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Babu Frik's Heartbreaking Backstory

From the Ewoks to Baby Yoda, the "Star Wars" franchise has given its fans plenty of cuddly creatures to become obsessed with during its decades in the pop cultural zeitgeist. "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" added to the adorability by introducing Babu Frik (voiced and co-puppeted by Shirley Henderson), a small, elderly, bewhiskered alien affiliated with Poe Dameron's (Oscar Isaac) old crew, the Spice Runners of Kijimi. The talented, tiny machinist plays an instrumental part in the movie when Poe, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and BB-8 pay him a visit. Together, they hope to employ his expertise to dig into C-3PO's programming and allow the protocol droid to translate an important Sith text. Babu is able to come up with a solution, though his technical wizardry can't prevent C-3PO from rebooting to his factory settings after the difficult translation.

The planet Kijimi is later annihilated by Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid)'s upgraded Star Destroyers, though fortunately, Babu manages to escape with his boss Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell). He even joins the Skywalker Saga's climactic Battle of Exegol and the victory celebrations that follow. In total, this is plenty of activity for a new character in a movie featuring, in some cases, payoffs to storylines that started decades prior. If Henderson is to be believed, however, the cute character is deeper even than "The Rise of Skywalker" manages to show viewers, hiding a surprisingly heartbreaking backstory.

Babu Frik may harbor a hidden heartbreak

In an interview with Vanity Fair, puppeteer and voice actor Shirley Henderson revealed that the infinitely sympathetic and expressive Babu Frik is far more than just another cute "Star Wars" critter. Though Babu's character design was largely ready by the time she came aboard, director J.J. Abrams gave Henderson relatively free reign to develop Babu's personality and character, letting her improvise along the way and keeping what he liked until they had what they needed. The end result was a peculiar creation with a distinctively fuzzy voice, simultaneously laid-back and devoted to his craft. 

The Babu Frik we see on-screen, however, already has plenty of life experience in his rearview mirror, and Henderson revealed that it wasn't all sunshine and roses. "Beyond the film, Babu has lived a life," she said. "Somewhere out there is a lost love. He thinks about her sometimes when he sits down in his workshop and lets his thoughts drift away. That's what I think, anyway." 

It should be noted that Henderson makes it clear with that last line that Babu's history of heartache is not exactly official "Star Wars" canon. Still, this notion does nevertheless come from a person who was instrumental in bringing the small droidsmith to life, lending it at least some authenticity.

Babu Frik's future was almost even bleaker than his backstory

Babu Frik's survival at the end of "The Rise of Skywalker" ensures that the character can appear in future "Star Wars" stories, which may prove to be a smart decision given his enduring popularity. In fact, while it takes place prior to the events of "Rise of Skywalker," the subsequent third season of "The Mandalorian" introduces a new group of Anzellans, which is the name of Babu's alien race. However, perhaps befitting of his semi-canonical, tragic backstory, the original version of "The Rise of Skywalker" apparently included the beloved little guy's death.

This early cut of "The Rise of Skywalker" is outlined in an Empire Online interview with Shirley Henderson and concept artist Ivan Manzella about Babu Frik. According to Manzella, none other than Steven Spielberg watched a cut of "Rise of Skywalker" sans Babu's reappearance during the Battle of Exegol, after which he wondered what had happened to the mini mechanic. Upon viewing the reedited, final version of the film, even Henderson was surprised to see him reappear, apparently inspired by Spielberg's reaction. Not only did Henderson portray the character with a lost love in mind, then, but she initially believed that he would die by the film's end. Fortunately, Babu does indeed survive, and can perhaps even find his hypothetical soul mate in a future "Star Wars" installment.