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Established New York 1997

Field Reports

80

Finding Boshek

Posted February 8th, 2016 in A Life Outside Of Crime and tagged by Bill Jensen

BoShek

 

He was the man who could have been Solo.

 

I have always been intrigued by BoShek. When Ben Kenobi enters the cantina on Mos Eisley looking for a pilot to take himself, the boy and two droids to Alderaan, his first choice is a smuggler sporting arched eyebrows, killer muttonchops, and a black and white space suit more akin to an astronaut than a fighter pilot. While we cannot hear their dialogue, it is obvious that Kenobi asks him for a ride to Alderaan–and for whatever reason, the space pilot says no.

 

Was his ship out of commission? Did he have another charter later that day?

 

Whatever the reason, BoShek turns down the offer, but smoothly motions over his shoulder to the furry beast behind him, in my mind saying something to the effect of “Sorry, I can’t help you. But why don’t you give him a try?”

 

That furry beast, Chewbacca, then brings Kenobi and Skywalker to the table, Han Solo sits down, the rest is history…and BoShek faded forever into the darkness of the Mos Eisley bar.

 

So as I sat with my daughter in the Anaheim Convention center listening to Tom Spina and Pablo Hidalga’s fantastic panel “Secrets of the Mos Eisley Cantina,” I was shocked to discover that we had no idea who the actor was who played BoShek.

 

What? BoShek even has his own action figure. But we don’t know the name of actor who played him?

 

If these two Star Wars scholars—Spina, of Tom Spina Designs, an incredible designer who had recently recreated the Cantina scene for a Volkswagen commercial, and Hidalgo, Creative Executive at Lucasfilm—did not know who BoShek was, it was pretty safe to say the internet didn’t either. But the crowd can be very powerful when tapped.

 

I make my living as an investigative journalist. I write and produce true crime stories for places like Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Magazine, and I am on the Warner Bros. syndicated show Crime Watch Daily. Many of the stories I tell are of the unsolved murder and missing persons variety. I am also one of the country’s experts on citizen detectives—individuals who team up online to solve crimes. The last time I was at a conference, I was presenting a panel called “Citizen Dicks: Solving Murders With Social Media.”

 

So as I sat with my daughter listening to Spina and Hidalgo’s panel, I felt I had found my sense of purpose in the Star Wars universe. Since Star Wars has neither had a journalist nor a detective onscreen, this could be my best chance to make a contribution.

 

I was going to find BoShek.

I wrote to Tom Spina out of the blue, telling him that he inspired my quest.

 

“Here’s a recent example of my work: The story of how Facebook detectives tracked down a person who was videotaping himself killing kittens and posting on the web–and how the police did little until his next video, which depicted him killing a person.

 

Thankfully, Tom put aside the fact that a stranger sent him a story about dead kittens and wrote me back.

 

“As for the mystery of BoShek, we don’t have much,” Tom wrote. “He appears on the right of the screen cap below which I’ve been told is from the UK series “the New Avengers” but I don’t know the episode and he’s said to be uncredited.” This info came from Lee Allum, a UK autograph hunter who had tracked down Alfie Curtis, the man who played Dr. Cornelius “He doesn’t like you” Evazan.

 

Bo-Shek-actor-in-New-Avengers
I stared at the photo of an actor playing a Russian thug. It certainly looked like him. Tom sent some of the random names that appeared in the production notes:

 

“Bob Watson (appeared in a Dr. Who, I’ve watched the ep and he’s said to be 1 of the four guards, but none seem to match our spacer) Reg Thomason (appears at the end of the film as a rebel, too old to be our guy anyway) Basil Tomlin (haven’t found a pic of him).”

 

He also mentioned Anthony Lang, who is often credited as being BoShek, but is clearly not the guy we are looking for.

 

“Sure would be neat if someone could turn him up,” wrote Tom, ending the email.

 

“Alright Tom, I’m on this,” I wrote back. “I normally have to track down people who have killed people and don’t want to be found, so this is a whole different ball of wax (unless this guy killed someone, of course).”

