Star Wars Celebration is always an event, no matter what the year, but this year happens to be a particularly special one: it’s the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope! And in keeping with such a special anniversary, Celebration made sure to blow the doors off (at least so far) with surprise guests, elaborate tributes and touching never-before-seen footage.
Warwick Davis hosted the kickoff event for Star Wars Celebration 2017, and brought out a slew of important and notable Star Wars personalities: George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, Dave Filoni, Ian McDiarmid, Hayden Christensen, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Billie Lourd and John Williams were all there in person, with Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson making appearances via video message.
There were tons of surprises, priceless moments and more than a few tears shed at the very special anniversary. Here’s everything we learned at the 40th anniversary panel at Star Wars Celebration:
- The first guest joining host Davis was Lucas, who riveted the crowd of fans with the story of how the crazy little thing called Star Wars came to be. “The idea was simply to do high adventure film with meaningful psychological themes,” Lucas explained. But while Star Wars has countless fans of every age, he also pointed out a not-so secret secret of the franchise: “I’m not supposed to say this, and I wasn’t supposed to say it at the time, but [Star Wars] is a film for 12-year-olds.”
- Davis shared his memories of first joining the Star Wars cast when he was eleven years old, and then revealed a sweet message that he wrote to Lucas after the completion of the film (that included the adorable addition of “I hope you remember me”) requesting that Lucas send him all the new action figures based on the film. He did – and Davis says he still has them to this day, save for the vinyl capes, “because you always lose those.”
- Joining Lucas on stage first was Filoni, known for his work on Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, who shared the biggest piece of advice Lucas ever gave him. “Don’t be afraid. Make no decision out of fear.”
- The first official surprise of the panel came in the form of a video panel from Qui-Gon himself, Neeson, who joked that he was on the set of the next Star Wars spinoff, following Jar Jar Binks. “And yes, he has gone to the dark side.”
- McDiarmid graced the stage to share the story of how he joined the Star Wars universe, but anyone hoping for an extensive look at the ins and outs of the Star Wars casting process will be disappointed. “George asked me if I knew anybody who wanted to be an emperor, and I said, ‘yes, me.'”
- Christensen joined McDiarmid onstage to reveal that his most prominent Star Wars difficulty was not making the iconic lightsaber sound during his intense battles.
- Jackson arrived via video message to tease the potential return of Mace Windu. “He is awaiting his return!” Is a #JusticeForMaceWindu campaign on its way?
- Speaking with Daniels, Lucas revealed that the hardest part of designing C3PO was ensuring that his face was completely neutral – “that’s why I hired a mime.”
- Lucas also revealed, along with Mayhew, that Wookies were originally supposed to be descendants of Ewoks and as a result had a much smaller role in the films. Eventually, Lucas decided that Chewbacca needed to be a fixture in the franchise. (Thank goodness!)
- Williams appeared, cool as ever, to reflect on Lando, who he said was initially fascinated by because of “that cape” and because he had an Armenian name. Williams closed by saying it was like “heaven” to work with Lucas.
- Hamill appeared to reflect on the franchise and his immense love for his fans, and chatted with Lucas about his casting process, which apparently took over a year to complete and boiled down to one particular perk for Lucas: “…the fact that he was shorter than me [helped a lot]”, Lucas joked.