With the excitement of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, I wanted to hear from people about what makes STAR WARS and the rest of the franchise such an integral part of pop culture, or better yet a part of culture in general.
ANGUS MAPLE (Adult Film Actor, SWINEY’S PRO-AM)
This may seem corny, or outright dumb, but STAR WARS actually shaped the course of my life. I’ve always loved movies, and several were the gateway to greater worlds for me. Not only by sparking my imagination, but helping me consider career paths at a young age. Instead of wanting to be a fireman or policeman, seeing the dinosaurs in FANTASIA made me want to be an archeologist. I knew how to pronounce all the Dino names by first grade. Then seeing THE DEEP, and that bad-ass moray eel eat the bad guy at the end, got a marine biologist jones going (a lifetime of ear problems nixed that idea but I still have a near spiritual fondness for those coral reef dwellers).
But it was STAR WARS that led me to what I do today! Yeah, of course I wanted to be a Jedi Knight, but after I realized that wasn’t gonna happen, I was still fascinated with the magic of making STAR WARS. In short; I wanted to make movies and tell stories visually.
Today, I do work in movies and TV as a set lighting electrician. The job, though tough, has the virtue of being weird on a daily basis and has provided a good life for me. More influence exists in my creative work; the comics, stories and screenplays I write… the need to tell stories sprung from my imagination… that comes from that moment my eyes grew wide at seeing Darth Vader killing Ben, the trash monster, Han Solo shooting first, The rebels desperate attack on the Death Star. Those moments have shaped and informed my imagination ever since.
JACKSON STEWART (Writer BEYOND THE GATES)
Han Solo was never supposed to come back in any of the STAR WARS sequels. There’s probably a great biopic about the working relationship between George Lucas and Harrison Ford. Ford legendarily never signed a contract for any of the subsequent STAR WARS movies while the rest of the cast was basically locked in from the beginning.
I learned recently that had the first STAR WARS not done well, Lucas had plans to go low budget with it, ditching the space dog fights and other expensive stuff for a single planet-bound adventure. This went as far as being turned into the novelization (and later comic book), SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE. In it, Han Solo and Chewbacca are nowhere to be found. This goes a bit further, the end of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK features Lando Calrissian piloting the Millenium Falcon WEARING Han Solo’s clothes.
This very small facet of the STAR WARS universe has long fascinated me and I keep wondering what these movies would have been like without him. I guess we’re about to find out with EPISODE VIIIand ROGUE ONE (I’ll avoid discussing the prequels).
JAY LENDER (Director THEY’RE WATCHING)
In 1977 I saw STAR WARS for the first time at “Cinema 1-2” on the Post Road in Orange, Connecticut. And, yes, it changed me forever.
It was a nighttime show, so already I was in unfamiliar territory, having had the majority of my moviegoing experiences–Disney films like GUS, THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD, and HERBIE RIDES AGAIN–on lazy Sunday afternoons. The lights went down, the now-familiar scroll began, a starship passed overhead, followed by its endless, behemoth pursuer–ships I now know as the Tantive IV and the Devastator–which, in their comparative size, laid out the David vs. Goliath scenario in a way every 8-year-old could understand.
In the first 2 minutes I was treated to spaceships, soldiers, robots, a princess, and explosions! And then the blast doors opened, and Darth Vader stepped into the room. My jaw fell open. For a kid who got his start in the Nixon/Vietnam era, and cut his science-fiction teeth on the moral ambiguity of PLANET OF THE APES, a black-hatted, mustache-twirling villain was an absolute revelation. I had never even seen a cowboy movie! Black & White moral sensibility crashed over me like a tidal wave. What fun!
Then came the most important moment of the night. I remember looking to my left to share the feeling with someone, and this is what I saw:
My mom, mouth open… dead asleep!
And that was when STAR WARS locked itself into my cultural DNA. Here was something that my parents–and my siblings, 7 and 9 years older than me–could never be a part of. STAR WARS wasn’t merely great, it was mine, and mine alone! But not for long. The next week it was the talk of the school. Not mine, now, but ours! Teachers, parents, adults on the street–were all excluded from this new thing that spoke to my generation.
In the decades since, it’s become apparent that a line was drawn that year, with everything being either Before STAR WARS, or After, and that subsequent generations were as enthralled by STAR WARS as mine was. 10 years ago, I introduced my son to STAR WARS, and he’s now a bigger fan than I could ever be. Even its own missteps, excesses and outright failures can’t seem to stop it, and they’ll certainly never undo the change it brought about. Now, in my late 40s, matter how bad things get; no matter how low my bank account, how miserable my family problems, or how horrific election results may be, STAR WARS is always there to remind me that it’s worth having a new hope. May it be with us… always!
The scene plays here. It is simple. It appeals to everything right with this franchise and most of all embodies why these films resonate with us as a culture and race. You can watch this scene in English anywhere in the world and the motion translates the same.
This is the power of gifted filmmaking. This is art and art connects with the soul.
