Femi Taylor - Oola

Q&A with Femi Taylor
by Michael Streeter

Femi Taylor is best known for playing Jabba the Hutt's Twi'lek slave dancer Oola in Return of the Jedi, way back in 1983.  Miraculously, almost fifteen years later, she was asked to play the exact same part for the Return of the Jedi: Special Edition.  Having not changed a bit in all those years, she was perfect for the role.
Recently, she was in the movie version of the popular play Cats, and has been touring conventions all over the world.  Despite her busy schedule, she was nice enough to answer these questions I had for her:

Q.  When did auditions start for the part of Oola, and how did you get the part?

A.  I have a photocopy of one of the original timesheets from a fan, and the date I was booked for to rehearse then shoot my scenes was Friday 29th January1982, so going from that I guess the auditions for the film were around early January1982 . My agent called me and said that a film was being made and they required a Black female Dancer/Actress for a particular part, but they didn't want to elaborate on the part, but if I was interested to go along to Twickenham film studios in my swimwear or bikini to meet the director. So from that I was apprehensive even before I stepped out of my front door. To cut a long story short, I went along and met the Director who was the late Richard Marquand, got on with him and bombarded him with questions relating to why we were requested to come to such an anonymous audition. He asked if I could Dance and Act and of course I said yes and he then said that he was going to recall a few girls back for a Dance audition the following week. So when I turned up for the recall they were still very secretive about what it was for and put us through a very ardious Dance sequence and I remember whilst I was getting changed one of the girls could not help herself but again asked what this was for and Richard said it was for the next Star Wars film, and this huge gasp pervaded the room with excitement. I was in the show "Cats" at the time and when I got to the Stage door after the audition a message awaited me saying to call my agent, and thats when I received the good news that I got the part of Oola.

Q.  After you got the part, how long did it take before shooting, and how long did shooting take?

A.  I was booked for a about two and a half weeks for the film. I had a weeks rehearsal to nail the dance sequence and for costume fittings and various casts of my face because they were not quite sure of the whole art image of Oola was going to be.

Q.  Were you familiar with Star Wars at that time, and had you seen the first two?

A.  I had seen Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back but being a girl I had no interest in the films and thought what was the big deal, but getting the part something inside said that this was a real blessing to be involved in such a production like Star Wars.

Q.  What was the most interesting about working on the set? Were the creatures impressive?

A.  It was interesting to see how they set the scenes up for each take, how technical everything was and not to go beyond your mark whilst dancing and dealing with two people operating each arm for Jabba if I did not want to get strangled.I didn't have that much contact with the other creatures on set. Although I often sat around on set in between takes with Mark Hamill having little chit chats. But a lot of times I had to go back to my dressing room so the paint would not rub off because of the time it took to be applied, so I ended up having long chats with Mike Carter who played Bib Fortuna and Claire Davenport who played the Fat dancer with lots of breasts. The creatures were impressive now looking back but at the time I was there to do the best with Oola. Actually the most impressive creature of course was Jabba, the size of him was extraordinary and how real he was when the guys had to operate him, the same with Salacious Crumb.

Q.  Did Jabba look as scary as he does in the movie?

A.  Jabba was as scary looking sitting next to him on the set as in the movie.

Q.  After Return of the Jedi was released, what was your reaction to its popularity?

A.  The first time Return of the Jedi was released I felt it did not have that much impact and the part of Oola seemed quite insignificant to the film although after saying that it was the opposite because her setting the scene up for Princess Leia. But the second time, I still can't believe the popularity the impact it has had on society, plus not just our generation but all the people that have been born since the beginning of Star Wars up until now.

Q.  There were almost fifteen years between the original shoot and the Special Edition additions. How did you stay exactly the same for all those years??

A.  Peace of mind, respecting what you put into your mouth and some form of exercise whether it being Dance,Yoga, Aerobics, or going to the Gym.

Q.  What did you think were the biggest differences in making the original and Special Edition? Were the sets very different?

A.  The big difference was that the sets were different for the Special Edition and having to experience Blue screening.  It was wonderful though to have a set built which was a replica of the original Rancor pit for Oolas destiny.

Q.  You have attended quite a few conventions since the Special Edition release. What do you like most about attending conventions?

A.  I love meeting up with the other characters from the film at the conventions and hearing their experience and how life has been since the films, plus meeting different people who have a passion for the films and enjoyed what you portrayed on the big screen and sharing that journey with them.

Q.  Have you read Oola's story in the 'Tales from Jabba's Palace' anthology book?

A.  Yes, I have read it and I am delighted that at last Oola has had recognition and has a whole chapter devoted to her.

Q.  What is your favorite movie of the Star Wars trilogy?

A.  My favourite movie is Empire Strikes Back. I think because it has a strong story line and within that a lot of universal messages are spoken.

Q.  Do you keep up with Star Wars news at all, and are you looking forward to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? Did you see the trailer?

A.  I do not keep up with the Star Wars news that often. I am really looking forward to the Star Wars Episode 1. I think it is inevitable that people are going to compare it to the first three and the expectations are very high. No I have not seen the trailer for it yet.

Q.  Your brother Benedict Taylor has a part in The Phantom Menace. Is there anything you can tell us about that? (anything at all?)

A.  I only know that Ben plays one of the pilot fighters and his character is Bravo 2. Out of respect if I knew anymore I would not say a word because I know how Lucasfilm likes to keep everything under wraps and not to let anything spill to weaken the impact of the film before it comes out. I only know that Ben had a great time whilst shooting.

Many thanks to Femi Taylor for doing this interview with me, and ria of alt.binaries.starwars for the pictures.

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