It has been eighteen years since Don Post released a life-size replica of Boba Fett, but now there is a new life-size statue of everyone’s favorite intergalactic bounty hunter in town. This one, available from Sideshow Collectibles, was prototyped by Tom Spina Designs, a company of fans that recently produced alien masks and costumes for three Star Wars “May the Fourth” videos.
We were able to catch up with painter Alex Alva and Tom Spina himself just before the statue was released.
BFFC: Gentlemen! Let’s get to it, shall we? We’re big fans of your work over the years. How did each of you initially get involved with this project with Sideshow Collectibles?
Alex Alva: I got involved through recommendations from The Dented Helmet, where I had been a member for over 12 years, which lead me to Tom and [his company]. The work as project manager for the Jeremy Bulloch armor project on The Dented Helmet helped spur the networking.
Tom Spina: My company had recently prototyped a life-size Figrin D’an bust for Sideshow. They’d seen the Han Solo in carbonite desk we created and that led them to look at our portfolio. I believe the call went like, “Hey, this is Sideshow, we should really be working together!” We heartily agreed! After the bust, I met with their development team to discuss other characters we could help bring to life and Fett was on the top of the list. The folks at Sideshow are amazing. Gifted artists all around and their management are all true fans of the properties they’re working with. They were as excited to be creating Fett as we were!
BFFC: Can you give us an idea of the amount of work that went into planning this?
Spina: Quite a bit!
Alva: My role as the painter was to source, prep, document, and photograph. In addition to painting, I was tasked with developing a “how to” of sorts from start to finish on two prototype 1:1 pieces to be sent off for replication.
Spina: Fett’s costume is as complex as it is iconic. It started with long, geeky discussions with Sideshow about the various costumes and all of the minute details. We set on a direction and then it was up to my company to figure out how to build it. For me, it was important that we didn’t reinvent the wheel. There wasn’t an unlimited budget and building dozens of parts from nothing didn’t make sense when there were all these incredible people who’d spent years studying the costume that we could be working with. I’d recently met Alex and Chris Jones at one of the Star Wars Celebrations and both were keen to be involved from the start. We all put our heads together and that got things rolling. From there, many other talents were brought on board and you’ll find a detailed list of credits on our site.
BFFC: What sort of access did you have to official archives and costume pieces?
Alva: We took a trip to Burbank, California, to visit a private collector with some of the real pre-production Fett movie props, this helped get a sense of size, feel, and color for the best route on replication. On that same trip we also visited the offices of Sideshow Collectibles, were they gave us the grand tour and allowed us to collaborate directly with those involved.
BFFC: For this replica you went with Empire Strikes Back version of the costume. Is ESB your favorite version of Boba Fett’s outfit?
Spina: Absolutely. I always seem to be drawn to the “first appearances” when it comes to costumes in films. Darth Vader from Star Wars, Boba from ESB, the ESB AT-ST. I always feel the the re-interpretations for sequels get a bit watered down. That said, I do really like the Fett “pre-pro 2″ look as well!
Alva: Definitely my favorite. Seeing Boba for the first time in his debut in the all green armor is something I will never forget.
Spina: There was quite a bit of discussion with Sideshow regarding the overall look and feel. They were very on board with the ESB look from the start. I always called it the “quiet badass” version of Fett! We didn’t need a crazy action pose, he wasn’t really like that in the film. Sideshow hit upon a great pose that has this sense that he’s watching… just waiting for his moment to act!
BFFC: What initially drew both of you to the the character?
Alva: Boba Fett was a character that, like most, many knew very little about, and the hype surrounding him after the fact was what drew me to him when I was 8, and how much of a badass he was didn’t hurt. In addition, who doesn’t want a helmet and rocket pack?
Spina: I was 7 or 8 when ESB came out, though I first saw the character in the Holiday Special! Naturally, ESB was where he made the biggest impression, but I have to say the Kenner 12″ figure was probably as big a reason that I’m a Fett fan as any. It was so darn cool! The gadgets on that thing were awesome.
BFFC: Alex, you were heavily involved in the Jeremy Bulloch armor project that we were big fans of. Can you tell us a bit about that experience and how it came together?
Alva: It was actually a conversation between myself and Jason Miller (darthmiller) after a local wrap-up Comic Con party at the Star Wars Museum of Mr. Philip Wise. In attendance was Jeremy Bulloch, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, and Kenny Baker, among other greats from the films, real fan boy stuff. We were in the media theater watching ESB with Jeremy when he made mention that he wished he could’ve kept some of the original parts to his Boba suit. Later that night Jason and I realized this was something that could definitely be accomplished if we got others involved. We knew it had been tried before and it never came to pass for one reason or another. With the help of The Dented Helmet, we already knew a ton of people that made specific parts for the Fett costume and it was a matter of simply reaching out to the best of the best, the “all-Stars” of the Fett [costuming] world, and not surprisingly not one person turned us down.
