The Star Wars franchise is in mourning, as a beloved cast member passed away earlier today. Peter Sumner, who played Lt. Pol Treidum in the 1977 classic Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, died at the age of 74. The actor passed after suffering from an illness for quite some time, but it wasn’t disclosed what that illness was.
Syndey Morning Herald reports that Peter Sumner was the only Australian actor hired to work on George Lucas‘ first Star Wars movie. The actor was paid just 60 British pounds a day, for two days of work on the sci-fi classic. His character Lt. Pol Treidum notices that two Stormtroopers aren’t at their post, leading to his now-iconic line “TK-421, why aren’t you at your post? TK-421, do you copy?” While he only uttered that one line, and had a scene where he’s punched by Chewbacca, the actor became a beloved part of Star Wars lore, taking him to conventions and answering fan letters for the next four decades. Here’s what his wife Lynda Stoner had to say in a statement.
“He was best known for Star Wars and Play School but he did so much more. 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.”
Before landing the role of Lt. Pol Treidum in A New Hope, Peter Sumner played Gunther Haber on the 1971 TV series Spyforce and also starred in the 1970 feature film Ned Kelly, alongside Mick Jagger. While travelling with his family, the actor received a call from his agent, which lead to his casting in A New Hope. Here’s what he had to say about the casting, and his first meeting with George Lucas.
“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 pounds a day.’ I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I was absolutely amazed at the sets that had been built. 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.”
While the actor didn’t appear in any of the other Star Wars movies, he continued to work regularly, even up until last year. He appeared in 16 episodes on the long-running Australian TV series Neighbours, along with Heartbreak High, Spellbinder, and All Saints. He also reprised his role as Pol Tredium in the fan film The Dark Redemption. The actor is survived by his wife and three children – son Luke and daughters Kate and Joanna with first wife Christina Sumner.