Drawing: Harrison Ford as Han Solo

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford has returned to the character that catapulted the star into immortality. The veteran actor reprises the role of Han Solo along with many of the original cast members of the 1977 STAR WARS film in the latest and 7th episode of the behemoth franchise THE FORCE AWAKENS.

I did this sketch of Harrison as Han ages ago for nostalgic reasons and just in case our galaxies collided to get it signed. The force is always strong when he’s around so it’s often difficult battling to get his graph. I missed out on the red carpet at the European Premiere in Leicester Square on Wednesday evening but as I got my lucky break last night.

By chance I was strolling down the alleyway that separates Leicester Square and Chinatown, as one does, when I spied the usual pack of autograph dealers and a collection of silver cars parked at the stage door to the Vue cinema. It was a media screening of the film attended by some cast members including Mr Solo. This was going to be a battle of cosmic proportions – the force of the security pushing me from the front, the siggy SS crushing me from behind. I was stuck in a Star Wars sandwich! When he emerged, things went a bit manic.

Harrison is one actor that does not need to be told to ‘break a leg’ given his horrendous accident on the set that fractured his left peg during filming at Pinewood Studios and then the right was broken in a plane accident. At this point in time it was touch and go as to which limb I was about to snap… not the lucky break I was expecting! From the relative safety of behind the car he calmed the situation, telling everyone to be patient and he would sign for us. I was first with my new sharpie, then he proceeded to sign for the others with the said new sharpie. My last image was Han Solo holding my pen in the back seat of the car as it sped away. I continued my stroll down the alleyway, a smile on my face, great graph in my bag and my sharpie cap in hand.

Drawing: Sir Alec Guinness – the theatrical Jedi Knight

Alec Guinness001

In a galaxy far, far away… actually, in 1994, I drew a quick caricature of Sir Alec Guinness. In the absence of a stage door to stand at or a reliable agent’s address, I found out that he was a member of The Garrick Club, Charing Cross Road in London. I was in the city at the time, so I made a couple of copies, wrote a note and left it with a stamped self addressed envelope before heading back to New Zealand.

This month I read that the British Library had recently bought 1000 letters and 100 volumes of his hand written diaries from his family for £320,000. The archive will go on display next year.

Catherine Ostler in the Daily Mail wrote: “To some fans, Sir Alec Guinness will always be remembered as Obi Wan Kenobi, the sagacious Jedi Knight of the Star Wars films. To others, he is The Bridge On The River Kwai’s resolute but misguided Colonel Nicholson.

These and other brilliant performances — in Ealing comedies, Lawrence Of Arabia, Dr Zhivago and TV’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — should surely have left him secure in the knowledge that he stood at the pinnacle of his profession. Yet his private writings, previously unseen by the public, reveal this titan of the screen and stage to have been a flawed, insecure man who found release in petty malice.”

Nobody escaped his barbed comments, from the Queen down. Even the great Sir Laurence Olivier. For more than half a century they shared the accolades as the greatest actors of their generation, but behind the scenes a poisonous rivalry existed. He called his fellow thespian “cruel, unpleasant, destructive and pretentious.” He did, however, balance that by praising Lord Larry as a “total actor – technically brilliant.”

It is common knowledge he disliked the Star Wars trilogy and would throw away fanmail associated with it. he called it “fairy-tale rubbish”. In spite of an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination for his role, the theatrical knight wanted the Jedi Knight killed off and convinced George Lucas that it would make the character stronger (and he wouldn’t have to go on speaking that bloody awful, excruciating, banal dialogue, he confided).

The Star Wars films did, however, provide an income for the rest of his life. While he hated the films, he was shrewd enough to realise that the public wouldn’t, so struck a deal for 2% of the gross royalties, along with his initial salary. The franchise went on to become one of the most successful ever. He later said, “I have no complaints, I can live the rest of my life in the reasonably modest way I am now used to and I can afford to refuse work that doesn’t appeal to me.”

One person who he did like, and who sympathised with him was co-star Harrison Ford. Apparently, he said to the director, “George, you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!”

There was no doubt Sir Alec was a complex man – a shy introvert who shone on stage and screen. Melvyn Bragg said he was the weirdest, strangest person he’d ever interviewed. But, back in 1994 he signed my drawing and added some self-mockery. Six years later he passed away,aged 86.  I wonder if I’m mentioned in his diary dispatches. A visit to the British Library next year could be worth it. The force (and the graph) is indeed with me, always.