A FOTF Exclusive interview with the man tasked with filling the shoes of Peter Cushing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Imagine having to fill the shoes of a screen legend.
When Star Wars: A New Hope arrived to make its mark on the world in 1977, aside from boasting the considerable acting talents of Sir Alec Guinness, George Lucas’ space extravaganza harnessed the very best of British talent when it secured the services of Peter Cushing as Governor Wilhuff Tarkin. Cushing had made his mark on the British cinema industry with several stellar performances in the Hammer Horror stable. As Professor Van Helsing he defended humanity from the evil forces of Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula and received acclaim for his incredible interpretations of iconic characters like Victor Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes.
Fast forward to 2016, and when visionary filmmaker Gareth Edwards was tasked with resurrecting Tarkin for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he scoured the land for an actor with not just the same proportions as Cushing, but one with the acting chops necessary to bring a deceased actor to life once again.
Enter Guy Henry.
Following a glittering stage career and a string of high-profile television roles, Guy Henry rose to prominence when he accepted the role of Pius Thicknesse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2. His talent soon attracted the eye of the Lucasfilm casting department who approached him to fill the shoes of Cushing for Rogue One. The rest, as they say, is history and Henry accepted the challenge of resurrecting a man that he had admired for much of his adult life.
The role required Henry to wear a performance capture prosthetic which would allow the Lucasfilm animators to digitally augment and map a 3D representation of Peter Cushing’s face onto his features. Henry had previously studied Cushing’s mannerisms for the lead role in Young Sherlock, a series based on the younger years of Sherlock Holmes and used his studies to produce a gripping and convincing performance as Tarkin. The role proved to be controversial with many fans questioning the ethics of resurrecting a deceased actor, but with Cushing’s estate involved in every aspect of bringing the legend back to the screen the arguments quickly dissipated and the role has since been accepted as the breath-taking achievement it truly is.
At Showmasters’ glorious London Film & Comic Con 2019, I had the opportunity to sit down with Guy Henry to discuss his wonderful career and delve a little deeper into his inspiration behind Rogue One‘s Governor Wilhuff Tarkin.
Guy Henry | London Film & Comic-Con
Phil: What does London Film & Comic Con mean to you?
Guy Henry: It’s brilliant. There are so many people here who just love the stories that people tell, the films, the telly, the movies, it’s fantastic!
Phil: In 2015, you were announced as a supporter of Chapel Lane Theatre. What does the project mean to you?!
Guy Henry: It’s a local thing in Stratford on Avon where I’ve done lots of work and my friend Chris Harvey runs it and I’m right behind it!
Phil: You’ve had a significant stage career. What first attracted you to the theatre?!
Guy Henry: When I was eleven, my parents worked with an amateur group in Dorset, and I’m now the president of that company so I am immensely proud of that. So, I suppose…I mean, I wanted to be a farmer really, but I think that’s only because I wanted to drive tractors, but I seem to have become an actor!
Phil: Like a great number of your British peers you soon joined the Harry Potter family. What are your memories of starring in a Harry Potter movie?
Guy Henry: Fantastic! They are so nice. They brought those children up beautifully, it’s like being back at the Royal Shakespeare Company shouting in a wig, it’s brilliant.
Phil: Star Wars fans will know as Grand Moff Tarkin from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. What was it like standing in for a cinematic icon like Peter Cushing?!
Guy Henry: Terrifying! Absolutely terrifying. I really, genuinely admired Peter Cushing before they asked me to do the role, so I was, I don’t mind about pissing off Disney or Lucasfilm, but I was very, very worried about letting that great man down, he was a lovely actor.
Phil: Were you given any freedom to add your own stamp on the role or were there strict guidelines to adhere to?
Guy Henry: No, they chose me because they thought I would have a good go at it, and they let me do the best that I could.
Phil: Like many fans, I was left speechless when Tarkin first revealed himself in Rogue One. What were your reactions to seeing yourself with Peter Cushing’s face?!
Guy Henry: I was proud of what they did. I think it’s still a work in progress, I think there are better…there are some brilliant moments and some that are still a bit PlayStation 4, but what I love is coming somewhere like here and the people who say that they loved it…they thought wow! And Peter Cushing’s secretary who’s was with him for many, many years went to see the film courtesy of the production company and apparently, she was very moved by it and said, “Sir’s back!” I’m very proud of it because I admire Peter Cushing greatly.
Phil: If called upon, would you reprise the role?!
Guy Henry: Yes!
Phil: What can expect from Guy Henry in the future?!
Guy Henry: I’m in Peter Gynt at the National Theatre of Great Britain and we’re going to the Edinburgh Festival next week.
It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Guy Henry at London Film & Comic-Con. Going into this interview, I had no preconceptions about the man I was set to meet, and I found myself utterly blown away by his humility, professionalism and sheer zest for meeting his adoring audience. For the entire time, I was with him, his autograph queue seemed to constantly regenerate and he went out of his way to spend enough time with everyone in line. Sadly, a fateful rendezvous with screen legend Martin Sheen curtailed his autograph signing, but it was refreshing to see a professional admired for producing such a wonderful performance in Rogue One charge away like an excited fan clutching his ticket guaranteeing him the chance to meet one of his idols.
I deeply admire his performance in Rogue One. Not just for his portrayal of Governor Tarkin, but his portrayal of the great Peter Cushing. The common misconception is that Guy Henry produced a noteworthy performance as Governor Tarkin. Instead, he produced an acting masterclass by playing Peter Cushing playing Governor Tarkin. Not only did Guy Henry succeed in bringing Governor Tarkin back to the screen, but he and the great team at Industrial Light and Magic succeeded in bringing Peter Cushing back to life and helped fulfil his wish to play a greater part in Star Wars beyond A New Hope.
That level of care and respect transcends beyond cinema. It is a testament to Guy Henry’s character and a consummate professional that against all the odds, filled the shoes of a national treasure. Should he get the call to reprise the role once again, I will be delighted to share the ride, but until then he has bestowed upon us a glorious performance as Governor Wilhuff Tarkin in Rogue One, and for that, I am very, very thankful.
And finally, I would like to extend my thanks to both Guy Henry for giving up his time and granting this exclusive Future of the Force interview all the while racing off to meet his idol, and to Showmasters who invited Future of the Force along to attend their incredible London Film & Comic-Con event.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager and Editor of Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, Batman, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force frequently!