A FOTF exclusive interview with Star Wars and Indiana Jones legend Julian Glover
In 1980, after a glittering stage career, Julian Glover stepped foot onto the set of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and cemented his status as a legendary figure of the galaxy far, far away. The role was small, little more than an extended cameo, but his glowing performance was enough to capture the hearts of millions of fans around the world who were eager to learn more about the mysterious General Maximillian Veers. Sadly, his role failed to expand beyond George Lucas’ stellar sequel and ultimately the character was omitted from the events of Return of the Jedi in 1983.
Following the Empire Strikes Back, Glover returned to the screen and cemented his iconic status in another tentpole franchise when he assumed the role of Aristotle Kristatos in James Bond adventure, For Your Eyes Only. The role was far more substantial and saw him fill the shoes of the quintessential Bond villain ready to menace Roger Moore’s super spy as he attempted to retrieve the top-secret Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC). His performance was breathtaking and his grounded take on the character proved to be one of the defining moments of his career and when Steven Spielberg began the search for the villain of his newest movie, the spotlight fell upon Glover.
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Glover was cast as Walter Donovan, a shrewd Nazi sympathiser with delusions of grandeur who would stop at nothing to obtain the Holy Grail. As the primary antagonist, Glover found himself sharing the screen with fellow Star Wars alumni Harrison Ford, and in doing so made the perfect foil for the adventure-seeking archaeologist. Alongside these glorious roles, Glover’s other screen credits include roles in Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Walking Dead, Grantchester and Merlin.
At Showmasters’ glorious London Film & Comic Con 2019, I had the opportunity to sit down with the screen legend to discuss his wonderful career and delve a little deeper into the inspiration behind Aristotle Kristatos, Walter Donovan and of course the infamous General Maximillian Veers.
Julian Glover | London Film & Comic-Con
Phil: What does London Film & Comic Con mean to you?
Julian: It means I make some money (laughs). It’s a very big occasion this one and most actors do very well at it … if the actors are any good and popular, which fortunately I am a bit at the moment so I do well; and I can think of ways of spending my Sunday which are more enjoyable, but the enjoyable part about this is actually meeting the fans, to be able to say hello to them and realising that they are human beings and they realise that I am one too.
Phil: Your glittering stage career saw you receive the Laurence Olivier award for your role in Henry IV. What first attracted you to the theatre?!
Julian: Well, I was at school and at the age of fifteen I was asked to play a wonderful part in a Shakespeare play at school, and I did it and thought wow … what’s this. In the next term I did a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, quite different and I played a comic lead in one of them and I went home that evening and said this it is; this is what I’m going to do. I’ve found my vocation, and my vocation has remained right there in the middle of my head through all the good and the very bad times. I know that however good I am, or not that’s what I was going to do, and I’ve done it.
Phil: You soon became a Star Wars legend when you took on the role of General Maximilian Veers in the Empire Strikes Back. What first attracted you to the Star Wars universe?!
Julian: The offer of the part! (Laughs). I saw the first one and like every other young person at the time was completely overwhelmed by the first Star Wars film, still am actually and I still the first three are the best films out of the whole thing. They had a sort of centre. The modern ones are very well done but I don’t know what they’re for really. Anyway, when I was asked to do a small part in one of them I said yes please, having no idea the franchise would do this and that I’d still be making money out of playing General Veers which I was very poorly paid for at the time, I’ve certainly done pretty well from it since.
Phil: Was performing alongside Dave Prowse a factor in your accepting the role … because he was your schoolmate I believe?!
Julian: Not at all. We were at school at the same time and I only discovered two years ago we were actually in the same class. We didn’t know each other. Someone I was in the same class with was Timothy West, that fine actor, but we didn’t know that either until twenty years later when we came to see me in a show … he saw the back of my head and thought I sat behind that when I was at school (laughs). Dave Prowse doesn’t claim it as a plus and certainly weren’t mates … we didn’t know each other.
Phil: After Star Wars, you were cast as James Bond villain Aristotle Kristatos. What was it like performing alongside Roger Moore?!
Julian: Roger Moore. I worked with him quite a lot before. I have done three Saints and a Radler and Hopkirk and the other series he did … I can’t remember what it was called now, so I knew him, and we liked each other from that so doing the film was an absolute delight. We sort of picked up where we left off really. Roger could get on with anybody … ANYBODY. He was such a wonderful man and a great loss, not just to cinema but to the world.
Phil: What was the inspiration behind your sophisticated Bond villain?
