Boba Fett is, beyond being the most popular character in all of Star Wars, something of a paradox. On the one hand, it’s extremely easy to understand why the mysterious bounty hunter of few words is such a hit – he features one of the best-designed costumes in cinematic history, not to mention brandishing an assortment of bad-ass weaponry (including a jetpack!). And then there’s his enigmatic nature, which allowed viewers to fill in their own backstory and personality for the mercenary when he first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
On the other hand, however, there is essentially nothing to his character – or, at least, was, before the Expanded Universe of novels, comic books, short stories, and videogames started to explore him further, and before creator/writer/director George Lucas himself revealed the face underneath the mask in the prequel trilogy.
Still, this tension between subjective attachment and objective development has done little to diminish Boba’s popularity or fan appeal over the past three decades, and as the new Lucasfilm gears up to possibly unleash a whole new set of Boba Fett adventures on the fandom – definitely in film form and, just possibly, also on the printed page – there’s never been a better time to delve into the famed bounty hunter’s lore.
Here, then, are the 10 Things You Need to Know about Boba Fett.
10. He was originally supposed to be Darth Vader
When first sitting down with his cadre of designers and concept artists for the first Star Wars, George Lucas had a rough idea of what he wanted out of his archetypal villain, Darth Vader, but the specifics were elusive: the design process started with Vader being an “intergalactic bounty hunter” before taking the turn of making him a fallen Jedi Knight. As would happen countless times through the subsequent Star Wars films’ development, that idea of a menacing mercenary was recycled to be used for another character, this time as the brand-new villain in the sequel.
Interestingly enough, the first Boba Fett concept that Lucas and his artists explored was having Boba decked out in ancient stormtrooper armor (originally described as “Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time”), which explains why the initial passes on his costume were all white. As the design process proceeded, however, it was decided to make him visually stand out from the rest of his Imperial brethren, and splashes of (faded) color were thrown in, placing him in the middle of the scale between the all-white stormtroopers and the all-black Sith Lord.
9. He’s the first Expanded Universe character
Even before the assortment of novels and comics would officially be gathered together under the moniker (and shared continuity) of the Expanded Universe, Lucasfilm was using its licensed products to introduce its new antagonist in the lead-up to 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.
The rollout officially started with the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired on CBS on November 17, 1978 (and which has never been officially seen again, “officially”). While the telefilm’s main thrust dealt with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) visiting the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a number of other segments were featured, variety-style, including an animated short that showed the Rebels pairing up with their new armored buddy, Boba Fett, to help fend off the Imperials – only to learn at the end that Fett was in cahoots with the vile Darth Vader the entire time.
Lucasfilm wasted no time in following up the bounty hunter’s introduction with a whole slew of other appearances: character meet-‘n-greets at various shopping malls and department stores alongside Lord Vader; in a poster in Bantha Tracks, the Official Star Wars Fan Club’s newsletter; and, perhaps most indelibly for the franchise’s young fanbase, as an action figure (or two). By the time Empire released in May 1980, audiences had already been exposed to Boba Fett for the past year-and-a-half.
8. More people have portrayed him than any other Star Wars character
A whopping eight performers have helped to bring Boba Fett to life since The Empire Strikes Back, granting him a Star Wars title that has yet to be broken to this day (audiences may think that record would belong to Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, given the vast range of ages the character goes through across the first six films, but he lands in second place in this regard).
In the original trilogy, the main actor to wear the Mandalorian armor is Jeremy Bulloch, who had been starring in films since the tender age of 14 – though he missed one day of production thanks to a play he was also performing in, forcing stuntman John Morton to fill in (it’s Morton behind the helmet for the infamous “He’s no good to me dead” scene, one of the character’s few lines of dialogue in Empire). Providing the trademark voice originally was Jason Wingreen, though George Lucas replaced him with Jango Fett actor Temuera Morrison for the DVD (2004) and Blu-ray (2011) editions of the films.
