John Simpkin is an actor, known for Die Rückkehr der Jedi-Ritter (1983), James Bond 007 - In tödlicher Mission (1981) and Flash Gordon (1980).
Thank you John simpkin for your time for this little interview
You’re very welcome Bernd, thank you for inviting me to be part of your excellent magazine! (Also my first interview for Germany, so I’d like to say Hi to all the German SW fans)
- You played in one of the biggest SiFi movies of all time,Star Wars Return of the Jedi, Can you tell how you got cast for Star Wars And how did you get your part assigned?
Well I received a phone call from my agent asking me to go to Elstree Studios London to audition for 4- 6 weeks work as an Alien on the new Star wars movie ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ (as it was called then). The wardrobe team fitted me with the costume and there were two amazing looking green heads on wig stands that seemed to stare at me! (Klaatu and Wooff) . The Assistant director came in and asked me if I was claustrophobic at all, because another actor had had a panic attack when the mask was put on him… I answered that I wasn’t (even though I am!) because I really wanted that job. They put the head on me…I walked around carrying my staff, not being able to see much. I thought I was suffocating and silently panicked for a couple of minutes… Then I heard the Assistant Director say “He’ll do fine!” And that was it.
- What do you remember most of you work as Klaatu?Is there a special or funny moment?
Lots of memories… Just walking on to that incredible set and seeing Jabba the Hut for the first time! George Lucas saying good morning to me, and me trying to speak with the mask on. The set was incredibly hot , and a couple of the actors wearing latex Alien heads actually collapsed during the first days of shooting. After that the wardrobe guys hit on the idea of poking hairdryers (set on cold) into our mouths between takes to give us air.. It worked but looked pretty surreal.
The funniest moment I can remember was when the crew were rehearsing a close-up shot of Jabba fondling Carrie in chains… The people operating Jabbas arm from inside, couldn’t see what they were doing, and the result was it kept groping her in a very personal way! She turned to me and said “well I guess It’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it!”
- What was it like meeting and working with Carrie Fishe and Mark Hamill?
Ah, a very good question. They were both really nice, really friendly . But Carrie was everyone’s favourite. A beautiful actress, and such a lovely, funny person… I think most of us loved her.
- When you look at the Star Wars Universe and see all the fans they know you, have an Autograph,Photos with you and all the things ,what do you feel about it?
Totally gobsmacked! (amazed). It began for me in 2011. I didn’t know anything about the convention scene (I hadn’t seen “Galaxy Quest “!) and one day I took a phone call from a guy who told me he was booking Starwars actors for a major London Convention to Sign Autographs!! I honestly thought someone was playing a joke on me? When I realised he was genuine I said “ok I’ll come, but nobody will want my autograph”… I was wrong. When I got to the huge Earls Court exhibition Centre I was led to a table with my name on it, and a long queue of SW fans wanting my signature. I couldn’t believe it! Apparently word had got round that a new name had appeared from Jabba’s Palace.
Even then I thought, well this is great but it will probably never happen again. But it’s become part of my life now (though the queues are shorter of course!) One of the greatest things about it is the people I’ve met, the fans that have become friends all over Europe, and the old friends from my acting days that I’ve re-connected with.
- Your Character is available as action figure, did you holding one of this in your hands?I had one as a child but lost it over
Yes that was pretty exciting. The first time I saw one a fan brought it in to a signing (In its original packaging) for me to sign, I couldn’t believe that toys had been made of my character (Though Corey Dee Williams must have had the same thought!). Since then If I see one for sale I cant help buying it .. I recently bought one still in its original packaging, and have another customised with my name on it made for me by a talented SW fan. I also have Klaatu head which is vitually identical to the original, made by artist Chris stephens. So all in all I have quite a collection!
- John you not only worked in Star Wars you also played an Hawk Man in Flash Gordon and also you had appeared in James Bond.
What was your favorite role so far and why?
I did loads of others too, to be honest. Clash of The Titans, The Legend (As a stand-in for Tom Cruise) Zeferelli’s Hamlet (as an action double for Mel Gibson) . The Flash Gordon Hawkman was definitely the coolest costume I ever wore, even if it did remove the skin from my shoulders!
But of course, I have to say the best was klaatu … because R.O.T.J is such a great movie (and I got to play a stormtooper in the ‘ You Rebel Scum’ scene). I feel proud and privileged to be part of the original Trilogy.
- When you not work as actor and being on Conventions what are you doing?Play Music?
Yes… I play in a Covers band called Peach (PeachtheBand on facebook!) and occasionally with a three-piece blues-rock band too. I love playing guitar, and have done it most of my adult life.
Until recently I also worked part time as a fitness trainer, but retired from that a few months ago. Getting a bit old for that!
- Thank you John and when you would you can say some last words to your fans.
Yes. I would like to say hello to the German fans in particular.. I’m glad to say I’m in touch with a few of you (including one Klaatu cosplayer!) from a convention in Munster some years ago. Hope to be signing in Germany again soon and meeting more of you. One of the things I love about being part of ‘The Starwars Universe’ is getting new friends all over the World. MTFBWY