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The Untold Truth Of Pizza The Hutt

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Everybody loves "Spaceballs," comedy legend Mel Brooks' irreverent 1987 send-up of "Star Wars." While rarely recognized as Brooks' best film, it's definitely one of the most popular and most widely quoted, with multiple generations of nerds having grown up telling their friends, "May the Schwartz be with you." Its pop culture impact is demonstrated by the fact that Tesla Motors gave one of its car models a high speed setting called "Ludicrous Mode" in 2015 and followed that up in 2017 with "Plaid." People love this movie.

You know what else people love? Pizza. Pizza is wonderful. Especially the cheese. Cheese is the foundation of pizza, just as a different kind of cheese is the foundation of "Spaceballs." Get pizza and "Spaceballs" together and you're looking at a solid 96 minutes of cheesy goodness. And no character embodies that goodness better than the tertiary villain of the movie, Pizza the Hutt.

Now, you probably think you know about Pizza the Hutt. You probably think there's not much to know — he's a one-note parody character who only appears in one scene. But there are hundreds of questions, possibly thousands, you've never considered. Who is wearing that cheese suit? Did it chafe? What kind of pizza is that, anyway? Have you actually seen something similar in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," or was that just a terrible dream? These are the questions we now set out to answer, as we open up the oven to discover the untold truth of Pizza the Hutt!

He's a Hutt made out of pizza

Okay, so admittedly, you probably did know about this one. It's the single most obvious thing about the guy — he's like Jabba the Hutt from "Star Wars," only he's made of pizza. That's basically the entire bit. "Spaceballs" is many things, but it is in no way a subtle parody, and it's chock full of jokes like this, with Brooks slightly altering the name of a "Star Wars" character to make it ridiculous. But Pizza the Hutt's name actually works on more levels than any other name in the movie. 

Not only does it directly inform the concept behind the character (as opposed to, say, Yogurt, who is disappointingly not an ancient, mystical warrior composed entirely of fermented milk) but it's a legitimately clever gag that plays on the absurdity of "Jabba the Hutt" sounding similar to "Pizza Hut." That's way funnier than Darth Vader becoming Dark Helmet, where the joke is that his helmet is big, or Chewie becoming Barf, because chewing and barfing are both things that happen with food, presumably?

He's voiced by Dom DeLuise

When Pizza delivers his first line of dialogue in "Spaceballs," the first thing you think as a viewer is, "Wait, the giant mound of alien pizza talks like a New York gangster?" The second thing you think is, "Haven't I heard that voice before?" That's because the voice of Pizza the Hutt is no less a pillar of the comedy world than Dom DeLuise, who you might know from ... another Mel Brooks movie, probably. He was one of Brooks' recurring actors since 1970, when he starred in "The Twelve Chairs," and he ended up in a total of six Brooks movies. His voice was also partly responsible for the emotional scars you've had since childhood, as he performed in several of Don Bluth's animated films, including "The Secret of NIMH," "An American Tail," and "All Dogs Go To Heaven."

"Spaceballs" was DeLuise's second-to-last Brooks film — his last one was "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" in 1993, where he also played a mobster who speaks in only a single scene. What's more, "Spaceballs" seems to have given DeLuise a taste for pizza in his future career. He played Dr. Animal Cannibal Pizza in a 1994 "Silence of the Lambs" parody called "The Silence of the Hams," appeared in a children's show called "The Charlie Horse Music Pizza," and even wrote a cookbook called "The Pizza Challenge." Clearly, once you have become pizza, there is no escape.

The guy in the suit is Rick Lazzarini, but not on purpose

There seems to be some debate among the moderators of unsourced wiki websites as to whether or not the Pizza the Hutt costume was actually made of cheese — such a lofty topic is clearly a question for only the wisest of philosophers, and shall not be contemplated here. Still, no matter what it was made of, it can't have been the most fun to wear. In fact, we know for a fact it wasn't fun to wear, because when Mel Brooks told the guy whose job was to wear it — an actor by the name of Richard Karen — that he had to come back and put it on again for reshoots, Karen flatly refused. As a result, Karen never actually made it into the film; Pizza the Hutt was performed physically by a member of the special effects crew, Rick Lazzarini. 