When it came time to add a few additional scenes featuring the character for the 1997 Special Editions – a last-minute decision during production – it was decided that flying Bulloch in for what amounted to just a few minutes’ worth of screentime was too cost prohibitive; instead, various employees of Industrial Light and Magic were recruited to wear the armor: Mark Austin, a creature animator; Don Bies, a model maker; and Nelson Hall, the assistant manager of the model shop.
Finally, for both the prequels and the Clone Wars animated series, Daniel Logan portrayed the character, putting a face to the legendary name at long last.
7. Clint Eastwood was a primary influence
Jeremy Bulloch may have been a veteran of some dozen films by the time he was cast as Boba Fett, but the actor actually landed the part thanks to the pre-fabricated costume fitting his slender frame.
With no backstory created by the filmmakers and with very little in the way of an actual character to begin with, Bulloch was given a wide berth in creating Fett’s on-screen persona. His two big influences are rather telling: first is the Mandalorian armor itself, which contained a great deal of menace inherent in its design; and second, intriguingly enough, was Clint Eastwood’s legendary character in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the Man with No Name, who is cool both under fire and in his calculations (for a bigger score, but of course). It is the latter that provided most, if not all, of Boba’s body language, from the tilt of his head to the carrying of his blaster.
6. His actors have each portrayed multiple Star Wars characters
One of the many things that the Star Wars films are known for is their tendency to have various actors and crew members cameo as background characters; C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, for instance, has popped up as Dannl Faytonni, while Warwick Davis has appeared half a dozen times (starting with Wicket the Ewok). Even the usually shy George Lucas took a turn in front of the camera as the blue-skinned Notluwiski Papanoida.
But no one, apparently, does it like the legion of Boba Fett performers; nearly every single one of them has shown up at least one additional time somewhere along the line. First up was John Morton, who got a rare speaking role as Dak Ralter, Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) ill-fated co-pilot in The Empire Strikes Back. The ILM duo of Don Bies and Nelson Hall starred as Barquin D’an, the Bith Kloo horn player from Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and the unnamed Rodian from the Max Rebo Band, respectively, in the Return of the Jedi Special Edition. And, finally, Jeremy Bulloch himself got a chance to appear without a helmet as Captain Colton, the pilot of the Organa family’s famous Tantive IV, in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
5. He was the original Darth Maul
All the sustained pre-release publicity that Boba Fett was the center of throughout 1978 and 1979 not only lodged the character in fans’ minds, it also established the expectation that this new, ubiquitous villain would play something of a substantial role in The Empire Strikes Back. As it turns out, that most certainly wasn’t the case – Fett is, at best, a background player, with just a couple lines of dialogue thrown in.
What happened? Simple – Empire co-writers George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan ended up reworking the script, resulting in Fett’s role being downgraded and the other characters’ being expanded. While it’s an innocuous situation, it’s easy to compare it to the marketing build-up and ultimate lack of narrative payoff that befell another character, this time in the prequel era: before the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul’s scary visage was plastered all over posters, toy boxes, fast-food restaurants, and more, resulting in a fan base that was ravenous to see the new Sith Lord in the thick of the action. Needless to say, they were similarly disappointed.
4. His death was – and still is – very controversial
When Boba Fett is killed off early in Return of the Jedi, Lucas and Kasdan meant it as just one of several ways for them to wrap up the various loose threads in the original trilogy. The fans, of course, were neither impressed nor satisfied; not only did their favorite character bite the big one, but he did so in a way that wasn’t at all commensurate with his Mandalorian warrior ways.
As it transpires, Jeremy Bulloch was similarly underwhelmed by the development. Since the actor never worked from a script and, instead, was handed his material on the day of filming, he didn’t realize that Jedi would mark the end of Fett; the “weak” death made him “very upset.” Even Lucas, in hindsight, has said in various interviews and DVD commentaries that, had he realized just how popular the bounty hunter was, he would’ve made his death “more exciting.”
