The Force Awakens
On December 31, 2015, I found myself sitting in a movie theater with my boyfriend at 4pm. Unless it's a screening for work, I never got to the movies in the middle of the afternoon. But this New Years Eve was special, because I was watching Star Wars. Okay sure, it was the third time I was watching The Force Awakens. But I rarely see a movie more than twice, so that alone made it special. You see, Star Wars has been one of my favorite franchises since I was a little girl; I pride myself on seeing the entire original trilogy before I went to Kindergarten. I've been in love with Han Solo (and Harrison Ford) for as long as I can remember. And alternately, I will never forgive George Lucas for the devolution of Natalie Portman's Queen Amidala/Padmé (I was only 9 when Episode I arrived, so a strong independent elected official dying of ennui because her husband went to the dark side sent all kinds of terrible signals)! So as you can imagine my excitement for Episode VII was through the roof. I had my sights set on screening the movie early from the moment it was announced and was thrilled when our Senior Producer told me she'd gotten me a ticket to the screening! I never truly imagined I'd attend the world premiere, but as the date approached, I became more hopeful as I didn't see another producer assigned. The Friday before the premiere, I decided to go for it and ask if I could help out. I was in a meeting when I got the news via text.
I WAS PRODUCING THE PREMIERE!!
Producing the Star Wars The Force Awakens WORLD PREMIERE!!
At the Chinese Theater!!
On Hollywood Boulevard!!
With one of my favorite hosts!!
With Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and HARRISON FORD!!!!!!
There's nothing like trying to keep all that crazy inside during a 401(k) meeting. Anyway, I resolved right then and there that this shoot would be different. As awful as it seems, most of the time I'm too focused on doing a good job to really have fun on these shoots. And I'll be the first to admit that I've missed a lot of the wonder and excitement by being a little too cool and professional. But that was NOT going to happen this time, not a chance! This was a moment I'd been waiting for since the reboot was announced, if not my whole life.
So when Monday arrived, I went for it. I took pictures of EVERYTHING, just in case my memory was overwhelmed trying to take in everything at once. In every way, the carpet was a spectacle. Press couldn't even park on site - we had to be shuttled from the nearby Hollywood Bowl. Disney constructed a giant black tent in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, shutting down the street beginning on Thursday (4 days before the premiere, which is longer than the street is shut down for the Oscars). The tent featured giant Force Awakens logos, the revolving set of posters for the film and light saber lighting effects. Needless to say, it was SO impressive and perfectly lit!
The event began with a parade of Stormtroopers in their new white uniforms (I do love the new helmet design) and the droids - R2-D2 and C3PO arrived as a pair before newcomer (and the cutest droid ever) BB-8 made its red carpet debut. Then it was time for cast arrivals! When it came to interviews, this red carpet was different than most for a couple of reasons. The first and most important being that none of the press had seen the film! Not seeing the film beforehand is very rare and makes it a little difficult to write questions. So during our interviews, we were completely in the dark about the plot of the film and the significance, identity or look of some of the characters (like Lupita Nyong'o's Maz Kanata or Andy Serkis's Supreme Leader Snoke), so we had to dig for any bit of information we could get! The second rarity was that the tip sheet (or list of expected attendees) only included the cast, so we had no idea who else would be walking the carpet and could not prepare questions ahead of time for them either. Every red carpet arrival was a surprise that added to the excitement of the night!
The celebs were impressed by the scale too! The newcomers and red carpet veterans alike hadn't seen anything quite like this. Rob Lowe said the event made the "Oscars look like a backyard picnic." And the stars who arrived were top notch as well - Sofia Vergara (wearing Leia buns) and Joe Manganiello made their red carpet debut as man and wife, Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed up dressed as Yoda; Josh Gad fan-girled SO hard; Gina Rodriguez snuck in amid rumors she's up for a role in Episode VIII; not to mention an assembly of some of the greatest directors of all time (George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee and the man of the hour JJ Abrams)! The night was in many ways a blur, but equally eventful - to be honest, I don't really have words to describe how I was feeling. I do know I was cold and exhausted!
But the emotions I felt the next day when I read the opening crawl for the first time in the screening room on the Disney lot and watching my boyfriend experience it wide-eyed and spoiler free on opening night a few days later sure enhanced the experience!
To say I could die happy now would be cliche, because I probably won't be happy until I get to live an experience like that again. I think I'll be chasing that high for a while. So until then, I'll always have the memory of that incredible day in December 2015 and the weeks that followed, when my life was fully consumed by Star Wars.