Lazzarini, who has worked on blockbuster franchises like "Alien," "Ghostbusters," and "A Nightmare on Elm Street," actually shows up in "Spaceballs" twice — he appears under a bunch of makeup at the end of the film, when the villains crash-land on the Planet of the Apes and are lamentingly observed by two of its simian denizens. According to Heather Wixson's book "Monster Squad," Lazzarini wanted this last role so badly that he lied to the production manager about how well he could ride a horse. No word thus far on how well he can eat a pizza.

You could order him, but he'd be expensive

Internet philosophers may argue about what the costume is made of until the end of time, but nobody out there is talking about perhaps our biggest question: Within the fiction of "Spaceballs" itself, what kind of pizza comprises Pizza the Hutt? Fortunately, a quick Google Image search and a sharp eye can solve this mystery — or at least most of it. There's no ingredients list for Pizza the Hutt available anywhere we could find, and there are some pizza toppings you probably wouldn't be able to see, like garlic. But in terms of observable toppings, there are four. 

Pepperoni is the most obvious, especially since a slice of pepperoni literally falls off Pizza's head and into his own mouth at one point. Look closely, though, and you can see both mushrooms and green bell peppers, and extra cheese is safe to assume. Pizza is later referred to as "half man, half pizza," but we prefer to believe he's of a different species entirely, perhaps one where toppings determine social hierarchy. Is there, perhaps, a deep schism in their culture related to dueling opinions on pineapple, or do they rise in political and professional rank by being more expensive? This last suggestion could potentially account for Pizza's status as a mob boss -– a quick check of a local Pizza Hut indicates that a large pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, green bell peppers, and extra cheese can cost more than 20 dollars.

He employs a robot named Vinnie

Okay, let's get to what Pizza actually does in the film, shall we? The first thing he does -– the only thing he does, really — is call up the primary protagonist of "Spaceballs," Lone Starr. Actually, he technically doesn't even do that. He makes Vinnie do it.

Vinnie appears to be a robotic mafioso, complete with hat, gloves, and mob enforcer accent. He's played by Rudy De Luca, who co-wrote four of Brooks' films and had bit parts in seven. Beyond the fact that De Luca absolutely nails his best piece of dialogue — "Or else Pizza is gonna send out for you!" — the most interesting thing about him is the mysterious nature of his relationship with Pizza the Hutt. Clearly he's Pizza's underling, but it doesn't seem like he's been working for Pizza very long; Lone Starr and Barf know Vinnie, but they don't know he's calling on Pizza's behalf, and they are emphatically shocked when Vinnie announces Pizza's presence. So this must be a new thing. And yet, not only have Pizza and Vinnie obviously rehearsed this call ahead of time, but Pizza allows Vinnie to literally start eating him before they hang up. The only word for that is "intimacy." How could they have developed such a close bond in such a short period of time? Is there any explanation besides "tragically doomed whirlwind romance?" Probably, but we're not interested. 

He drives the entire plot of the film

So it turns out Pizza doesn't do much in the movie besides flirt with a robot, but don't let that fool you — the narrative of "Spaceballs" completely falls apart without Pizza the Hutt. Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) turns out to be an amalgam of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, but at the beginning of the movie he's basically all Han, a cocky-yet-charming criminal buzzing around the galaxy with his best friend and co-pilot by his side. And just as Han owes Jabba the Hutt money, Lone Starr owes Pizza the Hutt money — 100,000 space bucks, to be specific, which Pizza informs him has been upgraded to a million space bucks due to late charges. What's more, Pizza needs the money by the next day.

This massive debt is the motivation for Lone Starr accepting the mission from King Roland to rescue his daughter, Vespa, from the Spaceballs. Without Pizza, Lone Starr presumably tells Roland to go jump in a lake, and Roland moves on to the next smuggler — one who, statistically, is probably not a secret prince in whom the Schwartz is strong. Moreover, Lone Starr's entire character arc is defined by the moment when we learn he didn't take the million space bucks from Roland, even though Pizza's untimely death means Lone Starr and Barf could just keep it. Without Pizza, the entire emotional core of the movie is compromised. Thank you for attending this critical film studies analysis of "Spaceballs."

