No Disintegrations

06.05.14

The Cult of Boba Fett: The ‘Star Wars’ Bounty Hunter’s Spin-Off

Boba doesn’t say much. Boba was born in the hated holiday special. And as George Lucas said, Boba just sort of dies. Yet Star Wars’ infamous bounty hunter may be getting a spin-off.

Not counting his Wilhelm scream as the character falls into the sarlacc pit, Boba Fett has only four lines of dialogue in the two original Star Wars films. They are (in order of length, from longest to shortest):

“What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.”
"Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold.”
“He’s no good to me dead.”
"As you wish.”

Not bad for a bounty hunter who made his debut in the most reviled Star Wars property of all time, the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. George Lucas’s estranged ex-wife Marcia Griffin—who edited and collaborated on the story for the original Star Wars trilogy—has said he once considered making Darth Vader and Boba Fett brothers, but the idea was abandoned for being “hokey.” Even Lucas doesn’t understand why everyone loves Boba. “I’m mystified by it,” he’s said. “He seems like an all-powerful character, except he gets killed.”

So when on May 16, starwars-union.de, a German Star Wars website, released information obtained by a Hasbro employee at a recent “presentation/training” that lists the possible subjects of three upcoming Star Wars spin-off films, it wasn’t that surprising.

Fall 2014: Rebels
2015: Episode VII
2016: Boba Fett
2017: Episode VIII
2018: Solo
2019: Episode IX
2020: Red Five

(Although, the author advises readers take the information “zu einer gesunden Portion Skepsis raten,” or with a healthy dose of skepticism.)

This seems to confirm Entertainment Weekly’s report from February that at least two of the spin-off trilogies would focus on “A young Han Solo” and “a bounty hunter adventure with Boba Fett.” Initial reports suggested directors like Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) or Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) might take on one of the films, but on May 22, the Hollywood Reporter announced Godzilla director Gareth Edwards will lead the first spin-off project with a script from The Book of Eli and After Earth writer Gary Whitta.

Lucas once considered making Darth Vader and Boba Fett brothers, but the idea was abandoned for being “hokey.”

Although the first spin-off is likely to tell the Boba Fett story, that has yet to be confirmed. As reported by MakingStarWars.net, an executive at a recent Disney breakfast was overheard discussing some problems with writing the film, saying, “Lucasfilm wants Boba Fett to remain menacing and scary but we have to make him the hero of the film and it is a real challenge.” If Boba Fett is not the subject of the first spin-off film, the task may fall to the director of 2012’s Chronicle, Josh Trank. StarWars.com recently announced the hiring of Trank for another one of the spin-off films. Trank is currently attached to direct next year’s Fantastic Four reboot, a sequel to which has already been announced.

That Boba Fett may star in his own Star Wars film is bittersweet for many fans. Early remarks from LucasFilm producer Kathleen Kennedy indicated the crossover films will not overlap with the sequel trilogy, so a dedicated Fett story would diminish the possibility of the character appearing in Star Wars Episode VII, VIII, or IX.

Boba Fett’s origins lie in the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Despite appearances by all of the original cast and an impressive array of entertainment icons involved with the production, the made-for-TV movie is so hated it is rumored Lucas himself once said he “would track down every copy of that program and smash it.” Still, it is and was beloved by children, and included work from an array of 20th-century Hollywood legends. Bea Arthur, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, and Harvey Korman round out the main cast. Bruce Vilanch and Pat Proft were among the special’s team of writers. Future Care Bears producer Clive A. Smith was on board as animation director. Choreography came from David Winters, the original Baby John from West Side Story, and costumes were designed by fashion icon Bob Mackie. Most importantly, the two-hour made-for-TV film contained the first appearance of Boba Fett, with the whole of the Holiday Special acting as a frame tale for the character’s introduction.

