Dickey Beer, one of the world’s most in-demand stunt performers and coordinators, revealed last weekend that he owes his very life to Princess Leia. Dickey made this astounding reveal at the September 2014 Cincinnati Comic Expo during a “Star Wars Boba Fett Reunion” panel discussion with fellow Fetts Daniel Logan and yours truly.
The revelation came when panel moderator, Andrew Setters, a Cincinnati TV reporter for the NBC affiliate WLWT, asked each of us panelists to share our memorable moments from our time shooting Star Wars. After a few seconds of serious thought, Dickey retrieved a remarkable memory from 1982 during location work on Return of the Jedi’s Battle over the Great Pit of Carkoon, otherwise known as the Sarlacc Pit. But it was not while doing the stunts for Boba Fett, as he is best known among fans. No, Dickey played several others during the famous sequences. In addition to stunt-doubling for Boba Fett on both Jabba the Hutt’s Sail Barge and his Desert Skiff and performing Boba’s fall into the Sarlacc Pit, Dickey was stunt double for Luke Skywalker in the big fight scene on the barge and skiff and played Barada (Jabba’s Klatoonian guard on the skiff in all scenes) and Hutt’s porcine humanoid, Gamorrean Guard on the barge during the climactic fight scene.
It was as the Gamorrean that Dickey was minutes away from meeting his Maker. The well-known action sequences were shot in Southern California’s Buttercup Valley in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, a remote desert location just west of Yuma, Arizona. Princess Leia had just broken free from Jabba and killed him, choking him with her chain. When she emerged on deck, still shackled at the wrist to her broken chain, she ferociously whipped the Gamorrean, knocking him to the deck.
In his recounting, Dickey allowed that his Gamorrean costume was extremely heavy, as were the headpiece and gloves that extended to make for the species’ huge hands. Both had to be attached and removed by assistants. And whenever knocked to the deck, he had to be lifted by three local stunt men who were there specifically to assist him.
The action was complex and involved many takes in the blistering desert heat. Breathing was difficult in the headpiece, as the air inside would increasingly become his exhaled CO2. After completing a number of takes, the crew broke for lunch in the heat of the midday sun and quickly disappeared for the respite of the canteen. Evidently, Beer’s three assistants were among the first to depart, leaving Dickey flat on his back, unable to lift himself, unable to remove either his gloves or headpiece, unable to be heard calling for help.
Meanwhile at the canteen, Princess Leia, having quickly rid herself of her hated Slave Leia garb and finally comfortable in her blue tee-shirt, cutoff jeans and white bandana over her head, felt a disturbance in the Force. Not seeing Dickey anywhere among the crew, she feared the worst and dashed immediately to the barge set. There she came upon Dickey, alone, still fully in costume, flat on his back—immobile. Ripping the headpiece from his head, she found him already unconscious, but still breathing—barely. Dickey, somewhere along the way to the blinding clear light of the Void, returned to life with Carrie Fisher’s slaps to his face—and her calls as she leaned into him closely, face-to-face. “Dickey, Dickey, can you hear me! Talk to me! Talk to me, Dickey!”
Several times have Daniel, Jeremy Bulloch and I have shared the stage with Beer as he’s spoken of the Sarlacc shoot and its many challenges. Fans may have heard him speak of his 40-foot drops from the skiff as Boba Fett, his rolls into the mouth of the Sarlacc Pit and his final landings on the bladder. After every take, he had to deal with the rattlesnakes and scorpions that sought refuge from the scorching desert heat in the relative darkness of the Sarlacc mouth. But this Cincinnati reveal tops all.
Beer is one of the world’s most in-demand stunt men, who ranks among the greats of his generation and his legendary mentors Alf Joint and Dougie Robinson. To name a few, they have included Marc Boyle, Vic Armstrong and Paul Weston. Alf, Vic and Paul were among a number with whom I worked on several films. And I and many others hold them in highest regard—both as men and as film professionals—as we Fetts do our clone brother Dickey Beer.
Dickey has appeared in over 150 films including A Bridge Too Far, The Empire Strikes Back, ROTJ, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. For some highlights from his work as a stunt performer visit YouTube and some examples of his stunt coordinator credits can be found here.