RIP Felix Silla, Itt’s cousin of the Addams family

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Illustration from the article titled RIP Felix Silla, Cousin Itt of the Addams Family

photo: Gabe Ginsberg (Getty Images)

Felix Silla has passed away. Known primarily for his work in genre cinema and television– who saw it appear in all of Return of the Jedi at Batman Returns to the role of the hirsute Cousin Itt in the original Addams Family—Silla was a veteran stuntman and actor who spent most of his career bringing iconic costumed characters to life. Through Rolling stone, his death was announced online this weekend by his former Buck Rogers co-star, Gil Gerard. Silla died of pancreatic cancer; he what 84.

Originally trained as a circus artist in Italy, Silla moved to the USA in the mid-1950s, touring with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and developing skills as a bareback rider, trapeze artist, and more. He used these abilities in acting work in the 1960s, often serving as an alternate performer or stuntman for child actors in dangerous scenes. He had his breakthrough acting job in 1965, when his agent sent him to audition to play Cousin Itt – a role that was not described to Silla until he was actually on the set of The Addams Family, cover yourself with a giant costume made of hair. (It was not, as he described, a particularly comfortable part.)

From there, Silla became one of Hollywood’s costumed artists, uplifted by his physical talents as a performer, his well-known sense of humor., and his willingness to spend hours every day with heavy or uncomfortable accessories. Over the next 20 years, he became a regular with Sid and Marty Kroft (appearing frequently on both HR Pufnstuf and Lidsville), take the physical role of the Twiki robot on Buck Rogers, and serve as the alien who inexplicably serves as a plot point in Meatballs Part II. Through his stunts, he also continued to build relationships and friends that would serve him well throughout his career, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, who used him as a stuntman in AND and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death, and who made use of his many talents as an Ewok hang glider in Return of the Jedi. (And when Mel Brooks wanted to make fun of Lucas’ opus with Space balls lately, Silla got the call for that too.)

In an industry always ready to force players of its stature into a particular niche, Silla has found ways to thrive.. His resume includes several of the most successful and beloved films of all time, and in interviews he clearly comes across as a man happy to have brought his talents to so many beloved characters. Even after quitting acting in the 1990s, Silla continued to be a fixture on the convention scene (often with Gerard), traveling the country and meeting fans of his decades of work.

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