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|Star Wars character|
Nien Nunb in Return of the Jedi
|First appearance||Return of the Jedi (1983)|
Mike Quinn (puppet) (Episodes VI-VIII)Richard Bonehill (in costume) (Episode VI)
|Voiced by||Kipsang Rotich|
|Occupation||Arms dealer, smuggler, pilot|
Nien Nunb is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise. Introduced in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, he was brought to life both as a puppet and a costumed actor during the film. Nunb was puppeteered by Mike Quinn and was portrayed by Richard Bonehill in wide shots. The character was voiced by Kipsang Rotich, a Kenyan student who spoke in his native Kalenjin language, as well as in the Kikuyu language. Quinn returned to the role for the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Within the fictional Star Wars universe, Nien Nunb was an arms dealer of the Sullustan species who joined the Alliance to Restore the Republic during the Galactic Civil War. Three decades later, Nunb was a starfighter pilot in the Resistance. He fought in the First Order–Resistance conflict, including the Battle of Starkiller Base.
Nien Nunb hailed from the planet Sullust. He became an ace pilot and an able arms dealer and smuggler who owned and operated the starship Mellcrawler. He became friends with fellow smuggler Lando Calrissian, as well as Rebel pilot Evaan Verlaine.
Galactic Civil War
Shortly after the destruction of Alderaan and the Battle of Yavin, Alderaanian Princess Leia Organa set out with Verlaine on a mission to unite the few Alderaanians who remained alive in the galaxy. Their mission brought them to Sullust, where a group of Alderaanians lived in an enclave beneath the world's volcanic surface. The Galactic Empire, which used its military might to hunt the surviving Alderaanians across the galaxy, discovered Organa and her united forces on Sullust. Nunb answered Verlaine's call for help and smuggled the Alderaanians off of Sullust and into space, without detection from Imperial forces. He also provided the arms in his ship to Organa and her people, so they could be used against the Empire. Organa was grateful for Nunb's assistance and presented him with the chalcedony waves necklace that once belonged to her adoptive mother, Queen Breha Organa of Alderaan, as a token of her gratitude.
Later in the mission, Organa turned herself over to Imperial Commander Dreed on the desert world of Skaradosh in exchange for the release of Tula, an Imperial officer from Alderaan; Tula's sister, Tace, was part of Organa's group of refugees and Tula secretly manipulated her sister for information about Organa's whereabouts. Before Organa could be taken captive, the Mellcrawler arrived to rescue her, with Nunb having slipped the ship onto the planet without the orbiting Imperial forces noticing. Verlaine fired on Dreed and his Imperial stormtroopers, killing the commander while Organa and Tula were able to make their way on board. Though Organa thanked him for his efforts, Nunb said that the real test would be making it past the Imperial forces alive.
The Star Destroyer in orbit detected the Mellcrawler once they received word that Dreed had been killed. Nunb launched a decoy to fool the Imperial vessels, leaving them to follow the sensor decoy as the Mellcrawler avoided their detection. The trick was successful and the Star Destroyer crew believed the Mellcrawler had been destroyed, and Organa with it. It was at that moment that a fleet of Alderaanians from Espirion arrived to assist Organa and her people. The arrival of the fleet allowed the Alderaanians to destroy the Star Destroyer, and the Alderaanian fleet escaped the wrath of the Empire. Nunb later attended a celebration in which Organa, Verlaine, and their people celebrated the success of the mission to unite them.
Battle of Sullust
About three years later, Nunb returned to Sullust on a mission for the Rebel Alliance, in which he supplied items to members of the Cobalt Laborers' Reformation Front at Pinyumb. Shortly after, a battle broke out between Imperial and Alliance forces.
Operation Yellow Moon
Shortly after the Battle of Hoth, Nunb was the pilot of the star yacht Mellcrawler and was tasked with transporting Leia Organa to a meeting on Zastiga. On Zastiga, Nunb met with Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker to discuss reconnaissance tactics. Once Operation Yellow Moon was approved, Nunb transported the team to the Corva sector. Upon reaching Basteel, Nunb flew his ship to Eladro City. His casual piloting through the turbulent atmosphere unnerved Kidi Aleri but he was able to safely land his ship. Once on the ground, Nunb was given some credits by Organa and he headed to a bar to get a drink and some local intel. On the way to the bar, Nunb, Kidi Aleri, and Antrot stopped at a bazaar. While the rest of the team climbed out of the mountain in the tunnels above the city, Nunb returned to his ship so he could pick them up once they were clear. He was detained when the Empire arrived on Basteel and checked out the credentials for all the ships that were present. Once he was cleared, he flew to the top of the mountain and picked up the team. When they were all on-board and safely away from Basteel, Nunb got them hot beverages and blankets to help them warm up from the exposure to Basteel's harsh environment.
Nunb then flew the team to Sesid. Once they landed at Thrinaka, he suggested that they purchase tourist clothes to better blend in. After they completed their mission to place a beacon, he warned them not to return to Thrinaka, as Stormtroopers were present in the city. He rendezvoused with the team above the planet, and flew them to their next destination. After they arrived at Jaresh, Nien went to see if he could swing a deal with any local merchants for a load of the planet's main export, fertilizer. As they were leaving the planet, Nunb was ambushed by the Shieldmaiden, which snuck up on his ship from the dark side of the planet. He was able to avoid being snared by a tractor beam by skimming under a massive commercial freighter that happened to be passing through the system. Once clear of the tractor beams, he made the jump to hyperspace. When they were safe in hyperspace, Organa had a meeting with the team and left them decide if they wanted to continue with the operation. Nunb found it humorous that if he quit, they wouldn't have a ship to finish the mission, but agreed to stay to the end.
