Alec Guinness' Last Movie's Bonkers Behind-The-Scenes Creation
We’re guessing that most of you know Sir Alec Guinness primarily for his work in the original Star Wars trilogy, playing everyone’s favorite teen-abducting space wizard Obi-Wan Kenobi, AKA Ben Kenobi. Hey, just because you’ve mastered the ancient Jedi arts doesn’t mean you’re necessarily a whiz at coming up with killer aliases.
But of course, Guinness had a long, impressive career that in no way involved Star Wars, appearing in classic British comedies like The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets as well as acclaimed epics like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. Surprisingly, though, Guinness’ final film wasn’t some stuffy costume drama; it was a mid-’90s horror movie called Mute Witness. Yes, this legit British Knight capped off his prestigious career with a movie about a film make-up artist who inadvertently witnesses the making of a brutal Russian snuff film and is targeted by the murderers.
When we meet the big bad guy, the ringleader of the shadowy snuff film consortium, ominously nicknamed “The Reaper,” it’s Alec Guinness. Although he doesn’t have much screen time, never actually gets out of his car, and is billed only as “Mystery Guest Star” in the end credits.
How did Sir Alec Guinness end up in this ultra-violent, surprisingly pretty good thriller? It turns out that Guinness actually shot his scene 10 years before the movie came out. It all started when Guinness randomly met the director, Anthony Waller, at a party in Munich in 1985. Waller, who had yet to direct anything back then, randomly asked Guinness to cameo in the movie, which was still just an unproduced screenplay.
Unfortunately, Guinness was booked up for the next 18 months and was flying out the next day at “lunchtime.” Seemingly not concerned about looking sweatily desperate in front of the legendary actor, Waller suggested that they could film his scene the next morning. And by the way, Guinness’ character didn’t even exist in the script at that point. Meaning that Waller had to add it in, send the script over to Guinness for approval, find a location to shoot, and assemble a film crew all in one night as if he were the Santa Claus of low-budget horror movies.
Amazingly, this crazy plan all came together perfectly, and Alec Guinness, albeit very briefly and never not sitting in the back of a car, shows up in Mute Witness, interacting with actors who filmed their scenes eight years later in an entirely different country. Presumably, Guinness was just happy to go along with any request from a stranger that didn’t involve questions about the hyperdrive capabilities of the Millennium Falcon.
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Top Image: Lucasfilm