The internet is an amazing place…
No sooner had I realized, sadly, that Christopher Malcolm — Zev Senesca of The Empire Strikes back — had passed away in 2014, when Google informed me that he had, indeed, talked about his Star Wars work before his passing.
“I‘ve found them. Repeat, I’ve found them.”
Malcolm, who played Brad Majors in the original stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as Saffy’s dad in the legendary TV show Absolutely Fabulous, was a Scottish television and film actor who also worked as a stage director and producer.
With an amazing list of film acting credits, which included Ragtime, Superman III, Spies Like Us, Highlander, and Labyrinth, Malcolm began his acting career on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, but couldn’t really recall how he found his way into a Rebel snowspeeder.
“I honestly can’t remember,” he told www.starwarsinterviews.com. “But I did like the first film.”
That said, Christopher did remember, 34-years later, that he truly enjoyed being on the ESB set and his interactions with his fellow actors.
“I had to go in every day and hang around in case they figured out how to shoot my sequence. I did meet and have fun with Mark Hamill particularly,” he told Star Wars Interviews in August 2013. “We really got along well, and I had the pleasure in catching up with him in Orlando last summer at the convention [Celebration VI, 2012].
“I also met Carrie [Fisher] and Harrison [Ford], who I subsequently worked with on Force 10 From Navarone.
“I liked him a lot, very straight and honest guy,” he said.
Always a hero…
Those same traits could be ascribed to Malcolm as well; tributes poured in following his passing from cancer in 2014 at age 67. The anecdotes tell a story of a respected and revered actor and producer.
Most importantly, his daughter Morgan posted a moving tribute on Twitter:
Today the world lost a beautiful, brilliant man. My dad Christopher Malcolm left peacefully and with dignity. He will always be my hero. X
— Gorgon Lloyd Monster (@mogster) February 15, 2014
Christopher Malcolm’s legacy lives on through the admiration of his family, fans, and coworkers. But for his part, the endurance of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — and the legacy of his character — often seemed beyond his own belief.
“It’s, of course, extraordinary, and attending the convention last year was really unbelievable,” he told SWI. “So many fans who came up to my desk were always interesting and diverse. So many from the far east, and even South America, quite amazing.
“Why this should be so enduring is quite a mystery to me…”
However, the man who would be Zev, admitted there was an inkling of something special when he was on ESB, but that the work remained, well, work.
“At the time of filming it was a growing phenomenon, so there was a knowledge that we were in something special, but there was also the normal physical grind of movie making,” Malcolm later told Jedi News. “My stuff, in the beginning, had to be shot with a special camera and we had to wait days and days before they got the right effect for the blue screen.
“In fact, the camera they used was very famous as it was the one that shot Gone With the Wind.”
In his www.starwarsinterviews.com story, he explained of his scenes and the camera:
When it came time to shoot my stuff with this wonderful camera, I remember George Lucas showing up on set as well as Gary Kurtz and of course director Irvin Kershner. I was rocked to and fro at one point by Irvin himself as he shouted reactions he wanted me to enact. It all happened very quickly. It was cramped and hot in the speeder and by the end I was very hot and sweaty and a little confused and shell-shocked at what I had just been through.
“I’m with you, Rogue Leader…”
Despite being knocked about in the snowspeeder, there remains no confusion about his small, but important part in the film: Malcolm recorded one of the most memorable lines of the Empire Strikes Back.
Searching for Han and Luke, both lost on the snow-swept landscape of Hoth, Zev Seneska found a life form on his scopes.
Solo then chimes in over the crackling radio, “Good morning…”
And Rogue Two reported to Echo Base, “I‘ve found them. Repeat, I’ve found them.”
Thinking back, I remember this line and — as a 6-year-old — being thrilled that my heroes would soon be reunited with Princess Leia, C3PO, and R2-D2.
However, I also remember the trickle of blood on Senesca’s face as he later lined up as Luke Skywalker’s wingman for an ill-fated run on an AT-AT; the sense of foreboding.
Much like the death of Porkins in A New Hope, Senesca’s loss immediately raises the stakes on the Battle of Hoth and encapsulates the toll such skirmishes are taking on the Rebellion. And it’s the inclusion of characters like Zev — and amazing actors like Malcolm — and their on-screen passing, which marks the major difference between Star Wars and other movie franchises and IPs.
For those lucky enough to have a place in the Saga, it’s also why their parts are often defining moments in a career.
“I’ve enjoyed being part of this great franchise and this film in particular,” Malcolm told www.starwarsinterviews.com. “I’m very happy it’s considered such a classic and take great delight in knowing that if Zev wasn’t there and didn’t find Luke and Han Solo…hey, there would have been NO movie!”
For that, we thank you, Rogue Two.