IT’S STAR WARS SEASON. (We were totally going to do this post two weeks ago, to coincide with the release of The Force Awakens, but Liz was busy at work, and then she was busy doing absolutely nothing on holidays, and it’s not easy being Liz, okay?)
Anyway, the best thing about the prequel trilogy — we know that’s a low bar, but hush — is spotting all the Australians and New Zealanders. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were filmed in Sydney, so there are plenty of flat vowels to be heard. Not to mention some amazingly bad American accents. Let’s take a look…
Leeanna Walsman appears briefly as Zam Wesell, the shapeshifting assassin with a dodgy accent who is targeting Padmé and interrupting Anakin’s important brooding time.
Australians who came of age around the early 2000s will remember her as Carly Bishop, the heroine’s nemesis in Looking for Alibrandi. She was also in Heartbreak High and, more recently, Wentworth, and is appearing in 2016’s Cleverman, which means No Award will see more of her.
She also appeared in Farscape, which I suspect we’ll be able to say of a lot of people here.
Rose Byrne played Dormé, one of Padmé’s tragically underused handmaidens. I really don’t understand how you can come up with an amazing concept like “adolescent queen has troop of highly trained bodyguards who can also double for her, who are all also young girls” and then hardly use it at all. Even The Clone Wars, which otherwise rectifies a lot of problems with the prequels, doesn’t–
These days, Byrne has a successful Hollywood career, not exactly A list, but working steadily in a variety of roles and looking beautiful but melancholy on red carpets. Back in 2002, she was an Up And Coming Australian Actress, with roles in a couple of successful indie movies mixed in with guest appearances in Murder Call. (In 1999, she appeared in a Sony ad that my year 12 English class was absolutely obsessed with, and I’m gutted that it’s not on YouTube. GUTTED.)
Joel Edgerton, playing the young Owen Lars, was also at the beginning of a successful US career when he did Star Wars. These days, he’s one of the many white people playing lead roles in Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Somehow, he escaped both Farscape and Heartbreak High, but he did appear in Water Rats and classic Australian kids drama Spellbinder.
The young Beru was played by Bonnie Piesse, who has had a relatively short career compared with everyone else we’ve seen so far, but she was in Stingers, which is pretty great.
Jocasta Nu, Worst Librarian In The Entire Galaxy, was played by veteran Australian actress Alethea McGrath. She was in Neighbours, A Country Practice and Prisoner: Cell Block H. This probably makes her an official national treasure, but I still don’t regret the long information science tutorials we spent joking about the Jedi’s failures at library management and ongoing professional practice. Oh yes, we had some wild times at library school.
Okay, who else had NO IDEA that Susie Porter was in Attack of the Clones? I googled her character, expecting to find her looking amazing and regal (and unrecognisable) in elaborate robes. Uh, nope. I’m sorry, Susie, I know you’ve been in everything (except Farscape and Heartbreak High), and I love you to pieces, but, um, I didn’t recognise you without your
This. This is the greatest crime of the prequels. George Lucas will pay.
He may also pay for cutting Claudia Karvan out of Attack of the Clones — she played Padmé’s sister, along with Trisha Noble as their mother. (They do appear briefly at the end of Revenge of the Sith, at Padmé’s funeral.)
I dunno, I was madder about the Naberrie women being cut when I thought Claudia Black was among them. Apparently she’s interchangeable for Claudia Karvan in my mind. In fairness, they both have dark hair and pale skin and are named Claudia, I really don’t know how I can be expected to tell them apart.
I enjoy Jimmy Smits as much as the next person with eyes, and I quite liked him as Bail Organa, but I was constantly resenting him in Revenge of the Sith for getting important plot stuff that should by rights have been done by Padmé, and I’m also maybe more impressed that his wife was played by Rebecca Jackson Mendoza, the less famous half of ’90s girl duo Jackson Mendoza.
Yes, “Venus or Mars” is a highly problematic song, in ways that I was dimly aware of even when it first came out … but it was also Jackson Mendoza’s only hit, so work with me here. (I may have put a JM sticker on my wardrobe on the strength of this one song? I was invested.)
