Star Wars (later also known as Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope) erupted onto the movie scene in 1977. I was not quite seven years old when it debuted, and I remember seeing the sign in front of Lexington Mall. A giant, ugly sign of brown with a yellow logo, and large yellow space with text on it announcing the latest movies playing at the two screen theater there.
The summer of 1977. I’m not sure how many times I saw it then, or how many times I’ve seen it since. More than a few, to say the least. Empire and Jedi both played all summer long when they were released, and it became a tradition to see each just before school started in August. Regardless, I’ve seen the original trilogy many times, in every incarnation possible. The originals. The Special Editions. The re-imagining by George Lucas. (Anakin as a ghost at the end of Jedi should be Sebastian Shaw. But I do like the touch of Temurra Morrison voicing ALL of the stormtroopers in those.)
Then came the break. Years went by, then the announcement came. Star Wars; Episode One was on the way. The trailer was to debut online (a first at that time) before worldwide release with that weekends movies. But it was also to play in very few select cities with certain movies. My choices were The Waterboy or Meet Joe Black.
I drove an hour and a half to watch the first taste of NEW Star Wars footage that came out to just over two minutes. And sat through The Waterboy to see it a second time. (I despised Adam Sandler then, and had no liking of football, either.)
Episodes 1, 2 and 3? Midnight shows and multiple viewings in the first weekends of release. And then, my great realization.
Star Wars was over. Episode Three completed the story arc, and Lucas had already said that was the end. Three completed the story as I knew it, and there was nothing left to tell. Sure, there were comics to come, and rumors of an animated series. But the Star Wars I grew up with had reached its conclusion.
It was time to put it away. Put the toys in the attic, dispose of the shrine to Lucas I had accumulated, piece by piece, and get on with being a “grown up” member of society. So, that’s what I did. I’d also heard of a costuming group called the 501st Legion. That looked like it would have been fun a few years back, but Star Wars was done and gone.
And then, October 30, 2012 struck.
"Disney buying Lucasfilm, will release new 'Star Wars' movie in 2015"
It’s like I was a teenager all over again, but with the financial income to REALLY jump in. Star Wars was back with a vengeance. A new episode to continue the original story. SEVEN was in the works. Later, JJ Abrams was tagged to direct. And today, the announcement of the cast: all the originals are back, and young blood is being brought in. I honestly have no idea who they are today, but I’m sure that will change soon.
Which all leads me back to being in the 501st. October 30 brought me back into the fold, and the decision was made right around then. The 501st needed a Vader who was as imposing as the character in the movie. That short Vader in Philly just wouldn’t do, if I had anything to say about it.
Today, the cast was announced. Exactly a week ago, I got the email that said Lucasfilm says my costume is one of the best.
Congratulations, you have been selected to play the role of Vader for the Star Wars nights games for the Cincinnati Reds."
I’m all in, barreling towards Star Wars, Episode VII. And playing the biggest, baddest Vader seen since Return of the Jedi.
And I still owe you, dear reader, a story on how I found the 501st in little ole Lexington, Kentucky. Stay tuned. That one is on deck...