Star Wars Artist Confirms Babu Frik Was Inspired by Big Trouble in Little China

Dating back to the original Star Wars trilogy, artists drew inspiration for their creations from a number of sources, with creature designer and sculptor Ivan Manzella recently confirming that when he was designing Babu Frik for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, he turned to Victor Wong's character Egg Shen from John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China for inspiration. Fans who are familiar with the film will likely recognize this inspiration in the pint-sized droidsmith, with this tribute being one of the more unconventional ways in which the galaxy far, far away paid its respects to the ambitious fantasy film.

"When I was designing him, I did the maquette, and I did a series of eight or nine heads in different expressions, and then I was basing it on Victor Wong from Big Trouble in Little China, Egg Shen, and that's who I saw in my head all the time," Manzella shared with the Force Material podcast. "So, in my mind, it was always Victor Wong. That's sort of how it evolved in my head. I never imagined him with that voice, but it worked so well and that's a big part of his charm, as well. I think those two things came together just really, really well."

The character was ultimately voiced by Shirley Henderson, who many fans might know as "Moaning Myrtle" from the Harry Potter franchise. Despite how brief his appearance was in the film, the actress previously teased what she believed to have been his backstory.

"Beyond the film, Babu has lived a life," Henderson shared with Vanity Fair. "Somewhere out there is a lost love. He thinks about her sometimes when he sits down in his workshop and lets his thoughts drift away. That's what I think, anyway."

The actress also recalled what her experience was like seeing Babu for the first time.

"One evening I was sitting in a hotel room, about to get into my pajamas and head off to dreamland, when Nina Gold, the casting director, phoned me and asked if I would like to meet J.J. Abrams and audition for him....Then the day arrived," the actress detailed. "I was taken into J.J.'s office and we said hello. Still, there were no real clues — so I just hunched down on the ground and made myself as small as I could and started talking as I thought the character might. Minutes later, J.J. brought in a tiny model of an old man, set it down on the coffee table and said: 'This is Babu Frik.'"

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is currently streaming on Disney+.


Are you surprised by this source of inspiration? Let us know in the comments below or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!