 

I tracked down The New Avengers episode and searched for any clues. It was part one of “K is For Kill: The Tiger Awakens.” The episode had a French director and a French casting director (an outfit called MaMade). Could BoShek be French?. They shot the show in both France and Canada, but this episode was in France. I contacted people who worked for MaMade. No luck.

 

The journey started taking me the back alleys of the internet, talking with a handful of players, like Laurie Goode, stormtrooper who famously smacks his head in the Death Star. He directed me to collector Dave Oldbury, who has helped identify some of the patrons in the past. Dave led me to Greg Rudevics (who makes Kenny Baker custom figures). We teamed up, with Greg contacting a casting director for The New Avengers (but she only booked the shows shot in Canada). I found a still from The New Avengers episode, and Greg and I went over it inch by inch to see if it might be shot in France or England. Greg ordered the episode on VHS and took screen shots.

 

I contacted the Casting Directors Guild in the UK and corresponded with a delightfully pleasant English Woman. Nothing.

 

I ran genealogy searches on the three names from the production notes Tom gave me. I sent out-of-the-blue emails to relatives of Basil Tomlin and Reg Thomason. I didn’t hear anything back.

 

Could BoShek have been one of the Uglies, the famous troupe of characters that were brought in to fill the Cantina. I contacted Pam Rose, who played long-legged Cantina patron Leesub Sirln (who also has an action figure). I had hoped maybe she talked to him, maybe he hit on her? Did he have a French accent? “It was 40 years ago!” she said playfully to me.

 

I started a thread in britmovie.co, and one on Rebelscum.com under the subject line:

 

“Searching For BoShek”

 

“I’m on the search to track down the actor who played BoShek. I have spotted him in an episode of “the New Avengers” shot in France (playing a Russian soldier), but wondering if anyone here has any leads.”

 

Some people suggested an actor named Guy Standaven, who had been in hundreds of roles. But he was not our guy.

 

My place in the Star Wars universe was fading. I had cast my net out there, and worked leads. But there were true bad guys to catch, and my search slowed to a crawl. I would check back every month to see if anything new had developed. It turned from an active investigation into a “Wanted Poster” scenario.  The posts were out there on the internet. If someone did search for BoShek they would find me–and if they had any information, hopefully contact me.

 

And this morning someone did.

 

“Hi, I wanted to let you know that it was my grandfather who played the part of boShek,” the email began. “As a family we have always known he played the part. However we have only just found out that they made a toy of him.

 

Sadly he is dead now but we are trying to get his name put on to the credits as I believe others have taken credit for it. If you are genuinely interested I could try and dig out some pictures of him to prove I’m not pulling your leg.

 

Kind regards

Barry Gregory”

 

I immediately emailed Barry back, and he gave me his mother’s mail. Sylvia Holt replied.

 

“My Dad Mr Frances, Alfred, Basil Tomlin played the part of Boshek. Everyone new my Dad as Tom. Unfortunately my Dad passed away over 11 years ago now but it would be nice if we could get his name reconised as his claim to fame was his part as Boshek and a storm trooper in the first Star Wars film.”

 

And as proof, she sent me this photo.

 

Basil Tomlin

 

After searching for months, I found myself gazing into the dark eyes of BoShek, sporting an incredibly spiffy shirt and those killer sideburns.

 

Hello Mr Frances, Alfred, Basil Tomlin, it’s nice to finally meet you.

 

Mr. Tomlin’s family is gathering more photos and information for me, which I will share as soon as I receive them. And I am talking with Tom Spina to try and get Tomlin the recognition he deserves within the Star Wars universe.

 

Now I have to go chase some bad guys. (Although we still don’t know who played Walrus Man. Hmmm…)

  • Russquatch Gould

    SOOO awesome!

  • WFDT

    I like to think that instead of trying to book Boshek for the ride to Alderaan, Obi-wan was just asking him to get out of the way so he could talk to Chewie. Since we know for a fact Chewie was literally Yoda’s right-hand man on Kashyyk, it’s not too far fetched to assume he was already a Rebellion agent and he and Obi-Wan knew each other. Fans have theorized Chewie facilitated Han’s employment with Jabba so that the Falcon could be on Tatooine much of the time in case Kenobi needed it. Chewie plays it off perfectly, of course (“That old man is mad!”) so’s not to blow his cover, but the theory is plausible.

