From the a-hole side of the galaxy come the a-hole Jedi, a nefarious gang of force pumped douche bags who use the force in ways that Yoda never thought of. But Master Windu might’ve. And Darth Vader definitely did. When not slicing up post boxes in pleasant neighbourhood streets, the Jedi a-holes like nothing more than being douches at the mall, or perhaps the beach. And if that weren’t enough – here’s the making of Jedi A-holes and how to do Lightsabres (a trick we already know but haven’t had a chance to do here at BTB)!! Well it’s almost Christmas isn’t it.
Hard to know what was going into George Lucas’ head when the Star Wars trailer went out in Cinema Screens throughout the US. In the time it had taken him to create Star Wars Pinewood studios employees had been openly laughing at the the weird menagerie of creatures parading between the sound stages. A young director with a decent success under his belt, Lucas was dealing with dissent and boredom from his actors, most prominently the seasoned actor Alec Guinness. If you credit Lucas with nothing else it has to be vision and tenacity as he stuck resolutely to his lasers. Luck is in there somewhere but in 1977 something kicked off in cinemas throughout the world that literally changed the shape of popular culture for the remaining final fifth of the Twentieth Century.
Introducing in the first three minutes, characters that would become cultural icons, Darth Vader (voted No.1 Villain of all time in an Empire poll), C-3PO, R2-D2 (later to get their own series) and Princess Leia. The assured nature of what new audiences saw on that screen was due to Lucas’ faultless vision and willingness to experiment.
On a reportedly shoe string budget of (equivilent) $1 Million (a pittance for a sprawling space saga) for special effects some of the effects footage was filmed using a truck, firecrackers and a moving truck.
Produced with a budget of $11 million and released on May 25, 1977, the film went on to earn $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, surpassing Jaws as the highest-grossing film of all time at the time. Among the many awards the film received, it gained ten Academy Award nominations, winning six; the nominations included Best Supporting Actor for Alec Guinness and Best Picture. Lucas has re-released the film on several occasions, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions are the 1997 Special Edition and the 2004 DVD release, which have modified computer-generated effects, altered dialogue, and added scenes. As if you didn’t know that already.
But more than that – it has become part of a tiny canon of cultural flagships – markers of culture throughout history – culturally equivalent (at least thus far though history’ll tell) as the Odyssey, Macbeth and (incredibly) with the effect of a religious text. If you are in doubt attend the same conventions I do and keep your eyes open for Stormtroopers.
What was presented to an excited public was this and still to this day, those who attended the premier screenings across the US, UK and ultimately the globe still talk about the awe inspiring moment the star destroyer flew overhead. From that moment on, with hindsight, it seems obvious now that Star Wars was a revolution that would spawn a million more stories and an entire universe of possibilities for a multitude of fans.
On May 4th 2007, the Star Wars Exhibition in London opened at the County Hall in Westminster, overlooking the Thames and the Houses of Parliament. With marble staircases and pillars, wood panelled hallways and shiny floors you could be mistaken for thinking you were walking the halls of Naboo (if you were a fan boy). Assembled at the opening were a group of actors who had associated themselves with Star Wars at Chessington. They were Tom Jordan, Seb Morgan, Alan Mandel Butler, Sydnee Howard and Jack Gavin. Also present was Marcus Sinclair, a man who had overcome considerable resistance from Lucasarts to become the Emperor in the Exhibition. 2 weeks later they took on myself and a number of actors to represent Jedi. Nicknamed on my first day the ‘Landlord Jedi’ by Alistair Reith (another actor), I managed to find a niche as Taaka Dahl (a Red Dwarf gag), Rebel Trooper.
It was made clear by Lucasarts that we couldn’t use existing character names and had to develop our own. While mine never developed beyond Sergeant in the rebel army (occassionally busted up to Jedi Master and in a particularly cool moment, a Tie Fighter Commander called Count Nefar the audiences never really got on board with). In the main hall, a high domed chamber like a grand circular court room the hourly (half hourly) show took place to the excitement of pretty much every kid (and adult). The Jedi School followed a rushed teaching of the way of the force to chosen Padawan (kids) in order to defend them from the newly apparent Sith. The Emperor would appear and threaten the Jedi Master and his Padawan as well as the assembled kids before the great set piece.
The Main Chamber - County Hall, Westminster
The lights would go out leaving only the flickering lightsabres at the centre of the room visible and three mechanical breaths would steadily sound. With the beginning of the Imperial March, the assembled characters, Padawans and visitors were presented with a familiar silhouette in the high vaulted doorway. Darth Vader would descend doiwn the steps with the music, the Jedi Master calling out orders to everyone assembled pointlessly over the noise and chaos. Some kid must have wet themselves with excitement at the sight of the seven foot giant striding slowly down the steps towards the Padawans. It was clear to me whenever I saw it that this was the stuff straight out of the movies. The divide between the two was seamless. We saw US versions with chubby American accented Obi Wan look a likes playing at Star Wars but the combination of the chamber and the lighting rig, the music, the english accents, the quality of the costumes (by Stephen Du Toit – mate to the Bunker), the master cast versions of the lightsabres that swooshed and lit up accurately, the real 7 foot Vader (played by official giant Daniel Vivien) and the atmosphere combined into something more real and engaging than I saw anywhere else. It gave me ideas….
FIRST PAGE OF ISSUE 1 OF LOST JEDI. DESIGNED BY ME IN 2009.
In the Star Wars movies the one point in which there are Padawans and Sith is at the end of Part III: Revenge of the Sith. This is always the most interesting part of the story and at the time the one that Lucasarts had missed. That of the decimation of the Jedi and the New Empires pursuit of those that were left. Perfect conditions for a great story, Jedis as rebels and the early formed Empire doing all it can to hunt them down. In the same period all the actors had developed their own characters, each with characteristics very different to all others. The proud and confident Padawan Man El Perio (played by Alan Mandel Butler) stood beside the stern and irrascible Rial Shif (played by Alistiar Reith). As the Exhibition came to its end it seemed to me that the best way to celebrate my time there was to bring the characters to life in the only way available to me. Over the next few months, artworks were produced of every member of the cast with the addition of side characters and enemies. Each carried its own name and steadily built into a story that may never be told anywhere else.
Its a tale of Jedi on the run and a desperate attempt to circumvent the terrible fate of an entire galaxy by brave souls in difficult stuff. I’m convinced if it ever saw the light of day it’d be enormous but short of a phone call to/from George Lucas this is the only place you’ll be able to see it. The entire story exists and much of it will be realised with the introduction of the characters but the spoilers have been kept to an absolute minimum. All you’ll find here is the character art and their starting points in the tale. If you want to see more, call George Lucas and give him my number.