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Will the real Jabba the Hutt please stand up?

Updated on June 17, 2013
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Star Wars movies have given fans across the universe something to hold onto since the release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977. George Lucas created a fantastic world of heroes and villains, robots and damsels in distress, and alien races like the world had never before seen. Star Wars villains, in particular, have truly stood the test of time. Jabba Desilijic Tiure –or Jabba the Hutt– is a favorite among all the villains, with his grotesquely gluttonous ways. When Jabba is on the screen, one can almost feel the slime oozing out of the television. Jabba’s scenes with Princess Leia have produced one of the most famous costumes of all times (Princess Leia’s costume, not his). In addition, his problems with Han Solo prompted bounty hunters to start searching for the scruffy hero, giving us one of the coolest sci-fi characters ever created, Boba Fett.

Jabba the Hutt is truly not only an iconic movie character, but a legend among villains. His character was not just large onscreen, but also on the set. His original character in Return of the Jedi was a feat in and of itself. Jabba consisted of a complicated animatronic puppet made of latex, clay and foam pieces. One of the largest puppets ever to be featured in a movie, Jabba’s puppet required three puppeteers to control his every move.

Even though his character was a success on many levels, Jabba the Hutt, as we know him is not how he was first filmed. Jabba’s character first showed up in Return of the Jedi in 1983, yet on the floor of the editing room was film showing the true Jabba the Hutt from 1977's A New Hope.

Many of us learned of Jabba the Hutt’s humble beginnings when Lucas had the first three movies re-mastered for the Special Edition release in 1997, twenty years after he was cut from one of the most famous movies ever created. In the new and improved A New Hope, Lucas restored the original lost scene between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt after Han shot Greedo in the cantina. There, waiting for Han Solo outside the Millennium Falcon, was a CGI version of Jabba the Hutt. During the scene, he chatted with Han about the money he owed to Jabba.

Han Solo with Jabba the Hutt (the man)

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The scene was unintentionally humorous when Han Solo walked behind Jabba, only to step on his tail. It seemed odd at first, Han bravely stepping on the tail of the slug-like crime lord that he owed a lot of money to, but we soon found out there was good reason. While Lucas always intended Jabba to be an alien, in 1977 the technology was not there to make him what Lucas had envisioned. Instead of cutting the scene altogether and waiting for technology to catch up to make a proper version of Jabba, an actor was hired to portray the now famous villain. That actor was standing next to Han Solo when the scene in A New Hope took place, and Han originally walked behind Jabba the Hutt the man, not the creature. To account for Han’s actions when the scene was redone with a CGI Jabba, Lucas opted to have Han step on Jabba’s tail.

While scenes and actors are cut all the time in the movie business, Declan Mulholland owns the rights to one of the largest points of contention in the history of movies. After all, he was cut from one of the biggest movie franchises in Hollywood history. Even when A New Hope was re-mastered and re-released, he still ended up on the cutting room floor, replaced by a CGI version of Jabba. Therefore, it is always important to remember this actor who nearly was one of the greatest villains of all time.

Declan Mulholland in Time Bandits

Declan Mulholland was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1932 and passed away in 1999 at the age of 66 from a brain tumor. While he was shut out of the incredible opportunity to play Jabba the Hutt, Mulholland had a fantastic acting career between 1962 and 1997, the year of his second “cut” from Star Wars. He starred in both movies and on British television, including two short-lived roles in the illustrious Doctor Who series in the 70’s. With a filmography of 77 parts, Mulholland never lacked for work despite never making it to Star Wars fame. He never got away from his Star Wars connection completely, though. In the 1981 movie Time Bandits, which also features Star Wars alum Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis, Mulholland is credited as 3rd robber. Interestingly enough, his costume in Time Bandits is very similar to what he wore as Jabba the Hutt.

Even with a great lifelong career, Star Wars fans should pay homage to the way Jabba could have been. Next time you watch Star Wars and see Jabba the Hutt, remember to think about Declan Mulholland and the famous role that never was.

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      Taniaretep 4 years ago

      The original script to A New Hope describes Jabba as a "fat, slug-like creature with eyes on extended feelers and a huge ugly mouth but Lucas stated in an interview that the initial character he had in mind was much furrier and resembled a Wookiee. I adore the Star Wars movie and it's great to know how these characters evolved.

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      Nathan Bernardo 4 years ago from California, United States of America

      That is very fascinating. I knew that there was a live actor who played Jabba in Episode IV, but I didn't know who he was or what else he'd done. I'm a big Star Wars fan, and I remember when I first saw Jabba in Return of the Jedi; it was pretty spectacular and a new thing in film-making at the time. I love the re-released, re-mastered versions too. Very interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.