Actor keeps Ewok head in a box as a memento
Billy Dee Williams arrives at the ‘Star Wars Episode III Revenge of The Sith’ premiere on May 12, 2005.
TORONTO — Billy Dee Williams fans take note: the actor says he did not, contrary to long-standing rumours, audition for the role of Han Solo before landing the part of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back.
“I never auditioned for anything. I was asked to play Lando and I said, ‘Yeah, great, fantastic.’ (Director) Irv Kershner came to my house, we sat and talked and got to know each other and that was that,” Williams said.
“I think I was the first little brown-skinned boy to go into space in the movies,” he added with a chuckle.
The Han Solo rumour is all over the Internet and Williams says it often comes up when he mingles with fans at pop-culture conventions, like the Wizard World Toronto Comic Con that he’ll be at this weekend.
Other stars expected at the March 18-20 gathering at the Direct Energy Centre include David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, Daniel Logan (he played the young Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones), Canadian funnyman Scott Thompson and Julie Benz, who played Rita on Dexter.
Williams has been to several of these conventions over the years and says he often sees fans wearing Lando costumes.
“Right down to the hairstyle . . . the moustache and cape. Everything. The whole shebang,” he said from Miami.
Discussion of such fan fervour reminds Williams of when he was on the 1982 Arizona film set for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The crew’s outfits and equipment were emblazoned with the fictitious film title Blue Harvest to deter curious onlookers.
The ruse didn’t fool fans, though.
Williams says he still has a cap with the Blue Harvest logo on it, as well as a few other Star Wars mementoes, including his own action figures.
“And I have an Ewok head from the movie. I have it in a box, put away. I have to take it out of the box and put it behind some glass.”
Star Wars was the first sci-fi project for Williams, who grew up in New York City’s Harlem neighbourhood and attended the High School of Music and Art (one of his classmates was Diahann Carroll, his co-star from the 1980s prime-time soap Dynasty).
During his studies he learned to paint and now has works hung in galleries around the U.S.
Toronto’s Liss Gallery will exhibit some of his prints this Friday and Saturday while he’s in the city.
In recent years, he’s had recurring roles on the daytime soap General Hospital and the series Diary of a Single Mom. He’s also done a recitation for Aretha Franklin’s forthcoming album, due out May 3.
For all his diverse roles, it’s always his Star Wars character who seems to be the biggest hit at pop-culture conventions, he says.
“They love Lando Calrissian,” Williams says with a laugh. “I enjoy doing these conventions because it gives me an opportunity to say ‘Hi’ to all of the people who’ve given me support over the years.”