Erik Bauersfeld is the voice behind great characters like Admiral Akbar and Bib Fortuna in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”. He is uncredited in the film and his iconic roles took only around an hour to record. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Erik about his roles and reflects on their longevity with fans.
Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up providing the voices of Admiral Akbar and Bib Fortuna in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”?
Erik Bauersfeld: It was chance…almost a mistake. I worked with Randy Thom at LucasFilm. We have worked together for many, many years now doing radio drama. We were at the Ranch working, when I was simply asked if I wanted to do some voices for “Star Wars”. Now, I knew nothing about “Star Wars” and wasn’t that interested.But I went in to do it anyway and it was just Ben Burtt and some sound people in the room. They asked me to do a voice for Admiral Akbar. I asked for a picture and I said “Well, he’s a fish?” [laughs]. I gave his voice a sound like he has a little bit of water in his mouth. Only took a few minutes really. Then they asked me to do another one for a character named Bib Fortuna, which was in Huttese, which was a completely made up language. I asked for picture again. I gave them a voice and then simply went back to work. About an hour later, they came to me and said George (Lucas) liked both of them and they wanted to use me. I also was asked to do a voice for Yoda. I gave them a voice, George liked it but it went back and forth for months. Frank Oz had ended up doing the part, obviously, so I guess they got what they wanted. So that is the whole story.
MG: How did you come up with the voice Akbar?
EB: I have a simple answer. I have been in radio for over 25 years and I do voices every day. I look at a picture of a character or read a story and I can easily tell what the character is like. It just came to me and that is all.
MG: How was it speaking in Hutt language for Fortuna?
EB: I don’t remember it being difficult. I didn’t really have much to say. I think Ben Burtt said the lines and I just repeated them with my interpretations. I had no idea what that big thing on his neck was though. Someone asked me about that and when I looked at the picture, I said “I think there is an elephant standing behind him”. Of course he has other reasons obviously, but I always found that answer funny.
MG: Can you reflect on the following that Admiral Akbar has acquired with his line “It’s a Trap”?
EB: I am surprised. It is a real surprise to me. They give me so much credit that I feel that I don’t deserve. They even have toys now that you push the plush doll and it comes out with “It’s a Trap”, which is my voice. Of course I never see any money from those.
MG: Overall, how long did it take to record the roles?
EB: It took probably about a half an hour the first time. Then I went back and did a few more takes. So it didn’t come to much more than an hour or an hour and a half at most.
MG: Why did you end up getting uncredited for the roles?
EB: When I did the voices or the recordings, the screen credits has already been made and designed. So I never got any screen credit for voicing Akbar and Fortuna. I didn’t care at the time. I was busy working other projects. What ended up happening was that a whole new generation of fans started collecting autographs for the cast members of “Star Wars”. I got requests for autographs from fathers that were children at the time when they saw it. Now they are sending pictures asking for autographs for their own children. So all these fans found out they didn’t have a character’s voice for “Star Wars” and that was Admiral Akbar, since it wasn’t voiced by Tim Rose. The requests began to reach me and I got flooded with mail asking for my autograph. Now I am working with Coolwater Productions to assist in handling all these requests.
MG: When was the last time you have seen “Return of the Jedi”?
EB: I think the last time I saw it was in theaters. My parents were always suspicious of what I was doing in California, since they were in New York. When they opened “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” in Forest Hills, Queens, I told them I would take them to the movies to see what I have been doing. Before the movie started, I told them I would nudge them when I came on the screen. So, when Akbar came on the screen, I whispered “Mom, that’s me”. She turned back at me and said back “Shhhhhhhhh”. So that was the ultimate acclaim that I got for doing “Star Wars” [laughs]. But at least they loved the picture. That was probably the last time I saw it. In fact, I don’t even think I have seen all the others ones as well. I was working a lot on my radio drama, which has keep me extremely busy over the years.