Back in 2014 I was lucky enough to interview Corey Dee Williams at the London Film & Comic Con. Corey played Klaatu in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi as well as being a stand-in for his father, Billy Dee Williams. Here’s what the actor had to say about his time on set.
What scenes did you stand in for your father?
The Sarlaac Pit scene in Yuma, Arizona. I was hired and went as a stand-in and ending up doubling for my father where he’s hanging over the side of the pit. It was incredibly hot. 110 degrees in the shade. We did a lot of funny things to stay cool.
Any funny stories you can reveal?
Well there was a lot that happened on set. Funny fact about George Lucas. He wore a flannel shirt in the desert and he wore the same shirt everyday throughout the whole shoot. I think it was like a superstitious thing. I remember him being in that same shirt.
I hope he more than one of them being 110 degrees out there.
Maybe he had more than one of them. (Laughs) When you’re out there you have to cover your skin up. You can’t expose yourself to the sun.
Do you own a vintage Klaatu figure yourself?
Yes I do. My manager gave me one when I found out which I only knew three years ago that it existed. I didn’t know Klaatu had a name. When they asked me to do the stunt work as the creature they just put that mask on my head and I just remember I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe and they wanted me to fight with it on. It wasn’t easy.
It must have been so surreal. A kind of “What am I doing” moment.
Yeah it was pretty surreal. I mean I didn’t go there to do that. It just happened. It was a spontaneous thing and I just said “okay! Let’s go.” So the whole trip was kind of spontaneous especially when I began standing in for my father. As a result of that work I ended up standing in for him in other films and TV shows.
Well there was pilots for shows he did. One was called Double Dare, one was Shooting Stars. I stood in for him in Number One With A Bullet and did some stunts for him. I also worked on another movie called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I was a Lectroid in that movie. They made a plaster cast of my head and then built these rubber prostheses. I had to go through five to six hours of make-up at the crack of dawn because it was a speaking role. Klaatu in comparison was just a head that velcroed up at the back.
Klaatu was named after the famous character in The Day The Earth Stood Still. Have you seen the 1951 classic? Are you a Sci-Fi fan yourself?
Yes I love Sci-Fi and especially love super hero movies. Batman The Dark Knight. One of my favourites. But yes I have seen The Day The Earth Stood Still. I haven’t seen it in a long time so I don’t remember a lot of the details about it I do remember it being very campy but really cool.
Returning to Return of the Jedi. What was it like working with the director Richard Marquand? Was he calling the shots or was George Lucas behind the scenes telling him what to do?
George was there. I think it was a combination of the two of them. George was definitely a part of it. But I think he was probably exhausted by then. He learned his lesson trying to do too much on the first Star Wars movie that he probably needed to delegate some of the other responsibilities to other people at that point. He was on set when I was there.
Do you have a favourite Star Wars? (You are allowed to say Return of the Jedi.)
Hah! Return of the Jedi. That’s a no brainer. By far I think. Not just because I was in it, but I just really like the way they wound everything up in that movie. To me it’s the best of the original trilogy but I also like The Empire Strikes Back because there were some scenes that my father had with Darth Vader. Where he kind of challenged him and nobody ever got away with that. We used to joke about, laugh and say you’re the only guy who ever talked loud or raised his voice to Darth Vader and made it to the next scene. Much less to the next movie. He was like (imitates Lando Calrissian) “Lord Vader! Lord Vader! That was never a condition of our agreement, nor was giving Han to this bounty hunter!” (Starts doing a Darth Vader impression) “Perhaps you think you’re being treated unfairly.”
Would you like to be involved in future Star Wars work?
Well who would say no to that opportunity? I mean, hello out there. Anybody that wants me to put on another mask or do anything I’m available (laughs)
We’ll make sure we get the message out there for you. Corey Dee Williams thank you for spending the time chatting to me today.
You are very welcome.
Rob Wainfur from The Bearded Trio reporting for:
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