Every year on May the fourth, fans of the Star Wars series celebrate the movies that entertain so many of us. Even the most casual Star Wars fans will likely pop in a DVD or new this year you can fire up Disney+ and sit down and watch one (or all!) of the films in this epic series.
My favorite of the nine films, more if you include offshoots and television shows, is Episode IV: A New Hope. Released in 1977, this first film in the Star Wars, and one particular 6-minute scene, is known to even those who don’t consider themselves fans of Star Wars. The scene surrounding the Mos Eisley Cantina is one of the most memorable of the film, perhaps even the series, and contains a song that will stick in your head for days.
Ben Kenobi (Obi-Wan) and Luke Skywalker arrive at the Cantina in search of a pilot and a spacecraft to help them get quickly and discreetly to deliver a recording from Princess Leia to Alderaan. The two head, along with droids C3PO and R2D2 head to a bustling spaceport on Luke’s home planet of Tatooine called Mos Eisley. In a line I often use to describe the employee lounge at work, Ben warns Luke that Mos Eisely is “a wretched hive of scum and villainy.” The two arrive at the local watering hole, The Mos Eisley Cantina, where creatures from all over come for a drink, socializing, and shady business dealings.
Part of what makes Star Wars so much fun is just how expansive the Universe is. You could get yourself into a multi-day long rabbit hole on official backstory about Tatooine and Mos Eisley. What I thought would be fun to do today for May the fourth, would be to collect a little backstory and detail on the many different characters that appear briefly in the Cantina. All-in-all, the online consensus is that there are somewhere between 75 to 90 characters inside the bar. Most of them have no given background or name other than “SpaceMan #1” or “Local Ugly Man #3.”
Other characters, though, have quite the back story! So I broke out a book I had as a kid called “The Star Wars Essential Guide to Characters,” and dove deep into the Star Wars Wiki pages and Google and compiled a brief background on the characters that you’ve probably seen many times but never gave any thought.
Officially titled Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina, and known to many as the Mos Eisley Cantina, the outside was filmed on location in Tunisia while the interior scenes were filmed on a sound stage in London and Hollywood.
As we first enter the Cantina, the triangle headed Hem Dazon appears. He’s considered a grouchy salt addicted Arcona stranded on Tatooine because he spent all of his money on Juri juice and salt.
Muftak, the four eyed straw nosed creature, is in the next shot, seated next to Lir’n Carn. Muftak, a member of the Talz species, was abandoned on Tatooine as a child and had become a pickpocket and regular at the Cantina. Lir’n Carn, while also a Bith, is not a member of “Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes” cantina band.
At first, I wasn’t sure if they are laughing or canoodling, but in the next shot, Feltipern Trevagg and M’iiyoom Onith are getting pretty chummy. Feltipern is a Gotal who was one of the tax collectors in Mos Eisley. M’iiyoom, who also goes by Night Lilly, is a female H’nemthe, that according to Star Wars lore, is romanced by Feltipern… who eventually meets his demise by “not realizing the dangers of romancing a sharp-tongued H’nemthe.” Ouch.
Briefly seen next is a wolfman of the Defel species named Arleil Schous. He was digitally replaced in one of the many changes George Lucas made for the 1997 remastered Special Edition with a frog-like character named Melas. However, Schous still appears several times in the background of the Cantina scene if you look close enough. Schous was elderly and had lost his species’ ability to bend light around himself to become invisible.
The next bar patron that receives a close up is Kabe, the tiny bat-like creature. Kabe is a female Chadra-Fan whose story is that she desperately wants a glass of blue milk but has no money. She then goes on an adventure and steals something from an Imperial Cruiser and sells it for cash upon returning to Tatooine. The brief moment that we see her, she is hopping with excitement, having finally purchased her cup of blue milk.
As Kabe finally gets her blue milk, the next character terrified me as a child. The horned Kardue ‘Sai Malloc grins devilishly. The Devaronian goes by the alias Labria, hiding out in the Cantina, having fled his home on Devaron after committing several atrocious war crimes as an Army Captain.
We get a glimpse of the Cantina band known as “Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes.” They are made up of Bith aliens playing the earworm song we all know as the Cantina Song but is officially called “Mad About Me.” George Lucas instructed legendary composer John Williams to think of something that would sound like a group of people in the distant future found a 1930’s Benny Goodman swing music record.
Next, Ben Kenobi and Chewbacca can be seen talking with BoShek, a fellow human from Corellia. You may have heard of Corellia when the Millenium Falcon was referred to as a Corellian freighter. BoShek turns down the job of transporting Ben and Luke off of Tatooine. The same job eventually goes to his fellow Corellian, Han Solo.