Most of the Star Wars Holiday Special concerns Chewbacca’s family on his home planet of Kashyyyk, waiting for him to return. In the middle of the show, the imperials search the Wookie’s house, upsetting Chewbacca’s son, Lumpawaroo (referred to as Lumpy and played by Patty Maloney). To keep the child quiet, the adults slap a pair of headphones on the young Wookie as the boy watches a Boba Fett cartoon. The bounty hunter appears riding a giant dinosaur with the character voiced by Don Franks, the actor who played Dr. Claw from the original Inspector Gadget cartoons.

Franks was the first to voice Boba Fett and would return to play the character in the 1985 cartoon series Droids, but the bulk of the bounty hunter’s onscreen appearances have featured either Jeremy Bulloch, in the original series, or Daniel Logan, in the prequels. No casting decisions have been announced for the new Star Wars films, but Bulloch hopes to appear in some capacity. In a 2013 interview the then- 67-year-old actor said, “The lovely thing is…if I’m wearing a helmet, no one knows how old I am.” The actor has since denied involvement in the projects, calling rumors to the contrary “rubbish.”

Other actors who have assumed the role include Ed Begley Jr., who played Boba Fett in a 1996 six-part radio adaptation of Return of the Jedi, and Dee Bradley Baker, for the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. The most screen time as Boba Fett belongs to Daniel Logan for his performances in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Because Boba Fett’s face is never revealed, and George Lucas restricted expanded universe writers from explaining the character’s origins, there was some hope the bounty hunter was a woman underneath the armor. Until the release of the second prequel film, Attack of the Clones, Star Wars fans hoping for more gender diversity in the cast started a campaign for Lucasfilm to make the bounty hunter female a la Samus Aran. Logan was 13 when he appeared in the films, and the characters origins were finally explained—he was a clone of a famous Mandalorian warrior, Jango Fett, but not programmed with a blind obedience to order like the other clones.

Given the character’s minimal screen time, toys played as big a role in popularizing Boba Fett as any of the main Star Wars films. Apart from the Holiday Special, early promotional material for The Empire Strikes Back highlighted the character, with Fett being the first new Star Wars toy released. However, to reward fans the action figure was not available in stores and could only be “bought” by sending in proof of purchase labels from other Star Wars toys. Like the Holiday Special, the inaccessibility to the general public enhanced the character’s standing among die-hard fans.

Although minor characters like Boba Fett figure heavily in the Star Wars expanded universe, perhaps it is no accident the bounty hunter has yet to receive a canonical story. By the 20th century, bounty hunting had come to be associated with Western genre films, from whose narrative conventions Star Wars liberally borrows, but the profession harkens back to the pre-American Civil War slave catchers in narratives like 12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, and other personal accounts like those collected at The Library of Congress website. The prequel trilogy introduced the character’s father, Jango Fett, whom is believed to be named after the 1966 Sergio Corbucci film Django (which also inspired the 2012 film Django Unchained, also about a former slave turned bounty hunter). Boba Fett’s ship is also called the Slave I.

The Boba Fett film is sure to bring out Star Wars fans, Despite his limited role, the bounty hunter was popular enough for George Lucas to retcon the character into the first film when the trilogy was re-released in 1997.

With rumors of Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards attached to direct, there is a thin sliver of hope that the film will entertain and satisfy hardcore fans. Much of the praise Edwards earned for his Godzilla adaptation stemmed from his frugal use of the monster. Like Boba Fett in the original trilogy, the radioactive lizard is seen only on the periphery and almost always from a human character’s perspective.

In a brilliant and concise video essay from 2012, Cracked.com writers Michael Swaim and Cody Johnston issue a brutal takedown of not only the character’s minimal action, but also his ignominious, implied death in Return of the Jedi. In the DVD commentary for Return of the Jedi, Lucas expressed regret saying he wished he made the character’s death “a little bit more exciting.” Writing for MTV.com, Kevin Sullivan says, “If a Boba Fett spin-off is ever going to work, it’s going to be with that same mentality. The bounty hunter found his fandom through small appearances. In the original trilogy, he speaks four lines, has no backstory, dies like a chump and he still managed to find a massive fanbase.”