Spidey's Interview with: Robert Watts, (Associate Producer of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi...and all three original Indiana Jones movies...
Topic: Supertrooper Project
British Producer Robert Watts was in town recently as an honored guest for Star Wars Fan Days II that was held in Plano Texas this past weekend. 10/25/08
I had the honor of sitting down with him for a few moments during one of his breaks from signing autographs to see if I could get a few inside answers on a few "Fett" related questions.
Why Interview him in regards to Fett you ask???
Well when I was first made aware a few weeks earlier by Philip Wise and C2 ventures (producers of the event) that he would be in town for the show, I happened to be going through some of my reference fett picture folders. At the time I had heard Robert Watts name previously but I never knew what he looked like, or what his involvement was in all three films. So when he was announced for the show and his picture was posted on the Scifiexpo.com Fan Days website, at that moment I knew EXACTLY who he was....and my mouth hit the floor! and I think I even screamed!..well kind of ..... all I knew was, he was THAT guy....which guy you ask?....
(These are the series of screen caps from the Test votage/video taken by Ben Burtt and company, taken of the pre-production Albino Fett, aka Supertrooper, or "Elite Stormtrooper")
So I knew I had to ask Philip if I could have some one on one time with him to see if I could get any information or details that surrounded that day and any info on the Supertrooper Project...and I was lucky enough to get my wish granted.
Day of the event:
As some of you know Robert is well known to fans because he allows you to wear his on the set Hoth jacket from The Empire Strikes Back movie when taking pictures with him...he was gracious enough to bring it along with him for this trip as well...but even better, he also brought his original Ralph McQuarrie painting of Vader on the loading dock of the Death Star, given to him by George Lucas himself. This painting has never left his home and has been in the same place for over 25 years....so it was a very special treat to see it up close. As a fellow artist it was a dream come true to see one of McQuarrie's master pieces in person. (Pic below)
As soon as I introduced myself, while giving him a TDH card (of course ), surprisingly he already knew who I was (I was in total shock at that point )...he explained that Jeremy (Jeremy Bulloch) told him previously that a group from a "Fett fan website" recently gave him his own Boba Fett Costume, and that Jeremy specifically talked about all those involved in the JB Project and he'd mentioned my name (that in itself was enough for me). Luckily I also had a few pictures of the event handy to refresh his memory, and showed him a few shots of Jeremy in the suit that Art Andrews took. He was amazed at the suit and the amount of detail, and more so how Jeremy looked in it...saying "He's still got it, WOW!".
If you've ever met Robert, you will soon learn he remembers EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING....and for his age he has not lost a beat. He's a very articulate and intelligent British man....and I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge he had, and was even more amazed on what he was willing to share about the films he'd worked on.
*At that moment he then proceeded to tell me how Jeremy Bulloch got the part as Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back. Most don't know this story but Robert Watts is Jeremy's half-brother...that's right, they're related...and he said the "original gent who wore the suit was just way too tall". So he called his Half-brother (Jeremy), who was an aspiring actor at the time, to come in for a fitting....and well, the rest is history. :thumbup
I knew my time with him was limited... So that night before, I not only printed pictures of Jeremy in his costume, but I also printed all the Supertrooper pictures I had.
Before I showed him all the Supertrooper shots I thought I would "test him" in a way. SO I only showed him the full length Supertrooper shot with the beach towel, which is shown in the TDH Wiki:
...and just like I was told about his memory he knew Exactly what it was and started to elaborate and stated "oooh the Elite Stormtrooper, I was there you know?"... and before I had shown him any additional pictures (namely the one with him in it) he began to tell me all the details of that day... (keep in mind, I am trying my hardest to not be a typical "Fanboy" at this point)
Some of the details he mentioned:
*He mentioned first and foremost "I WAS THERE!" in excitement... and he was amazed that I had any pictures of the event, as he didn't remember any photography being taking that day.
* Throughout the conversation he told me that the "Elite Stormtrooper", as he put it, was suppose to the next best thing after the regular Stormtrooper, and THEY (more than one) would be directly controlled by Vader.
* On this day these pictures and Video (which he does remember video being taken) were taken at George Lucas's home.
*He named everyone present, and named Ben Burtt, and Duwayne Dunham (who was in the white suit)...he even pointed out the fact that Duwayne (the "original gent") was the reason he asked Jeremy to come in for a fitting, as George and everyone thought the pants were to high on Duwayne and looked odd because Duwayne was just too tall...he even pointed at the highwater pants from the full length shot.
I finally showed him the picture of himself behind Duwayne Dunham (top pic), and that's when he completely freaked!!...LOL!... He said "I TOLD you I was there. You probably thought I was feeding you a line of Bull when I mentioned that I was there huh?"... we laughed and that's when I proceeded to tell him that I was just testing him, just in case.
I specifically asked him if there was more than one suit? or if he knew what had become of the project or any of pieces from the suit?.... he said "at this particular preproduction meeting at Georges place that this was the Only COMPLETE suit that he'd ever seen that was white from head to toe", and that "the decision was made by George that exact same day to abandon the white McQuarrie concept aka the Elite Stormtrooper project". I then proceeded to ask, well what happened to the suit from the time it left Georges place to what we've seen and now know of Fett on screen and other production shots?... he was very gracious and Honest and simply stated that he could not remember what happened to the suit once he left or where the transition happened.... he said "all I know was it was Georges decision to go from the Elite Stormtrooper to Boba Fett the bounty hunter, and there was only one complete white suit that day "... " I was on a plane the very next day heading back over seas, as we were also working on Indiana Jones, so I don't know any of what happened to the white suit after that day".
.....I think I could have listened to him talk Star Wars all day...but the line behind me began to build. So graciously he asked for any copies and any pictures we might have of him of that day at Georges place...so we exchanged contact information and emails.
Personally, next to my daughter being at her first con and in her first Star Wars costume, this was definately the highlight of the event for me...
The picture below you can see the photos on the table that I gave to him and his famous McQuarrie painting just off to the left.
Thanks for reading...hopefully we can take some of this info, and what's been already researched by others, to help complete this Fett Mystery.