It hit me while I was talking to Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Director Orson Krennic in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” how so many people share a similar experience when it comes to the franchise. It doesn’t matter your race, sex or planet of birth.
Mendelsohn is an Australian actor who saw “Star Wars !V: A New Hope” when it was originally released in theaters in 1977. He was only 7 but the film had a lasting impact on him. He’s an accomplished actor who has worked in films and TV for decades but admits to often reverting to that 7-year-old version of himself when he was on the set.
I was a few years older than 7 when I saw “A New Hope” in a theater in Northern Kentucky. The memory of looking over my shoulder when the giant ship seemed to be passing over my head is as vivid today as when it happened. And, I’ve reached and age where it is difficult to remember what I had for breakfast.
It was at that moment I became a fan. That includes buying way too much “Star Wars” merchandise.
Never did I imagine when I was being pulled into that galaxy far, far away that my life path would bring me even closer to the “Star Wars” universe. Over the weekend, I was in San Francisco seeing footage of “Rogue One” and talking to the cast. Those stories and my review will publish for the Dec. 16 opening.
Like Mendelsohn, there were moments when I found myself feeling like that young man seeing his first “Star Wars” movie as I traveled to Skywalker Ranch for the screening and spent the day at the Industrial Light and Magic offices for the interviews.
I was there to do a job but it was impossible to leave all my passion for the franchise at the door especially walking through facilities with props from “Rogue One” and other “Star Wars” films. In the Skywalker Ranch theater, I was only a few rows from where George Lucas would sit to screen the “Star Wars” films.
“Star Wars” history runs deep in both facilities. Years ago such a connection seemed as impossible as an Ewok being able to defeat a Stormtrooper. Strange things do happen.
Except for a trip to the Skywalker Ranch gift shop (Who knew they made Skywalker honey?), I was able to focus on the job at hand. Mendelsohn told me that because of his love of “Star Wars,” it was impossible to have a bad day when filming. And, he shot scenes in an open field with frozen ice hitting him.
That’s the way I felt about my weekend at Skywalker Ranch and ILM.
The weekend was a great reminder that there will be young people who have never seen a “Star Wars” movie who go to see “Rogue One.” I’m envious of them getting introduced to this world for the first time and wish each to have the last experience Mendelsohn and I have had.