Frank Henson Interview – Scout Trooper

Scout troopers, also known as biker scouts and Imperial sharpshooters, were specially trained stormtroopers of the Imperial Army’s Stormtrooper Corps. They were used by the Galactic Empire on a range of missions, which mostly involved reconnaissance. They had lighter armour than standard stormtroopers, much like their urban counterparts, patrol stormtroopers.

Succeeding the clone scout troopers of the Galactic Republic, scout troopers provided excellent long-range fire for their stormtrooper counterparts.During the early rebellion against the Galactic Empire, scout troopers encountered the Spectres on Lothal. Scout troopers could be found aboard Darth Vader’s personal fleet, Death Squadron. One of the scout troopers’ priorities were to aid the Sith Lord in crushing the Rebel Alliance along with its sympathisers and secret allies.

Scout troopers notably protected the Death Star’s shield generator on Endor in 4 ABY, which shielded the construction of the Death Star II over the forest moon. Their presence was due to the remoteness of the shield bunker, which necessitated speeder bikes; and the thick forest environment, which demanded quick reflexes to traverse the landscape at high speeds. At least four scout troopers encountered Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Chewbacca whilst on patrol. Scout troopers would later participate in the Battle of Endor. They later participated in the Battle of Jakku.

How did you get the biker scout role?

We were coming to the end of filming in Redwoods forest, the stunt co-ordinator Peter Diamond decided that he had enough and wanted to go traveling, so he had put me and Colin Skeaping aside to flip a coin, it was for two roles, one of us would be the Arranger and the other would be the ‘Biker Scout’. I would call Tails but I lost, so it was to be I’d be the biker scout and Colin would be the Arranger – Afterwards, we went back to San Francisco where we met George Lucas and he said to me I was set to be the biker, “Colin, we don’t need both of you here, Frank can you do your own arranging?” I nodded ‘Yes’, “Well Frank can do his own arranging, we don’t need you here”. So poor Colin got sent back to England and I had an extra five days in San Francisco working with the delightful Carrie Fisher. This is also a story of the books tittle called ‘THE LUCK OF LOSING THE TOSS’.

How were the Scout Bikers scenes filmed and were you involved in it?

Yes I was heavily involved in this… Lucas had me at his studios in the blue room, my vision of the scene wasn’t terribly strong as all I could see was the blue screens and the cameras pointing at me; but this had made me realise what a great director Lucas really was as  he would yell at me “Frank, remember your going 200mph in redwood forest!” – This was a really great help, we did several takes to get it right in the end and we did. It was a great experience and one I’d never forget for as long as I live.

What are some of your fondest memories from working on Star Wars?

Thinking back, it would have to be working with the much missed Carrie Fisher, she became close friends with me and my wife Marion, and on her days off she would sit around the pool talking about stories – She could tell some great stories in fact, Carrie was a great organiser as well, when some of the crew went out, she would get Harrison Ford to come out as well so we would be sitting there having a pizza or a burger or something. One of my fondest memories away from set was when my wife had got talking to a couple; one of them had an old crop duster plane but also did tours over the Grand Canyon… We needed about six people to attend, so it was I, my wife, Paul Weston, Tracey Eddon, Kenith Baker, and Paul had broken his leg and I had torn my ligaments in my foot… When we flew over the canyon the plane would be bouncing us about, so Tracey had become ill as well as my wife, in fact the only person that had nothing wrong with him was Baker… I can tell you it was a picture and a half when we landed. I did feel sorry for Tracey because on that weekend – she had been invited to a boat party, but my wife had persuaded her to come along, perhaps the boat party would have been the better option. Paul described it as ‘The ride from hell’. It was a funny experience.

Do you attend many comic conventions and if so, do you have any comic up?

I used to do a lot of conventions all over the world which have been good to me, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people, but sadly I have retired from them now.

You wrote a book about your experiences, how did this come about?

Well, to be honest I never thought about doing a book, I’d never dreamed of it, I would have been happy carrying on with my day to day chores working on my farm and so forth… It wasn’t till about four or five years ago – A chap from the midlands phoned me and asked me if he could do a book about me, he said that he was already doing one about a fellow stuntman who I knew, I agreed to do it!

At the time he had come down to stay at my house – He had a girlfriend at the time, who would always insist on having breakfast in bed. My wife turned round to me and said I’ve never had breakfast in bed. Rightly so she became upset – My wife has always been a hard worker like myself, so sadly he was never invited back…. So that was it, I thought the book was over. Until one day two years ago, I was drinking with some friends at my local pub; I was upset that it ended and a young chap named Steven Phillips had overheard me talking to some of the boys, and we got chatting about the book and he said “I’d like to give it ago”… Two weeks later he had wrote me around five pages of the first chapter – And I liked it, so we went from there…

 It took us around nine months to get the first draft of the book finished. In the meantime Steven was applying to different publishers but sadly none of the contacts were answering their phones; even I was ringing different people but sadly still no answer… In the end Steve had taken to the Internet as I’m not much good with that, So Steve had found a publishing firm based in bath, named SPP – where they have twenty years’ experience in publishing books, they found that Steve’s draft wasn’t strong enough to publish so they had called in a co-Writer/Editor. Steve would interview me with questions from the other writer and they would exchange notes until the book was finally completed. If it wasn’t for Steven Phillips as I always say, this book would have died of death.

For people like myself who haven’t read the book, where can we purchase it?

It is now available worldwide – You can buy it from Amazon either as a Kindle version or paperback copy. You can even order the paperback version from your local stores such as WH Smiths; the paperback costs £10 pounds, download costs £3.99.

What were the costumes like to wear? I’ve heard that some of the helmets were hard to see out of, was this the case for you?

To be honest – I didn’t find the costumes bad at all; I know some of the chaps had to walk off set because they found them claustrophobic. I’d been in a lot worse costumes on different films – one I remember was working on ‘One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing’. They had got me to dress up as a lady, working early mornings.

The Star Wars costumes weren’t a problem for me; every day on set for Star Wars was different. For the helmet of the biker scout, I was put on the bike so I was staring straight ahead to the cameras when we were in the studios.

What does Star Wars mean to you?

Well what I can say about this, I was originally invited to work on ‘A New Hope’. Many of us didn’t realise at the time what a massive hit the film would be, so I discharged myself. At the time I was taking a different career path, getting into property spending several days at auction. It wasn’t until a spot of luck from my friend Eddie which resulted in me being invited back for the ‘Return of the Jedi’. Return of the Jedi is what has made me a well-known stuntman, I’d get fan mail from all over the world asking me about playing this and that.. The reason I always reply is because of working with ‘John Wayne’ AKA (Duke), he’d always carry cards with him, on the front of the card was his print name, and on the back was his signature… So if fans would walk up to him to ask he’d give them one of the cards so he didn’t have to write them down, he was one of very few people I had met that knew the public had paid his wages  so to speak. So in my humble opinion I Knew if this was good enough for John, it was good enough for me, so I always carried on this tradition for him. My gosh, how the tables have turned; I always try to reply now, Star Wars means so much to me for this. I also realise how much Star Wars means to so many different fans for different reasons – So I always try to be honest.

How does working on Star Wars compare to other projects you’ve had in the past?

Well to be honest, Star Wars had made me famous compared to all the other films and TV shows I had worked on. Not meaning to sound flash, but it really had.  Apart from working on Star Wars two jobs went really in my favour; The hit TV show, ‘The Professionals’ and also  ‘Keeping Up Appearances’.

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