Peter Sumner, an Australian actor, director and writer best known stateside for his appearance as Lt. Pol Treidum, a security officer on the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope, died this month following a long illness. He was 74.
Although, as he reportedly joked in 2015, he fully expected to be remembered solely for the line “TK-421, do you copy” in the original Star Wars, Sumner had a varied career that included numerous stage performances of Shakespeare and several TV series and films.
Among his other film credits were the films Color Me Dead (1969), the Mick Jagger-starring Ned Kelly (1970), The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), The Survivor (1981) and Bush Christmas (1983). He appeared on the Australian thriller series Spyforce from 1971-73; the 1983 miniseries The Dismissal, about Australia’s 1975 constitutional crisis; the 1978-81 series Tickled Pink; and the 1988 series All the Way. Other Australian series include Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, Boney, The Sullivans, Cop Shop, Neighbours and Home and Away.
As his wife told the Sydney Morning Herald, Sumner happened to be vacationing with his family in England when he saw the casting call for Star Wars, taking the role mainly to offset the need for money. The only Australian to appear in Star Wars, Sumner was paid £60 a day for two days of work and also had an uncredited role operating the trash compactor monster. In the film, he’s heard wondering why Stormtrooper TK-421 isn’t at his post and later is knocked out by Chewbacca.
Although he never parlayed his brief Star Wars appearance into massive fame and fortune, Sumner never begrudged the relative immortality the role gave him. He was a regular at fan conventions and replied to hundreds of fan letters over the years, and even appeared in a 1999 Star Wars fan film called The Dark Redemption.
He is survived by his wife Lynda, and three children.