During the production of my Jabba documentary short, Slimy Piece of Worm Ridden Filth, I was put in contact with Toby Philpott’s colleague and Jabba’s right hand man. Literally, his right hand man, puppeteer Dave Barclay. Dave helped us, along with Toby (Jabba’s left arm), Mike Edmonds (tail) and John Coppinger (animatronic engineer) to reconstruct just how it was inside that filthy Hutt. And of course it couldn’t have been done without the amazing work of Eletrographica aka Pete Starling, who rendered all that information into a multilayered illustration (below).
Dave was so impressed with the Jabba documentary that he asked if I would consider doing one on Yoda. Dave aged just 19 in 1979 was involved in building and puppeteering Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back. After a few email exchanges, Dave kindly found time between his work on The Muppet Show for an interview.
I’d gone from using only archive interviews in my full length Filmumentaries, to doing some of my own audio interviews with cast and crew, to doing longer interviews with one member of the crew for individual short docos. This time I wanted to push things on. I wanted to shoot the interview in an interesting setting. And thanks to my talented and kind friends that’s what we managed to do.
Dave kindly offered the use of a property in London. Another friend offered his West End flat. But I was interviewing a Yoda puppeteer, I wanted something relevant to the subject matter. Not just a pretty backdrop. Though I was immensely grateful to their kind offers. So I spent a while wondering where we could shoot. Did I know anyone that had a Yoda replica? A Yoda toy collection even? Was there a movie museum nearby with some Star Wars items? Then it dawned on me. Madame Tussauds London had an ongoing exhibition of Star Wars characters. Maybe I could somehow convince them to allow us to shoot there. Unlikely, but worth a try. A quick search for their press office contact details and within a day or two they had agreed just that! I must thank Nicole Fenner and Madame Tussauds for their kind hospitality and enthusiasm.
So my pals and I met Dave outside Madam Tussauds on a cold and wintery January afternoon. A short wait and we were in. And there he was, the little green fellow. Kermit. No wait, Yoda.
My cameraman buddy set up his Sony FS7 and Canon 6D. I sorted out the mic’s for Dave and myself (thank you eBay for a couple of bargains and to my Patreon supporters who helped me pay for them) and my pal Tony set up the lights that I’d been kindly loaned by my main employer. It’ all about connections people.
Dave and I chatted about his puppeteering parents, his beginnings in the film industry, his experiences on set with Yoda and Mark Hamill. His lead puppeteering of Jabba in ROTJ and his career beyond Star Wars. Dave has been involved in so many seminal films. Films that were not only entertaining to us as kids (and still are as adults) but films that led the way in his industry.
So, here is “Dave Barclay. Do or do not. There is no try”. I hope you enjoy it.