One of the most popular new characters introduced in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was Babu Frik, the diminutive droidsmith who performed a system restart on C-3PO when the heroes needed to unlock Threepio’s translation of the Sith dagger as part of their hunt for Palpatine. After that, it appeared he died along with the rest of the planet Kijimi when the First Order blew it up. Thankfully, though, the little guy’s ultimately revealed to have survived alongside Zorii Bliss by the film’s end. Hey-hey!
He only had a short amount of screentime, then, but he made a big impression on the fans. And, apparently, legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, too. Empire recently spoke to Star Wars creature effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan, who revealed the fascinating fact that Babu wasn’t originally supposed to escape Kijimi’s destruction. It was only thanks to Spielberg’s reaction after seeing the film that he lived to hey-hey another day.
“It could be a rumor, but I believe J.J. screened the movie for Steven Spielberg, and at the end, Spielberg said, ‘What happened to Babu?’,” Scanlan said. “Everybody thought, ‘Oh God, what did happen to Babu?’”
With the decision made to resurrect Frik, the Industrial Light & Magic team took some unused footage from his earlier sequence and used that to digitally insert him on Zorii’s ship during the Battle of Exegol.
“We shot several other sequences,” added Scanlan. “The ILM guys found one, lifted out Babu and put him into Zorii’s ship at the end.”
Babu was voiced by Harry Potter star Shirley Henderson, who – unusually for a voice actor – was there on set during filming. Henderson even learned how to use the controls for Babu’s animatronics so she could give a fuller performance and put more of herself into the character. This helped her develop his distinctive laugh and way of speaking.
We have Spielberg to thank for many of cinema’s finest movies in some shape or form, but maybe all of his filmmaking achievements pale in comparison to ensuring that Babu Frik didn’t die in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.