Meet Alan Fernandes, the Tusken Raider!

Inside stories from Alan Fernandes about playing a Tusken Raider in Star Wars

Alan Fernandes as Tusken Raider
Alan Fernandes as a Tusken Raider

Excerpt from episode #305 of Skywalking Through Neverland

In early 1977 George Lucas and crew went to Death Valley to shoot additional scenes for Star Wars. One of these scenes included additional footage for the Tusken Raider attack. The two Tusken Raiders in these scenes were played by Alan Fernandes and Bob Spiker who were “drafted” because they were animal trainers from Marine World. The two had experience working with Mardji the elephant who was to appear as the Bantha.  

test drive for Mardji the elephant

Alan, who appeared recently on Episode 305 of Skywalking Through Neverland, tells us what it was like playing the Tusken Raider and how we can pick him out in the movie:

“….when I had the mask on, I fell so many times. The mask was getting loose from the sweat, and at one point it broke the skin on the bridge of my nose so I started to bleed, and the mask kept bouncing on that same spot.

One scene you’ll see me holding with my left hand, the mask, and holding the rifle with my right.  After George (Lucas) saw that he said, ‘Ok, you’re going to stay on the elephant, I don’t want you holding your mask anymore!’ “

To zero in on Alan, just look for the Tusken holding the rifle, and his mask, as he’s running down the sand slope. He’s also riding up front when the two Tuskens are seen on the Bantha.

Alan made two other appearances in the independent films, ‘Arabian Nights,’ where he was a camel handler, and ‘Pool Party’ where he oversaw the Bengal tiger that was used in the film. (Just don’t call Alan, ‘Tiger King!’)

It was great to finally talk with Alan Fernandes and get the behind the scenes stories, and to finally know who was under that Sandperson mask. For the longest time these characters were uncredited. In the issue, ‘Famous Monsters Star Wars Spectacular,’ from 1977, there was a ‘Cast of Characters’ section where it listed the major characters and the actors who played them. For the Tusken Raiders, the name listed was “Various Hands,’ so for years I thought that was the actor’s name. I never heard the name ‘Various’ before but I was 8 years old so what did I know. It was a few years later that I realized “various” wasn’t a name but a synonym for many.  

Famous Monsters Star Wars Spectacular
Richard as a Tusken Raider for Halloween 1982
Various autographs by Alan Fernandes

Check out the Skywalking Through Neverland episode where Alan and Production staff member, Miki Herman, reminisce about the Death Valley shooting day. 

305: Tusken Raider Alan Fernandes with Special Guest Miki Herman

Let’s visit the Death Valley set of Star Wars in 1977! Special guests Alan Fernandes (Bantha-riding Tusken Raider) and Miki Herman (Star Wars Production Crew Member) reflect back on these shooting days. Alan worked at Marine World wrestling with tigers and befriending Banthas (Well, the Bantha was really Mardji the elephant!)

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