Julian: It was a very interesting part. Like all really interesting villains, the people who turn out to be the bad ones, I could see a reason for his behaviour. It’s not interesting playing someone who’s simply bad, you know you won’t make money out of playing it … the king of darkness or whatever in pantomime, it’s not interesting but if you can find something like an Indiana Jones, the reason he was doing that, the reason Kristatos was doing it was to get enough money to put this girl through the Olympics. He was a very open-hearted man. He took the wrong route to get the money like Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones. Walter Donovan had a very definite mission in his life, which I bet if you’d had it, you’d have knocked a few heads off along the way for the secret of eternal life.
Phil: A lot of people would.
Julian: They’d kill their mother. And this bloke didn’t have to kill his mother, he had a lovely wife at home … which incidentally was played by my wife, but he chose the way of getting money through Nazism because he knew there was money there and that was the wrong course. But he wasn’t an evil man. Like a real person, he had big ambition.
Phil: You re-teamed with George Lucas for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. What are your memories of playing Walter Donovan?!
Julian: I think my favourite moment was … a lot of it was nice, the scene when I was first discovered to be the baddie when the two of them are bound together with ropes and I turn around in my chair and there’s me and ahh! He’s the baddie. That was fun, but the moment I enjoyed most was in the desert in those very uncomfortable and hot tanks and I got to do what I’d always wanted to do all my life … be like Rommel in the second world war standing in the well of a tank and pointing. I did that and that was like the high point of my career … I’ve been Rommel!
Phil: What was it like working with George Lucas?
Julian: I never worked with George Lucas. I’ve never met him. He didn’t direct it (Last Crusade). He was never around, and he was never around in Star Wars either.
Phil: In recent years, you’ve performed in both Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. What attracted you to the respective roles?!
Julian: They are both completely different things. For Harry Potter, they were simply trying to find a voice which would be a spider’s voice. But nobody really knows what a spider’s voice is, so they auditioned a lot of us with our idea of what might work, and it happened by pure luck that the voice that I gave … they reckoned that will do. But a lot of very eminent people auditioned for that and by pure luck, my voice happened to click the right bell in their mind and I got the voice of Aragog, which has stood me in very good stay. I had to do it three times to start with because they kept altering the text, so I got three fees and it pays a royalty, those films. They pay a royalty, unlike most films you make these days. So, I made a few hundred quid down the line from it and I’ve always been pleased by that. And then, nothing to do with me … but my son last year played Harry Potter in the two plays of that name; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and he played that for a year, so there’s a big tie-up of Harry Potter.
Phil: You obviously have no plans to slow down. What can we expect to see you in next?!
Julian: I’m in a play in London at the moment, there’s no big movie coming up … I couldn’t because I’m in the theatre. It’s a play by Tennessee Williams called “The Night of the Iguana”. There was a big film of it by John Huston with Richard Burton many years ago, it’s a great great play, a real grown-up play and that’s what I’m doing at the moment.
As a massive fan of his work and a follower of his wonderful career, it was an absolute pleasure to chat with Julian Glover at London Film & Comic-Con. Having been a pillar of the Star Wars fan community for so many years, I had no preconceptions going into this interview and was blown away by his genuine kindness and professionalism. I was confronted by a very warm and kind individual, a million miles away from the notorious villains he has portrayed on screen. Even when yours truly was hindered by some inaccurate facts, Julian was incredibly understanding and was more than happy to correct the flaws in my research and provide me with a greater insight into the real facts behind the rumours.
One thing that became very apparent throughout the interview was his pure passion for the characters he has played throughout his career. Even though he only got to perform them once, each and every one of them holds a deep and personal meaning to him and he is connected to each and every one of them on an intimate level.
The character of General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back may be the role that he is most recognised for, but for me, it is his role as Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that truly defines his career. The role required him to perform as a warm and innocent party for the early stages of the movie before being revealed as the villainous Nazi sympathiser in the finale. The ability to add depth to both sides of his devious character is a testament to his unswerving ability in front of the camera and his performance deserves to be celebrated as the crowning achievement it truly is.
Even though his unforgettable characters only get to bask in the limelight once, they remain memorable because Julian Glover makes them memorable and thankfully, fans of all ages will continue to treasure this icon of the screen when they make the pilgrimage to events like London Film & Comic-Con. It is here that we can impart our thanks to him for his tireless devotion to doing what he does best … meeting his fans, bringing wonderful characters to life and making dreams a reality.
And finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks to both Julian Glover for giving up his time and granting this exclusive Future of the Force interview, 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!