A native of Hoboken, New Jersey, Stephen Costantino developed a passion for music at a young age, when he drew notice for playing guitar, singing and songwriting. It’s a pattern that has continued to this day. In 1982 his Star Wars adventure began as he suddenly got a part in Return of the Jedi…how this happened and many more can be read in the following interview Stephen did for this site in december 2015.
How did you get cast for Return of the Jedi? I believe it has got something to do with your friend Corey Dee Williams?
I was in a band with Corey Dee Williams and we use to rehearse at Billy Dee Williams’ house where Corey lived. When Billy asked Corey to stand in for him on the set of Return of the Jedi in Yuma, Arizona we were going strong with the music and Corey was a bit reluctant due to being on movie sets with his dad before. Which is tough work! Then Billy gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse and invited me to come along and continue to play music on the set and entertain the cast and crew, which we did every night. I was never cast to be in the movie until about the third night when Howard Kazanjian, the producer, took Billy, Corey and I out to dinner and I asked if I could work or help out in any way. Howard said to be on set in the morning to work!
Did you get to choose your character? If so, why did you go for the Gamorrean guard?
I had no idea I was going to be the Gamorrean Guard on the barge when I showed up the next morning, let alone any character for that matter. I was excited to say the least!
Can you share some of your memories regarding the time you worked on Return of the Jedi?
There’s so many! Just to be around so many extraordinary people and talent was amazing to be part of. We arrived on a Sunday and everyone had the day off and was hanging around the pool. I remember meeting Peter Mayhew who was standing in the jacuzzi towering over me and thinking how cool is this! I also sat next to Carrie Fisher on the plane to Arizona and she was sharing her experiences and insight on all the influences that made up Star Wars.
Did any strange, weird or remarkable things happen during the making of the movie?
One night the power went out at the hotel and everyone lit candles and had a party and Corey and I entertained everyone playing live music. It was surreal! Stuart Freeborn always had fascinating experiences to share and the incredible story creating Yoda. Kenny Baker was one of the funniest pranksters I ever met. Everything was constantly evolving in the desert with this monolith in the middle of it all. Wearing the costume was a challenge. They had to put a blow dryer in my mask for air due to the heat. Corey would have to hold me up when they took off the top half! I loved every minute!
Before you got involved with Return of the Jedi, were you a fan of Star Wars? What did you think of the movies?
I was a huge fan! I went to see Star Wars on Broadway in NY when it came out.
In which scenes can we see you as a Gamorrean Guard?
I’m the guard who attacks Luke Skywalker on the barge and is sent into the Sarlacc Pit by his lightsaber.
How do you look back at your part in Return of the Jedi?
I’m still am in awe of it all and very grateful. Especially to Corey and Billy Dee Williams!
You have attended conventions and met many fans. What do you regard as the funniest, strangest or weirdest thing that has ever happened to you at a convention?
It’s incredible that I get to go out and share my story with Corey at the conventions. I never imagined it would be so big. I love the fans. I remember the first event I did and about 30 Stormtroopers approached Corey and I to make us honorary members of the 501st Legion and I couldn’t believe it. I was honored! It’s always crazy to meet the Gamorrean Guards on the road and how they are always trying to make a more comfortable suit! It’s quite a commitment and I have to give it up to those guys.
You have a passion for music. Over the years you have been in several bands, including one with Billy Wirth from the movie ‘The Lost Boys’. How would you describe your music? And who were your musical influences?
My music is amalgamation of all my influences and I feel fortunate to be able to express that in my songs. I was fortunate to be raised in New Jersey and New York in the 70s when music had no bounds and was diverse and I got to see and meet all the greats and visionaries. I love it all from jazz, R&B to classic rock.
Suppose you were in charge of the music of Return of the Jedi. Which existing songs from which artists would you use?
Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan – All Along The Watchtower
Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
The Rolling Stones – Moonlight Mile
Frank Zappa – Inca Road
Yes – Starship Trooper
What are you doing these days? Can you tell us something about your current or future projects? I read you’re releasing an album this year?
I just finished my CD and very excited for everyone to hear it. It will be released by this Christmas and I’ll be signing them at shows. My label is Gamorrean Sound and my logo is a tattoo I have on my arm of the Gamorrean guard playing my guitar which I had done at Celebration Anaheim by Jersey Jay Wymbs! The logo is also the artwork on the actual CD which I think the fans will like. The CD is produced by Robert Margouleff and Pete Mills and features world class musicians. Robert Margouleff was one of the first pioneers of the synthesizer and produced Stevie Wonder and many others. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world!