Femi Taylor played Oola, Jabba the Hutt’s slave dancer in “Return of the Jedi”. While the role had limited screen time, many “Star Wars” fans over the decades have found Oola absolutely unforgettable. Perhaps it’s the green skin. Perhaps it was her dancing. Or perhaps it was just the idea of such a beautiful character being fed to the Rancor.
The character of Oola was a member of an alien race called the Twi’leks. Between the makeup and the prosthetics, it’s always been hard for fans to get a sense of what the woman under the character really looked like. What else has she done? What’s she been up to? Here’s what you need to know.
Femi Taylor Played Oola in ‘Return of the Jedi’ (She Also Reprised the Role for ‘Special Edition’ Reshoots)
Dancer Femi Taylor played Oola in “Return of the Jedi”. Over a decade later, when George Lucas was preparing to re-release expanded versions of his original trilogy, Taylor was asked to reprise her role. The expanded nature of her role meant that fans finally got to see her character’s death, something only alluded to in the original theatrical cut of the film.
Wired notes that Taylor was the sole member of the original trilogy cast to be asked to do reshoots for the “Special Edition” of the trilogy, an extended version of all three films released in 1997. Additionally, Wired noted that Taylor’s work on-screen in the “Special Edition” of “Return of the Jedi” contains a blend of both new-in-the-1990s footage and footage from the film’s original theatrical release.
According to Forbes, the three re-released “Star Wars: Special Edition” films earned a combined $472 million at the time of their theatrical release in the late 1990s. However, not all “Star Wars” fans are fans of the “Special Edition” cuts of the trilogy. IGN‘s list of the best and worst parts of the “Special Editions” notes things like the addition of CGI Jabba didn’t sit well with fans. Taylor herself has opinions, which came out during a 2007 interview for StarWarsInterviews.com when she was asked about whether the “extra scenes” made the “Special Editions” better.
“Some parts were really better, like my part,” she told interviewer Dennis Pellegrom. “The part with the three dancers in the new music sequence wasn’t really better I think. But maybe I am biased. It was nice to see my death scene. Back in 1983 everybody asked me what happened to me after I fell in the pit. It was good to see that now.”
What Else Is Femi Taylor Known For, Besides ‘Star Wars’?
While she’s not instantly recognizable as Oola, given that the dancer/actress doesn’t have head tentacles in real life, it’s still safe to say that Oola is Taylor’s most iconic role. Speaking of those head thingies, according to StarWars.com, those “head tendrils” are technically called “lekku”, or a”lek” if there’s just one.
Taylor also appeared in the 1998 filmed version of the musical Cats. According to the BBC, creating the filmed version of the stage musical “Cats” took place over a two and a half week period. Taylor’s own bio on her booking agency’s website notes that the role of Exotica “was created just for her and the movie”, meaning the character wasn’t a part of the original stage musical.
She played a cat named Exotica, a minor role in the film version that was actually added as a way for Taylor to cameo in the film, since he had a history with the show. As the Malta Comic-Con website notes, Taylor was actually in the original London cast of “Cats” while working on “Return of the Jedi”, often quite literally spending “her days filming ‘Jedi’ and evenings performing in ‘Cats.'”
Beyond “Cats” and “Star Wars”, Femi Taylor is also known for films like “The Apple” and “Flirting“. Based on her Instagram profile bio and recent posts, it also appears that she’s attempting to break into the world of voice acting.
Femi Taylor Was Born in a Mud Hut, and Adopted By a British Couple
Femi Taylor appeared on the podcast Lead Your Day With Merilyn, and revealed that she was born in a mud hut in Nigeria. Her mother died shortly after giving birth, and her overwhelmed father gave Femi over to the care of the authorities. In that same interview, she confirmed that she now lives in Denmark, and had pursued a career in architectural design.
According to a profile on Taylor in Very Magazine, Femi Taylor was later adopted by British parents. Her father was a BBC cameraman. Taylor has a brother, Benedict, who is also an actor. Both Benedict Taylor and Femi Taylor have appeared in the “Star Wars” universe. While Femi appeared in the original trilogy, Benedict’s role was in the hotly debated prequels. Benedict Taylor played the minor role of “Fighter Pilot Bravo 2” in “The Phantom Menace“.
Ebony once singled out Taylor as one of the “Blackest Moments in the Force”, a list that ran down the best Black talent in the history of the “Star Wars” franchise. That same profile noted an interesting tidbit for “Star Wars” super fans: the song that Oola performs to is the Max Rebo band’s “Lapti Nek”.