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IN MEMORIAM: KEITH SWADEN

on January 20, 2015 - 12:41am

Photo courtesy of Sci Fi Signers United

Keith Swaden, who appeared in the three Original Trilogy Star Wars films, has passed away at the age of 65. 

Swaden had several roles in The Saga, fighting for both the Empire and Rebelion.  He recalled how he landed in the galaxy far, far away to the website Star Wars Interviews.  "I was cast in the first movie because I was very slim and fit the costume. In The Empire Strikes Back I was a Hoth rebel, and a snowtrooper. In Return of the Jedi I was once again a rebel. I think they used me because they knew me well."

Swaden played several Stormtroopers in A New Hope

His Facebook page flowed with love and respect as family, friends and fans posted messages of sympathy and condolences.  I spoke to one such friend who had last seen Swaden several months ago.  Rick Stanley, and his wife Stephanie English, who had been close friends with Swaden and his late wife Joanne for many years, visited him at his home. "He was feeling much better. " explained Stanley. "We really thought he was going to beat this thing." He had battled non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in recent years before passing on Sunday.

"Keith always had a great sense of humour and kept everybody laughing" said Stanley. "The world is a sadder place now that he is no longer with us."

Friend Dave Oldbury echoes Stanley's statement. "Keith was a very modest, unassuming guy that would find humour in anything. He told me of times on set with some of the biggest names and the most unknown actors, and every story was laced with an impish mischief that was very much from a time gone by," Oldbury simply, but beautiful states "The world has lost a very warm and gentle man that was the epitome of kindness and a genuine friend."

Good friends: Keith, Joanne, Stephanie and Rick

A hint of his humorous side coud been seen whenever he was asked about wearing the stormtrooper armor.  "I remember how stiff the stormtrooper costumes were and how much you sweated in them" said Swaden to Star Wars Interviews. "They gave you drinks but then you needed to use the toilet so you had to get the costume off which all took time." Swaden elaborated in a November, 2011 interview with Darryl James of Sci Fi Central Australia. "Wardrobe wasn't too pleased." he said while trying to surpress a laugh. "There was a plastic bolt that you had to undo to go and use the loo. Unfortunately wardrobe had to undo me a few times so after that I didn't drink too much on set."

Darryl James interviews Keith

Photo courtesy of Darryl James, Sci Fi Central Australia

A veteran of  theatre, televistion and the silver screen, Swaden reported being in "about 500 movies, TV shows and had several theatre jobs." He had roles in many notable projects including Quadrophenia, Tommy, History of the World Part I,Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Dragonslayer, Willow, Alien, Interview With A Vampire, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Batman (1989.)  In addition he appeared in the first four Christopher Reeve Superman films, and the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me, A View to a Kill, Moonraker, Octopussy, For your Eyes Only and Goldeneye

Swaden in Batman (moustache.)

Although having been involved in many of the more popular action franchises of all time, Swaden preferred his films be on the dark side. "When we visited Keith several months ago he gave me a nice big book on the history of Dracula in Film." recalls Stanley.  "He was horror movie fan especially the Hammer films, some he worked on himself . They were always doing stuff like that for me and Steph, they were very kind and generous."

Friends remember Swaden, not just for his sense of humor, but for making those around him feel welcome and part of his circle.  Oldbury remembers his first time meeting the Swadens.  "I was made to feel like I belonged and that I was part of the group."  Stanley recalls the Swaden's reaction when informed of their wedding.  "They accepted me into their family with open arms.  When Joanne first heard Steph and I were getting married she explained that Steph had always been her sister and now I'm her brother, which made me feel on top of the world."

Dave Oldbury and Keith

Photo courtesy of Dave Oldbury

Swaden enjoyed signing autographs and meeting fans at conventions. "I do really enjoy the conventions" he explained to Star Wars Interviews. "Seeing all the fans, they are fantastic." In fact, when asked for the highlight of his career, it was not a film he was in, or an actor he worked with, but a convention he attended in Japan and was still attending conventions in the months leading up to his passing.  Swaden was part of the Sci Fi Signers United initiative, a website that allows collectors to order autographs directly from talent. It also provides an avenue for event organizers to contact talent directly to arrange appearances.  Swaden's page has been moved to the "In Memoriam" section of the website and can be seen HERE.

Convention in Japan

It isn't always easy to find the silver lining when someone passes, but here it's crystal clear for Oldbury and Stanely. "The only comfort I can take from his passing is that he's gone to be with his beloved wife Jo who he worshiped above everything else." says Oldbury.  Stanely reminisces "Joanne and Keith were the best friends anybody in this life could ever hope to have."

Funeral arranngements have been made and were shared by his family via his Facebook page

Funeral Information:

When:Tuesday 3rd February 2015 at 12.30pm

Location: West Norwood Cemetery SE27.

Flowers: Floral Hall Gardening 7-11 Lansdowne Hill, West Norwood, SE27 Phone: 02086703200

Remembering Keith...

Stormtrooper Reunion

Photo courtesy of Sci Fi Signers United

Keith, Joanne and granddaughter Stacey.

Photo from Facebook

Signing in Germany.  Keith, Ian Durrant and Brian Wheeler

Photo from Facebook

Stephanie English and Keith

Photo courtesy of Rick Stanley

Brothers in Arms: Keith and Ian Durrant

Photo courtesy of Darryl James, Sci Fi Central Australia 

Keith Swaden:

June 18, 1949 - January 18, 2015

Special thanks to Darryl James of Sci Fi Central Australia, Star Wars Interviews, Dave Oldbury, Rick Stanley, Sci Fi Signers United, Edwin Wilson, Hector Cruz and the family of Keith Swaden for their assistance in the production of this story.