John Wayne once turned in a cameo as Garindan, Imperial Spy, in the original Star Wars movie.
Don’t believe me?
Well, do you remember that other time when John Wayne stole the scene in Star Wars?
John Wayne wasn’t in Star Wars, you say?
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Well … I beg to differ.
In fact, I contend that The Duke shows up in the original Skywalker classic in at least three ways.
I suppose you want proof, huh?
OK, here goes — the three (at least) John Wayne Star Wars cameos you probably didn’t notice.
Greedo Shot First
OK, you know the drill here … Han and Greedo the bounty hunter are talking across a table at Mos Eisley cantina.
Actually, Greedo corners Han and forces him to sit down, then proceeds to tell Mr. Solo how long he’s waited to capture him.
The next few moments are a blur, but the end result is that Han shoots Greedo dead.
Fans have argued about who started the gun play for more than 40 years, though.
Did Han shoot first, or did Greedo?
The scene has been hacked and shortened and tweaked numerous times since the original release, with a 1997 version clearly showing that Greedo fired first, but wither others either leaning the other way or inconclusive.
The original script says that “Han shoots the alien.”
So why the shenanigans?
Well, it’s all down to the first John Wayne cameo.
Here, let George Lucas explain it:
Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, “Should he be a cold-blooded killer?” Because I was thinking mythologically—should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, “Yeah, he should be John Wayne.” And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first]—you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.
I mean … have you ever seen The Searchers?
In case you don’t remember, that’s the 1956 film by John Ford that features a young(ish) John Wayne as a southern soldier coming home after the Civil War.
Only … crap goes down with some Comanches when he gets back, and it leaves the homestead and the home folk dead, burned-out, barren.
Wayne sets off on an epic journey to avenge his family.
The Empire raided his home, burned it down, killed his aunt and uncle.
And John Wayne … er, Luke Skywalker … embarked on another sad, dark adventure.
Back in the 2000s, legendary Star Wars sound man Ben Burtt was reflecting on his history with the franchise during an interview with David Collins of Celebration Theater.
The subject eventually turned to Garindan, who ratted out Luke and Obi-Wan and their metal pals (C-3PO and R2-D2) to the Stormtroopers …
And just what’s up with that voice?
Here’s how Burtt remembers it:
I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars (OMG note: that’s Garindan) that we found we needed a sound for. And I was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.
So, yeah, Garindan was John Wayne, whether The Duke knew it or not.
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