Becoming Boba: Coming to Terms with an Alter Ego

John Horton as Boba Fett

At Dak’s first Star Wars convention appearance back in 1997, a young fan, maybe 11, comes to his table and asks him to sign his Boba Fett photo. You know the one. Boba’s with Vader, Lando and Lobot in the passageway outside the carbon freezing chamber. Unsure of the protocol, Dak doesn’t know how to respond to this request. Several tables to his right at an angle facing him, Jeremy Bulloch is signing. Dak tells this young fellow to go ask permission from Jeremy. “He is Boba Fett. If he says it’s okay, then I’m good to sign your photo.” Several minutes later the lad makes it to the front of Jeremy’s line; they have a brief exchange; Jeremy looks Dak’s way and gives him the thumbs-up.

In a comment on Bryan Young’s December 17, 2012, post on “The Cinema Behind Star Wars,” I gave a little background on how I got to play Boba. “The reference to Jeremy Bulloch having drawn from Clint Eastwood is absolutely correct. As fans know, I dep’d for Jeremy for two days on ESB in the scene with David, Billy Dee and John Hollis (Lobot). Boba says the line, ‘He’s no good to me dead.’ The day before, I asked Jeremy the usual — ‘What’s my motivation? How do you want me to play this?’ He said very simply, ‘Play Clint Eastwood.’ So when Darth Vader entered to my right and came around to face me, I very slowly and deliberately moved my head mechanically from my right shoulder to face him squarely. I thought of my move in terms of a radar tracking him, not so much for communicating to him, but rather as man-machine weapon system that coolly and continuously regarded him as a target that Boba was ready to take out in an instant.”

John Horton as Boba Fett with Darth Vader

While I had two days in costume, I only recall that one day when they shot film. The other day, Irvin Kershner was setting up a scene between Boba and Lando in the carbon freezing chamber itself. We stood around in full costume on the gantry for the part of the day as the crew tried to make it happen. I remember a long conversation with Billy Dee Williams discussing the impact of grandmothers on our understanding of the meaning of life. Around us, first AD Dave Tomblin and his crew tried to work out the shot with Kersh. Dave Prowse may have been there as well, but I don’t remember Peter, Harrison, or Carrie being present.

For a number of technical reasons shooting wasn’t going to happen that day. I’m not sure when or if the scene was actually filmed. But a passage of the Alan Arnold book loaded on Michael Kaminski’s site is a great account of the setup and filming of part of the carbon freezing scene in June 1979 (several weeks after my time). I can tell you Arnold’s rendering is very accurate. It captures the technical difficulties with which everyone had to wrestle while shooting Empire at Elstree. I know because I was on a two day contract to play Dak that had to extend to four full weeks, and major technical challenges occurred every day. The Arnold account features Dave Tomblin, and right here I want credit him for his outstanding work as first assistant. I worked with Dave on several films, and I can tell you he was one of the greats who orchestrated symphonies out of chaos for more than a dozen big budget films. In my view, he was one of the true heroes in the making of Empire.

Anyway, over the years fans increasingly have come forward asking for my Boba signature. Celebration V was the first time I found myself featured as a Boba Fett. While behind my table was a big poster with my Dak image, Official Pix presented all of us Bobas together in a line of tables — Alan Harris, myself, Dickey Beer, Daniel Logan, and Jeremy. Fans wanted all our signatures. Most already had Jason Wingreen, the voice of Boba, acquired elsewhere. For me, it was remarkable that about as many fans approached me for a Boba signature as for a Dak. Still, I was uncomfortable signing as Boba Fett, though Jeremy has always been gracious about it. At Celebration VI, I started asking fans how I should sign. Finally one suggested, “Why don’t you sign as Bespin Boba?” Perfect. And so Bespin Boba became Dak’s alter ego.

John Morton as Boba Fett with Lando

Fast forward to 2013. Star Wars Celebration Europe lists a John Morton among the “spotlight guests” as the “Boba Fett in Cloud City in a scene in The Empire Strikes Back.” So is Bespin Boba now known as Cloud City Fett?

Derek Zenith, the editor of a blog called Zenith Edition writes some very thought-provoking stuff, particularly his commentary on bad commercials. Derek also sets himself forth as a “conservative Star Wars scholar.” In a comment on June 4 to my post, “Dak Discovered,” Derek queries, “He appeared as Boba Fett and he uses Dak Ralter as his claim to fame?” Ontological….Ask a grandmother.

Or consider one of the early announcements for Celebration Europe. On March 18, Lucasfilm touts CE with the sub-head: “Four Fetts at Celebration for the First Time in Europe!” “Boba Fett is one of the most popular characters of the Star Wars saga, and fans will have the chance to meet four actors who brought the iconic bounty hunter to life. This unprecedented collection of on screen bad boys will be a first for Celebration Europe.”

Okay, I can now say that Dak is really a pop music scholar — best known for his work on Duke Ellington. He’ll tell you that the Four Fetts are a Mandalorian doo-wop group from the mid-fifties that covered the Cadillacs’ “Speedo” with their own “Greedo” that starts like this:

“Well, now, they often call me Greedo/But my real name is Bo Ba’Fett.”

Unfortunately, they didn’t reprise it in Essen, Germany.

John appeared as Dak, Luke Skywalker’s back-seater in the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. He also appeared in the film substituting for Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett on Bespin, when Boba utters his famous line to Darth Vader, “He’s no good to me dead.” Follow him on Twitter @tapcaf.