About a month ago we reported Lucasfilm would be doing a special one-night-only charity screening of The Empire Strikes Back at the Arclight in Hollywood with Harrison Ford doing a very rare on-stage Q&A! The screening would benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and tickets were $100 each. Well, tonight was the screening and while I was curious how the event would play out, I’ll admit as a lifelong Star Wars fan, getting to see Ford talk for 30 minutes about playing Han Solo was very cool.
Since the theater only held about 400 people, I decided to take notes on the Q&A and also write about the entire night. For a full recap, hit the jump:
As I said, the event was held at the best theater in Los Angeles – the Arclight in Hollywood. Outside the theater Lucasfilm had set up a red carpet and while Harrison Ford is definitely press shy and has been very quiet about his work in the Star Wars movies, I watched him work the line like a pro and talk to a ton of people. I was very surprised. Of course other celebs were in attendance, but I was hanging with friends inside the lobby. Saying that, I know Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan were in attendance as well as Jon Favreau and Marvel President Kevin Feige. In fact, I saw Favreau and Feige sitting together and after the Q&A ended I talked to Feige for awhile. But that’s further into the story…
When the event started, some people from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital thanked everyone for their donations and we learned a bit about the hospital and what they do for kids. It’s a very meaningful cause that I was happy to help support.
After the short intro, everyone took their seats and the movie started. Beforehand, some of us were wondering what version of The Empire Strikes Back Lucasfilm would show. I can report it was a digital copy of the special edition without the Luke scream. If you’re a Star Wars fan…you know what I’m talking about.
While I’m not a fan of the Star Wars and Return of the Jedi special editions, I have to say watching Empire tonight…I had forgotten how amazing the movie is. We’ve all been so sour on Star Wars due to how badly we were treated by the prequels, I’ll admit to forgetting how much I love those first two movies. Watching Empire tonight, I’ll admit to disappearing into the movie and being blown away by how the movie has stood the test of time. Yeah the Wampas and Tauntauns still don’t look great…but who cares. The movie is amazing and tonight’s screening was perfect.
As the movie played, the audience erupted whenever key characters made their first appearance and of course when Han Solo came on screen everyone went crazy.
After the screening ended, Harrison Ford and Geoff Boucher from the L.A. Times sat on two chairs next to a 30th Anniversary Empire Strikes Back poster and did a 30 minute Q&A. While I wasn’t able to write down everything that was said…I did my best to write a lot of it down and here’s the bullet point recap.
- Ford admitted he hadn’t watched The Empire Strikes Back in 30 years. He watched it with all of us in the theater tonight.
- He was asked about the way people love Star Wars and why do people love it so much. He said it had to do with the story, the music and what George did but he didn’t know why it struck such a chord.
- He has asked how he came to be in Star Wars and told the story everyone knows about being a carpenter and doing the auditions with everyone
- Ford was incredibly soft spoken during almost all his answers.
- Was asked when he found out that Vader was Luke’s father. Said he knew going into filming
- Was asked about the great lines of dialogue he got to say in the movie
- What does he think about Star Wars, Indiana Jones and American Graffiti and the period the films were made in.
- Was asked about the challenges of filming The Empire Strikes Back. Said Norway was the biggest challenge because his costume was designed for filming on stage and not on location. Also, the only way to get to set was on a snow plow and the conditions were so severe that they put the camera at the back of the hotel and filmed 12 feet from the door.
- Talked about working for Irvin Kershner and how great he was to work for
- Was asked when he found out he’d be working with a character that didn’t talk much and what was his reaction. Told a funny story about how they all wanted to get inside the Millenium Falcon while it was being built but they weren’t allowed till the day they had to film in it. Then he talked about how hard it was for Peter Mayhew to get into his seat in the cockpit as he was too big for the small space.
- Talked about asking how was he supposed to fly the Falcon and how no one knew
- Was asked if it was true that he wanted Han Solo to die in the original trilogy. Said it would have created “an emotional bottom but George didn’t agree.”
- Talked about how he was getting ready to work with Jon Favreau on Cowboys & Aliens and how excited he was for it
–At this point, the audience was allowed to ask questions–
- Did he see the movie with his kids when it first came out and did they think of him as a superstar
- Did he come up with the “I Love You” “I Know” exchange himself? Said it didn’t go over well with George at the time as he wanted “I Love You” “I Love You To”. Said they shot a few versions of the scene and ultimately Kershner got what he wanted after a San Francisco test screening. Went onto say he takes no ownership of the line as every film is a collaborative effort.
- Wouldn’t answer who he plays in Cowboys & Aliens but then he said he plays a Cowboy in the 1870’s and it’s like a John Ford western and then stuff happens.
- What advice did Alec Guinness give him? Said it was about housing as he wasn’t getting enough money to really get a place when they were filming in London. Said he watched Star Wars for the first time in forever to get ready for the event tonight and realized that he’s older than Alec was on Star Wars. He wasn’t happy to realize that.
- Was asked if anything was cut out from Empire and said George used everything he paid for.
And just like that…it was over.
As the theater started to empty out, I got to talk to Kevin Feige for a few minutes. He told me he just approved some of the Iron Man 2 DVD extras and he’s getting ready to spend the summer in Europe on Captain America. He was still standing next to Jon Favreau and they both seemed happy to be there. Here’s hoping the friendship will lead to Favreau making Iron Man 3 or another Marvel movie.
Overall I had a great time tonight. While I’ve definitely fallen out of love with Star Wars over the past decade, there is no denying The Empire Strikes Back is an incredible movie and getting to see it tonight with Harrison Ford also watching it for the first time in 30 years and then doing a Q&A was worth every penny.
And for another look at tonight’s event, here’s Germain Lussier’s reaction. he also mentions some of the other celebs in attendance.
Most people would agree that $100 is a tad too much to pay for a movie. However, considering we regularly pay $15 for a crappy movie, tonight, $100 for an epic masterpiece felt just about right. I’m referring, of course, to the Lucasfilm 30thThe Empire Strikes Back at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood, CA with special guest Harrison Ford.
Right off the bat, your $100 ticket, was a total win because it went entirely to St. Judes Children’s Hospital. But if that wasn’t enough, you got free soda, popcorn, a giftbag worth around $75 or so, and an absolutely perfect screening of Empire with an audience that included Ewan McGregor, Jon Favreau, Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams among others, followed by a special Q&A with the most elusive and revered Star Wars star there is: Harrison Ford.
The energy of the night was truly magical. From the red carpet, where someone as incredible as Christopher Nolan could sneak by unnoticed due to the throng of Ford autograph hounds, to the theater bar, where comedians like Paul Scheer and rock stars like Mark Hoppus were just hanging out, to the theater aisles, where normal fans could, in theory, lean over and tap the head of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige on the shoulder, the entire thing was kind of surreal, chill and awesome.
Then there’s the film. A film we’re all familiar with through and through, but few have seen with literally perfect surround sound, seat shuttering bass and flawless picture quality. The movie itself remains pretty flawless too 30 years after its release and reminds its audience that we should demand more from our movies. If films like this – so perfect, so subtle, so exciting – were possible three decades ago, we should expect them to come along now too. The fact that I have no qualms about paying over 5 times the current average ticket price to watch a movie I’ve probably seen three or four dozen times speaks volumes.
Sure, Ford only talked for 25 minutes and really didn’t say anything too incredible, but that didn’t matter. Tonight was about donating money to kids in need and celebrating a film that still serves as an inspiration to us all. Happy birthday Empire. Thanks for the memories.