If there is such a thing as British Star Wars royalty, then Anthony Waye surely falls under this title.
A brief description of Mr Wayes involvement in the British film industry stands testament to why he was very much first choice to take the reigns of assistant director on a New Hope.
From the early days of his career when he cut his teeth in 1960 as third assistant director on the classic war film “Sink the Bismark”, Mr Waye was constantly in demand, with titles such as “Carry on Jack”, “Dr Who and the Daleks”, “The Great St Trinians train robbery”, “Daleks invasion Earth 2150AD:, and the Action Unit on “Where Eagles dare”, all adding to his pedigree within the 1960’s.
Add to these “Mosquito Squadron”, “When Eight Bells Toll”, “Asylum”, “S.P.Y.S” and “The Romantic Englishwoman”, all before 1975 and you have every reason you could ever need to see why he was asked to do film Star Wars.
I have for some time been attempting to arrange a meeting with Mr Waye, he is literally a work horse in every meaning of the word, making meeting up an almost impossible task.
You can imagine my delight when at last a small window of opportunity opened up for a morning meet, it was not a chance I was going to pass up.
I found Mr Waye in a cheery mood and looking remarkably younger than his years, we chatted for some time and I was allowed to put some questions to him about his time on Star Wars and other projects, this is a small report on how our conversation unfolded.
Mr Waye can you remember how and when you were first told of the interest in you in relation to working on Star Wars ?
I was initially contacted by Bruce Sharman to be the the Assistant Director on ‘some space film called Star Wars’ (It was not called New hope then ) on a Sunday evening, I had just returned the previous day from a holiday in the Barbados, The following day I went into the studios in Elstree to meet George Lucas and Gary Kurtz, later that evening Bruce phoned me to say the job was mine, come into the studios next day to do a deal, which I did, Bruce warned me that I would be going out to Tunisia at the end of that week with George, Gary, Designer John Barry and Cameraman Gil Taylor plus a group of Construction boys to look at locations etc.
Can you tell us your first impressions of Tunisia ?
Before flying out I had to have a cholera shot, a requirement for Tunisia in those days. The hotels were of a very poor standard and not all that clean. On arrival we discovered that all our luggage had not been transferred in Paris onto our flight to Djerba, this included the tool boxes of the construction crew travelling with us. The following morning we all had to go back to the airport to clear our luggage through Customs, this wasted us a few hours.
What were the difficulties involved in setting up and building sets in a climate as hostile as Tunisi
Our shooting Tunisia was planned to take place in March when the weather could be very changeable and it certainly proved to be that, we had days when it was scorching hot and days when it was quite cold and windy, at one time strong winds did considerable damage to the Sand Crawler.
On top of the weather conditions we had a constant battle with the hotels, some of the accommodation was of very poor standard and many of the crew had to share rooms plus most evenings there was little or no hot water to have a shower, that didn’t help tempers much when the day had been roasting hot or you had fine sand everywhere.
So in your time filming in Tunisia did you make any memorable friendships or have any fond recollections that stand out when you think back ?
One of my memories has to be carrying Kenny Baker up the canyon to the shooting area, the terrain was very inhospitable and everything including camera’s and props had to be transported to location by hand, Kenny found the terrain too rough going so I gave him a piggy back.
How frustrating was it when things like the R2 units wouldn’t run straight at the outdoor locations ?
It was not possible for Kenny to move R2D2 over the sand so in order to get any movement over a distance we laid sheets of tracking boards in the line we wanted him to take then covered them in a thin covering of sand then the next problem was to get the footprints of the Prop boys who were sprinkling the sand over the boards removed, it all took time.
Moving on from the filming in Tunisia in which you had such an important part, was there a stand out scene that you enjoyed filming ? .
For instance the famous duel between Sir Alec Guinness and Dave Prowse, did you ever visualise that scene would become so iconic ?
Not really, nothing really stands out, it was a job and we had a schedule to hit and a budget to try to stick to, at times the financial situation became quite an issue. There were no fantastic dialogue scenes or really any action scenes, the duel you mention being one of the few and all the action in space was added in later.
How did you find the new concepts and ideas brought to the table in regards to special effects for the first time by George Lucas ?
We didn’t really know what George had in mind for the final Visual Effects that would appear in the finished film, that was all very new technology at the time, we would shoot the cockpit scenes with the actors but what they saw through the windscreen was on course done later back in the States.
In the final scene where our heroes receive their medals from the Princess we needed a large set full of extras but the budget wouldn’t allow for the number we wanted so we shot a group, then rewound the film, moved the group back then exposed the same piece of film doing this several times until we had filled the hall, all the time the camera had to be locked solid, nowadays it would all be done digitally.
The shooting George was to do back in the States in regards to special effects was pretty ground breaking, but we had no idea at the time of filming just how far he had taken things until we saw the finished product at the crew premier at the Odeon in Leicester Square, I remember the opening scene after the roll up and the large space ship enters from over the top of screen, the audience stood up and cheered and clapped, that made it all worthwhile.
So as a final question, would you say Star wars rates among your favourite films that you have worked on ?.
Not really, I was already well established within the industry before the Star Wars opportunity came about, so at the time it very much was just another job.
In my long career I have made over ninety films including twelve James Bonds, all films have high and low points but probably my two favourite films I worked on were ‘Julia’ directed by Fred Zinnemann and ‘Elephant Man’ directed by David Lynch.
One of the productions I worked on was Holocaust 2000 (this was a film that also features a tentative Star Wars link in the form of it starring Dennis Lawson who we all know as Wedge antiles ).
Mr Waye thank you so much for your time and your kindness, it has been an absolute privilege to meet you.
Well that was my brief interview with Mr Anthony Waye, in short one of the most understated heroes of the Star wars world that I have met to date.
When you look at Mr Wayes career in the years that succeeded Star Wars, you have to take in titles such as “The Elephant Man”, “The Dogs of War”, the first “Clash of the Titans”, not to mention every James Bond title from, “For Your Eyes Only”, right the way through to “Quantum of Solace”.
It is not often I get humbled by someones achievements in these days of instant success and bravado, but for a few short hours I got to share some memories of a truly great man, that in my eyes is not only a giant and very much a legend of not only the Star Wars universe, but also the British Film industry.
I feel Truly Blessed.