    • Bill Caffrey

      I like that theory, but in the Star Wars Radio Drama, which is just an expanded version of the film, obi Wan has a conversation with BoShek in which Bo declines because he’s already hired and leaving later that day. Bo directs Obi Wan to Han.

      • Rob Taylor

        At the time of filming it probably was that… but with Ep 3 and the revalation of Chewie knowing Yoda it makes much more sense to look at it this way… The last Jedi isn’t going to just walk in to a bar accompanied by the hidden son of Darth Vader and who is with “the droids they are looking for” walk, straight up to a Wookie known by the Empire to have been at the murder of the Jedi/Execution of Order 66 and say “Fly me to Alderaan… it’s important…especially with the spies around” So he goes to BoShek to put up the appearance that there is nothing out of the ordinary in his search for a pilot…

        • jrose

          Why does it make “much more sense” to view this scene in the context of a back story that wouldn’t be concocted for 20 more years?

          • tomxp411

            Because retconning is so much more fun than admitting Lucas didn’t have a clue what he was doing at the time, later making up the widely-accepted myth that he had a 9-part epic planned from the beginning

          • TUD

            Exactly. Even the OT was made up as he went a long.

            “What I said was true, from a certain point of view.”
            “FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW??!”

          • tomxp411

            It’s not just that: he actually filmed a scene where Luke an Leia almost made out on Hoth. I’m not talking the defiant kiss she gave Luke in the medbay, but a serious “I’m going to do you now” moment. And they get interrupted by C3PO. In fact, that scene was exactly the same as the scene when Han and Leia almost kiss in the Falcon’s cockpit.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZXxtmvUuR4

            During an interview after Star Wars, but before Empire, Lucas says of Luke and Leia “Luke is more committed to her than anyone else.” As in, Lucas was teasing the idea of Luke being in love with her.

            Finally, Vader being Luke’s father was actually added later, after the first draft of the script had been written. If this was something Lucas had always intended, it would have been in that first draft, since it would have been in the outline given to the writer.

            http://legendsrevealed.com/entertainment/2014/02/19/was-darth-vader-not-originally-luke-skywalkers-father-in-empire-strikes-back/

            So he was either teasing an incestuous relationship, or the idea of Luke and Leia being brother and sister came very late in the game – possibly even after Empire was filmed.

            Finally, there is this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-cronin/luke-and-leia-kiss_b_8817166.html

            That all leads me that when the first movie was made:
            1. Vader and Anakin were indeed two different people.
            2. Luke and Leia were supposed to end up together, but that the relationship between Han and Leia was actually added in after Empire began filming.

            That makes a lot more sense than the idea that Lucas had this planned all along and yet still wrote and filmed a scene that still makes my skin crawl to think about.

          • TERiX

            Don’t they have a scene in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye that goes real creepy if the two are Brother and Sister? It’s been years but I remember something to that effect in there.

          • tomxp411

            Good point. I don’t remember; it’s probably worth re-reading that one.

          • Sidley Park Hermit

            Oh yeah, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is retroactively super not okay.

      • TUD

        Legends.

  • David Ramsay

    Wow, such an amazing piece of investigation! It’s great to see “Tom’s” participation brought to light.

    As your next challenge, can you help find Willrow Hood (the ice cream maker guy)? He’s attained cult status within our community, and we long to find out just who he was.

    MTFBWY.

  • Great story and great work…. High Five!

  • Jay M Chladek

    Excellent work. I have to wonder if this might ultimately end up in possible action figure royalties for the family, given that Tom’s likeness was used (not to mention on other products such as trading cards). But copyright laws were a bit different back in the late 70s.

    • tomxp411

      It’s all about the contract and what it stipulated. If I understand correctly, it wasn’t until Crispin Glover made a stink after Back To The Future 2 that Likeness Rights were really an issue in actors’ contracts. And if they were a thing prior to that, odds are that as a bit part, he probably signed away all likeness rights in association with his character.

