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John Wayne Made a Little-Known Cameo in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’

Photo Credit: The.Rohit / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0, GLOWWORM / Twentieth Century Fox / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: The.Rohit / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0, GLOWWORM / Twentieth Century Fox / MovieStillsDB

Cameos have become commonplace in the Star Wars universe. Perhaps most famously, a Stormtrooper was played by Daniel Craig, best known for his portrayal of the British spy James Bond. He’s one in a long list that includes Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Williams, and George Lucas himself. One appearance in the original Star Wars will go unnoticed by even the most dedicated fan. That cameo was made – unknowingly – by John Wayne.

In a galaxy not so far away

Star Wars is no stranger to the Western genre and John Wayne’s films. Harrison Ford’s Han Solo has a particular gunslinging cowboy spirit about him, and so too do the bounty hunters who have appeared in various films from the original trilogy to the newer series such as The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. All the movies have taken some lessons from Westerns.

John Wayne as Ethan Edwards in the 1956 Western, The Searchers.
The Searchers (1956). (Photo Credit: C.V. Whitney Pictures / Warner Bros. / charlytraveler / MovieStills DB)

There’s a scene in A New Hope when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) races back to his aunt and uncle’s farm to find it destroyed, with smoke pouring from the burnt-out structures. The bodies of his aunt and uncle strike a resemblance to a scene in the 1956 John Wayne film, The Searchers. Like Luke Skywalker, Wayne (as Ethan Edwards) returns to his family’s homestead on fire, black smoke billowing into the air, and also discovers the body of his loved ones.

But Wayne ultimately did more than influence particular scenes or even the style of the movie. He actually appeared in A New Hope, or at least was heard, kind of.

Garindan the Kubaz spy

In A New Hope, after finding his aunt and uncle dead, Luke decides to join Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), along with his two droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), in seeking out Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). To do so, they require a ship that turns out to be the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

Their departure from Tatooine is not as easy as they expected, with Desert Stormtroopers and spies from the Empire searching for Luke’s droids. One of these spies is Garindan.

Garindan notifies Imperial Desert stormtroopers about the missing droids and the Millennium Falcon.
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). (Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox / GLOWWORM / MovieStillsDB)

Garindan stands out when on screen. In addition to wearing all black on a desert planet, he also appears to be some kind of insectoid resembling a cross between a mosquito and a plague doctor’s mask. The sound made by Garindan is a garbled buzzing noise. That was John Wayne.

Ben Burtt, who was the sound engineer behind all of the famous sounds from the Star Wars franchise, only revealed this in 2007. When working on Attack of the Clones, Burtt returned to Garindan for inspiration for Poggle the Lesser, who is also an insectoid.

In his notes, Burtt realized the origin of the sounds made by Garindan. “I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne. I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”

More from us: Harrison Ford Won’t Be Retiring From Acting Following the Final ‘Indiana Jones’ Film

Wayne most likely never knew about his part in Star Wars, as he died in 1979. His final film, The Shootist, was released in 1976, a year before A New Hope, so while Wayne was uncredited, Star Wars is technically his final film.

Ryan McLachlan

Ryan McLachlan is a historian and content writer for Hive Media. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Classical Studies and his Master of Arts in History from the University of Western Ontario. Ryan’s research focused on military history, and he is particularly interested in the conflicts fought by the United Kingdom from the Napoleonic Wars to the Falklands War.

Ryan’s other historical interests include naval and maritime history, the history of aviation, the British Empire, and the British Monarchy. He is also interested in the lives of Sir Winston Churchill and Admiral Lord Nelson. Ryan enjoys teaching, reading, writing, and sharing history with anyone who will listen.

In his spare time, he enjoys watching period dramas such as Murdoch Mysteries and Ripper Street and also enjoys reading classical literature and Shakespeare. He also plays football and is an afternoon tea connoisseur.