Sadly, it’s not a trap. Erik Bauersfeld, the voice of one of the most beloved characters in the entire Star Wars universe — the squid-headed Admiral Ackbar — has died. He was 93-years-old.
Erik Bauersfeld was a relatively unknown radio dramatist before the part of Admiral Ackbar for 1983’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi happened in his lap completely by accident. It was a small voice over part that took him only an hour to record, but thanks to three small words, that part shot Bauersfeld to cult fame among the enormous fan base of the Star Wars films. From the moment Bauersfeld uttered the words “It’s a trap!” as Admiral Ackbar on the big screen, fans fell in love with the fishy Rebel, and the man who gave the Admiral his voice.
Sad we have lost a true friend. Erik Bauersfeld, to STAR WARS fans as the voice of ADMIRAL ACKBAR, has died pic.twitter.com/q8scIVLtli
— Derek Maki (@derekmaki) April 4, 2016
According to the website for his non-profit Bay Area Radio Drama, and a 2011 interview with Bauersfeld in the San Francisco Chronicle, however, the famous role wasn’t one he auditioned for, and, in fact, it came to him by total fluke.
“The voice work I did in movies was accidental. I was working with Randy Thom on radio dramas at his technical quarters at Lucasfilm. One day Ben Burtt, sound designer for Star Wars, came by and asked if I would audition for a voice in the movie.
“I went over, he showed me the picture of Admiral Ackbar, and I did it. I saw the face, and I knew what he must sound like.”
Ackbar wasn’t the only role Erik Bauersfeld did the voice for in Return of the Jedi — he also voiced Jabba the Hutt’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna — but it was the one that Star Wars fans remember the most, even if Erik didn’t remember much of the voice recording session he did for Adm. Ackbar.
“The fans who write say they’ll never forget ‘It’s a trap!’ I don’t even remember how I said it. It’s not that I don’t like it or don’t respect it. I just don’t have time to be a fan and see it 10 times or 20 times.”
In fact, Bauersfeld once admitted that he hadn’t watched Return of the Jedi since its original release. That never stopped Star Wars fans from bombarding the accidental star with letters, notes, and pictures from autograph seekers, reminding him of the impact his three words had on the Star Wars community at large.
— Rachel Heine (@RachelHeine) April 4, 2016
Voice acting was never Erik Bauersfeld’s dream, though. From the time his father showed him a small crystal radio receiver at the age of three, Bauersfeld became enamoured with radio, and knew that was what he wanted to do in his life, and after a stint in the Navy during World War II, he attended the University of Berkeley, California, in order to pursue his dream. While working as an instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961, Bauersfeld was offered a job at KFPA, a “a listener-funded progressive talk radio and music radio station” in Berkeley. In 1963, he was made the director of their drama and literature department, a title he held for 31 years, reports the Independent.
Despite his unwavering support of radio drama, and his attempt to make a name for himself attached to it rather than the Star Wars franchise, Bauersfeld will always largely be known as the voice of Admiral Ackbar. He even reprised the role in last year’s highly anticipated and critically acclaimed sequel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Aside from the Star Wars films, Erik Bauersfeld also recorded the voice for the Admiral in two Star Wars video games — 1993’s Star Wars: X-Wing, and 2009’s Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron.
Erik Bauersfeld, the voice of the beloved Admiral Ackbar in two Star Wars films, died in his home in Berkeley, California, on Sunday, April 3. He was 93-years-old.
[Image via Lucasfilm]