He played Chewbacca in a test shoot as well. Meet Attila Vajda, the Hungarian guy, who was a Wookiee in the latest Star Wars movie.
There were six Hungarian crew members working on Solo: A Star Wars Story. Attila Vajda, who played Sagwa, a Wookiee helping the heroes, told us some interesting stories about the production.
Ever since Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, there hasn’t been a Star Wars movie without Hungarians. Hungarians have participated in the productions of Episode VII, The Force Awakens; the first anthology movie, Rogue One; Episode VIII, The Last Jedi; and now the second anthology movie – Solo: A Star Wars Story. Furthermore, we could even see our fellow countrymen in the last two instalments:
Zoé Nemes appeared in Episode VIII in a few casino scenes, and a relatively important side-character was played by a former Hungarian basketball-player Attila Vajda in Solo.
We know of a total of six Hungarians, who had worked on Solo: George Zádor (video assist operator) and Enikő Karádi (key costume maker) have also participated in the production of The Last Jedi, Karádi had even worked on Rogue One. Kornél Farkas worked as a digital compositor in creating the visual world of the movie; and the previously mentioned Attila Vajda helped the crew’s work as a unit manager during the Italian filming, as did Ágoston Gábor.
“Unit managers are responsible for fulfilling the needs of the movie’s different units at the selected locations. To do this, we must establish a base camp, where the infrastructural facilities needed by the crew are present”, Gábor Ágoston, who has been living in Italy for years, told us. As he said, unit managers are quite lucky, as they can meet lots of interesting people, and can get to places where not everyone can. However, due to contractual obligations, he couldn’t tell us exactly which scenes he helped in, but it is known from earlier news that the Vandor train robbery scenes were filmed in the Dolomites of Italy.
He also couldn’t tell us about what it was like to work with the crew members, but he mentioned that he met another Hungarian, who was driving the costume designer team’s truck from England to Italy, as a driver of an English transportation company. He was the sixth Hungarian crew member.
Vajda and the troublesome Wookiee
There had been some misunderstandings regarding the character played by Attila Vajda prior to the release of the film. A Wookiee had appeared on a set photo of Solo, thought to be Chewbacca’s (played by Joonas Soutamo) wife at first guess. Not much later, articles indicated that the Wookiee would be played by Anthony Daniels, who had played C-3PO in the previous movies. As it turned out, the Wookiee bumping heads with Chewbacca is not her wife (this was confirmed by director Ron Howard), and Daniels would also be included in the movie. Screenwriter Joe Kasdan (who co-wrote the story with his father, Star Wars-veteran Lawrence Kasdan) told Uproxx, that Daniels would be playing a Wookiee friend of Chewbacca who helps them escape from somewhere. It would have been strange to see the small-built British actor as a huge hairy creature, and it turned out this would not be the case: Kasdan clarified things, and disclosed that Daniels would play a human, a friend of the Wookiee helping Chewie and Han (we now know that it was a scoundrel named Tak).
After this had been settled, international portals paid no attention to who would be playing Sagwa, who helps Han Solo’s team escape from Kessel.
But we Hungarians can be proud that a former Hungarian basketball-player Attila Vajda played the Wookiee.
He told us that he was aware of the misunderstandings regarding the character of Sagwa, but he was happy things were cleared up. He added that it was an honour to work with Anthony Daniels.
But how did he get there?
“I have always wanted to appear in movies. When I ended my career in basketball, I decided to go for it, so I moved to London and contacted several agencies. I went to an audition in May 2016 and after three painstakingly long months I got my first role, an old Wookiee hero, Sagwa”, Attila Vajda told us. Vajda started working on the project in September 2016, when his size was measured and a tailor-made Wookiee suit was made for him. During the next ten months, he had to train regularly with the stunt- and visual effect crews. As he said, his team included four members (there haven’t been so many Wookiees on screen since Revenge of the Sith in 2005), they can all be seen on the picture below.
Vajda could work with the first director-duo – Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired by Disney over creative differences and were followed by Hollywood director Ron Howard. Vajda says there had been problems during production but elaborated no further. He started shooting the movie with Ron Howard, who radiated peace and confidence.
“He is an outstanding director, radiating security, understanding and kindness – I didn’t felt like I am in a totally new place”,
said Attila Vajda. He said everyone was very professional and nice, they never lacked anything. Vajda himself is not a hardcore Star Wars-fan, but his minimal background knowledge helped him to act spontaneously and find everything during the filming interesting. He added: “At the end, I felt a bit joyless when we had to part ways because it became a familiar atmosphere”.
His best memory is when he could play along Woody Harrelson. “I started playing basketball back in 1996, that’s when I first saw ‘White Men Can’t Jump’. He showed me that a white guy can also jump high. Despite the fact that I saw him as an idol, I also knew that he was just an actor”, Attila said, adding that it was fantastic to meet and work with the multiple times Oscar nominee Harrelson.
He told another great story: during the preparation period when the Lord-Miller duo was directing, a set-up was tested with Chewbacca also being present at the first sabacc game of Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).
“As Joonas Soutamo was not on set at the time, I put on the costume of Chewbacca. It was an exciting and moving moment, when I got to be Chewbacca, even if just for a test”,
said Attila Vajda, adding that the idea was cancelled at the end, and – as we could see in the movie – Chewbacca was not present during the sabacc game.
We asked Attila what he thought about the criticism towards the look of the Wookiees in the film – many compared them to characters from the Planet of the Apes-series. He said the same thing The Official Guide did: these Wookiees – including Sagwa – were working in the spice mines of Kessel as slaves and were sick from the lack of food and natural light. “They were weakened and their bodies have changed, but they kept their will to be free, and it helped them to survive until they could finally escape”, Attila Vajda added.
We asked Vajda about his career plans as well. He will have an audition in the near future, but he is not allowed to tell more. “Besides, there will be a chance every year to be a part of a new Star Wars-production”, he said.
Translated by: Bence Magos.
The original article appeared on Zoom.hu in Hungarian:
Magyar vuki is volt az új Star Warsban – Vajda Attila Csubakka bőrébe is belebújhatott A Solo: Egy Star Wars-történeten hat magyar is dolgozott. Vajda Attila Sagwát, a főszereplőknek segítő vukit alakította a filmben és érdekes sztorikat mesélt. A Disney 2012-ben vette meg a Lucasfilmet, azóta nincsen Star Wars magyarok nélkül.