November 8, 2005 by

Bill Hootkins


Categories: Actors, Hollywood

bhootkins.jpgWilliam Michael Hootkins, a character actor who achieved cult status playing an ill-fated X-Wing pilot in the film “Star Wars IV: A New Hope,” died on Oct. 23 of pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
The burly Texan developed an interest in acting as a teenager at the St. Mark’s School of Texas. He studied astrophysics and Chinese linguistics at Princeton University before moving to England and training as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
One of Hootkins’ first major roles in Hollywood was also his most memorable. In the 1977 science fiction classic, “Star Wars,” he played Lt. Jek “Red Six” Porkins. Despite the fact that he had few lines and his character died during the rebel attack on the Death Star, Hootkins found fame with the saga’s most ardent followers. These same fans created entire Websites in his honor, purchased Jek Porkins action figures and sought out his autograph at science fiction conventions.
Hootkins followed that role with more than 40 others on the big and small screens. He played Major Eaton in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Chuck Malarek in “White Nights,” Lt. Max Eckhardt in “Batman” and will appear as Frank Rich in the upcoming movie “Colour Me Kubrick.” The multilingual actor also made guest appearances on numerous television shows, including “Taxi,” “Valerie” and “The West Wing.”
On stage, Hootkins earned rave reviews as Alfred Hitchcock in “Hitchcock Blonde” on London’s West End. The show was scheduled to move to Broadway next year. In his spare time, Hootkins lent his vocal talents to audiobooks, video games and dozens of radio plays for the BBC.

8 Responses to Bill Hootkins

  1. Bill Bowman

    Bill Hootkins changed my life. He taught me how to eat Chinese food properly and I taught him how to eat mushrooms. He always shared his Black Sobranie cigarettes and I always had the best weed for him. He showed me how to perform on stage and I decided I’d rather be in the audience watching him. We also shared a love for movies and any serial featuring Buster Crabbe or Crash Corrigan.
    One day in 1970 (I think), I visited him in London and he described this wacky movie he had just worked on that was a modern take on the classic space operas. Remember, this was a time when science fiction and fantasy had been relegated to the Cormans of show business. The last big genre productions that Hollywood had produced were “2001” and “Planet of The Apes”. He thought it was kind of hilarious that all this money was going to go down the tubes. As you can gather, the movie was “Star Wars.”
    My other favorite (and more lengthy) screen performances by Bill were “Hardware”, “The Magnificent Ambersons”, “Ren Russell’s Valentino”, and a banned episode of “Black Adder” where he played the leader of a group mad monks running around drunk, wearing fake women’s breasts and puking a lot.
    He was the best actor I ever worked with. He was also an expert on every regional style of Chinese cooking (usually going into the kitchen and talking the chef into something that wasn’t even on the menu). He could cook too (when Rod Steiger was dating Liz Taylor, Bill ran the kitchen at Rod’s Malibu pad because Liz couldn’t get enough of his ribs). He was an avid spotter at Pacific grunion runs, a champion sabre fighter and could do tricks with a bullwhip. He was a true explorer of altered states.
    The world is a much less interesting place without him.

  2. david rhead

    william hootkins was an excellent actor very creative.always cast as 3 or 4 actor in his films but always out shone the lead.a sad loss to the favourite of all his performances was hardware.

  3. mike mcshane

    When I first moved to London, Bill and I would end up at auditions;and usually it would devolve into laughs and intricate filth. He was overqualified for the profession,but from what I heard about him from friends was what I had experienced-an intimidating friendly genius who put all of his wit and heart into a silly ass profession and made us thankful for it. I hope somebody worthwhile gets his soul.

  4. Madhav

    I’am Willam Hootkin’s fan, not for his acting skills but for his narration ability. Infact I have never seen any of his movies till now but evertime when I switch on the Discovery channel (especially extreme machines series) I can recognise him instantaneously just by listening his voice.
    He is one of the best narrators that I have ever comeacross in my life. May his soul rest in peace…

  5. Joe Burba

    I spent a couple of summers in The Harlequin Players at St. Mark’s. Acting in “She Stoops to Conquer” and “The Happy Time” with Hoot was a hoot. All of us around him those summers realized his brains and his talent–not to mention his convoluted humor–were as prodigious as his physique. Apparently he remained the genuine and interesting person I knew even as his career and fame progressed. I have always regarded Bill as a superior talent to character actor predecessors such as Charles Laughton and Orson Welles, but probably a nicer guy in real life. Requiescat in Pace.

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