He's surprisingly animated

Brooks has been threatening to produce a "Spaceballs" sequel since Yogurt straight-up pitched one in the text of the film — "Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money" –- and he was reportedly considering it as recently as 2015, when Disney started releasing "Star Wars" movies again. So far, though, there's been no movement on such a thing, and considering Brooks hasn't directed a film in more than 25 years, we wouldn't suggest holding your breath. 

If you absolutely have to have more "Spaceballs" in your life, though, you could check out the short-lived "Spaceballs: The Animated Series," which aired on the G4 network (and Super Channel in Canada) in 2008 and 2009. After a two-part pilot that summarized the original film, the series produced 13 total episodes, each one working the "Spaceballs" characters into a different movie parody, from "Jurassic Park" to "The Lord of the Rings" to, naturally, the "Star Wars" prequels. Brooks produced, wrote, and performed in the series, which also involved returning "Spaceballs" veterans De Luca, Daphne Zuniga, and Joan Rivers.

Also making an appearance? Dom DeLuise, who voiced Pizza the Hutt one last time in the pilot episode. It was, in fact, DeLuise's final role, as he passed away in 2009. See? You can't have "Spaceballs" without Pizza. It just wouldn't work. One would hope the producers of a hypothetical sequel would bear that in mind, even though his voice, sadly, wouldn't be the same. There's also one additional speed bump in that regard...

He dies offscreen, but we have questions

Pizza the Hutt's story ends in tragic fashion, and we don't even get to watch it happen. We learn about it, alongside Lone Starr and Barf, from a newscaster, who reports that Pizza "became locked in his car and ate himself to death." It's an almost Shakespearean degree of deus ex machina, ridding the protagonist of one of his major challenges at the end of the movie via random chance.

Do you really buy that line, though? Locking yourself in your car isn't a thing that happens, even for giant mounds of pizza with no arms. And if it did, does notorious gangster Pizza the Hutt not have people with him to help with this sort of thing? Where were the bodyguards while Pizza was eating himself? And how does that work, anyway? Pizza has no limbs; what part of himself would he be able to reach with his mouth? Moreover, why would eating himself put his life in danger when we see Vinnie eating him earlier in the film?

This all stinks to us, especially since the only source is the same broadcaster who referred to Pizza as "half man, half pizza." Fake news! Our theory: Pizza himself was in debt to the mob — hence his sudden need for a million space bucks by tomorrow — and ended up faking his own death, leaving the mob life behind, and settling down with Vinnie under assumed names. Makes more sense than the official story!

His legacy lives on

Pizza may be gone (for now) but the cheesy tendrils of his influence stretch far beyond the boundaries of a single franchise. All it takes, it turns out, is for some other characters to be famously obsessed with pizza. In 2012, a 3D-rendered computer animated reboot of the classic kids' show "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" began airing on Nickelodeon and ended up running for five seasons (it was replaced by "Rise of the Ninja Turtles," the current incarnation of the show, in 2018). During its second season, "TMNT" introduced the world to Pizza the Hutt's spiritual successor: Pizza Face!

It may or may not be intentional, but you can't escape the similarities between the two characters. Pizza Face is also a person-sized blob of pizza with little in the way of human features beyond eyes and a mouth. With the exception of green bell peppers, he's even the exact same kind of pizza as Pizza. He's also a villain with a fiendish agenda — in his case, using the hypnotic qualities of his sentient pizza minions to lure people into his pizza parlor so he can make them into calzones and eat them (every word of that sentence is true). And here's the kicker: Pizza Face actually is half man, half pizza, and he actually does get eaten into submission by Michelangelo! Was this the evil pizza you were thinking of, news guy? We rest our case! Whichever way you slice it, Pizza the Hutt lives on!