The Search for Nien Nunb for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Nien Nunb

The official Star Wars site has an excellent two part article up this week detailing one voice over actor’s quest to find the original voice of Nien Nunb during production of The Force Awakens.


The piece lets us follow along the journey of Christian Simpson, a voice actor involved in Star Wars since The Phantom Menace, who took on the quest to find Kipsang Rotich, the original voice of Nien Nunb in Return of the Jedi.  Rotich, who was an intern at Skywalker Sound during post production on Episode VI, had been chosen by Ben Burtt to record the dialogue for the Sullustan co-pilot extraordinaire by recording dialogue in Kikuyu (Haya) and Kalenjin dialects of his native Kenya.  But having returned to Kenya since the release of Return of the Jedi, he was now lost to Hollywood.





It was very important to J.J. Abrams, who is as big a fan as any of us, that Rotich reprise his role. I later had the chance to ask J.J. what the impetus was for that wish, and his straightforward answer could just as easily speak to the overall authenticity of The Force Awakens as to the search for Nunb: “We wanted the real deal,” Abrams told me.


Matthew Wood (Supervising Sound Editor) along with David Acord (sound designer) were determined to track down Rotich to keep with Abram’s vision.


“This Star Wars movie was about connecting to the characters we know and love, following their paths into the current storyline, and illuminating their arc into the future. Kipsang Rotich’s performance in Return of the Jedi was always a bright spot in the Death Star attack … I wanted to make sure we paid respect to what had come before with [the late] Erik Bauersfeld as Ackbar and Rotich as Nien. As the postproduction schedule was tight and fully underway when I had these ideas, I was so happy to have a chance conversation with Lt. Gayvn Sykes — I mean Christian Simpson at our Loop Group recording session.”




But with Wood and Acord on a tight schedule to complete their post production duties, it was left to Simpson, on a very tight schedule, to find Rotich and write and record his dialogue in time for the release of the film.  The article takes you through Rotich’s friendship with Pat Welsh (the voice of E.T.), through Simpson’s extensive attempts to find Rotich through archive information, and eventually to a remote last minute recording session in Kenya.  Its a fascinating read, and a fun bit of behind the scenes adventure from The Force Awakens that shows just how much attention was paid to recapturing the specific deteails of the Original Trilogy for the film.


The Article appears in two parts and can be found here:






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44 thoughts on “The Search for Nien Nunb for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • May 12, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Hmmm…is it just me, or did Numb in TFA sound nothing like he did in RotJ though?

      • May 12, 2016 at 10:03 pm

        That was just placeholder dialogue in a TV spot. The final film didn’t use that.

        • May 12, 2016 at 11:15 pm

          Yep, you are correct. The time stamp for the line is @ 1:39:40 and the line in the movie is different. Seems like a lot of work for one line though. I can’t remember him having any others in the film.

          • May 13, 2016 at 11:05 am

            There is just one more line 20 seconds later

          • May 15, 2016 at 6:29 am

            To me, it sounded almost like a different language in TFA than in RotJ. A lot more throaty in and click-y in TFA.

    • May 12, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      I actually feel that way about a lot of the returning cast. Most of them sound very different from their RotJ days

      • May 12, 2016 at 10:48 pm

        Yep. Ackbar sounded quite a bit more muffled actually. I chalk that up to him being holder though.

        • May 13, 2016 at 5:26 am

          Yes, he was a 90 something old man, just recently passed. I’m glad they brought him back.

      • May 13, 2016 at 2:18 am

        Isn’t that natural, though?

    • May 12, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      Do you sound like you did 30 years ago?

    • May 13, 2016 at 2:17 am

      I’m sure the lines he said in ROTJ are so burned in your head that anything else new said by him would sound “off”.

    • May 13, 2016 at 4:42 am

      Exact same thing happened with Luke Skywalker.

      • May 13, 2016 at 3:09 pm


  • May 13, 2016 at 12:54 am

    If only they had put this much effort into the script.

    • May 13, 2016 at 1:00 am

      haha who cares about the story, characters, originality in 2015 blockbuster industry? its Star Wars, people gonna buy it anyways. and unfortunately they did

      • May 13, 2016 at 4:16 am

        They bought it because it was quality entertainment and it was fun – which is exactly what you want Star Wars to be. And the critics affirmed their liking it.
        I found the characters to be great new additions. It’s good to be able to care about likable characters once again.

