The Most Amazing Rocky Mountain Con with actor Alan Harris
by Bret Smith
It was Saturday, November 5, 2016, and time for the 4th annual Rocky Mountain Con. Convention founder Tim Moret put together a great show (and still does!) with comic book artists, comic book writers, vendors and actors for the fans to meet and buy stuff at their tables. I went to the Celebrity Guest area and met 78-year-old actor Alan Harris who played bounty hunter Bossk in “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”. He even had a Bossk mask on his table. He was happy to tell me fascinating stories from the set as he has also made a career of being a stand-in on various classic movies including four “Star Wars” films (Episodes IV, V, VI and I) and 1978’s “Superman”. One crazy experience was from the set of the James Bond film “The Living Daylights” when the British royals Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited. Diana went straight to Alan–he suspects because he was wearing white and looked official–and proceeded to ask him questions about the set which he could readily answer. Someone had snapped a photo that day, so Alan then showed me that very same photo. He claimed it is the only photo of Princess Diana from a movie set. Then I asked Alan to sign a Bossk 8×10 photo and my 1996 Star Wars-The Power of the Force Bossk action figure. Little did I know I could have brought more action figures for him to sign.
By the end of the day, it was time for some relaxation at the hotel bar. Daniel “Smurf” Sharner of 5280 Geek took a break from doing podcasts all day, to join me for some wine in the bar. And we discovered actor Alan Harris at the bar drinking a pint, the proper British term. I chatted with him a bit, and he told me he had a pain in his lower back from the long flight across the Atlantic. He planned to grab a smoke and take a hot shower to help him feel better tomorrow.
Smurf and I returned to the Rocky Mountain Con Main Stage for the charity auction for Aurora Rise. But first, everyone enjoyed grabbing slices of cake and singing “Happy Birthday” to comic book and pulp fiction scribe Ron Fortier. After the auction, we returned to the bar. Alan Harris was drinking another pint, taking smoke breaks and saying that his back felt better. Comic book agent Renee Witterstaetter joined later and bought everyone a round of drinks. I learned that not only does Renee represent comic book talents Mike Golden and Mike Zeck, also guests at Rocky Mountain Con, but she is Alan Harris’s agent, too. We had the most entertaining evening with Alan regaling us with amazing stories from the sets of so many favorite genre movies:
- Alan was Gene Hackman’s stand-in during the “Superman” library scene.
- He had to put on a Han Solo outfit, breathing tubes up his nose and had plaster poured all over him for hours to portray Han Solo frozen in Carbonite. They later got a cast of Harrison Ford’s face and added it but they couldn’t have the actor himself lay down the needed hours for the full body cast. So Alan did it! He said in all of the reproductions of Han Solo in Carbonite you can see his distinctive handprints for the frozen hands. So now I know that that Bret in Carbonite action figure Jeanni bought me at Disney World is actually Alan’s body!
- Alan was in Leia’s rebel escort in “Star Wars: A New Hope”, in addition to bounty hunter Bossk, was a Bespin Security Guard in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” and a Stormtrooper in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”.
- Alan stood in for actor Terence Stamp as Chancellor Valorum in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”.
- I asked Alan about experiences with various directors as he has personally watched George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Donner and even Stanley Kubrick for his classic horror film “The Shining”. Alan was a dancer in the hotel ballroom scene. His favorite director is Dick Donner, his favorite long-term experience was working over a year on “Space: 1999” and his hardest day on set was when he had to take over for a lead dancer with only thirty minutes notice on the set of Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth”.
Alan Harris had so many stories and had an absolute knack for remembering such specific details that we implored him to write his memoirs.
When I saw Alan for Day 2 of Rocky Mountain Con, he exclaimed with a smile “there’s that guy that asks me so many questions!” That evening, convention stalwarts Smurf, Red, Gina, Smitty and I joined Alan Harris back at the hotel bar for another evening of movie-making stories. Mr. Harris was the highlight of 2016’s Rocky Mountain Con for me, and I am fortunate to have met him. I was sorry to learn of his passing this last weekend but have very special memories of my one weekend with him. RIP Mr. Harris.
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