Femi Taylor is a British dancer and actress who is best known for her role as Oola in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Femi was born in Nigeria and was adopted when she was two years old with her twin brother.
From an early age Femi gravitated towards performing arts and trained with both the New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the London Contemporary Dance Company
Her first big break came in 1981 when she landed the role of Tantomile in the original Cats production.
It may seem somewhat unusual to cast a non-American actress in such a high budget film like Star Wars, but Femi Taylor claims the opposite. “The second cast were all English—all British,” according to Taylor in an interview with Ostjysk TV. “The first cast like Mark Hamill, the late Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, they’re all American, but all the rest of the cast, we’re all British! We’re the ones who support the film.”
“A lot of the characters in the film, they actually were asked to do it, but I had to audition because they wanted a female black dancer to be able to dance for that particular scene so of course I had to go and show them my skills.”
It’s not uncommon for producers to cast actors without even auditioning them. This usually happens when the producers have their eyes on particular stars for a part because they want the actor’s fans to hurry to theaters to see them in their new role. This can also happen when an actor or actress has the exact physical traits that they’re searching for. For a role like Oola, the producers needed someone that would look the way they imagined and danced the way they needed, so they had to audition to see who would fit best.
“It was a two hour grueling audition, and the funny thing was we didn’t even know what we were auditioning for!” Taylor added. “They wouldn’t say, they had to be hush hush about it so after the audition I found out it was for the third Star Wars movie!”
All that Femi Taylor knew was that she was auditioning for a female role in a film and they needed someone who could dance.
Before entering the role of Oola, Femi Taylor was actually not a fan of Star Wars! “For me, it was part of my career, part of my job, and you step in, you do your job, then you step aside and you move on,” she says. “I love the films but I’m not very passionate about them—but I love them!”
This is certainly not uncommon in films for actors and actresses to enter a role in a series they don’t even like. But part of being an actor is figuring out what your role requires and performing it to the best of your ability, even if you don’t support what you’re doing. After the part, she found a greater appreciation for the franchise.
Taylor says that she had to be on set as early as 4 in the morning to begin the process of make up, and she’d have to stand around for hours half nude.
The whole thing seemed rather exhausting, but she says she had a wonderful time and the actors—including the stars like Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams—would interact with her pleasantly.
She notes that no one on set had a large ego about anything, they were just there to do their job and were all having a great time filling exciting roles.
What did she do after Star Wars?
Femi had limited success outside of her role in Star Wars and sporadically appeared in tv show and movies until her retirment in 1998.
In 1984 she had a 2-episode role in the British television show Miracles Take Longer. In 1985 and 1986 she appeared in the British TV shows Roll Over Beethoven and Summer Season. In 1990 she appeared in the movie A Kink in the Picasso, playing the part of Nadia.
Between November 19, 1996 – March 28, 1998, Femi would play the part of Soul Girl in the theater production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyceum Theatre in London.
Her last acting credit was in 1998 in the movie Cats, where she played the role of Exotica.
Return to Star Wars
It should be noted that Femi Taylor is one of very, very few actresses (if any other actresses!) who filled a role and then reprised that same role 15 years later in the exact same movie.
A decade and a half after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi came out, Star Wars released a special edition of the film, including an extended version of Oola’s scene. In fact, she was the only actor in the whole movie to reprise a role in that special edition.
Not much more was added to the movie, but it was enough to get fans excited. Taylor was shocked to find out that her small role was going to be reprised. Fans were even more shocked to see that Taylor looks the exact same 15 years later!
What is Femi Taylor doing now?
Femi currently lives with her spouse Claus Skytte Kamper in Odense, Denmark with their two children.
Her last role as an actress was all the way back in the 1998 film Cats. She seems to have retired from acting, but you never know, especially when it comes to Star Wars!
Although you won’t catch Femi on the big screen, you can catch her at fan conventions, which she regularly attends.
In 2022, she attended the Comic Con in Northern Ireland, the Fanboy Expo in Orlando and the Big Lick Comic-Con.
Femi is also active on Cameo, where she sells personalized videos for $68.