In the annals of the fandom, Return of the Jedi, generally speaking, and Boba Fett’s demise, specifically, are viewed as the divergent point between the original, more sophisticated iteration of Star Wars and its (largely) cartoony, ham-fisted replacement. Indeed, the most fearsome bounty hunter in the galaxy being accidentally pushed into the Sarlacc Pitt by a temporarily blinded Han Solo does seem to be the fodder for the prequels’ Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), though the vicious young Boba seen in Episode II: Attack of the Clones does go at least a little way to making this up.
3. His Special Edition scenes are also controversial
Given the raft of changes that Lucas unleashed on the 1997 Special Editions, from new scenes being inserted and vocal tracks being changed, there is barely an alteration that hasn’t generated more than its fair share of controversy (Greedo shooting first, anyone?). Chief among these, in many fan circles, is the Boba Fett edits, which never fail to elicit a particularly virulent sense of ire – and given the fact that they seem to possibly change either the tone of the films or the nature of the character, it’s easy to see why.
In the remastered A New Hope, where Fett appears as one of Jabba the Hutt’s personal bodyguards, the bounty hunter is the last to turn and leave the scene – but not before seemingly looking the camera right in the eye and acknowledging its presence, breaking the fourth wall. And in the new Return of the Jedi, it’s even worse: the normally cold-blooded man of few words can be spotted flirting with one of Jabba’s dancers, something which, Bulloch himself contends, goes against everything audiences have seen of the character both before and since.
2. He’s been brought back from the dead… twice (possibly)
Given the outrage over Boba’s death that lingered for the decade between the release of Episode VI and the formal start of the original Expanded Universe, it didn’t take the various editors and writers in charge of the tie-in materials long to go back and rectify that particular injustice: the bounty hunter, the various books and comics reveal, was able to crawl out of the Sarlacc Pitt shortly after he fell in, allowing him to walk away to fight another day – and to seek revenge for his almost-death.
While the Return of the Jedi Special Edition just a few years later would seem to put a final nail in Boba’s coffin – a giant mouth/beak was added to the Sarlacc, showing the creature swallowing Fett whole – that hasn’t stopped the new, post-Disney Lucasfilm from similarly teasing his return. In one of the recent Episode VII: The Force Awakens trailers, the symbol that Boba wears on his armored shoulder is clearly visible at new character Maz Kanata’s castle, while in the newly-relaunched Expanded Universe, the Jawas have managed to claim the bounty hunter’s much-worse-for-wear suit of Mandalorian armor for themselves, which implies that it had to exit the Sarlacc somehow.
1. He’s getting his own standalone film
In addition to the sequel trilogy that The Force Awakens kicks off, Disney has vowed to create a second series of films: originally called Star Wars Anthologies, these one-offs will follow various characters or plot points from the main saga but can be placed at any point along Star Wars’s several-thousand-year timeline.
After audiences get the chance to steal the Empire’s Death Star plans alongside an intrepid group of Rebel spies (that’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and to see just how Han Solo came to be the scoundrel that we all know and love (that’s the still-untitled “young Han Solo” film), they’ll next be able to follow Boba Fett along on some type of extra cinematic adventure. But what will this entail? No one knows just yet, as Lucasfilm is keeping this one rather close to the Mandalorian vest, but there’s certainly a great wealth of material to draw from: not only could it follow the hardened-bounty-hunter phase of his life from the original trilogy, it could follow up on young Boba’s early development that the prequels started and The Clone Wars ably continued.
Still, the biggest return for Disney’s buck would have to be a post-original trilogy tale, perhaps showing how Fett cheats death and sets about chasing down the main cast of Luke, Han, and Leia (Carrie Fisher) for a little bout of vengeance.
Did we miss an essential fact of Boba Fett’s backstory or development? Are you excited to see what Disney and Lucasfilm can do to/for the character in the years – and many products – to come? Sound off in the comments below.
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