Huey drone performer in Silent Running

Cheryl Sparks was a high school student in 1971 and was given the chance to appear as “Huey” in Silent Running (Universal, 1972).

Silent Running is a science fiction story that takes place on the USS Valley Forge, a space freighter leased to a government reforestation project. The Valley Forge and its sister ships carry samples of the last of Earth’s plant life under huge geodesic domes. The plants are watched over by a four-person crew, and three robot “Drones,” who maintain the ships. The Drones are among the most original robots ever seen on the big screen. The performers were all double amputees who walked on their hands in lightweight robot suits. Bruce Dern has called the Drones “adorable,” and they are surprisingly charming and funny in the film. With the performers walking on their hands in the suits, the Drones have a unique, wobbly gait. And considering that they are essentially mute, featureless boxes, the “body language” performances still project wonderful personalities for the robots. George Lucas acknowledges that the Drones were his starting point for the creation of R2-D2.

Silent Running was the first film directed by Douglas Trumbull, who’d supervised the special effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull would later direct Brainstorm and supervise the visual effects for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner. Starring Bruce Dern, Ron Rifkin, Cliff Potts and Jesse Vint, Silent Running also features four performers whose faces are never seen. Portraying the Drone robots in the film were Mark Persons (“Dewey”), Larry Whisenhunt (“Louie”), and Steve Brown and Cheryl Sparks (both portraying “Huey”).

Cheryl Sparks also appeared in the documentary The Making of Silent Running, but never appeared in another film. Douglas Trumbull recommended his robot cast to George Lucas, but he opted not to use them.

Cheryl is a mom and a grandmother and is happily retired in California. She considers the making of Silent Running some of the best times of her life. “There wasn’t a day that wasn’t worth it. I didn’t have one bad day.”

Cheryl Sparks’ appearance is sponsored by Bronson Canyon Creations.