      Tomlin was certainly alive when the action figures were produced, so I’d think that if he was owed royalties for those, or residuals for the movies, he would have already been receiving them and would have dispensed them in his will.

  • fetts

    Amazing! A historic find for Star Wars.

  • Jeremy Miller

    Kudos, Mr. Jensen. This was a spectacular discovery, but there remains yet another, even more elusive uncredited extra hailing from the Star Wars cinematic universe begging to be found. His character has been named…Willrow Hood…the infamous Cloud City tech who absconded with an ice cream maker during the evacuation of Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. Help us, Billy Jensen. You’re our only hope.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zxesxhCbWA

    • Billy Jensen

      Ice Cream Maker Man! Let me dig in after I find more about our man here.

      • Jeremy Miller

        This just might break the internet.

        • TheG.M.O.A.T.

          I think Mr. Jensen might be the hero we’re looking for!

          • bernardg

            Are you sure he is not actually a humanoid android?

          • TUD

            But not the hero we deserve.

    • Get Your Kicks

      I would also like to add my “See if you can locate the actor who played Willrow Hood.” He has a fan following in the Rebel Legion.

  • Lexicon.Luther

    “I told you ’bout the walrus and me, man/You know that we’re as close as can be, man/Well here’s another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul” – John Lennon, “Glass Onion”

  • IIeBoy

    Fascinating, well done sir. I embarked on a similar journey recently trying to track down the original voice of Nien Nunb to record for The Force Awakens. I can’t wait to share it with the fans soon on the official Star Wars site. Watch that space!
    —Christian Simpson

  • Joe Knowlton

    Amazing job Billy! Also … Boshek’s watch game is strong. Look at that thing.

    • rabingham

      Yep, came here to say the exact same thing.

  • Thanks Billy for this fun adventure!

  • Very awesome, and your work is very appreciated. Though I’m not always as successful, I enjoy using the internet to try and solve obscure pop culture mysteries on my site in my spare time. It kind of amazes me that any actors on a film that big could slip by the wayside like that, but then again, I guess when they were filming it they had no idea of just how big it would become. Again, great read and very cool that he’s now identified!

  • Jamie Benning

    Bill, I read your article with great interest. Would you be interested to know that I think I’ve found some footage of your man in Stormtrooper armour? Get in touch with me @jamieswb

    • TheG.M.O.A.T.

      Whoa! The internet…it’s so amazing! 🙂 I’d like to see him in his Stormtrooper getup as well!

  • Steven Burgas

    Is that a Beatles shirt? Awesome.

  • L8wrtr

    This is awesome. You are awesome for doing this. 🙂

  • smittah

    I can give you a theory onto the conversation that BoShek had with Obi-wan. This theory is just based on observation. BoShek’s outfit sorta leads you to think he is some sort of astronaut. Pressure suit with oxygen to breathe etc. BoShek is a smuggler however he doesn’t smuggle people because his ship does not hold pressure, hence the suit. The ship is meant to smuggle death sticks and rancor eggs not people. Also the pilot may have sacrificed many parts of the ship to fit in a faster engine. So BoShek is sorta like a moonshine runner that modified their cars for speed and storage capacity. If Obi-wan and Luke were to be in the cargo hold they would suffocate and or freeze to death. Sorry the force will not win in a long

    With sideburns like that how can BoShek not be this awesome moonshine smuggler?

    • tomxp411

      So he was basically the Jessie Duke of the Outer Rim?

      • Kenny Hensley

        Hahahahaha…”The Sheks of Tattooine!”

    • Sidley Park Hermit

      Headcanon accepted.

    • A no-prize winner.

    • sineva

      BoSheks suit is actually a Windak high altitude pressure suit,originally developed for the r.a.f back around 1962,these suits had already had an very interesting tv and movie career before Star Wars and showed up again in both Empire And Return tho this time worn by Bossk the bounty hunter.For more info on the windak and tv/film spacesuits in general check out
      http://sayhellospaceman.blogspot.com/search/label/Windak

  • Cathy

    Wonderful article; I hope they can get his name added to the credits.

