pablo Hidalgo is paid to know the difference between Romba and Lumat and dies a little bit inside when you misspell Wookiee or Lucasfilm. He lives in San Francisco and also on Twitter as @infinata.