Nunb flew the team to the rendezvous at Galaan and when other starships arrived, he made sure his ship was in position to transmit the tightbeam encryption code directly to them so Organa could contact them. During Organa's speech to the assembled ships, Nunb detected the incoming Star Destroyer Shieldmaiden. He attempted to flee, but was unable to avoid the Star Destroyer's tractor beams and was forced to shut down his engines to prevent damage to the Mellcrawler. As the yacht was drawn into the belly of the Star Destroyer, Organa prepared to destroy the Mellcrawler much to Nunb's surprise. However, when Lokmarcha stopped her, Nunb instead purged the logs of his ship to prevent any data from falling into Imperial hands. Nunb was captured and imprisoned onboard the Shieldmaiden. He was able to free himself when Lokmarcha set off an electromagnetic pulse that disabled part of the Star Destroyer. He gave directions to Organa so she could lead the surviving members of the team from the detention center to the docking bay. Once in the bay, they were discovered by a squad of stormtroopers and Nunb quickly entered an Imperial shuttle. He powered it up and was able to safely escape the Shieldmaiden.
Creation and portrayal
Nunb's name originated from the fact that he was referred to as "Number Nine" on creature packaging. In an interview, Richard Marquand described Nien Nunb as, "...a Muppet, a guy under the deck does his thing. He's got some dialogue to do. He's got this funny, twitchy face. He's a terrific character in my mind".
Nien Nunb was brought to life by both a puppeteer and as a costumed-actor during the film. Initially, he was just to appear in the briefing room scenes, and the Endor celebration. For these appearances he was portrayed by stuntman Richard Bonehill, in costume and mask. However Nunb was later chosen, by George Lucas, to appear in the Millennium Falcon, as Lando Calrissian's co pilot. Since the character now had dialogue, it was decided that the mask would be reworked into a puppet, with mechanisms to allow for moving lips and eyes. For these scenes, in the cockpit, the role was handed over to puppeteer Mike Quinn.
The character was voiced by Kipsang Rotich, a Kenyan student who spoke in an actual African dialect, his native Kalenjin language, as well as in Kikuyu and Haya. After voicing the character, Rotich became a local celebrity in his home country, as many Kenyan viewers could hear their own language in a Star Wars film, and understand the character's dialogue.
Quinn returned to the role for The Force Awakens, without Bonehill, who later died in February 2015. Rotich was also tracked down in his native Kenya, by producers, to voice the character again.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
Over three years after the rescue of the Alderaanians, Nunb once again worked with Princess Leia on a secret mission as part of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. Shortly thereafter, Nunb was a member of the Alliance Fleet and was selected to fly as co-pilot to General Calrissian aboard the Millennium Falcon during the Battle of Endor, where the Falcon led the assault to destroy the Death Star II. Before the battle, when the Alliance Fleet was gathered near Sullust, Nunb expressed concern about the plan of attack and whether General Han Solo, Princess Organa, and their team would be able to successfully destroy the Death Star's shield generator on the moon of Endor before the fleet arrived. Calrissian assured him that Solo would have the shield down on schedule.
Nunb and Calrissian in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, just before the Battle of Endor The Alliance Fleet arrived over Endor to find that the shield generator was still active, and they realized that the battle was a trap set by the Emperor, Darth Sidious, to destroy the Rebel Alliance once and for all. The fleet remained over Endor and engaged Imperial forces in the hopes that Solo and his team would be able to destroy the generator. The fleet kept to fighting TIE/LN starfighters and Star Destroyers, particularly once they learned that the Death Star was operational, after previously believing that it did not yet have the use of its primary, planet-destroying superlaser. Once Solo's team destroyed the shield generator, the Millennium Falcon entered the Death Star's superstructure and fired the shot that began a chain reaction that led to the battle station's destruction. Calrissian and Nunb were in a race against time as they outran the fireball that their attack created, and they escaped the Death Star just before it was consumed in a massive explosion. The Alliance was victorious, the Emperor was dead, and the Empire was shattered. Nunb joined his fellow Rebels on the surface of Endor, where the Rebels held a celebration along with the native Ewoks, who helped Solo's team destroy the shield.
The Force Awakens (2015)
Actor Mike Quinn confirmed on October 19, 2015 via Facebook that he would return in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Later on December 6, Nien Nunb's appearance was seen in a TV spot for the film.
In the film, when the First Order destroyed the Hosnian system with the use of the Starkiller, the Resistance base on D'Qar became the next target. Quickly establishing a plan to destroy Starkiller Base, Nunb, along with the rest of the Starfighter Corps, flew to the planet in an attempt to destroy its thermal oscillator and disable the weapon. During the battle, many Resistance pilots were lost before the oscillator was destroyed by Poe Dameron. Nunb was one of seven surviving X-wing pilots, and he celebrated with the rest of the Resistance upon returning to D'Qar.
Episode VIII (2017)
Nien Nunb is an action figure in Hasbro's 1997 Star Wars: The Power of the Force toy line. Funko has released two figures of him in the Star Wars Pop! line.
Nien Nunb has received positive acclaim from Kenyan audiences for speaking the language of Kikuyu. Star Wars actress Lupita Nyong'o even acknowledged this, stating "...One of the things I remember as a child connecting with Star Wars is one of the characters spoke Kikuyu, which is a Kenyan language. And I remember feeling like that made Star Wars mine...".
In other media
Nien Nunb's character was parodied in Family Guy episode 9.18, "It's a Trap!", where he is portrayed by Rallo Tubbs. Nien Nunb is Glenn Quagmire's co-pilot in "Airport '07" when he is forced to crash land an airplane that has run out of fuel due to one of Peter Griffin's shenanigans.
Nien Nunb appears as a playable Hero character in the Outer Rim expansion pack for the 2015 video game Star Wars Battlefront.