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Saturday, May 07, 2005

I didn't really make it that clear in the story, but I do not work for Lucasfilm, ILM, or any other Lucas company. My buddy does, and that's how I got invited.

I saw Revenge of the Sith today. I am still in awe, and still going through withdrawls. The film was great. I won't spoil it for any of you reading this that haven't read any spoilers, but let me say this: It delivers. I'm not ashamed that I cried a few times during the movie either. It's emotional.

No, what I'm going to write about is my actual experience and how it turned out to be a day I will never forget, a once in a lifetime experience. It's pretty neat getting to be a Star Wars fan in the bay area, considering George Lucas himself is from around here. That sentence is a perfect prelude into the events that happened today.

I woke up at 5:04 a.m. My alarm was supposed to go off at 5am, but I guess my wife hit the snooze button. As soon as I opened my eyes, I shot out of bed like a blast from the death star. Got in the shower, showered in record time, put my clothes on, waited for my buddy to finish getting ready, and we were out the door at 5:35 a.m. Our destination was Lowes Metreon theater in San Francisco. All Lucas employees were given a choice to see Episode III at one of four theaters around the bay area. We chose Lowes because it was the only one with a digital display. What a lucky pick that turned out to be!

We got to San Francisco around 6:20 a.m. Parked the car, and got straight in line outside. We were about 20th or so. The doors weren't going to open until around 9 a.m., so we had some waiting to do. Those three hours however went by faster than you could imagine. I am a huge Star Wars fan, and to be that immersed with fellow fans and people who work for ILM and Lucasfilm was purely amazing. Ryan Church, and his team of artists that did all of the designs and art for Revenge of the Sith were right ahead of us in line. I talked to him a little bit about what it was like seeing the things he drew 3 years ago being put up on the big screen and being bought by guys like me in toy stores around the world. His answer is what you would imagine, he said it was "just amazing."

We all played Star Wars trivial pursuit for about an hour until around 8:45 a.m. when someone right behind us said "have you looked at how big the line is lately?" So I stepped out of line and looked all the way down the street. There were over 1500 people in line waiting to see the employee screening of the film! And these were people who actually worked on the film! I was #20 or so, and the guy who was the principal of photography must have been #1248! That's crazy! How did I get so lucky?!? I thanked God right there! People who have worked for George their entire lives were walking all the way to the end of the line. Hey, the handout they gave all of us said specifically "No saving places in line, or seats."

9 a.m. finally rolls around and the line starts to move inside the theater. They grabbed that green ticket that you can see above the first paragraph and off we went. The only theater in the entire building that was playing the movie digitally was theater number 15. So walking as fast as I possibly could without getting in trouble for running, I made it to theater 15. To my amazement, no one was sitting in the middle rows yet, so I hopped right in and sat down. As soon as my butt hit the seat, one of the ushers said "Excuse me sir you can't sit there." I said "Excuse me? I've been in line since 6:30. I think we should be able to sit wherever we want!" Nicely, but firmly the usher quipped back, "Sorry sir, those seats are for George and his family".
The usher didn't need to say anything else. I knew exactly who George was before she even finished that sentence. George Lucas was going to be watching Episode III with all of us. Whoa. I needed a seat after hearing that. So I climbed up about 4 rows where the seats weren't reserved anymore and sat down.

About 15 minutes passed and I got to talking to the girl next to me. Her name was Maggie. She works at ILM. Right in the middle of one of her sentences she says "Oh my God, there's Robin Williams!" And sure enough, grabbing his seat 3 rows ahead of us was Mork himself. I guess he was trying to be inconspicuous and go low-profile, because he was wearing the brightest orange shirt I've ever seen.

A few minutes passed and out of my right I see a gray haired guy in the same row as Robin Williams talking to a few people. It was the man. For the first time in my life, not only was I in the same room as George Lucas, but I was actually looking at him in real life, not via my tv. Time stood still for a few moments. Somewhere, God was smiling for me. I don't know how George slipped in without thunderous applause, but somehow he did. I was waiting for people to start whispering and then go into thunderous applause, but it never happened. George just shook hands and hugged the people around him, and then went over about 8 chairs to sit next to Robin Williams for about 10 minutes.

I would have loved to have heard what they were saying, because every 30 seconds or so, they both started laughing out loud. I'm sure Robin Williams was being his usual self, but I can count the times on two fingers that I've seen George Lucas laugh. He is always very serious and diplomatic when he gives interviews, so it was candid to see him relaxed and jovial. I really wish I could have been able to hear them, but seeing it was pretty neat too.

After George went back to his seat and settled in, the lights dimmed. Everyone cheered before anything was even shown on the screen. They showed a 10 second Digital Screen promo and then BOOM, right into the 20th Century Fox logo. Applause. Lucasfilm logo. Thunderous ovation. STAR WARS. Louder than any movie theater cheer I have ever heard or been a part of. Now I'm not going to describe how great the movie was, or anything about it. I'm sure you can read one of any number of reviews on the internet right now. Like I said, it delivered. This is the movie that Star Wars fans have been waiting for since 1983 since Return of the Jedi.