  • Michael Danilowicz

    Thank you so much, I always loved Boshek. I was so happy when they made his action figure. And I use his name for my screen name on a few forums!

  • Mike Fichera

    Thought I could correct “Lang, Anthony (I)” from IMDB’s credits with Mr. Frances Alfred Basil Tomlin. However, the editing feature says, “The cast of this film has been verified from screen credits and cannot be changed.” Surely an appeal can be made by someone with Lucasfilm clout (Mr. Pablo Hidalgo perhaps?)

    • Mike Fichera

      Looks like IMDB has been corrected! The truth is spreading. He needs his head shot uploaded now.

      • I just sent it in and it should be uploaded soon.

  • Dave Stein

    Here’s a great cantina mystery I’d like solved. What was the conversation between Obi Wan and Chewbacca. Chewy had to know he was a Jedi, he was personal friends with Yoda.

    • Dave Stein

      Oh, and by the way while I’ve got your attention. I don’t think Han was the biggest hero at the end of ANH, I think Chewy talked him into going back!

      • Darkside

        Right, that’s what I’ve said in other forums. Chewie was the “undersung” hero. If the Wookiee had not persuaded Han to turn back, the rogue smuggler would not have blasted the wingman who as a result collided with Vader, spinning him out of control. That enabled Luke to fire his proton torpedo successfully into the DS.

  • Ademus ‘Falco’ Haruhara

    We should find out where he is buried and go and pay a big star wars tribute to him in full star wars outfits

  • Kevin Frushour

    Can’t find him on Find a Grave. And “Frances, Alfred, Basil Tomlin” is probably out of order and an odd usage, especially considering the use of “new” instead of “knew”.

  • CodyBye

    This is excellent work, and really shows the power of the Internet. Thanks Billy, and I hope we can get some more exposure for those uncredited in the original Star Wars saga.

  • MikeJenkinson

    A tremendous read. Thanks for that!

  • TheG.M.O.A.T.

    Dude, just awesome! Thank you for this find and all your hard work!!! Congrats!

  • Alejandro Caballero Salas

    People waste their time with shit like this? Secrets of the Mos Eisley Cantina? Give me a break! Now I understand why the world is such a mess

    • Martin Spitznagel

      Who’s the more foolish, the fool, or the fool who comments on it?

      • Darkside

        Well said. Very Kenobi-esque.

    • LW

      I’m guessing that you, like me, were trying to be the first to solve string theory when an Alta Vista search took you to this site. May the best man win!

  • tomxp411

    How funny. A fellow popped into a web forum I visit about a month ago, trying to get BoShek credited.

    https://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/star-wars-recognition-boshek/40534

    It’s interesting how some coincidences come together.

  • Dan Wohl

    Great work, Billy. I was always kind of perplexed that there wasn’t more work done trying to find the identity of the actress who played the Emperor in Empire Strikes Back, since for decades she was only credited as “an old woman” or something like that. It was only revealed a year or two ago that it was Elaine Baker, wife of Rick Baker.

  • Crumplehorned Snorkack

    The electoral registers of London show a Francis A B Tomlin living in Hendon at 53 Russell Road in 1946. Maybe Tomlin was a F.A.B. Jr?

    • Rick Chadderdon

      If he was 18 years old in 1946, he would only have been 49 in 1977.
      It could easily be the same man.

  • mktesq

    That shirt looks like it has a print of the Beatles from the Yellow Submarine animated movie… now if you can find that shirt, we’re in business.

  • Andrew Petersen

    Kudos Mr Jensen. Every person involved with the Star Wars Universe deserves recognition, even if it is Posthumous.

  • Stephen Barron

    You may already know about this, but you can see Tomlin getting into his Storm Trooper gear in this old behind the scenes documentary. He appears at 35:07.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSuDjjlIPak

  • danwall88

    Amazing, Billy. Huge congrats and much respect for this piece of investigative fandom journalism.

    That Beatles shirt is pretty great too.