        • May 13, 2016 at 5:27 am

          For someone that continues to be a champion of the “everyone is entitled to their opinions” narrative, you sure are taking it hard that someone has a different opinion than yours in regards to TFA. *cough* hypocrisy *cough* (FYI I personally liked TFA).

          Let’s see you musle your ways out of this one without resorting to making comparisons and cheap shots to other SW films (I’m not even going to argue back with you on this anyhow).

          • May 13, 2016 at 6:23 am

            Yeah, notice I’m not reporting the person for having the difference of opinion. Unlike you, I can deal with others who I disagree with and debate them on points. You can’t because you’re a petulant child and an absolute troll and you have no points to make that demonstrate any intelligent or insightful commentary. Nobody here likes you.

          • May 13, 2016 at 5:24 pm

            But there are so many cheap shots, its ridiculously unavoidable.

        • May 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm

          Before it came out, if somebody would have said that viewers were going to walk out of the theaters saying: “I can’t wait to see what happens to Rey, Finn, Kylo and Poe!!” we would have told them they were crazy.

          But that’s exactly what they accomplished (while saving Luke!) and that’s a feat in itself.

    • May 13, 2016 at 1:08 am

      Right, because those prequel scripts were top notch!

      • May 13, 2016 at 5:22 am

        Reported again for baiting and riling people up into argument, just so that you can boost your pretentious and artificial geek street cred (and essentially trolling for “likes”).

        • May 13, 2016 at 5:29 am


          • May 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm

            Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

        • May 13, 2016 at 6:18 am

          You are an obsessive troll and you seriously need to get a life.

        • May 13, 2016 at 9:08 am

          Be honest, you reported him for telling the truth.

        • May 15, 2016 at 6:26 am

          Reported for being Marsha.

      • May 16, 2016 at 4:47 pm

        Let’s do better than set the bar for success at being better than the Prequels.

        • May 16, 2016 at 5:40 pm

          It was better. A lot better.

          • May 16, 2016 at 11:13 pm

            That’s the problem. A film can be a lot better than the Prequels while still being bad or OK. That’s why the bar should be raised.

        • May 16, 2016 at 11:45 pm

          Tell Lawrence Kadan, co writer of Empire that he’s not a good writer.

          • May 17, 2016 at 12:03 am

            Based on The Force Awakens, I have no problem telling him that.

    • May 13, 2016 at 2:16 am

      Yeah and no matter what that did, how hard they tried, there would be comments like you just posted from some people online somewhere.

      • May 16, 2016 at 4:50 pm

        So what? The same could be said for every other movie in existence. Still doesn’t change my point. The script rehashed ANH, turned Rey into a Mary Sue, made Finn her bumbling comic relief sidekick, made Kylo Ren less threatening as the main villain by having him get his butt kicked in his first film, etc.

        • May 16, 2016 at 11:30 pm

          and you repeat shit I don’t find validity in or mind.

          • May 17, 2016 at 12:08 am

            Nice counter-argument.

          • May 17, 2016 at 12:31 am

            I don’t need to argue with people on the internet, big waste of time.

          • May 17, 2016 at 3:31 am

            Especially when you have nothing to say in response. But keep talking.

  • May 13, 2016 at 1:06 am

    I appreciate the effort they put into it. They could’ve easily found another person of Afican background to record their native language in LA for a measly two lines, but they went to the other side of the planet to make sure they had the same guy.

    It’s a shame Erik Bauersfield will not be able to continue as Ackbar. I’ve found all the alternate Ackbar voices to be pretty bad imitations. Hopefully they will find a more suitable person to take over the role going forward.

    • May 13, 2016 at 2:15 am

      People griped that Ackbar didn’t sound right anyway.

      • May 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm

        People gripe about anything and everything. The voice actor was 30 years older. So was the character.

  • May 13, 2016 at 5:00 am

    My Brother always used to call him Ernie since he looks like the alien version of him from Sesame Street.

  • May 15, 2016 at 6:25 am


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