The important thing is that Princess Leia’s adoptive mother doesn’t get enough attention, either in fandom or the extra-canonical stuff, and that makes me quite sad.
Jay Laga’aia has a small role in the prequels as Captain Typho, Padmè’s security chief. He has a very nice hat, and some excellent gauntlets. And also an eye patch.
Unlike Temuera Morrison, he’s lucky enough to make it through The Clone Wars without being whitewashed.
(Steph loves Jay Laga’aia the most.)
Rena Owen voiced one of the Kaminoan cloners in Attack of the Clones, and appeared briefly as a human senator in Revenge of the Sith. How much do I appreciate Lucasfilm’s dedication to providing detailed portraits of insignificant side characters? Probably not as much as the cosplay community, but quite a lot!
Bruce Spence turns up in Revenge of the Sith. Who is Bruce Spence? No idea, but he’s been in everything. Including Farscape.
(Stephanie says: HOW DARE YOU HE IS AN EVERYTHING)
Keisha Castle-Hughes appears very briefly at the end of Revenge of the Sith, playing the Queen of Naboo. Her costume is even more overtly “inspired” by Asia than Padmé’s.
A few years after Star Wars, she appeared with Oscar Isaac, fandom’s current cinnamon roll, playing Mary and Joseph in The Nativity. No, neither are Jewish or Middle Eastern, why do you ask?
Castle-Hughes was in the latest season of Game of Thrones, and really ought to be in more stuff because she’s great.
The bantha in the room
I’ve put off talking about Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett and the clone army, because there’s actually a lot to discuss here. But first, a quick round-up of the Fett actors.
Daniel Logan played the young Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones, and also voiced him in The Clone Wars. (Sorry, Daniel, I take back everything I said about Boba’s NZ accent sounding fake.) He hasn’t done much since, aside from appearing in a music video directed by Jake “baby Anakin” Lloyd. (Whose life was pretty much ruined by Star Wars, which is really sad.)
And Temuera Morrison plays Jango Fett, and the entire clone army.
(This is why I get a bit puzzled when people — racist people — say, “Black people can’t be Stormtroopers!” or when other people, who do not think of themselves as racist, say, “Imagine how powerful it would be if every single Stormtrooper was black.” ALL OF THE ORIGINAL STORMTROOPERS WERE IN FACT BLACK.)
We don’t really get to see much variation between the clones, except for Obi-Wan bantering with Commander Cody just before Order 66 is implemented.
The Clone Wars does a lot to humanise and distinguish the clones. They give themselves nicknames, they decorate their helmets and armour. Even the strictest of them have unique personalities. They know that they’re clones, and that they have a lot of traits in common, but what they do with those traits can vary wildly.
There’s just one thing.
Here is Commander Cody as he appears in Revenge of the Sith:
And here’s Commander Cody in The Clone Wars, set a couple of years earlier:
The facial resemblance is limited at best, he looks a lot older … but what’s more notable is that his skin is a hell of a lot lighter.
And Boba Fett is paler still. The same model is used for baby clones, and they’re considerably lighter skinned than Morrison. (Sure, they’re a closer match for Daniel Logan, but I feel like they could have, you know, at least tried to match Morrison.)
Because of the animation and lighting style in The Clone Wars, I spent a lot of the series going, “Well, maybe it’s just the light that makes them look like white guys with a light tan?”
Then Rebels reintroduces Rex, Anakin’s clone commander in The Clone Wars, now Cantankerous Space Grandpa. I love Rex to tiny little pieces, but he looks even less like Temuera Morrison than his younger self.
And he’s definitely a white guy with a tan.
He’s not the only one being whitewashed. Bail Organa is a couple of shades paler than Jimmy Smits, for example, and I have no doubt that, as the new characters start appearing in spin-off media, Poe Dameron will be lightened up, too.
But that just means we should talk about it even more. Loudly. Because it’s wonderful and magical that The Force Awakens gives us a woman, and two men of colour as heroes — hey, maybe VIII can, you know, add a woman of colour to that group — but it’s a damn shame that the spin-offs are undermining that.