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I am the
official UK Scout (Representative) of the Belgian Star Wars fan club Teekay-421.
Teekay-421 is a great club with a high quality fanzine 4 times a year. My membership
has allowed me to be more involved in the Star Wars universe, than I otherwise
would have been.
Thanks to Mark Dermul, for introducing me to the club and his continued support in my participation, including the odd translation!
Being involved with the club has allowed me to meet several of the Stars and help the club out with guest invites to shows, photographs with the magazine and so forth. One of these duties was a great pleasure to do, and that was an interview with Ian Liston, who played Wes Janson in the Empire Strikes Back.
Ian has a really interesting tale to tell of how he got his parts in the film. (Yes, he had more than one!) So please read to on to find out more about this very interesting and pleasant actor.
An interview with actor Ian Liston,
The Empire Strikes Back's Wes Janson,
by Lee Massie for TEEKAY-421.
Ian, thank you very much for agreeing to have this interview! It's a great honour for us, here at TeeKay-421, that you have been able to spare the time to tell us about your experiences and thoughts on Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back.
Q. The Empire Strikes Back is regarded by many fans, even after the release of The Phantom Menace, as the best of the Star Wars films. This year is the 20th anniversary of the film, how does it make you feel knowing that the film is as popular today as it ever has been?
A. Very proud and very privileged.
Q. In The Empire Strikes Back we see you playing 2 very different roles, Wes Janson, a rebel snow speeder gunner and an imperial AT-AT driver. Can you tell us how you got these parts?
A. I was in my agent's office when he asked me to answer the 'phone whilst he attended to a call of nature. The caller was a casting director. "Who's that?" she asked. "lan Liston". - "You'll do". I was known to the casting director and she asked if I'd mind spending a day at Elstree Studios in a 'big mask and very hot frock'. The part would normally have been given to an 'extra' but, such were the demands on the character, it was considered that an actor, more used and able to take 'direction', would be better suited to the task. So I spent a day at Elstree in a storm troopers outfit in the scene with Julian Glover taking place inside the 'walker' on the ice planet of Hoth. I was leaving the studio car park exit as the barrier came down sharply in front of me. Enter the studio gateman. "Are you Ian Liston?" "Yes", "Well you're wanted back on the Star Wars set". Returning to Stage at Elstree I was told that the actor cast to play 'Janson was ill. Was I free and could I be there to start the next day for several days filming? - I was and the rest is Star Wars history.
Q. When did you know that your characters would be shooting at each other?
A. I had no idea at all and didn't even realise it until about 15 years later when talking to a fan at a convention.
Q. Can you describe the feeling on set, knowing you were making the sequel to the cinematic blockbuster Star Wars?
A. The impact of the first film hadn't really hit home when we made Empire so it was just like any other job.
Q. What was it like working with Irvin Kershner, and the other members of the cast?
A. Irvin was a hugely experienced director of the 'old' school. A cinematic craftsman. The cast were all very friendly and the film was notable for the lack of star temperaments.
Q. Isn't it true that you had worked at Elstree Studio's before, but not as an actor?
A. Yes. On the very same stage as we shot 'Empire' - I'd worked there about five years previously as a 'runner' , 'Tea Boy' , on a series called 'The World of Jason King' which starred Peter Wyngarde. A fast turnaround series (one 50 minute episode every 8 days.. and all shot on 35mm film!)
Q. Do you have any anecdotal stories from your involvement with Star Wars, on set and afterwards?
A. We wondered how many times we would have to re-shoot some of the scenes. I don't mean just individual takes. They had to be just right against the blue screen backing and we must have re-shot at least three or four times until we got them right for the special effects people to work with. I seem to recollect that the camera we used on the final re-shoots was the same one they used for 'Gone with the Wind'. It was a Mitchell that was supposed to have 'perfect pull-down registration' .
Q. Wes has now become a 'New Republic' hero, not to mention a very likable practical joker, through the Xwing Series of books by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. He has also appeared in many comics and even the computer game 'Rouge Squadron', have you been able to keep track of his progress?
A. Sadly not but I'm slowly getting round to it. I understand he now has a girlfriend called Notsil. My name backwards and the writer claims it's a co-incidence? Some chance.. but very funny and hugely flattering
Q. How has your 10 weeks at Elstree Studio's, in The Empire Strikes Back, changed your life?
A. It helped me financially, at the time, and it's something I'll always be very proud of. Itís also been fun and interesting to meet so many fans so many years afterwards Ė and to meet some of the actors again, too.
Q. In your previous answer you said Ďat the timeí am I right in thinking you don't get any 'royalties' or revenue from Lucasfilm despite all the comic's, games, stories, special editions and other things Wes is involved in?
A: Not a single penny. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. We were Ďbought outí
when we were paid our fee although the Unions (Actors Equity) are looking into
whether that agreement could have covered use in computer games etc.
As far as Iím aware, none of the actors have received anything Ė not even a picture from the film company to send to fans. Like most of the other actors we didnít even get an invite to see the new film. Thatís life. As actors, weíre the cheapest part of the film making process.
Thatís why most of us (who aren't megastars earning millions) canít reply to any letters or requests for signatures etc unless a reply paid envelope or coupon is enclosed. The cost would be crippling to us.
Q. If George Lucas asked you to be involved with another Star Wars film, what would you say?
A. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes...
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your acting career outside of the Star Wars universe?
A. I'm a 'jobbing actor' and have appeared in countless TV palsy, soaps, ads, documentaries etc as well as radio, theatre, stand up comedy etc.
Q. You are now very busy with your own theatre company 'Hiss and Boo' - can you tell us what the company is up to at the moment.
A. My website www.hissboo.co.uk tells all! But we're producing a show called The Shakespeare Revue which is touring the UK and overseas. See www.shakespearerevue.co.uk for details.
Q. Does 'Hiss and Boo' leave you enough free time to meet your fans? If so have you ever considered traveling to Belgium?
A. I always try and get to conventions if asked as I love traveling and meeting people. I've spent two long weekends in Bruges. It holds a fascination for me. My father was stationed there briefly in WWII. I love the restaurants and cafes and the trips on the canals. I spent a long (and wet) weekend in Brussels and enjoyed that aswell. I like Belgium enormously and look forward to being able to visit again. It's not that far from here. I'm only 160 miles by road from Bruges!
Ian, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, we really do appreciate it. We wish you every success with Hiss and Boo, and As they say - May The Force Be With You!
Thank you. Continue to enjoy the marvelous Star Wars films. Good luck and best wishes to you all.
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