Declan Mulholland – The Jabba the Hutt That Never Was
Jabba the Hutt is perhaps one of the most iconic villains in the entire Star Wars saga – even without a lightsaber or a funky jetpack. So much so that I'm willing to bet a rather large sum of C-3PO tape dispensers – yes, you know the ones I'm talking about – that even those who have never seen any of the films could probably pick him out of some kind of sci-fi police lineup. I mean, it's not every day you bear witness to an egregiously hideous space slug – am I right?! But what about Jabba's original form? By that I mean the rather plump human with an off-putting Northern Irish accent, not the horrifically cheap-looking CGI model of the 1997 special edition re-releases. Ugh... it gives me shivers just thinking about it! Anyway, why exactly did everyone's favourite Hutt change from an actor in a fluffy coat to a state of the art puppet? And why did George Lucas completely shun the original actor from updated versions of A New Hope? Well, let's find out!
It may be a little difficult to recall now – unless you grab yourself a copy of Harmy's Despecialized Edition – but Han Solo's encounter with Jabba the Hutt in Docking Bay 94 was entirely removed from the final cut of the film. And while the novelisation of A New Hope left the scene very much intact, it failed to shed any more light on whether or not the crime lord was actually human. So how did George Lucas initially envision the character? Well, more or less from the start, he pictured Jabba as we all know him today – a claim seemingly supported in the 1979 book The Art of Star Wars:
“Jabba is the grossest of the slavering hulks, and his scarred face is a grim testimonial to his prowess as a vicious killer.
He is a fat, slug-like creature with eyes on extended feelers and a huge ugly mouth.”
So if Lucas always intended for Jabba to be a disgusting hunk of green meat, then you may be wondering why he had initially cast Declan Mulholland in the role. The answer, however, is somewhat difficult to decipher. On one hand, the costume department took great care in dressing the would-be crime lord – meaning there must have been at least some interest in using Mulholland's performance in the theatrical release of A New Hope. But on the other, Lucas ran into some financial trouble when it came to the necessary visual effects:
"When I first shot the scene with Jabba the Hutt, I knew I was going to create some kind of stop-motion creature. I had to have somebody – an actor – play the part so Harrison had someone to play against, so we just picked a big guy and put him in a fuzzy vest. I, at that point, felt that he may be a character somewhat like Chewbacca, a big furry character. We shot that. As we were cutting the movie, [we] realised relatively quickly that we didn't have the time or the money to actually shoot that scene [the stop-motion optical]. That ILM was pressed way beyond what it could pull off as it was. So I had to abandon that sequence pretty early on. I had to cut back on special effects shots and that sort of thing because ILM just couldn't handle it."
Seems like a rather straight forward answer, right? Well, that's if you overlook yet another contradiction – aside from the fact Mulholland was brought back for a second day of filming. I mean, why would Harrison Ford choose to circle his on-screen counterpart, knowing a CGI incarnation of Jabba would feature a lengthy tail? Perhaps George enjoyed needlessly overworking his visual effects artists... All we do know for sure is that certain members of the crew, such as Marcia Lucas, fought tooth and nail to retain this now iconic scene:
“I lobbied to keep the scene. But Jabba was not terrific, and Jabba’s men, who all looked like Greedo, were all made of moulded green plastic. George had two reasons for wanting to cut the scene: the appearance of Jabba’s men and the pacing of the movie.”
Producer Gary Kurtz, on the other hand – well, he deemed the scene entirely unnecessary:
“It was a person that was there and we had technical difficulties with that scene. We shot it over three times for camera problems, focus problems and film stock problems and then abandoned it because we ran out of time. We just said ‘Well, the bulk of the information that comes across in that scene we could get across in the scene in the cantina, with Greedo.’”
Poor Declan Mulholland... But, hey – at least he still enjoyed a successful acting career following his stint in the galaxy far, far away. With all of that being said, do you wish Jabba the Hutt remained as a regular human character? Or do you prefer his iconic puppet/CGI form? Let me know in the comments below.