Kylo Ren Awakens the Dark Side in ‘Star Wars 7′ Motion Poster

13 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Can ‘Star Wars’ unify a fractured culture?.

Who are you?” “I’m no one.” These six tantalising words will be lodged in the brain of every Star Wars fan who has watched a trailer for The Force Awakens.The debate after the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attacks couldn’t have done a better job illustrating just how divided the American people actually are. But what I’m wondering, as I approach the north London house that doubled as casting HQ for the film, is whether the same question will be asked of Nina Gold’s discoveries come next year’s awards season. At one of the Hollywood Boulevard location — the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre, where the first “Star Wars” premiered in 1977 — fans are already camped out this weekend, eagerly awaiting their turn when the film opens for regular folks next Friday.

Whether the issue is race, abortion, marriage, health care, immigration, or gender, the fundamental assumptions we bring to the table are so different that we might as well be speaking different languages. Was this the concluding day of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Global Media Days (yes, that was the official name) or a belated Thanksgiving turkey order? “Light Force or dark Force,” she explained, indicating two trays of wristbands: one white, the other black. “You have to wear one to be admitted to any events.” That’s how it was at the Los Angeles Convention Center last Sunday, amid action-figure and T-shirt giveaways, video-game displays, a trio of stormtrooper mannequins, and, yes, the occasional sound of lightsaber whooshes and a certain familiar fanfare. She and several friends who drove up from Orange County wanted an out-of-this-world experience. “I need to see it in an epic place with people who are just as excited about ‘Star Wars’ as me,” said Dominguez, 32, who was among about 150 devotees in line at the Chinese on Friday, occasionally ducking under awnings to avoid a passing shower.

In the world of academic ethics, we spend a lot of time thinking about the disintegration of not only our political culture, but of any common moral language we could use to have genuine engagement. A floor-to-ceiling white curtain concealed the proceedings from passersby who might have wanted to take advantage of selfie ops with R2-D2, C-3PO, and their new robot pal BB-8. And yet, Gold herself, who as casting director found this generation’s Luke and Leia – John Boyega and Daisy Ridley – risks being overlooked, because hers is the only single-line credit not to have its own Oscar category. By contrast, the youngest “Star Wars” obsessives were born into a world where all six films — including the much-maligned prequels “The Phantom Menace” (1999), “Attack of the Clones” (2002), and “Revenge of the Sith” (2005) — were right there in their parents’ laptop video libraries. “Everyone who is a ‘Star Wars’ fan is a ‘Star Wars’ fan . . . in their own specific way,” says Ryan Britt, 34, author of “Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths.” No matter a fan’s entry point, whether via movies, the TV series, novels, or Legos, “Somehow, everyone thinks it belongs to them.” So how are the members of the very different generations of “Star Wars” preparing to greet Episode VII? Talk of trophies might be premature, but it’s never too soon to talk how Gold has helped to transform the lives of Boyega, who plays Finn, and Ridley, who is Rey.

We used to have a common set of theological ideas on which to draw, but our commitment to freedom of religion and a secular public sphere has meant such appeals today have little force. All the hoopla was a sideshow to the many interviews and photoshoots, as well as two press conferences (moderated by “Star Wars” fan Mindy Kaling), taking place throughout the cavernous building. Like the Empire sending probes far into the galaxy, we queried the far reaches of fandom to understand what the movies mean to followers seasoned and new, and what hopes these fans bring to “The Force Awakens.” Baby boomers were in their mid-teens to early 30s in 1977, when Episode IV intersected with their lives. This time, the theater operator is allowing them to camp out on top of the theater’s famous celebrity hand- and footprints, instead of along the sidewalk out front.

The fans must log at least 24 hours in line to gain entry to the theater’s first public showing of the film, but those who spend more time in line will earn preferential seat selection. The trailer has over 70 million hits on YouTube. “Star Wars” manages to bring together an unbelievable number of people – whatever their race, whatever their gender, whatever their politics, and whatever their age. Inside the partially built structure, curious tourists snapped photos of lighting equipment while security personnel drove around in carts with “The Force Awakens” logo on them.

He was inspired, he says: “I wrote my own stories, animated my own flip books, built my own lightsaber.” “Almost everything meaningful in my life could probably be traced back to ‘Star Wars’,” says JoAnn Cox, 46, an East Boston resident who works for the City of Boston. Idea,” muses Gold about what lies in store for the young actors. “I don’t think anybody could possibly contemplate what a big thing it will be for them.” I remind her that Carrie Fisher, who reprises Princess turned General Leia, once wrote how “George Lucas ruined my life … in the nicest possible way”.

