Born: February 16, 1945;

Died; December 17, 2020

JEREMY BULLOCH, who has died aged 75, was an actor with a long career in British television, but he will always be best known as one of the villains in the original Star Wars films.

Like Dave Prowse as Darth Vader, Bulloch was hidden behind a mask as Boba Fett, the bounty hunter and arch-nemesis of Han Solo played by Harrison Ford, but Bulloch’s menacing, inscrutable presence was a big hit with the fans and made him a popular attraction at conventions and fan events.

Bulloch’s family was originally from Stirling but he grew up in Dorset, Somerset, and West Sussex.

As a boy, he played cricket and football but was less talented academically. When he was 11, his head teacher said to him: “Bulloch, you may have lovely handwriting but you have failed again.”

His parents concluded that a boy who loved singing and mucking about should go to drama school, and so off he went to attend the Corona Academy stage school in Chiswick.

Before long, the young Jeremy was getting his first jobs as a child actor, although his first big acting role came when he was 17 and was cast in the Cliff Richard movie Summer Holiday, as one of the mechanics that keeps the bus going.

The cast and crew went off to Greece for six weeks to film and Bulloch remembers having a whale of a time. “Cliff said to us: ‘Remember, you don’t have to sing. Leave that to me and The Shadows.’ So all we had to do was dance and mime. It was terrific for a young actor.” He also appeared as Q’s assistant, Smithers, in the Roger Moore-as-James Bond films, For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Octopussy (1983).

On television, Bulloch carved out a niche in television, in soaps such as Compact and The Newcomers, which were early attempts to challenge the domination of Coronation Street. He also made guest appearances in some of the most popular shows of the 1970s such as Crown Court, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, and The Professionals.

One of his guest roles was in the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story The Time Warrior, in which he played a medieval archer. He also had a part in changing the portrayal of gay men on television when he appeared as the non-stereotypical gay friend of the agony aunt played by Maureen Lipman in the sitcom Agony (1979-81).

The role in the first Star Wars sequel – The Empire Strikes Back – came about because of a personal connection.

Bulloch once told The Herald how he landed the part. “Star Wars came about because my brother Robert Watts, who was an associate producer of the first film, said to me: ‘Look, there’s this thing, the second film, The Empire Strikes Back; there might be something in it for you.’ I was in the theatre at the time but the Star Wars people worked round it.”

Bulloch also went on to appear in the film that followed, Return Of The Jedi.

He immediately took to the part even though – like Dave Prowse, who died in November 2020, aged 85 – his face was covered by a mask.

“I remember the day I first put on the outfit, with the Wookie scalp over my shoulder,” he said, “It was menacing and I did have a sense of how big it was.”

He also had a sense that George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, was an exceptional talent.

“He was always around and knew exactly what he wanted. He was a details man and you would always recognise the checked shirt and jeans. He’d always be sitting there, sketching or writing. Those early years were so exciting.”

The fans took to the character of Boba Fett straight away, even though he is not on screen for a long time.

“In the original films it’s Darth Vader and Boba Fett who have this amazing aura about them,” said Bulloch. “I kept saying there’s no such thing as a small role, and that’s certainly been the case with Boba Fett. He looked good: chunky and strong and athletic.”

The appeal of the character meant Bulloch was always in demand to appear at fan events and conventions.

“There’s something about him that appeals to 35-year-olds and now there’s the young kids too from three years old upwards. I go to charity events and when I go on I say: ‘The name’s Boba Fett’. The children are thrilled. The interest is still there after all this time; every week something is happening.

“Sometimes you have to put on the acting hat when you’re asked a question you’ve been asked 300 times but you have to be excited about the questions. People get comfort from Star Wars. It was a wonderful time” .

Bulloch’s other television appearances included the 1980s drama, Robin Of Sherwood, as Edward of Wickham; Sloggers, and Faith, both in the 1990s; Spooks in 2002; and Law & Order: UK, in 2009.

He returned to the Star Wars universe in 2005 with a cameo as a pilot in Revenge Of The Sith. The character of Boba Fett has also reappeared recently in the Disney+ series The Mandalorian.

Jeremy Bulloch wrote an autobiography, Flying Solo, in 2005 and contributed to the 2015 documentary Elstree 1976, which told the story of Star Wars conventions.

He is survived by his wife Maureen and their sons, Jamie and Robbie, his son Christian from his first marriage, and his 10 grandchildren.