In 1977, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas famously made a bet that the other person’s movie would end up performing better theatrically. Since Star Wars crushed Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg ended up walking away with 2.5% of Lucas’s stake in his space adventure.
Now, years after Lucas sold his company to Disney, it seems that Spielberg still has an interest in a galaxy far, far away – and might have even made a suggestion to improve Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker which could have ripple effects for years to come. Could Babu Frik have survived because of Spielberg?
Empire Magazine is putting together a full oral history of Babu Frik, the beloved tiny alien creature who worked as a droid technician on the planet Kijimi. The full piece will be available in the latest edition of their full magazine, but there’s an excerpt online which reveals that Steven Spielberg may have been responsible for saving Babu Frik’s life. The interviewer spoke with Neal Scanlan, the film’s creature and special make-up effects creative supervisor, concept artist Ivan Manzella, and performer Shirley Henderson, and they had quite the story to share.
The Babu Frik Spielberg Story
“It could be a rumour, but I believe [director] J.J. [Abrams] screened the movie for Steven Spielberg, and at the end Spielberg said, ‘What happened to Babu?’,” Scanlan explained. “Everybody thought, ‘Oh God, what did happen to Babu?'”
“I think he was going to die originally – I think the AD shot that,” Manzella said. “When the planet [Kijimi] was blown up, he was on it.” Scanlan continued: “We shot several other sequences. The ILM guys found one, lifted out Babu and put him into Zorii’s ship at the end.”
Babu Frik and Zorii Bliss were the only two new characters audiences met on the planet Kijimi, so the idea that both of them would miraculously survive that planet’s explosion seems…well, maybe a bit too tough for some viewers to be able to easily swallow. (Even Henderson herself didn’t expect Babu to make it.)
But Spielberg’s innocent question – which may have not even been intended as a direct suggestion to keep Babu Frik alive, although that ended up being the result – gave fans one more moment of glory during the film’s climactic battle, when Babu pops up and yells “Hey-hey!” in Zorii’s cockpit. In a movie as divisive as The Rise of Skywalker, anything that puts a smile on the faces of a majority of the audience should probably be considered a win.
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