The saga “inspires one to think beyond oneself, to take the hero’s quest, to see the interconnections of everything — if one wants to.” Tony Whitehill, 45, a radio personality and volunteer firefighter from St. I’m sure we’ve enhanced it!” Later, she adds that Ridley, “even though she’s young, is a pretty grounded, hard-working, clear-thinking person. John Jenal said the department is treating the premiere like other marquee events that take place on Hollywood Boulevard, including the Academy Awards. And she thinks Boyega, whom she spotted when he was “17 or 18” in a play at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, north-west London, and cast in the British sci-fi comedy Attack the Block, “has already had a taste of it”. Episode VII is only the first of what is to be a sequel trilogy, after all, assuming Finn and Rey go the distance. “Hopefully they won’t go insane.” It was “brilliant not having to cast someone from the same old list of names”, she says: “You don’t want somebody who was ‘that guy from some other franchise’.

Camosy is a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University and a contributor to “The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy: You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned.” You want them to entirely belong to This World.” With Episode VIII expected to start filming in January, attention will turn swiftly to which other old faces might return. She dodges my attempt to discover whether Hayden Christensen, who made an unpopular appearance as Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy, could reappear. In fact, Gold has to tread carefully throughout, picking her answers with the calm precision of Luke practising his early light-saber moves with Yoda.

Afterward, the group will lead a parade of costumed revelers into the French Quarter, accompanied by a brass band playing a medley of “Star Wars” music. That deep investment in Lucas’s creation and the subsequent letdown of the prequels caused a breach of trust that, for some Gen Xers, puts more at stake in the new film. “I want to believe again,” she says.

That isn’t necessarily bad, they say. “People gripe about the prequels a lot, but they’re amazing when you’re a kid,” says Anna Geneva Renz, 26, a bookseller from Brookline. Read what you will into her voice climbing an octave when I ask if Disney, which paid $4.1bn (then £2.5bn) for Lucasfilm in 2012, has plans beyond Episode IX. “More? I didn’t get it.” The films’ authority-flaunting political message also spoke to some young viewers who came of age in the Bush era of the early 2000s.

I don’t know!” Then there’s the “massive weight of expectation”, not forgetting the challenge of getting the old gang back together. “Maybe they’ve been waiting 30 years to get them all together at the same time!” Harrison Ford is seen in the latest trailer flying the Millennium Falcon before another shot shows the craft crashing. Whether the actor, who broke his left ankle filming at Pinewood Studios, will return as Hans Solo yet again is another of those unknowns, despite a “bogus” online casting call posted by a “random American lunatic” claiming Ford is in the next instalment. “There doesn’t seem to be any way of stopping him,” Gold says of the fraudster. Where Gold – clad in head-to-toe, fashion-editor black, looking every inch the Hollywood insider, despite working almost entirely from her Queen’s Park home – will open up a little is the issue of women in film.

She thinks it’s a “bummer” so many films pit older men against younger female lovers. “Somehow Hollywood would like any woman between 40 and 70 to be invisible. Fan forums reckon Christie, who will play a female stormtrooper, Captain Phasma, was added to redress a lack of female parts, but Gold demurs. “I guess mostly the stormtroopers are men, or they have been, and it just seemed like a wonderful thing to have this incredibly brilliant woman in there too. It was, ‘She’d be great!’” This pretty much sums up Gold, who fell into the casting game after being roped into finding extras for music videos while still at the University of Cambridge. She quickly rose to become a regular collaborator with Mike Leigh for every project of his since 1999’s Topsy Turvy, and has now made three films with Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper of The King’s Speech. (The most recent Hooper film is The Danish Girl, whose lead actors have both just received Golden Globe nominations.) In the past couple of years alone, her name has been on the credits for films as diverse as Paddington, The Theory of Everything, The Martian and Mr Turner. In an age when television can be as prestigious as the big screen, Gold has been the creative force behind the inspired (and Emmy-winning) casting of Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall, among many others.

But it’s no use asking “Finn Who?” because director J J Abrams has said it is “completely intentional that Finn’s last name isn’t public record”. The Guatemalan-American actor, 36, whom sci-fi fans will know from Ex Machina and X-Men: Apocalypse, plays “Black Leader” Poe Dameron, an X-Wing Squadron leader.

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