Michael Culver (left), who appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, with Kentish Town playwright Peter Neathey
Published: 11 January, 2016
by TOM FOOT
HE has worked alongside some of the country’s acting greats and was famously – for Star Wars fanatics at least – choked to death by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
But as the sci-fi franchise continues to dominate the multiplex screens with its latest instalment, actor Michael Culver is preparing to take to the stage in a fringe theatre production which raises questions about the 9/11 attacks in New York.
The show, at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden High Street, is called Isis but does not refer to the terrorist group, standing instead for: Intelligence, Surveillance, Infiltration and Subversion.
Mr Culver, from East Heath Road, Hampstead, said: “According to everything I can understand about 9/11, about the buildings coming down I mean, it simply could not have happened the way they say it did. Even the United States government cannot abdicate Newton’s laws of physics. But apparently we can’t say these things.”
After a career in acting, which has also included a role in A Passage To India, Mr Culver became a committed activist but says he withdrew from acting after the death of his long-term friend Brian Haw, who held a nine-year protest in Parliament Square over the bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan until his death in 2011.
Michael Culver as Lorth Needa in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
“I gave up everything after Brian Haw died,” said Mr Culver. “I thought, they just don’t care who they kill. And I thought, I’m just too old and too tired for this. But when something like this comes up it’s different.”
In Isis, Mr Culver plays a secret service agent who masterminds the infiltration of a 9/11 campaign group. It is the latest script by Kentish Town playwright Peter Neathey – his second play on the subject to be staged at the theatre.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Mr Culver played Captain Lorth Needa, who steered the Imperial Star Destroyer Avenger, a starship assigned to Lord Darth Vader’s Death Squadron, during the Battle of Hoth.
“It was a very boring week in Elstree [Studios],” he told the New Journal. “It was before all the fancy gadgets they have now and we had to sit around waiting while the set was dusted between each take, with special mops. I sat there for days and I only had four lines. I had to apologise to Lord Vader, and the next minute I was dead. I earned £1,000 for it. And then there were some meetings where people come and buy your signed photo for £15 a time.”
These days, Mr Culver said he feels the press barons’ mainstream media has a stranglehold on journalists wanting to reveal the truth about Iraq or 9/11.
He appeared in several of the hit tribunal plays at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn which covered issues including the death of Stephen Lawrence, Nuremberg and the Scott Iraq Arms Inquiry, under the artistic direction of Nicholas Kent.
“My activism comes directly from Nick Kent at the Tricycle,” said Mr Culver. “When I voted I tended to vote Green, I knew a bit about Vietnam. I met Nick and everything changed.”
• Isis is on at the Etcetera Theatre from February 16-20.