The voice of the largely silent Boba Fett in the Star Wars saga has died. Jason Wingreen was a popular character actor, likely best known for his role in All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place, where he played bartender Harry Snowden for 117 episodes, but it was the four lines he spoke in Empire Strikes Back that will have solidified his place in Star Wars history.
Rolling Stone ranked Boba Fett, the bounty hunter who went after smuggler Han Solo in the Star Wars film Empire Strikes Back, at No. 3 in their assessment of the top 50 Star Wars characters of all time. Wingreen did not even acknowledge he had filmed the role until 2000, but Star Wars director George Lucas had replaced Wingreen’s voice with that of Temuera Morrison, who played the notable bounty hunter’s father in Lucas’ prequel films. The prequels, in addition to focussing on how Darth Vader ultimately came to be, spent a great deal of time discussing both Jango Fett and his son, Boba Fett.
Wingreen actually stepped into the voice role of Star Wars‘ second most notorious villain by accident. He had originally auditioned for the role of Jedi master Yoda. The work involved in his vocal performance as Boba Fett “could have been no more than 10 minutes,” he admitted, according to ABC.net.au.
Wingreen had never stepped into the Boba Fett armor, though, and his voice role as the bounty hunter went uncredited. Jeremy Bullock was the one who got the credit as the helmeted hunter in Empire Strikes Back, though he never actually spoke any lines in the part.
Re/Code says that Wingreen never actually received much of the reflected glory of being Star Wars‘ biggest bounty hunter, outside of a day’s pay. Since Wingreen’s appearance was uncredited, he was not in line to receive any residuals from the role.
Wingreen’s death has seen Star Wars fans pumping videos of the scenes Boba Fett appears in on YouTube. A tweet from 2011 has resurfaced and noted that all four of Boba Fett’s lines would have fit rather nicely in one tweet.
"As you wish. He's no good to me dead. What if he doesn't survive, he's worth a lot to me. Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold." – Boba Fett.
— Michael Heilemann (@Heilemann) January 19, 2011
While Wingreen admitted it was his role in 117 episodes of All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place that allowed him to retire, it is quite likely that his role as one of Star Wars’ most popular characters cemented his role in history — at least, among the legion of Star Wars fans that were both fascinated and somewhat repelled by Boba Fett and the job he had to do in chasing the galaxy’s best-known swindler.
Wingreen said that he had a chance meeting with George Lucas as he was leaving for the day after recording his lines as Boba Fett. He noted that he had been somewhat confused by Lucas’ words to him when they had met.
“Now, after saying goodbye, I’m leaving,” he said. “Gary Kurtz was with me, walking me out. Well, sitting in the dark, in the back, in a room right near the exit, is George Lucas, whom I had not met when I came in. So Gary Kurtz introduces me to Mr. Lucas, and I said to him, ‘I don’t believe we’ve ever met.’ He didn’t get up; he remained seated. And he said to me the words that I still don’t know what he meant. He said, “No, but I know Boba Fett.” That was it. And then I left.”
While Wingreen acknowledged he was not ever sure what Lucas meant during their first — and only — meeting during the filming of Star Wars’ first sequel, what is certain is that his place in Star Wars history is cemented. Although his voice was replaced in subsequent re-releases of Star Wars, Wingreen will be known as the man who started it all.
[Photo by Getty Images, YouTube]