The Death of Star Wars
An open casting call for the next Luke Skywalker clarifies why the franchise has died.

The Classic Era: Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)


Betsy Woodruff

It must be said: In October 2012, Star Wars fans felt a great disturbance in the Force. Disney — no need to explain why this is gobsmackingly horrible — announced that it was going to insult the collective intelligence, sensibility, and good taste of everyone in America and the English-speaking world by welcoming George Lucas to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and making another Star Wars trilogy. So obviously I tried out for it.

Upwards of a thousand people descended on Austin this Friday for a shot at one of two “major roles” that casting directors are ostensibly looking to fill. And it’s not just Texas. Cast It Talent, per this official website, has been conducting a “Worldwide Search” for talent over the last few weeks. They’ve held events in the U.K. and Chicago, and they’ve got one slated for Nashville on November 24. The end game is to use the indisputably successful American Idol method to choose two of the actors in a new Star Wars movie.

This is all happening because George Lucas — who has essentially been flipping off his fans for the past 30 years — foresaw all of this. The documentary The People vs. George Lucas (watch it on Netflix! Seriously!) has footage from an interview the Star Wars creator once gave in which he basically admits he’s the worst kind of person.

“I was sort of fighting the corporate system, which I didn’t like,” Lucas says. “And I’m not happy with the fact that corporations have taken over the film industry, but now I find myself being the head of a corporation.”

He continues: “So there’s a certain irony there, in that I have become the very thing that I was trying to avoid. That is Darth Vader. He becomes the very thing that he’s trying to protect himself against.”

I have nothing to contribute to this line of thought except that, well, we’ve reached peak irony, George, because now this artistic vision that was such a Bidensian BFD to you is owned by the corporation responsible for Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch.

Despite this, I still ended up sitting in a huge ballroom in the Hilton in downtown Austin surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of twitchy teens and twentysomethings who all fancied the prospect of a role in Star Wars VII. And that’s where it became glaringly, harshly obvious that Star Wars is dead, Star Wars will remain dead, and we have killed it.

First, backstory: I’m a Star Wars purist, but I’m also a Star Wars minimalist. I watched the original three movies over and over and over and over as a little kid and loved them with a love that is true. (One of my clearest memories is playing in our backyard with my neighbor, fortuitously named Luke, and pretending the swings were TIE fighters.) But I never got into the three prequels, on principle. I was more or less a born conservative, suspicious of innovation and cantankerous by disposition (a really delightful eight-year-old, a babysitter’s dream). But it was also because — let’s be real — the three newer Star Wars films totally sucked. I’ve seen Episode II only one time, and it was at a slumber party with my little sister, Sarah, and my best friend, Mel, and I was half asleep in a Pepsi/Skittles coma, and I still knew it sucked. You know that line where Anakin starts rubbing Amidala’s arm and he says, “Here everything is soft and smooth”? Even now it makes me want to hork.

So, like I said: purist, minimalist. I didn’t read the books, didn’t play the video games, didn’t buy the Legos, etc. Imagine all the love your garden-variety Star Wars fanatic has for the entire book/Lego/six-film franchise: That’s the amount of love I have for the original three Star Wars movies. And I knew that if my eight-year-old self had imagined that someday her 24-year-old self would turn down the chance to audition for a Star Wars film, she would have been crushed. So I went to Austin.

Here’s the thing about trying out for Star Wars: It’s really boring. At about 11:45 a.m. at the Hilton in downtown Austin, a line of a few dozen contenders stretched outside the door of the hotel and down a block and a half. The weather was really horrible — 40 degrees, but it felt more like 30, and there was thick cloud cover and a steady drizzle. I asked a few people why they were waiting in line and got an odd response: A couple from outside Austin (they’d been there since 9 a.m.) told me that it was an “unofficial line.” The employees of the Hilton, sensibly, decided they didn’t want the lobby of their hotel to look like Occupy. So applicants had been instructed to wait in the rain, where they sat in camp chairs, swathed themselves in sleeping bags, and huddled under thatches of umbrellas.

That was completely pointless, given that the wannabes in the “unofficial” line were ushered into the hotel about an hour later, where we were joined by a comparable number of people who’d been waiting in the lobby. Then the whole mass fused together and flowed up a few sets of escalators and into a ballroom.

The entire situation was purgatorial, though it skewed more Our Town than Dante. Contenders (or what’s the best noun for people trying out for something? Auditionees? Competitors? Practitioners of the virtue of patience?) filled the ballroom and just sat, waiting, for hours. At about 12:45 in the afternoon (or something like that — the passage of time was foggy), we learned that an announcement would come around 1. By the time 1:15 rolled around, no dice. Lots of sitting.