BFFC: Between this project for Sideshow or building Jeremy Bulloch’s costume with TDH, which would you say was more time consuming and rewarding?
Alva: I would actually say that both were a different type of project. I was extremely proud to be a a part of making Jeremy’s Fett suit. It was a ton of planning on my part and I had a ton of help to complete the project, which stretched over a year. It almost didn’t happen, but when we reached the finish line and Jeremy put the suit on, it was one of the most memorable things I have ever been apart of. Seeing him be Boba was, well, the best. It made the hard work worth it. With the Sideshow project, it’s equally rewarding in the role that I played in the project as painter. You have a great deal of pressure to make all of Tom’s planning and all the other artist’s pieces come to life at assembly and painting. It’s extremely easy to mess it up if we got it wrong in terms of making those things come together, and to say you painted the most accurate 1:1 production Boba Fett ESB piece since the Don Post [RoTJ] statue is a pretty nice thing to have on your resume.
BFFC: Absolutely. What about you, Tom, how did you first get involved in costuming and the prop-making community?
Spina: I’ve been building costumes/props/masks and sculpting since I can remember. It began as a hobby and became a career. I’ve been a part of forums like the RPF where there are these wonderful communities of collectors and artists. I’m still so impressed by what folks there are doing! I consider myself very lucky to go to work everyday, work with incredible artists and do something I love.
BFFC: Do either of you own your own Fett costume?
Spina: I don’t own a Fett costume myself.
Alva: I actually don’t own a Fett costume either, even through a lot people in the prop community would find that hard to believe. I’ve never been terribly satisfied with some of the fan made replica pieces. Even though there are some that are extremely close in size and shape. I’ve never wanted my own Fett to wear, I always wanted one for static purposes, a museum piece of sorts.
BFFC: So this must have been a dream project to get involved with! By far one of our favorite features on the Sideshow statue was from a preview video last year at SDCC when Alex showed that the knees could be detached and flipped upside down.
Spina: That was something we pitched early on and I was so glad they went for it. When the question of the knees came up (whether they should be “right side up” or like he wore them in the carbon freeze chamber), we stopped and said, “why not both?” A few magnets later and boom!
BFFC: Including fan-favorite easter eggs like that adds so much to the final product. What are some other of your favorite experiences while you were working on this project?
Alva: I think the first thing that comes to mind would be the fact that myself and those at The New Wookiee Workshop (where the project was assembled and completed) were some of the first to see the figure come together and see [it] for the first time as a finished product. In addition we really tried to come up with better ways of replicating the exact way in which we completed the project and simplify everything. Tons of techniques were used, but for production it had to be the easiest and most effective way from start to finish, A to Z, on how to build and paint Boba.
Spina: For me, it was the initial excitement and planning, followed only slightly by the debut at Comic Con! Thinking back, the whole team worked very hard for months to make this the best licensed Fett ever. Chris [Jones] produced a great body and armor, my in house crew at our New York [office] worked for weeks refining those parts and putting together the soft goods and then Alex and company beautifully finished all of the pieces with paintwork that I just love. The end result made everyone involved (us, Sideshow, Lucasfilm) very happy with the final product.
BFFC: What level of quality can people expect from the final production version of this Sideshow statue compared to the old Don Post statue?
Spina: I feel really proud of the work our team did and I think Sideshow [has] proven time and time again that they can produce at a very high level. I think it’ll compare very favorably.
Alva: I think as a group of artists on this project we did the best work for the best result. Sideshow is an amazing company and if you’ve seen their work you know they spare no expense to put out the best product. I have faith in them. Hands down this is completely better than the Don Post statue, as there were more hands, talented artists, and resources used on this project.
BFFC: It certainly paid off. The statue is incredibly detailed and the accuracy is amazing. Be honest with us though, did you guys get to keep one?
Spina: Ask me again sometime.
BFFC: Hint taken! Thanks so much for chatting with us gentlemen, it has been a pleasure. We can’t wait to see your work in person!
Spina: Thanks once again for this. Really appreciate you reaching out and sharing this!
Alva: I want to thank the team at The New Wookie Workshop, with Jason Miller, and owned by Philip Wise. Without their help and support I would not have been able to complete my part of the 1:1 project.