STATELINE — There’s a good chance that most people at celebrity golf this week walked right past the most famous star of all without ever realizing.
Being anonymous is just fine with Margarita Farrell though. In fact, she probably prefers it to being out of the limelight. She doesn’t come to the American Century Championship as a celebrity. She’s here with the media, but the truth is that although Farrell is only 3-foot-6 she’s the biggest star here.
From ET to Ewok, Farrell has played some of the most iconic rolls in Hollywood history. And it all started with a random Polaroid photo some 30 years ago.
After weeks of pounding the Hollywood pavement, Farrell scored her first role in a 1981 psychological horror film called The Hand. The film stared Michael Kane, and Farrell was standing in for a little girl in the film.
As she walked to lunch one day, a man came out of a trailer and asked if he could take her picture. She didn’t see why not, so he snapped a Polaroid.
Two years later that picture would come full circle.
“They called me and told me to pack my bags. If I had a passport I was on my way to London,” Farrell said. “And that was the beginning of my Star Wars episodes.”
At the time, Farrell had no idea what she was traveling to London for. She didn’t know anything about the Star Wars project. The episodes were being filmed under extreme secrecy with a cover-up name.
When she got to London the crew cast molded her entire body for what would eventually become the Ewok costume.
“They created the Ewok costume based on the size of my body because I was one of the smallest of little people,” Farrell said.
Return of the Jedi didn’t start filming until 1982, but the role would change Farrell’s life forever.
Mention the Ewok characters and Wicket immediately comes to mind. Farrell didn’t play Wicket, but she did do all of his stunts in addition to playing her own character. In fact, she was behind most of the Ewok stunts in Star Wars.
She had done some gymnastics in high school, but that was pretty much the extent of her stunt background. She had to be a quick study.
“When you’re doing a stunt you have to listen to the stunt coordinator and cross your T’s and dot you I’s because something can go terribly wrong in a hurry,” Farrell said. “I mean you’ve got redwood trees that were being exploded or knocked down and there was nothing underneath you other than the costume you had over your body.”
And that costume was hot. At least it also had little to no visibility.
Farrell would map out the scenes in her head beforehand because once she went into costume she needed to know her territory. The eyes on the Ewok costume would fog up and she relied on that mental map.
“You just go and keep on going,” Farrell said. “It wasn’t so much heavy as it was cumbersome because it was bulky and hot.”
Farrell was wearing pajamas under the costume, surrounded by 1-2 inches of padding and than the fur and leather head drape to top it off.
But as far as costumes go, Ewok was a breeze compared to ET.
Farrell can’t go into details about her ET costume, but she did say it was heavy and hard to maneuver under.
The costume was good, however. So good that Drew Berrymore was convinced she was actually seeing an alien.
“She thought it was real 100 percent, but that’s the way Steven wanted it,” Farrell said. “They were big tears and they were real.”
And who can forget the Halloween scene, the beer scene and the closest scene in the 80s classic? Farrell was behind them all.
ET and Ewok are the attention grabbers, but Farrell’s credit list is long.
She’s been in television specials, Under the Rainbow, Howard the Duck, Invaders from Mars, Willow and Bat Man Returns. She also stared in commercials for Pepsi, McDonalds and Progressive. She was featured in People Magazine, Rolling Stone and The Times. She even performed as ET in the 1990 Super Bowl halftime with Stevie Wonder.
The list goes on, yet she still finds time to come out and cover the celebrity golf tournament every year with her husband Doug Farrell for Bay Area Sports Drive. The event is a highlight for them every year, and the two of them make a great ACC team. Doug handles the photos and she takes care of the content. Her husband has an impressive past as well. He won gold in two dwarf lifting Paralympics, benching 380 pounds at one point.
As far a future acting goes, Farrell would sign on for the right project if it came along. But for now, she’s pretty happy with what she’s already accomplished.
“If I had continued to live in LA I would probably still be pounding the pavement and going strong,” Farrell said. “But if I don’t do any more, I can say I did it and I have some amazing credits under my belt.”