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Sebastian Shaw: Memoirs and Recollections

4th October 2016 |

To most Star Wars fans Sebastian Shaw is the actor who, in Return of the Jedi, was the face of Darth Vader when Luke removed Vader's helmet and saw the real face of his father. Prior to that iconic role in 1983 Sebastian's acting career had spanned over six decades: from a matinee idol in the 1930s, an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s, to the man beneath the mask in 1983. Sebastian died on 23rd December 1994 - just over a decade after his iconic two-minutes and seven seconds performance in Episode VI. Now his extraordinary life memoirs are to be published in Sebastian Shaw: Memoirs and Recollections.


Sebastian's cousin, Isobel Montgomery Campbell, first came across his memoirs in 2013 and has edited and provides the book's introduction, “I had been using some of Sebastian’s writing for another project when his nephew mentioned that he had written his memoirs.
“I took home the typewritten manuscript and spent the next day reading them. I was completely absorbed, and knew that other people would be too. Sebastian had started writing them in response to all the fan mail he had received - mainly from 13 year old boys. George Lucas had wanted a strong father-figure for the role, and it worked. People responded.”
It seems that by the time the memoirs were finished, the opportunity for publication had passed, so they remained in manuscript - to the frustration of friends and fans alike. Now their frustration is at an end.

The book reveals that Shaw had a privileged upbringing, but that life wasn’t always easy. “He just had a knack of not letting things get to him” Isobel continues, “and his longevity was due in part to that  -  and maybe the fact that he kept up the habit of having a cold shower every morning - a routine begun at school. ” The book will not only appeal to Star Wars fans though. “The social history is fascinating” adds Isobel “and his family rather eccentric - as was he. There is plenty of hidden history to be discovered in there”.

The book is published on 21st October 2016, in a limited edition of 500 numbered hardback copies, with bookplate illustrations, by specialist book publishers Shaw Press. Copies are available direct from the publisher for £25 (plus shipping), who are expecting considerable interest. Orders can be placed direct at shawpress.co.uk


For those of us of a certain age that grew up on just the Original Trilogy, Sebastian Shaw is the face of Anakin Skywalker. And if we're honest with ourselves, many of us thought he was just another actor hired to have a part in the greatest space fantasy ever told. But Sebastian Shaw had a lifetime of stage, film and television credentials to his name when he was hand-picked by George Lucas for, perhaps lamentably, his most known film role.
Sebastian Shaw: Memoirs and Recollections is an edited collection of his own memoirs: the reader journey's with Shaw from his earliest childhood memories; through his formative years at public school (where his own father was the music master); his apprehensive decision to tell his father that he wanted to leave Slade School of Fine Art, where he was studying to become a painter, to become an actor (to which his father knowingly replied "I wondered when you would come to your senses"); through his early stage and film career where he became a 1930s screen idol; his first marriage and birth of his daughter; to his military service in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Unfortunately Shaw never completed the rest of his memoirs but Isobel Campbell, Shaw's cousin, has included six appendices which cover Shaw's later life, including his role in Star Wars, compiled from his own unfinished notes. Also included are a complete timeline of Shaw's performances: from his first stage peformance in 1913 at the tender age of 8 to his final TV perfomance in 1992 at the age of 87, two years before his death.
This book is a wonderful reminiscence of a life spent entertaining people, whether on stage, on the big-screen, the small-screen or on the written page, and on reading these memoirs there is a sense of tragedy that Sebastian Shaw's life and career should perhaps be better remembered for more than a role that lasted just 127 seconds. It is therefore heartening that in reading Shaw's own words the reader understands why he was eventually selected to enact one of cinema's most emotional two-minute scenes and why George Lucas chose Shaw to put more than just any face, but a real father's face, to the unmasking of film's most iconic villain. Sebastian Shaw: Memoirs and Recollections is recommended to any Star Wars fans looking to uncover the real man beneath the mask.

Reviewed by Ewan, Star Wars Books & Comics, October 2016

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