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The Briefing Room: Volume 1

Rebel Pilots in Star Wars

rebel pilots
Rebel Pilot helmets @LumberjackNick

The Saga’s Unsung Heroes

Yavin IV, Star Wars, Rebel Pilots
Star Wars: A New Hope – Rebel pilots are briefed on the Death Star. “They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.” Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator

As I make my way through the briefing spaces and hangars on Yavin IV, Hoth, Home One, and D’Qar, there’s a question I keep in mind:

Why do the pilots of the Rebellion (and, eventually, the resistance) capture the attention of so many Star Wars fans?

While I attempt to tell the individual actors and characters’ stories, I also look to shed some light on why each of these Rebel Pilots became so important to those who love the saga. However, Garrick Hagon, Biggs in Star Wars A New Hope, may have already put his finger on the phenomenon. He points to the original cadre of actors who donned the orange flight suit, as he explains why the scenes above the Death Star became vivid to viewers.

“The characters [in the Y and X-wings] themselves were quite individual,” said Hagon. “You have to be very brave to cast Bill [Hootkins as Jek Porkins], wonderful Bill, and put him in a little X-wing with a costume that split up the back because he couldn’t fit into it.

“It was very brave, and very wise to make them such individuals,” he added of George Lucas, his original script, and the casting. “There were individual characters, and they were very good actors.”

Gold Leader, Star Wars

Angus MacInnes
Jon “Dutch” Vander, Gold Leader, Y-wing

Gold Leader, Star Wars
Gold Leader @LumberjackNick

Angus MacInnes played Jon Vander – credited as Gold Leader – in the original Star Wars in 1977 and through the magic of modern film making (and found footage) was back in the orange flight suit in Rogue One, the first Star Wars standalone film, in 2016.

For a character with such a short bio, Gold Leader continues to capture the hearts of moviegoers 40-years after the Rebel Pilot was shot down over the Death Star. Read more…

Biggs, Star Wars

Garrick Hagon
Biggs Darklighter, Red Three, X-wing

Biggs, Star Wars
Red Three @LumberjackNick

Whether it’s in the desert or above the Death Star, running into Biggs Darklighter is a good thing. The same rings true for his real-life alter ego, Garrick Hagon.

Over Skype, the voice of the actor who portrayed Luke Skywalker’s best friend on Tatooine is that of a long lost confidant; a friend whose dulcet tones you’re happy to hear again and with whom you’re excited to catch up. This makes a whole lot of sense, as fans have always asked: “Blast it, Biggs, where are you?” Read more…

Wona, Star Wars

Gabby Wong
Wona Goban, Gold Nine, Y-wing

Wona, Star Wars
Gold Nine @LumberjackNick

By any measure, it’s a long way from Hong Kong to the planet Scarif. But for actor Gabby Wong, donning a flight suit to play Y-wing pilot Wona Goban was the ultimate trip.

As part of the Rebellion bomber squadron, her character — call sign Gold Nine – along with other Y-wings, deployed their payload against a Star Destroyer guarding the planetary shield gate during the Battle of Scarif. Read more…

Binli, Star Wars

Benjamin Hartley
Harb Binli, Red Seven, X-wing

Harb, Star Wars
Red Seven @LumberjackNick

Beyond the main cast, Benjamin Hartley’s face remains one of the most recognizable from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Cast as Cadet Harb Binli — Red Seven — Hartley’s was in the first teaser trailer for the film.

He donned his helmet and ran to his X-wing past Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso and Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor; all as the soundtrack intones a red alert. Then, in the film itself, Cadet Binli stands stoically by Erso as she states, “Rebellions are built on hope.” Read more…

Putting Star Wars Fans in the Cockpit

I’m hoping to track down as many of Rebel Pilots as possible. However, I’m pretty sure that as I query each of the new generation of Rebel and Resistance pilots, the answer as to why they agreed to hop into a starfighter cockpit will be similar to that of Gabby Wong (Gold Nine, Rogue One).

“I had always wanted to be a rebel pilot,” she said. “I was always with the Rebellion.”

MSW hopes to profile many more pilots in the coming months. If you have a suggestion or a contact, reach out to @jmbishopjr on Twitter. Thanks to @SketchWars @LumberjackNick for providing the helmet illustrations.


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John Bishop

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.
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