How John Wayne's Voice Was Used In Star Wars

Most people remember John Wayne as the gunslinging, horse breaking, whiskey slugging cowboy from classic Hollywood Westerns like "El Dorado" (1966), "True Grit" (1969), and "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965). But did you know that cinema's original frontiersmen once visited the endless frontier of outer space? Believe it or not, without the Duke, we wouldn't have The Death Star as we know it. That's right — John Wayne made a subtle contribution to the "Star Wars" saga that most people had no idea about.

Diehard "Star Wars" fans might recall an obscure little character from "A New Hope" (1977) who looked like a mix between a giant mosquito and someone wearing a medieval plague mask. According to Wide Open Country, Garindan, the sniveling spy who rats out Luke Skywalker and his crew to the Imperial Empire, was actually voiced by John Wayne. Of course, trademark phrases like "pilgrim" and "saddle up" weren't included in his dialogue, but you can bet your boots that it's the Duke's voice behind that insect snout. Well, more to the point, it was Wayne's voice that was used to create the voice of Garindan. 

The Duke unmuted

"Star Wars" sound designer Ben Burtt recalled what happened that led to the unlikely cowboy's words being included in the intergalactic franchise. In a 2007 interview with Star Wars Blog, Burtt explained how he unexpectedly managed to make a recording of John Wayne's voice a practical audio tool: "I was wondering back a few months ago how I did it — because I keep notes and tapes — and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne."

So no, John Wayne himself didn't step into the audio booth with the intention of bringing a treacherous mosquito man to life, but one could say that without his inadvertent vocal donation to the franchise, "Star Wars" might look (or sound) a little different today. "I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away," Burtt recalled (via Wide Open Country) "so the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like 'All right, what are you doin' in this town' or something like that." On June 11, 1979, John Wayne passed away, making his vocal appearance in "A New Hope" his last role in a film (per Biography).