Phil Hodges
X-Wing pilot (The Force Awakens)
Interview: June 2016

Let’s start at the very beginning: how did you get started in the movie business?

Originally I was into a hobby called re-enacting, or living history as it’s now known. Its basically portraying a period in time, usually based around a war or conflict and wearing the relevant period clothes or uniforms. I’d always been interested in World War II since I was a small boy so I used to portray either British or German soldiers of that period. From there I was asked if I wanted to be in a documentary about D-Day. It was for the BBC and it was quite a big programme so that’s how I got spotted as it were.

And then you were ‘suddenly’ in a movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens as an X-Wing pilot. How did the casting process go?

I was quite lucky in as much as I was kind of tipped off about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was filming another World War II documentary at Shepperton Film studios here in the UK for an American TV channel when someone approached one of the producers of the documentary and asked about us guys in uniform. I think it was the whole wearing the boots and helmet thing. I’m not certain but I’m guessing the two knew each other or had worked together before as they were quite chatty. The upshot was about seven of us were asked if we’d be interested in working on another production. I was the only one who said yes! Of course Star Wars was never mentioned by name at that stage.

In which scenes can we see you?

Well I don’t really have any ‘to camera’ scenes as such but I’m the guy flying the closest X-Wing across the water in the trailer and I get to blow up a TIE Fighter in the same battle in the film. I’m also running around in the background at the rebel base which was filmed at Greenham Common.

What do you remember of the filming of your scenes?

It was a bit of blur because you’re just so nervous the whole time. You remember incidents after the event but during filming your concentrating so much on not messing up you’re kind of in auto pilot…no pun intended. You want to give a good a performance as possible even if it’s only for 2 seconds. The other guys on The Force Awakens whom I’ve met since all pretty much say the same thing. No one wanted to be the guy or girl who messes up. When you’re on a set like Star Wars you realize just how much money is being spent every minute of the day. Just looking at the crew numbers is mind blowing. That said, everyone I met was really helpful and decent. You do have to be aware though you’re working! It’s VERY easy to get distracted on set…especially with the props!

Are there funny stories can you share regarding your time on the set of Star Wars?

I remember someone having a costume malfunction on the set whilst they were running in a scene. I think it was a gun belt or a preserver strap or something that had come undone. Anyway I remember them tripping and watching them fall in slow motion. It just needs an onomatopoeia and it would have been perfect. I thought it was very funny and laughed but everyone else was serious and just looked at me. It was like being in a school assembly or church and trying to stifle a giggle. The more you hold it in the worse it becomes.

What is the best or most precious memory you have regarding The Force Awakens?

Probably taking my children to see the movie at the cinema. It was such a big build up and they were so excited. Although I didn’t get the big onscreen moment everyone prays for they were still deeply impressed by it all. That’s very close to my heart. Also since the movie release attending SciFi Cons here in the UK has been excellent. Meeting up with the guys like Greg Grunberg who plays X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley again was just great. He’s such a great guy and really down to earth. Also the fans I’ve met since the film was released have been great. I mean WHAT a set of followers Star Wars has.

Will you be appearing in Rogue One or Episode VIII?

I won’t be in  Rogue One because obviously there is a timescale to the events and I’ve already appeared as an X -Wing Pilot in  The Force Awakens so this would contradict the storyline. As for Episode VIII we’ll just have to wait and see!

Something completely different: you write articles and book reviews for War History Online. Can you tell more about this?

War History Online is the largest online web magazine of its kind. It tells the history of conflicts and wars past and present and brings to light new information, views and opinions on such subjects. It is something I’ve been involved in for some time now and enjoy immensely. I read military books on a variety of subjects and basically review the book for all to see. I also write the occasional article too but I have to admit I haven’t for a while because of work commitments….. Sorry guys!

Its run by a small dedicated band of merry men whom I am VERY proud to call my friends.

Besides writing about wars you have acted in various war movies, including Fury with Brad Pitt. What do you find so fascinating about wars?

I don’t think its a fascination more an interest, I hate people who glorify war and I hate people who dismiss war as a casual act. War is war. It is total and for most part it is both needless and futile. Are we ever going to be a world at peace? No of course not! War is in our blood and DNA unfortunately but it is something that needs to be controlled. That said there have been wars since the age of dawn and I believe the only way to put an ease to this is by educating others and teaching people about past wars and the reasons behind them.

Since you know quite a bit about real wars; what do you think about the way wars are depicted in the Star Wars movies?

Hahaha. That’s a tricky one Dennis!

War from a Hollywood perspective is action and glamour, a sure-fire box office smash. Star Wars is a little different form say Fury as Star Wars is pure fantasy. That said we have all the ingredients of a war movie. We have the good guys and the bad guys, the rebels and the dark side, we have dogfights in the air, of which I’m guilty, and we have blasters and explosions and of course lightsabers. I Think the way JJ directed The Force Awakens fight scenes was totally gripping and dare I say it?….fairly realistic. It’s war in space. A Sci-Fi movie, yet still people are killed and wounded but obviously Star Wars doesn’t focus on that too much as its not what the film is about. Star Wars is the ultimate ‘Good versus Evil’ parody. You could read things into the weapons and uniforms used but I choose not to. It is a film and I personally choose not to listen to political views on a space movie as good as Star Wars.

I fully agree with that. That’s a great answer. Any final words?

A BIG shout out to Thommo, Izzy, Nade, Stanners, James and LTFC Ginge.

May The Force be with you ALL.