Wuher is busy tending bar in the next shot. He was an orphan on the streets of Mos Eisley but spent his youth studying the different species around him, which earned him the job as a bartender at the Cantina by figuring out which drinks were preferable to the various space species. Wuher hates droids, and when C3PO and R2D2 enter with Luke, the surly bartender kicks them out. As Wuher yells at Luke and the droids, we can see Nabrun Leids in what appears to be a gas mask in front of the bar. He is a Moorserian smuggler and pilot-for-hire whose species have to breathe methane and not oxygen; therefore, he wears the face mask and portable methane container.
We then get a brief glimpse of some female humans, like the hooka smoking Shada D’ukal, who also went by the name Brea Tonnika. She’s in disguise as a wealthy traveler at the Cantina, but in reality, she’s a deceptively dangerous mercenary from the Mistryl Shadow Guard. She is accompanied to her left by Karoly D’ulin, another member of the Shadow Guard.
We then see a quick shot of an alien that many assume is Greedo, the green-skinned Rodian that has an encounter with Han Solo later. Greedo is present, but he’s off to the right side of the room awaiting Solo’s entrance, and this Rodian goes by Neesh. The backstory here is interestingly tied to Greedo, though. Neesh was sent to assassinate the bumbling bounty hunter Greedo but hired another assassin named Warhog (not seen at the Cantina) to do his dirty work. Warhog, instead of killing him, convinced Greedo to attempt to capture Han Solo all on his own in hopes that he could easily outsmart Greedo and collect the Solo bounty. We all know how that ended up.
Luke gets his drink from Wuher, and we see the dinosaur-like Sai’torr Kal Fas nursing a drink. Sai’torr is a female Saurin bodyguard to her cousin, the black market droid trader Hrcheck Kal Fas. Hrcheck can be seen in the background several times very briefly.
A married couple of red-eyed stereotypical looking green aliens in space suits named Owhun and Chachi De Maal are in the next quick shot seen having a lively discussion.
The worm-like Lamproid named Dice Ibegan then pops her head up into the face of her boyfriend, the wolfman Lak Sivrak. Sivrak was a scout for the Empire, but after falling in love with Rebel pilot Dice, Sivrak defected from the Empire and joined the Rebels. Like fellow wolf creature Arleil Schous, Lak is replaced by George Lucas for the squid-meets-warthog looking Ketwol in the 1997 Special Edition.
The next scene features one of the Star Wars universe’s favorite characters to discuss online due to the mysterious nature of the character. Trinto Duaba sits motionless with his back against the wall staring dead-eyed at the camera like a Mexican Day of the Dead mask. Known as the “Terminal Man” to the internet, he is a vagrant traveler from Stennaros. Some 30 years later, Trinto reappears in “Episode 7: The Force Awakens”, when Han Solo arrives at Maz Kanata’s castle. In the Cantina, Trinto sits beside the hammerhead snail Momaw Nadon. Nadon, like many others, was exiled to Tatooine from his home planet. His crime? Giving the Empire the agricultural secrets of his species, thinking it would save his planet.
Never trust the Empire.
Finally, we get some action when Pondo Babba, the alien with a baboon butt for a chin, makes his first appearance by shoving Luke Skywalker. As Luke turns away, he’s grabbed by Dr. Cornelious Evazan and his pig-like nose and disfigured face. Evazan warns Luke not to mess with them and reveals a part of his backstory by saying he’s a wanted man on 12 planets.
What he didn’t say was that he was a human from the planet Alsakan, who was a cosmetic surgeon that went mad and began disfiguring his patients. A bounty hunter failed to kill him but came close enough to cause the hideous scarring on his face. He was rescued by Pondo, and the two formed a partnership from there as they both evaded the law.
When Ben interferes trying to calm the situation, Evazan tosses Luke aside into a table where Owhun and Chachi have chosen to sit. When Pondo Babba’s arm becomes the first victim of the film to the lightsaber, we see the Anzati bounty hunter, Dannik Jerriko, nonchalantly turn away and continue smoking.
After a brief scene that shows C3PO and R2D2 outside watching for Imperial Storm Troopers, we return to the cantina band playing the lighter sounding “Cantina Band 2.”
Han Solo makes his entrance, and Chewie introduces him to Ben and Luke as they discuss passage off Tatooine. Storm Troopers push their way into the Cantina, and Ben and Luke head for the exit. We get one last alien, the warthog like Takeel, who looks on as Han and Chewie gives the Storm Troopers a Cheshire cat-like smile. Takeel was, according to Star Wars lore, at the Cantina when Boba Fett came around asking for information regarding Luke and Han after the Battle of Yavin, where the Death Star was destroyed.
As our time at the Mos Eisley Cantina wraps up, Han starts to leave, but Greedo, the bounty hunter, stops him. The two sit back down at the table where Greedo says he’ll be taking Han back to Jabba the Hutt, dead or alive, but preferably dead. I won’t go into my opinion on how many different edits George Lucas made for subsequent releases on this scene alone, but as far as I’m concerned…
Han Solo shot first. May the fourth be with you all!