Erik Bauersfeld, who died Sunday at the age of 93, wasn’t a household name. But his voice was famous — thanks to three little words delivered by a bulging-eyed, amphibious rebel commander.
Admiral Ackbar was written as a bit part — a handful of lines in Return of the Jedi, most of them rather defeated. “Prepare to retreat,” “we have no choice, “take evasive action, “we won’t last long!”
And then a futile utterance — pointing out, too late, what Lando Calrissian had already realized.
But something about it stole the hearts of Star Wars fans everywhere: “It’s a trap!”
The Mon Calamari rebel leader was physically played by puppeteer Tim Rose. But the voice came from Bauersfeld — a voice actor and radio dramatist who was the head of drama for Pacifica Radio’s KPFA for decades and who also voiced the role of Jabba the Hutt henchman Bib Fortuna in the movie.
Bauersfeld died at his home in Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday, The Associated Press reports.
His delivery made Admiral Ackbar an instant fan favorite, despite the character’s minor role in the films. Ackbar appears several times in the expanded universe (novels, comics and TV shows, now collectively dubbed Star Wars Legends), and Bauersfeld and Rose reprised the role in 2015’s The Force Awakens.
Students at Ole Miss unsuccessfully petitioned to make Admiral Ackbar their mascot.
And the phrase itself — “It’s a trap!” — has passed into pop culture fame.
There are memes.
And — of course — there are trap remixes of “It’s a trap!”
In 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle caught up with Bauersfeld and spoke to the bemused, beloved voice actor about his odd claim to fame.
He said he replied to every autograph request he ever received, the Chronicle reported:
” ‘The fans who write say they’ll never forget “It’s a trap!” I don’t even remember how I said it,’ says Bauersfeld, who hasn’t watched Return of the Jedi since it came out in 1983, and still hasn’t seen the first Star Wars. ‘It’s not that I don’t like it or don’t respect it. I just don’t have time to be a fan and see it 10 times or 20 times.’ “
Bauersfeld was a radio guy, through and through — with a lack of Star Wars knowledge that was “almost comical,” the newspaper writes.
The Chronicle made a short documentary of Bauersfeld that is well worth watching — no traps involved.
You can hear some of Bauersfeld’s radio work at his website, Bay Area Radio Drama.