  • Simon O Wright

    The Walrus was Paul

  • Joe Dator

    Amazing work, and great to see Basil “Tom” Tomlin finally getting recognition for his role, albeit posthumously.

    There is another Cantina mystery that has always plagued me, and I have never seen anyone else bring it up. The voice of Dr Evazan was not provided by actor Alfie Curtis, as can be seen in behind the scenes footage. The voice that comes out of his mouth in the final film sounds to me unmistakably like Alec Guinness. I have long suspected that Guinness – who was a master of vocal and facial disguise, basically the Peter Sellers of his day – was in the studio to overdub some of his dialogue as Obi Wan, and Lucas or whoever was running the session asked him to run a few lines for this character as well. I have no confirmation of this, and no idea how to verify it, but I have a good ear, and to me it is unmistakably him.

    • Rottsy

      Pssst…. Sellers & Guinness were of the same era. Well, actually, Guinness was 11 years older, Sellers just died much younger. The two were indeed quite similar, except that Sellers chose to go a more comical route. 🙂

      • Joe Dator

        Yes, I know they lived at the same time (and even appeared in two films together), but their respective heydays of playing multiple roles and putting on wigs and accents were at least a decade apart.

  • Donald Eric Kesler

    I want to know how both the bounty hunter, Bossk, and BoShek wound up attired in Doctor Who space suits that appeared in the episodes, The Tenth Planet and The Wheel in Space.

  • TankLad

    Am I missing something here? Your first contact, Tom Spina, actually gave you his name! It wasn’t even a process of elimination – He was the only actor who wasn’t otherwise verified as someone else. All you had to do was find ONE photograph or another credit as opposed to chasing down random people for months.
    It’s Tom Spina who should be getting the credit here.

  • Stephen Buchan

    Wow great article. If you could find Willrow you’d be a national treasure. Favebook pages, tweets, Instagram posts, chatting to actors and actresses from SW have yielded nothing to date.

  • BrentAliverti

    Star Wars credits for the role of BoShek have been updated on IMDb. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/fullcredits

  • Evan Petkau

    I always thought Obi-Wan was looking for Chewie or Han specifically and BoShek just said, “they’re over there”

  • Andy K

    I started trying to get my father-in-law Francis Alfred Basil Tomlin the recognition he was due around about Christmas 2015. As per the howtogeeks.com post on this forum. I tried emailing Lucas films and a few other places at the time but seemed to be getting no where fast! It’s not until my wife’s nephew, Barry Gregory managed to get in touch with Billy Jensen that things then started to happen. In regard to grave side tributes, that’s a great idea – however Tom was cremated and not buried. Tom’s ashes are still at home with my Mother in-law Doreen Tomlin. I also managed to get Tom’s photo from the movie published along with a write up on him in the Chelsea FC magazine a few years ago when Chelsea FC ran a Star Wars Storm Trooper feature. As far as any royalties go Tom nor my Mother-in-law have ever received any royalties for any of the merchandise for
    Tom’s image. Would welcome any thoughts anyone may have on how to explore this further.

    • Hi Andy, Billy Jensen here. I was already able to get him into IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7917653/. They fast tracked it for us. And now I am writing something for Starwars.com. So we are getting real close to being official. As for a tribute–one day we will get a gang together at a pub. Did he have a favorite pub?

  • Andy K

    I can also confirm that F.A.B. Tomlin is the one and the same that records show lived in Hendon. Tom sadly passed away at age 66. Hendon is where Tom lived and raised his family (four daughters of BoShek!) I’m married to his daughter Jane. When the family grew up and left home Tom and his wife Doreen moved to Milton Keynes and then later on to Northamptonshire where my widowed mother-in-law still lives to this day

  • BoShek just got promoted in my headcanon. Hats off to Tomlin, & you.

  • FN-0808

    Brilliant work! You’ve brought closure to the fans and will help the family give Tom the credit he didn’t receive.

  • Mike . from . Baltimore

    Really amazing work and research. Giving credit where it is deserved. Godspeed to continued mission to find the bad guys.