“There were moments when I put the armor on and I was looking at [executive producers] Dave [Filoni] and Jon [Favreau], and the expression on their faces just said it all,” he tells StarWars.com. “It felt good. It felt right. It felt like, ‘Yes, I should be wearing this costume.’ And it gave me this sense of, ‘I’m back.’”
Morrison, of course, played bounty hunter Jango Fett in 2002’s Attack of the Clones. As the story goes, Jango served as the genetic blueprint for the clone army of the Republic, and he requested one unaltered clone to raise as a son: Boba, who would become a bounty hunter like his father before him. So even though Jango perished in Attack of the Clones – there’s little coming back from the way Jedi Master Mace Windu dispatched the character – there was still a chance for Morrison to return to Star Wars as either a clone or the younger Fett.
Morrison had wanted to revisit the galaxy far, far away for a long time. Like the rest of us, he had heard rumors about projects involving Boba Fett, but when nothing came to fruition, he “kind of lost hope.” It wasn’t until Jon Favreau and David Filoni invited him over in August 2019, and Morrison saw himself, literally, in Star Wars once again, that he believed.
“I went to have a meeting at their office, and I was put in a room to wait. I got there quite early because I was excited, I didn’t want to be late,” Morrison says. “While I was waiting, I was looking at some of the conceptual drawings on the wall, and I suddenly saw an image of a guy that looked like me. I said, ‘Jeez, I’m sure that’s me there.’ But I didn’t want to get too excited.”
Once Favreau and Filoni showed up, there was reason to be excited. They wanted Morrison to play Boba Fett, starting the journey that resulted in Chapter 14 of The Mandalorian, “The Tragedy,” streaming now on Disney+.
Boba Strikes Back
Boba Fett is one of the true Star Wars icons. He's a character who instantly connected with fans thanks to his undeniably cool look and badassery and whose mystique only grew through the years. The bounty hunter’s big-screen debut was in the 1980 movie The Empire Strikes Back, in which he tracked down the Millennium Falcon for Darth Vader and later delivered Han Solo, frozen in carbonite, to Jabba the Hutt.
The last time we chronologically saw Fett, however, he was hurtling down a dune in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, seemingly swallowed up by a waiting Sarlacc. For years, fans have wished for the character to come back; though we don’t know the details, Fett survived the encounter. At the start, Morrison and the show’s creators looked to figure out who Fett was now as a person. “We had many discussions,” Morrison says. “They had to outline where they were at, really, and what they were thinking.”
Though he had a cameo in the season premiere of The Mandalorian, and his return was teased in the first season, Boba made his complete comeback in “The Tragedy.” Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the episode finds Boba and Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand tracking the Mandalorian to the planet Tython, where Fett demands the return of his armor.
“I did rely a lot on the makeup,” Morrison says of defining Fett. “I worked with Brian Sipe. When we started to work once things got underway, and we decided I would play Boba Fett and we got over all the excitement, we actually had to sit in the chair and start doing the actual work and the creating, and look at where he’s been and his past. So I spent a lot of the time sitting in the makeup chair, watching what was being applied, and then things just started to happen organically.” Part of that organic evolution of the character would be Fett’s voice, with a gravelly and coarse tone that’s decidedly different than Morrison’s take on Jango.
“It was a conscious choice,” Morrison says. “I thought, every now and then he hit some tonal qualities where, hey, he has been scarred. He has been affected internally, as well. So without sounding too false I wanted to bring a little gravel in there to give it a bit of timbre.”
And there was another influence on Fett’s voice and Morrison’s performance.
The actor recalls that his father loved Westerns growing up in New Zealand. There would be midnight showings on TV, and Dad would wake the kids to come to watch. “We were allowed to get up in the middle of the night and share these cowboy movies from Hollywood with him,” he says. “With The Mandalorian, I guess I’m getting at the fact that it has this cowboy feel. A Western feel. A gunslinger feel.”
And in working with Morrison, Favreau and Filoni often referenced classic Western actors like Lee Van Cleef, Richard Harrison, and Clint Eastwood as touchpoints. “You’ve got all these great actors from the cowboy days, which I could relate to in a way, from growing up with my dad loving cowboy films. So we’re bringing that Western feel to the character, as well.”
Before every shoot, Morrison would meet with Favreau and Filoni, diving deep into Boba’s motivations, with Filoni, in particular, offering valuable backstory.
“I got as much information as I could, especially from Dave Filoni, in terms of Boba’s relationship with other characters and some of the history, which he all has in his mind. He’s like a walking encyclopedia, that guy.”
In “The Tragedy,” Fett and Shand joined forces with the Mandalorian to battle stormtroopers in a stylistically energized, visceral, and often brutal sequence (it is, indeed, an unmistakably Robert Rodriguez episode through and through). Morrison’s Fett, in particular, is all clenched teeth and anger.
“I come from a warrior background in New Zealand,” he says. “I’m a Maori and I’ve been trained. It gives me something to draw on. I was trained as a young boy back in New Zealand in the art of our haka [warrior dance]. ‘Ha’ is the breath, and ‘ka’ is the fire. I’m using my warrior background as a source of energy and as a source of confidence.”
Morrison connected with Rodriguez on the shoot – even sharing guitar chords on downtime – and worked together to realize Boba as a force to be reckoned with fully.
“I was able to bring that into this production. Robert could see that I could use the weapon and swing the stick around. In our own culture, we have a staff that’s called a taiaha. I’d been trained in that as a young boy, as well,” he says. “I’m trying to push it into a nice place. You don’t want to get this guy upset. He’ll rip you to pieces.”
Still, as dangerous and deadly as Boba Fett is in “The Tragedy,” he also emerges as something else: sympathetic and honorable. While bounty hunters aren’t necessarily villains, the Fett of The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi was an antagonist.
“I think that’s where I come into it,” Morrison says. “In bringing that humanity and keeping it kind of simple. Giving him values.”
A Welcome Return
When StarWars.com speaks with Morrison, it’s the morning after “The Tragedy” is released. Morrison hasn’t seen the episode yet and is curious about the fan reaction. When told by the interviewer that online chatter looks pretty positive, he was overjoyed. “It gives me a lot of encouragement,” he says.
But this return to Star Wars has also given the actor a moment to reflect. “I count my blessings and I’m very grateful. Grateful to George, in fact, for giving me Jango Fett. And that’s how this whole thing has come about,” he says. “Just very grateful for being involved in this wonderful production.”
That little boy in New Zealand watching cowboy movies – and his dad – would be proud.