I remember sitting in my cousin's house in Tonbridge reading his Star Wars annual. It must have been about 1984. And I remember a picture - Luke Skywalker and another bloke with a moustache and cape standing on the desert planet of Tatooine. The only problem is, I had watched the first film hundreds of times (every day of a one particular summer. Seriously) and I couldn't recall that scene being in the movie.
That of course is one of the famous cut scenes from the original Star Wars - Luke and his childhood friend Biggs Darklighter chatting about the Imperial Academy and about how Biggs has decided to defect to the Rebel Alliance. In the end, Biggs ended up with a brief appearance in the big X-Wing attack on the Death Star, getting blown up as he tried to defend his old chum.
But Star Wars nerds (myself included) have always wanted to see that shot - which also features former socialite Koo Stark as Camie, one of Luke's other pals - as well as all the others which never made it to the finished product. A large chunk of it is inevitably on Youtube, but I was always holding out for the official version rather than something I wasn't sure was complete.
Thanks to the new Star Wars Blu-ray, which is out now, you can see it all. You can also hear Greedo speaking in an English accent, Han Solo snogging some random girl in the cantina, Dave Prowse's original audio as Darth Vader (the word probe doesn't hold quite so much menace in a West Country accent) and much more. Extra Wampas deleted because of bad movement in Empire..., an extended beginning to Return Of The Jedi.
Plus there's a great new documentary about The Empire Strikes Back featuring an interview with the late director Irvin Kershner. Fascinating titbits include creator George Lucas revealing how he brought in child psychologists to see whether kids could handle the revelation that Vader was Luke's father and how he only decided to kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi three weeks into shooting the first film.
Anyway, watching the discs, I kept coming back to Biggs. Here was a guy who in early drafts of the screenplay was a much bigger character. By the time they got round to shooting in Tunisia, he had a small but seemingly pivotal role - England-based Canadian actor Garrick Hagon doing this longish expository scene (probably the reason it was cut), only to have it excised from history.
So you know what? I decided to find Mr. Hagon. And I did. He still lives in England, directs a bunch of radio drama and continues to act. I asked him some questions about the Cult of Biggs Darklighter which he was happy to answer. He doesn't have his moustache anymore, but more of that later...
Me: Are you pleased people are finally able to see your big scene?
Garrick Hagon: It's a nice resolution. A lot of people over the years have asked me: 'where is that scene?', 'is George going to put it back?', 'we would love to see it'. All those comments are finally being resolved. I haven't got a Blu-ray machine, but I suppose I'm going to have to fork out...I'll take it off my tax.
Can you remember shooting it?
It was my first day on Star Wars. It was quite a tough scene to do in many ways. It was long scene and it was shot in fairly long takes. I remember it very well because [producer] Gary Kurtz and I went and strolled around the same mosque that we had shot in on the coast of Djerba about five years ago for a documentary. It brought it all back. It was one day, but it was a very special day for me.
Despite barely being in the saga, Biggs seems to have built up quite a following?
The story of Biggs and his family has developed. Also, people have been intrigued by the very photograph that you liked. Where is this guy? The models they've brought out helped continue the character.
Does it have the same outfit you wear in the film?
Yes. It's a very natty costume. I have this wonderful cape. And apparently if you take the model out of the box the cape flies in the wind.
Tell me about the moustache.
I wore a beard in a film I shot in the desert just before Star Wars. That was called The Message. I did that for 13 months with a full beard and moustache because I was a disciple of Mohammed with Anthony Quinn. Then I wore it for A Bridge Too Far. That's just what I was wearing when I went to see George. I'd gradually trimmed off the beard and kept the moustache. It's been an iconic mark for Biggs - he's the character in the series with a moustache. If you see a little Lego toy with a moustache, that's got to be Biggs!