The Unlikely Cameo: John Wayne in Star Wars

John Wayne, the quintessential star of western and war films, has left an indelible mark on the world of cinema. Known for his distinctive gait, gruff voice, and commanding presence, Wayne has brought to life a plethora of memorable characters, from outlaws to war generals. Yet, the world of science fiction and fantasy remained a realm unexplored by the actor. That is, until a surprising revelation about his cameo in the iconic “Star Wars” series surfaced​.

When the original “Star Wars: A New Hope” was released in 1977, little did anyone suspect that the ‘Duke’ had a role in it. The studios were skeptical about the film’s success, and even some of the filmmakers and cast had modest expectations. However, against all odds, “A New Hope” broke box-office records, redefining the blockbuster movie genre and launching one of the most successful franchises in the history of media entertainment. Interestingly, it also became the last film in which John Wayne was, technically, involved​​.

The revelation of Wayne’s involvement came decades later from Ben Burtt, the sound designer for “Star Wars.” During a discussion at the 2007 Star Wars Celebration, Burtt explained that he had been tasked with creating a unique sound for an alien character in the film. The character, resembling a large mosquito, required a distinct modulated buzzing sound. It was only much later that Burtt realized the true origin of this sound​​.

We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars that we found we needed a sound for,” Burtt recalled. He had created an electronic buzzing noise using a synthesizer, triggered by a human voice. Upon revisiting his notes and tapes, he discovered that the buzzing sound was triggered by loop lines he had salvaged from discarded studio recordings. To his surprise, the voice behind the buzzing sound was none other than John Wayne himself, uttering dialogue lines such as “all right, what are you doin’ in this town?” or something to that effect​​.

Despite never setting foot on the “Star Wars” set or bringing his famous on-screen persona to the franchise, John Wayne found an unexpected way into the multi-billion dollar series. His voice, though heavily modulated and unrecognizable, contributed to the unique soundscape of the Star Wars universe, making him one of the most unusual cameos in the franchise. Adding to his illustrious career as an outlaw, an Irish boxer, and a war general, Wayne can now also be credited with voicing ‘Garindan’, the insectoid Imperial Spy of Tatooine in the Star Wars universe​​.

As audiences continue to enjoy the Star Wars saga, they can now listen a little closer, knowing that the voice of one of the greatest stars of classic Hollywood cinema subtly buzzes in the background, further enriching the tapestry of this beloved franchise.

Via collider