Peter Sumner, Australia's link to the original Star Wars, dies at 74
The Sydney Morning Herald
By Garry Maddox
November 23, 2016
The veteran Australian actor Peter Sumner joked last year that he had a fair idea what would be written on his gravestone.
"TK-421 do you copy?"
Sumner, who has died aged 74 after a long illness, was best known as the only Australian to work on Star Wars. And that was one of his few lines playing Lieutenant Pol Treidum, an officer on the Death Star, in George Lucas' 1977 classic sci-fi film.
It was just two days work - earning £60 a day - but it resonated throughout Sumner's life, taking him to sci-fi conventions and attracting thousands of fan letters over four decades.
But he also worked like so many well-known Australian actors on Play School and acted in the Mick Jagger version of Ned Kelly, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, the television series Spyforce and played Bill Hayden in The Dismissal.
"He was best known for Star Wars and Play School but he did so much more," said his wife, Lynda Stoner. "He did many Shakespearean plays on stage. He toured a lot with David Williamson plays. He did so many shows on the ABC with Jacki Weaver and Cornelia Frances and other people. He did a lot of comedies. He did a lot of dramas. In the seventies, he was barely off the ABC doing one show or another."
Sumner, who was also a writer, director and documentary maker, was in England after travelling with his family when Star Wars was being cast.
"I had an agent in London and she rang and said, 'There's this strange little American sci-fi movie and there are couple of days work in it.' As we were broke, the first first thing I said was, 'How much?'
"She said, '£60 a day.' I said, 'I'll take it.'"
Sumner went to Elstree Studios for the shoot.
"I was absolutely amazed at the sets that had been built," he says. "On the first day, when the second or third assistant took me up to the control room set that I was working in, I was standing on the back wall when this man suddenly appeared at my side.
"His glasses were crooked and he had an old white shirt and grey pants on. I thought he was an accountant of some sort.
"We got talking - being Australian always interests people - and just as I was about to say, 'And who are you?', the first came over and said, 'Mr Lucas, we're ready.' That was my meeting with George Lucas."
Sumner also remembers meeting Harrison Ford, who later became famous as Han Solo, on set.
"Lovely man," he says. "Bit distracted.
"But the one thing that did trigger me into thinking maybe this is more than it seems was, passing through one of the sets, I happened to notice this figure in a cowl reading.
"I realised it was Alec Guinness. He's a hero as far as I'm concerned - a brilliant actor - so I thought, 'Wow, what would Alec Guinness be doing in this movie?
"Either he's desperately in need of money or there's more to this than meets the eye."
It was not till Sumner returned to Australia that Star Wars became a blockbuster hit.
"People have often said to me I must have made a fortune in residuals and I just laugh," he says. "I made £120 and that was it.
"I've spent 10 times that answering letters from fans around the world and sending them photographs."
Sumner is survived by Stoner and three children - son Luke and daughters Kate and Joanna with first wife Christina Sumner.
SUMNER, Peter (Peter Sumner-Potts)
Born: 1/29/1942, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died: 11/22/2016, Australia
Peter Sumner’s western – actor:
Ned Kelly – 1970 (Tom Lloyd)