StuntmanFrank Henson

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Growing up poor, Henson took whatever jobs he could get: hairdresser, dishwasher, nightclub bouncer, trench digger, and a paratrooper in the British Army. In 1967 he finally found his calling when he was hired as a stunt man for the James Bond film Casino Royale. At least 100 movie stunt jobs followed, from five more James Bond movies to fighting Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Henson on the Star Wars set with a special friend. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

But 1983’s Return of the Jedi “is without doubt the biggest movie that I worked on,” he said in 2018. “Every week I still receive fan mail and requests for autographs from all over the world for the small parts I played in it. Goodness knows what Harrison Ford’s mailbox is like!” He portrayed a Stormtrooper, an Endor Rebel commando, a biker scout, and a skiff guard. The “biker scout” was the hardest, where he was chased through a redwood forest in northern California, chased by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), ending when they knock him off his bike and he slams into a tree. It wasn’t filmed in a redwood forest. “Lucas had me at his studios in the blue room,” Henson said earlier this year. “My vision of the scene wasn’t terribly strong as all I could see was the blue screens and the cameras pointing at me. But this had made me realize what a great director Lucas really was as he would yell at me, ‘Frank, remember you’re going 200 miles per hour in redwood forest!’” Henson’s last job was in a 2016 episode of the TV series Vikings when he was 80 years old: his son, Mark, is a stunt coordinator for the show. Frank Henson died April 25, at 83.

Henson “riding” a “bike” looking back to see Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia gaining on him — in the Blue Screen room. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

From This is True for 28 April 2019