An English actor with an enviably long career, Jeremy Bulloch worked from his childhood on, appearing on such TV shows as "Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School" (BBC, 1952-1961) and "Doctor Who" (BBC, 1963-1989, 1996, 2005- ), as well as in films like "Summer Holiday" (1963) and "Mary, Queen of Scots" (1971). He achieved cult superstardom, however, for a role in which he had only a few scenes, his few lines were dubbed and he was never seen without his mask: intergalactic bounty hunter Boba Fett in "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983). Endlessly fascinating and mysterious despite, or perhaps because of, his lack of screentime and dialogue, Boba Fett became arguably the series' most popular character, spawning countless spin-off projects, both fan-made and official, including an origin storyline in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002). Although Bulloch had a long career before and after Boba Fett, he was forever assured a loyal fanbase for his work as the bounty hunter, making appearances at conventions all around the world for the rest of his career, as well as notching a speaking cameo in "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005). A testament to the unpredictable nature of fame, Jeremy Bulloch may not have been a household name or recognizable face, but his turn as Boba Fett was most assuredly as immortal as any pop cultural character could ever be.
Born Feb. 16, 1945 in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England, Jeremy Bulloch originally wanted to be a professional athlete, but after missing an opportunity to enter a sports program, went to drama school instead. He began working almost immediately, booking bit parts in such films as the Titanic-themed "A Night to Remember" (1958) before ascending to more substantial roles in movies like "The Cat Gang" (1959)"and "A French Mistress" (1960), as well as on TV shows like "Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School" (BBC, 1952-1961). He went on to appear in such popular fare as "Play It Cool" (1962), "The Devil's Agent" (1962) and "Summer Holiday" (1963) and earned a series regular slot on the soap opera "The Newcomers" (BBC, 1965-69). After appearing in "Mary, Queen of Scots" (1971), he recurred on "Doctor Who" (BBC, 1963-1989, 1996, 2005- ) in 1965 as Tor, an alien rebel, and returned to the series in 1973-74 to play Hal, a medieval archer determined to protect a royal family. Bulloch played an alter ego of Malcolm McDowell in "O Lucky Man!" (1973) and had a series regular role as a gay neighbor on the sitcom "Agony" (ITV, 1979-1981). It was around this time that his half-brother, Robert Watts, alerted him to a small part in the film he was associate producing, the second "Star Wars" installment, "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980).
The part was that of Boba Fett, the universe's best and most mysterious bounty hunter. Equipped with a jetpack and disguised by a soon-to-be-iconic helmet complete with an intriguing antenna, Boba Fett only appeared in a handful of scenes, but Bulloch thought the role seemed like fun and took it. Although a different actor dubbed Fett's voice for his few lines, Bulloch brought all that he could to the role, modeling his posture and physical actions after Clint Eastwood. Tasked by Darth Vader to capture Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Boba Fett was allowed to bring the frozen-in-carbonite Solo to Jabba the Hutt at the end of "Empire." He reprised the character for "Return of the Jedi" (1983), in which he hung around Jabba's cortège to witness the attempted execution of Skywalker and Solo over the Sarlacc pit in "Jedi," but ended up being knocked into the pit himself. So popular was Fett, that the question of whether or not he died screaming and sliding into the Sarlacc occupied "Star Wars" fans for decades. Although the franchise became the largest in the history of Hollywood with a literal galaxy full of fascinating characters, it would be Boba Fett with his minimal screen time who would give rise to a devoted cult.
Visually striking and effortlessly cool Boba Fett captured the imagination of countless "Star Wars" fans who clamored for more, and as the franchise grew into a globally dominant mega-industry, George Lucas allowed the character to appear in multiple incarnations, including further backstory and new storylines in books, videos and a minor plotline in the prequel "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002). Boba Fett merchandise, especially action figures, remained prime collector's items, and the character proved a popular Halloween costume. Although Bulloch's face was never seen, he benefited from the unparalleled popularity of the franchise, and he found himself heavily in-demand at sci-fi conventions and fan events for decades. He received a massive boost in popularity when the original series was rereleased in 1997, kicking off a new era of increased mainstream media adulation of the franchise. Happy to be enshrined forever as the man who embodied Boba Fett, the actor went on to appear in the rebooted "Robin of Sherwood" (aka "Robin Hood") (ITV, 1984-86) and to continue to work on stage and screen in such projects as "The Bill" (ITV, 1984-2010), "Aristocrats" (BBC, 1999) and "Starhyke" (Showcase TV, 2011), but there was no escaping the Death Star-sized "Star Wars" phenomenon, and Bulloch delighted fans by accepting a small role as Captain Colton, complete with his own face and lines, in "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005). He threw another bone to his loyal army of Boba Fett lovers by making a cameo in a low-budget, Fett-themed origin story "The Mandalorian Legacy" (2009).
By Jonathan Riggs