The “Secrets of the Cantina” panel at Star Wars Celebration was one of the events that I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. Featuring co-presenters Pablo Hidalgo from the Lucasfilm Story Group and Tom Spina of Tom Spina Designs, they delved deep into the mythos of one of the most popular scenes from Star Wars: A New Hope, talking exclusively about those creatures (and ugly humans) that inhabited that infamous bar. At times playing out like a spoken word CSI: Tatooine, they talked about some of the crazy methods they’ve developed to identify some of the actors behind the monsters, as well as the actors who played parts with make-up but without the masks.
It was a fascinating hour that included a relentless onslaught of obscure information and insights into the cantina scene – where it was shot (in both London and Los Angeles), who was involved in creating the creatures and make-up effects, who was behind the masks, and who played roles without the need of makes due to their highly unique natural looks.
They began with a recap of what was covered at the original panel at the last Celebration, Celebration VI in 2012, providing interesting and humorous images via projector, such as cut footage featuring a decapitated Walrus Man with “peach yogurt”-looking blood coming out of his head, and behind the scenes photos showing how some of the alien eyes were lit up (by sticking flashlights in the backs of their heads).
Also covered the last time around was some of the methodology employed to credit different actors for playing different aliens, one example being matching shoes worn in behind the scenes photos.
One of the highlights of the original panel years ago was naming one of the most obscure cantina characters, who was up until that point nicknamed “Fu Manchu”, due to his appearance and unique mustache. The character wore a mask that was a variation (same mold, different mask, different paint job) of one of Rick Baker’s masks known as the Terminal Man.
During that panel, the audience received cards and one had a mustache drawn on the Snaggletooth character, and that fan then served as the basis for giving a proper name to “Fu Manchu”. The fan, Brandon Connors, thus became part of Star Wars history as the character was then named Braconnor Bakiska. Full details about this can be found in Pablo’s article about it on the official Star Wars blog.
Tom said that there were more humans than aliens in the UK shoot, and that the goal of this panel was to identify some of the actors who were not credited in the film for the work done portraying these characters. Most of these actors were from a casting agency called The Ugly Agency, funny enough, and they specialized in actors who looked quite a bit different from the typical Hollywood leading man. They started in this segment talking about the bartender, probably the most famous of the “uglies”.
Interestingly, there are three seen in the cantina that are actually part of Jabba the Hutt’s posse (in the cut scene).
With this Celebration panel, Tom and Pablo decided to give a name to another character from the cantina scene, this one who has over the years been referred to as “Little Aunt Beru”.
Uncredited in the film, the actor was misidentified in production notes as having been played by actress Gilda Cohen.
During the panel, Pablo and Tom provided images and casting headshots proving without a doubt that the character was actually played by actor Jeff Moon.
As everyone entered the room before the start of the panel, each was handed a red raffle ticket with a unique number. After talking extensively about “Little Aunt Beru” and identifying the actor, Pablo drew a raffle ticket and fan Damien Deojeda approached the stage, and his name was converted to Damono Deomaley, which then officially became the canon name for the cantina character (in place of “Little Aunt Beru”).
Throughout, Tom and Pablo paid tribute to the work of Rick Baker, Laine Liska, John Mollo, and others involved in bringing the famous cantina scenes to life.
A lot of the behind the scenes stories talking about the intricacies of creating and bringing it all to life certainly was underscored by the low budget of the endeavor. A great deal of recycling costumes and costume parts was discussed, as the pair have over the years pieced together what is seen on screen and where it all came from.
Many great images were shown throughout, some never before shown to the public, including the first “Star Wars Selfie”.
At the end of the presentation, Tom put three of the original masks (borrowed from Bob Burns) for fans to check out in person.