NICK JONGERIUS (Director of THE WINDMILL)
I wasn’t much of a STAR WARS fan like some of my friends and colleagues in the film business. I liked the films without question but they weren’t life changing events for me. For me this was GHOSTBUSTERSand RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, but let’s not go into that.
When I was young I really liked the STAR WARS toys especially the action figures. I didn’t keep them in their boxes but played with them, in and outside the house for many, many hours. I was very fond of my Darth Vader and Lando Calrissian action figures. The routine was that when me and my little sister came home from school, my mother would have a cup of tea for us, and I would then play the whole afternoon with these action figures. This one day I come home from school, ready to play with my action figures (had planned out a massive assault at school) and saw that my mother was a little bit pale. In a serious tone she asked me to sit on the couch. She told me, when walking through the house she accidentally stepped on some of my action figures. I had quit a few, so I asked her which ones, but I have to admit I was starting to sweat a little bit. She showed me the Darth Vader figure. His left arm was nicked, but he was more or less in tact. Just as I was about to relax she showed me another action figure. It was the headless Lando Calrissian. I remember very distinctively her worried look on her face. She felt really bad about this, also because his head itself was still missing. After a good 2 hour search we found him, tried to glue the head back on without success. We then went to the toy store to get a new action figure, but the Lando action figure was sold out and never returned. I was heartbroken for a week, buried Lando in the backyard and moved on. Apart from this live-changing incident I had a pretty good childhood and an awesome mom.
TOM MCLOUGHLIN (Director of JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH VI)
When did my love of STAR WARS begin? On May 25, 1977 at the FIRST Showing at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. NONE of us knew what we were about to see that would change EVERYTHING. From just the trailer we were pumped with adrenaline and high expectations. BUT it was an experience BEYOND anything we all collectively imagined.
To discover this movie with a 1000 movie fans who had no reviews or word of mouth only a trailer and a ‘new hope’….was one of THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE MOVIE EXPERIENCES that, unfortunately, will never happen again. Like the first time you fall in love…everything after is compared to that. But you keep going back again and again. There I was last night on Hollywood Blvd almost 40 years later…reconnecting with The Force that is such a part of my life. How could I not be?”
One of my earliest memories is seeing the swamp planet of Dagobah on a larger-than-life movie screen and a decade later, after receiving “the trilogy” on VHS for Christmas, the bulk of my early-teen years were spent, literally, watching at least one STAR WARS film a week. So STAR WARS has always been a significant part of my life. It was the feelings of excitement and wonder that those films (as well as the making-of documentary From STAR WARS to JEDI: THE MAKING OF A SAGA) gave me that ignited my passion and love for cinema and led me to go to film school. And it was my parents’ beat up vinyl LP of John Williams’ score that made me fall in love with film music as an art form, which eventually led to my writing a book about film scoring. STAR WARS not only changed cinema and the world forever, but also my life.
It seems that in recent years many jaded listeners have accused John Williams of being a thief, stealing from the likes of Gustav Holst, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Igor Stravinsky to create the various STAR WARS cues that we have come to know and love. When these various musical pieces in question are played back to back, yes we can hear the similarities, but the truth is most (if not all) art is derivative. How can it not be? The STAR WARS series itself is derivative of all the things that influenced George Lucas–from the bible and the works of Akira Kurosawa to the FLASH GORDON serials and even John Carpenter’s DARK STAR. The fact that it shares similarities with other works does not make it any less great.
John Williams’ genius has always been his ability to take familiar musical motifs and apply them to images and narrative in an absolutely original and perfect way. With his work on STAR WARS, he undeniably crafted a score that not only supports the film, but also elevates it to greatness. His work gave the film (and series) gravitas and credibility and with a score any less grandiose, we likely would not still be discussing these films almost 40 years later and anticipating an 8th (and 9th) installment into the series. So God bless John Williams and despite all his tinkering, God bless George Lucas too, for giving us arguably the greatest and most important film trilogy of all time.
GREG GUNTER (Actor BEAR CITY trilogy)
STAR WARS warped the celestial sphere of every 12 year old who dreamt he didn’t belong on this planet. I was one of those kids who thought for certain aliens plopped me out of the sky for safe keeping; that any moment, my species would arrive & whisk me away.
My family was loving, but circumstances beyond my control weighed heavily on my young soul. STAR WARS whisked me off to a plane where non-human beings interacted, made bad repetitive music, battled, laughed, held sway over each other, & fought valiantly to right universal wrongs. After each viewing, I dreamt I was Luke, or sometimes, Leia, but more often Darth Vader with his mystical powers to overcome the antagonistic forces the 12 year old encountered. As often I might be any number of anamorphic entities with a metaphysical prowess & a depth of perception I KNEW I possessed and could use to fight against a deep-seated Evil.
STAR WARS opened the portal where I ventured beyond this beautiful tiny blue planet, beyond my fated milieu, beyond the speeds of light. I signed my papers, Darth Gunter, or some variation, until I got to High School. That first day signature didn’t go over so well.