|2016 is turning into a terrible year in terms of the passing of some celebrity icons but for me, as sad as the losses of Bowie and Rickman were, it’s been news of some of the lesser known names that have been more affecting. Less than ten days into the year I was terribly upset to learn of the death of Angus Scrimm, as any fan of the Phantasm film series will verify, one of the finest horror actors ever to grace the big screen. Last week the untimely parting of Garry Shandling caught me completely off guard, as a Brit he was my gateway to American comedy and a man who never failed to make me laugh. Today I woke to the deeply sad news that a favorite son of the galaxy far, far away, Erik Bauersfeld, the voice behind Admiral Ackbar had died at the grand age of 93.Bauersfeld was already in the employ of Lucasfilm on a radio project when sound guru Ben Burtt asked him to read for parts in the sequels to the 1977 blockbuster. A little known fact is that he could have been the voice of Yoda but it wasn’t to be and I for one and am glad that fate took the path it did. Rumor has it that Bauersfeld was shown a picture of Ackbar and instantly came up with the character voice that we all know and love today. Would internet memes be the same without “It’s a trap!” (let’s be honest you read that in the voice didn’t you?)
Bauersfeld recorded all Ackbar’s dialogue in an hour and then went on to record all Bib Fortuna’s dialogue in half the time, such was his vocal talent. I don’t know the reasoning behind the omission but I always considered it a crime that Erik received no on screen credit for providing two of the most iconic voices in the saga. “This will begin to make things right” was the opening line as the Force Awakened last year and even though most people agree this was JJ’s dig at the maker, it could be applied to credit finally received for Bauersfeld whose name made it on to the big screen as he revived his most well-known character for what we now know was the last time. I for one was the happiest man alive when I heard Erik was going to voice the Admiral once again and whilst most men cried at that Solo scene, the word ‘oscillator’ brought tears of happiness to my eyes.
|I was lucky enough to meet Erik last year when attending London Film & Comic Con. He looked every bit of his 93 years and, as always happens when meeting elderly actors at conventions, I experienced mixed feelings about asking him for his autograph. Whilst really excited to be meeting a hero, it was such a struggle for him to engage with me on a meaningful level, a part of me would have much rather have him not waste his time with this fanboy and go and sit in the comfy chair he deserved. I’m so glad he did give me his time though, he spent 5 minutes with me and my wife, and they’re five minutes I won’t ever forget. As he signed my 10x8” promo photograph uttering the famous line as he wrote it, he took great pride in ensuring that I knew he was Admiral Ackbar and not the other Mon Calamari pictured, it took a couple of hours to wipe the smile off my face.Since seeing Return of the Jedi in 1983 the character of Admiral Ackbar has been my favourite of the Star Wars saga, I like to think I was the Admiral’s biggest fan before it was cool and have a shrine dedicated in his honour. As an alien who made it to the top of a human dominated organisation, he’s a proud and fearless commander who visibly takes no joy in the demise of the enemy, it’s my daily aim to be as competent and humble as he. The sad news of Erik’s passing might well mean that Ackbar never gets his promotion to Grand Admiral.
On behalf of all Star Wars fans everywhere, thank you for your work Erik.