As I watched the film in awe, not really comprehending that I was actually sitting in the same theater with George Lucas, Robin Williams, Rick McCallum, the art dept, etc etc, I couldn't help from doing something from time to time. I found myself every 10 or 15 minutes looking a few rows ahead of me at George watching to see his reaction to his own creation. Granted I couldn't see his facial expressions, but he was just as into it as the rest of us. Applauding when the rest of us applauded, laughing at the jokes that he undoubltedly wrote himself. Surreal is all I can say. I get goose bumps just writing about it right now. At one point during the Anakin vs. Obi-Wan fight, he leaned to the person on his left and whispered something in his ear. As much as I wished I could hear what he and Robin Williams were talking about, I would have given just about anything to hear his own commentary on his film. Sure, you can hear his commentary on the DVD when you buy it 6 months from now, but that's not the same as when it's all fresh in his head and he is not being interviewed or otherwise recorded for future reference. I bet he was saying things that he'll never repeat again.

After the final scene, the blue font credits appeared. George's name was first. My friend and I were the first and only people to stand up and start cheering. Everyone else remained seated while they applauded. And that's the difference between myself and every other Star Wars fan. I love these films. They are a part of me. Standing up to thank the man who was responsible for it all was a natural reaction. I'm also proud to say that I was the only person who yelled "THANK YOU GEORGE!!" as I applauded. The clapping went on throughout the entire credits. It would get louder as the people who were in attendance names appeared on screen. You'd hear a section in the lower left corner cheer really loud as someones name came on, and other parts of the theater as well when other names appeared. Not one person left during the credits. Not one person. After the final credits rolled, and the lights came on, everyone finally stood up and looked at George. The whole theater knew where he was sitting. We all turned to him and clapped for at least another 2 minutes. Finally, when we had stopped, George said something. "Thank you everyone, without you all, this wouldn't have been possible." And to that I say, No George, thank you. Without you, none of this would have ever happened in the first place.

After the movie, all four theaters that the film was shown at throughout the bay area converged at the new site for Lucasfilm, ILM and Lucasarts, at the Presidio. We had lunch inside the building which was decorated with 20 foot posters from the film, and many of the costumes and props as well. At one point, right before I left, George Lucas was standing around 3 or 4 people. He wasn't really talking to them, as he seemed to be just taking it all in. I realized I was staring at a once in a lifetime moment. So I walked up to him, put my hand on his back and said "George, my name is Ricky Borba and I just wanted to say thank you for Star Wars. You have no idea what it means to me." After I finished my sentence, George extended his hand out towards mine, I grabbed it and we shook hands. He said "Ricky, it's my pleasure."

And I believe him. He loves Star Wars just as much as I do.
posted by Ricky @ 9:05 PM  
  • At 5/07/2005 11:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cool story!

    PS:What's up with your webcam? Me no see Ricky.

  • At 5/08/2005 07:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow Ricky!!

    I remember I went to Starwars in 1978 and to me that was a great film.. I'm looking forward to seeing the new one, yes it was a once in a lifetime for you, I'm glad you made the move. I'm very happy for you and when I meet Eddie Money I had the greatest feeling too. Thank God for bringing people that we admire into our lives and friends like you! :)

  • At 5/08/2005 10:12:00 AM, Blogger Jackson said…

    You are a funny man, Ricky Borba. Glad you had such a good time.

  • At 5/08/2005 11:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    and mom says. . .

    Wow Ricky, You were right up next to the man whose creation set the direction for your most beloved hobby in life - NO I SAY - IS YOUR LIFE - and you restrained yourself?

    Wow! You're awesome. I think you found your niche.
    You should be giving seminars and getting rich teaching people how to
    withhold thier emotions.

  • At 5/08/2005 09:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    you didn't ask for a hug,I'm suprised! ^_^


  • At 5/09/2005 12:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congratulations on such a mile marker in your life! I'm happy for you. Can you arrange a similar meeting between Shakira and me? :)

  • At 5/09/2005 12:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wow!!! what a great opportunity congratulations...

  • At 5/10/2005 09:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, I don't know anything about "Blogging" and never heard of Pyra. Besides, their terms of service are just too long to read. But anyway it sure sounds like you had a great experience at the showing of the film... especially meeting Mr. Lucas. Now I'm even more anxious to see the film myself. Meanwhile I'll be stuffing down those Star Wars waffles, Star Wars Cheez-Its, and all the other promo food I can find!
    --- Ronaldo

  • At 5/13/2005 10:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ricky, very good story. I felt like I was there.

  • At 5/13/2005 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Kodiak said…

    Congratulations on such a sweet gig! I am from Dallas, and am in the line to see Revenge of the Sith as part of the DFW fanforce. We read your story on the boards today. You said thanks to George for all of us!

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