Exclusive: a Chat with a Stormtrooper, Alan Austen

(Courtesy of Alan Austen)

With a career spanning over the 40 years, Alan Austen has taken part in some of the biggest films of the 1980s, from daring spy films, to science fiction and everything in between.  We were lucky enough to be able to have a chat with Alan about his experience in film and the impact it’s had on him. 

CS: First off I’d like to say we really appreciate you taking the time with us. First Question is, what made you want to be a actor?

AA: I had always wanted to do it. So as a teenager I started taking drama classes and did some amateur dramatics.

CS: Is there any one actor or play that really inspired you when you first started out?

AA: I was inspired by film in general.

CS: Do you have a favorite film then?

AA: Too many to choose one in particular.

CS: You’ve been in quite a few major films of the '80s. Do you have a favorite film you’ve taken part in?

AA: Yes. The Empire Strikes Back.

CS: How did it come about, you landing a role in Empire Strikes Back?

AA: I had joined the film union and central casting. I got the call through them.

CS: What was it like working on a Star Wars film?

AA: It was my first film, so I had nothing to compare it with. It became my learning ground and it was a lot of fun.

CS: What was it like on set? Were you nervous about working on a Star Wars film?

AA: Nervous to begin with, but I was slowly eased in. The sets were incredible, so it was like being in a wonder land.

CS: Were you able to interact with any of the main cast?

AA: Yes, constantly.

CS: What was it like meeting and working with them?

AA: Pretty cool. They were all very nice and have remained so. I had a feeling that Harrison Ford would go onto a lot more but couldn’t predict how big a star he would become.

CS: Who would you say you got along best with out the cast?

AA: Carrie Fisher.

CS: Do you have a favorite memory from working with Carrie?

AA: There was some banter going on and Carrie got a giggle fit.

Alan Austen Left (courtesy of Alan Austen)

CS: Working on set, did you ever have a chance to meet George Lucas?

AA: He would visit the set often and would say hi. I personally didn’t have much interaction with him.

CS: Being your first film, what was it like working with Irvin Kershner?

AA: To be honest. He scared me a bit. His direction for the supporting actors was conveyed to us by the assistant directors.

CS: He scared you a bit?

AA: He had a lot of power and seemed to be under pressure.

CS: What was it like wearing the armor? Was it as hard to see as they say in the movies?

AA: Yes. It was uncomfortable and the vision through the helmet was limited.

CS: Were you able to keep any props from the set?

AA: No. There was no souvenir collecting allowed.

CS: If you were able to take something home, what would you have taken?

AA: My stormtrooper helmet.

CS: Speaking of Harrison Ford, empire was not the only of his films you worked on right?

AA: I was cast in Raiders of the Lost Ark a year later. 

CS: What was it like working on it?

AA: Another thrilling experience and very hard work but fun.

CS: Being a relatively new actor, was it intimidating working with Spielberg?

AA: To begin with it was intimidating. However, he is such a nice guy that I became at ease with him.

CS: Do you have a favorite memory from the raiders set?

AA: The scene when the ark was opened was incredible to do.

(Courtesy of Alan Austen)

CS: I want to talk about your other works, you were in Flash Gordon were you not?

AA: Yes I was.

CS: Being considered a cult classic now, what are your thoughts on how the movie turned out?

AA: It’s a lot of fun. When I watch it today I look out for the people I worked with at the time and on other movies.

CS: Did you have to audition for Flash?

AA: Yes, I think I did.

CS: What was your experience like working on An American Werewolf in London?

AA: By that time, I had found my feet as a film actor and made some friends in the supporting actor community. So I was working with some good friends on the picture. It was strange to be working at a live location in London in the early hours of the morning.

CS: Was there ever any interruptions on set, with it being on location?

AA: Yes, there were. We were often mistaken for real police officers by the public. On one occasion, a police car stopped by us, and a high ranking officer in the back of the car demanded to know what was going on.

CS: That must have gotten a laugh from the cast.

AA: Yes it did!

CS: You were in Octopussy playing a Russian correct?

AA: Yes, in the circus scene

CS: By the time it came out, the Bond films were as big as ever. Did it feel any different working on a Bond film than a Star Wars film?

AA: Yes, entirely different.

CS: What was your experience like working on a Bond set?

AA: Yes. He was very friendly.

CS: You were also on a couple episodes of Doctor Who, right?

AA: Just one. Revelation of the Daleks.

CS: Were you a fan of Doctor Who before you landed the role?

AA: Yes, from the very first episode.

CS: Then it must have been special meeting Colin Baker then?

AA: Of course, and I met up with him again last year at a convention

CS: Do you have a favorite Doctor then, as a fan since day one?

AA: Patrick Troughton was my favorite. I was fortunate enough to meet him at BBC Center in the 1980’s.

CS: Being on so many sets, who would you say is the actor you enjoyed working most with?

AA: I enjoyed working with all of them from movie stars to supporting artists. It’s a shame that so many are no longer with us.

CS: You retired from the acting scene for a number of years, correct?

AA: Yes I did, in 2006. 

CS: What brought you back?

AA: A filmmaker named Emma Dark. Emma asked me to take the lead role in a short film called Salient Minus Ten.

CS: How did it feel coming back after a 10-year hiatus?

AA: It felt good. Like I’d never been away.

CS: Having a career spanning 40 years, do you have any regrets? Any films you wish you could have taken part of?

AA: I try not to have regrets. I think that everything has gone the way that it was meant to go.

CS: You just recently finished a new film, right?

AA: Yes. The other soul to Evie, I play Evie’s dad.

CS: Do you have any projects in the works currently?

AA: I’ve agreed in principle to two films. Both independent productions. I can’t say anymore than that until post production.

CS: Are you able to tell us when it’s roughly scheduled to debut?

AA: Not at the moment.

CS: After a career spanning over 40 years, what learning experience or biggest takeaway have you had from acting?

AA: How to act for the camera. How to conduct myself in any situation. And to never feel intimidated. 

CS: What would you say to someone who wants to start a career as a actor?

AA: Ask themselves why they want to do it. What are they prepared to give up and what are they prepared to put themselves through.

CS: Did you have to make any sacrifices for your career?

AA: Yes, but not too many.

CS: You’ve worked on both TV and film. Do you have a preference on what you like to work on?

AA: Definitely film

CS: We really appreciate you taking the time with us today.

AA: It’s been a pleasure.

We will keep our readers informed when more information on Alan’s projects hit a screen near you.