One of the most popular characters in the Star Wars universe, Boba Fett finally has Disney+ series to call his home. But as fans saddle up for the first season of The Book Of Boba Fett, The Wrap’s Drew Taylor spoke to Joe Johnston, who, in addition to directing The Rocketeer and Captain America: The First Avenger, created everybody’s favorite bounty hunter.
Johnston, who doesn’t have much to do with Star Wars these days, is refreshingly candid about the creation of the character. Designed as part of “an army of super troopers” akin to “upgraded stormtroopers,” Boba Fett quietly became a unique bounty hunter at George Lucas’ request. The Empire Strikes Back didn’t have the budget for “6,000 super troopers running across the landscape,” but they did have enough for a prototype costume. Lucas would have to put a pin in that original vision until Attack Of The Clones.
Though Johnston designed the character, Lucas helped give it those “used universe” Star Wars touches. “George said, ‘If we’re going to make him a bounty hunter, just make him look unique, like he found this outfit and scrounged a few pieces. And it’s old and beat up. And don’t make it look like it’s a prototype suit for anything. It’s just sort of this outfit.’”
Johnston would put his spin on the character, looking to Floquil paints, typically used for painting model railroads, and gave him a fresh coat “Santa Fe Orange and Burlington Northern Green,” mixing colors on the fly.
What Johnston describes is part of the alchemy of Boba Fett, a striking and memorable character that stands out in a scene of striking and memorable characters—in Empire Strikes Back, Johnston’s bounty hunter would have to stand next to IG-88 and Bossk, for crying out loud! Other markings on the costume, which would later inspire volumes of fan-fiction, spin-off novels, and now a TV show, were there to give the character a sense of history and mystery.
I made all that stuff up. Because I figured, let’s make him mysterious. Let’s not use anything we’ve seen before. And I had names for all that stuff. Most of them I’ve forgotten. But that wheat thing is called the Venom Vine. And on one of his shoulder pads he’s got, it’s like a skull of some creature. That’s all just out of nowhere.
Johnston has his feelings on the direction the character has gone (“I never thought he should take his helmet off.”) and the current state of Star Wars (“It’s not quite what the original trilogy was”). For his part, he thinks that mining the character of its allure is “too much.”
Nevertheless, George Lucas handing Boba Fett to Johnston in the late 70s was a good call. While Lucas would become known as the final word in Star Wars for more than three decades, when it came to Boba Fett, he simply requested that Johnston “make him look cool.” Mission accomplished.