John Wayne is a world-famous actor, but he’s apparently also big in a galaxy far, far away. That’s right, the Duke is in Star Wars.
Well, sort of.
There’s no question George Lucas loved John Wayne’s movies. Lucas has discussed how Westerns helped inspire Star Wars. In fact, the scene where Luke Skywalker finds his aunt and uncle burned alive is nearly identical to a scene in The Searchers. Lucas modeled Han Solo partly on Wayne, he has said.
But Lucas didn’t intend to add John Wayne to the cast. It was actually an accident he’s in the movie at all.
How John Wayne Ended Up in ‘Star Wars’
The Duke’s voice was used in the creation of — the ironically named — Duke Gardindan. Don’t feel dumb if you don’t recognize the name. Gardindan is the spy who tracks our heroes as they make way for the Millennium Falcon to leave Tattoine. He rats them out to a group of stormtroopers.
Lucas tasked Legendary sound designer Ben Burtt with creating the voice of Gardindan. He also created R2-D2’s beeps and Darth Vader’s rasp.
Burtt found a loop of a voice and heavily distorted it past the point of recognition and used it for Gardindan. Later, as he read through his old notes, he realized Wayne was an unofficial member of the Empire. He explained to the Star Wars Blog what happened.
“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. And I was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.
Even when you know when to listen, it’s impossible to make out. Though it does change how you’ll see the character next time you watch Star Wars.