The 10 actors interviewed in Elstree 1976 are the masked and helmeted people who either help to add some extra life to the background, or had small speaking parts, or in the case of David Prowse, played an iconic character whose effort is rarely recognized.
This documentary contains the names of some actors that more devoted Star Wars fans will recognize. These names include Prowse (the actor, not the voice, of Darth Vader), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Garrick Hagon (Biggs), and maybe even Angus MacInnes (Gold Leader, the Rebel pilot who died during the first trench run), but some of the other actors, and characters, are far less known. Paul Blake was the actor who played Greedo, Laurie Goode was the Stormtrooper that hit his head on a blast door, Pam Rose was one of the aliens in the Cantina, Derek Lyons was a temple guard at the Rebel base, John Chapman was one of the pilots in the briefing room, and Anthony Forrest played Fixer, a character that was completely cut from the film.
Interestingly enough, because of the hyper-merchandising of Star Wars, many of these background characters actually had figures and, to some degree, backstories. In a way, it's because of that extra movie information that some of these lesser known characters became known enough for their actors to appear at sci-fi conventions and provide autographs.
Elstree 1976 starts by having each of the actors talk about getting started in not only acting, but also being cast for the film. Some stories involve having their agent say to be on the set and just put on whatever the wardrobe department puts them in, while others had more involved interviews. Prowse's story is more involved than the others since he had already made a name for himself in the bodybuilding world and even had a role in A Clockwork Orange.
The different actors also spend a bit of time talking about what it was like on the set and what their various roles entailed, but the documentary really picks up momentum when the interviews shift from the filming of the movie to the years of conventions that followed. While some actors, like Prowse, and later Bulloch, were more well known than the others in this documentary, none of them would garner the interest that the film's main actors did. As the years went on, the conventions seemed to be a good place for actors that had some minor speaking roles to make some extra cash. These included Hagon, MacInnes and even Forrest. Forrest himself seemed amused that he was getting the attention he was since his character wasn't even in the film. There is a scene with Biggs and Luke talking on Tatooine before Biggs leaves to join the Rebellion. Forrest played Fixer, their other friend, and with that scene gone, so was Forrest's primary role. He did, apparently, go on to play one of the sandtroopers that stops Obi-Wan, but this doesn't seem to be the role that most people were interested in.
According to Chapman, at some point, years after Star Wars was released, he made an offhanded comment to clerk at a local store that he played one of the pilots in the film. The clerk got so excited that he helped Chapman get into the convention lists and start selling his autographs. Apparently this was the start of several other actors who didn't have any lines being invited to conventions and, according to MacInnes, it developed into a kind of rivalry among the minor actors in the franchise.
Elstree 1976 goes on to talk about what the different actors are doing now and what their plans are. Some have moved away from acting, some are still working when they can, and of course, some are still making appearances at conventions. As for how much they feel their time in Star Wars will affect how they are remembered, the responses were a mixed bag. Several talked about how it is a part of their life, but not their entire life. Personally, I really liked Blake's comment about having played many great roles, especially on stage but "today, my tombstone will read 'Here lies Greedo.' That's fantastic after 30 years, I couldn't ask for a better epitaph for what it has provided for me."
Elstree 1976 is very much a "talking heads" documentary. It consists of interviews with photos and footage spliced in. There are some slower parts to it, but there is also a bit of juicy gossip in there and some interesting insights for those who wondered what it was like to be at Elstree Studios during the filming of Star Wars. While it isn't for everyone, those that find this topic even mildly interesting won't be disappointed in this release.