By Richard Woloski
In honor of the 12th anniversary of the release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, I would like to share my experience that lead-up to this day. I wish I had my pics of that day but I lost the floppy disk. Enjoy!
The hype for Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones was revving up full steam in March of 2002 and people were getting excited again. I couldn’t have been more excited. First of all another Star Wars movie as coming out, and people had put their Phantom Menace bashing on hold for the time being.
I admit that The Phantom Menace wasn’t what I was expecting but I understood where George was coming from. So many people were hoping to relive their childhood through Episode I and they would get that same spark as with A New Hope. Seriously?! There was no way any movie could ever do that. Repeat: ANY MOVIE. We form into a different person in 22 years and what we thought was the end-all when we were kids is not something that is going to have the same impact as an adult. How many times can one actually catch lightening in a bottle?
Don’t even get me started on people who hate Jar Jar Binks. He fits perfectly into the mythological fool’s role and with so much taxation talk and politics, George needed something for the kids to hook onto and that was Jar Jar. My 3-year old nephew howled every time Jar Jar got something caught somewhere. Afterwards he said he loved The Phantom Menace (although he didn’t understand 90% of the plot). Even Harrison Ford backed up the goofy Gungan by saying he was there for the younger generation.
I was playing Jar Jar Binks at children’s birthday parties and kids were ecstatic when I came bumbling through their front door. They even began speaking in Gunganese by sprinkling in an occasional “meesa,” “yousa” and a “how wude”. I admired these kids who could see what most adults couldn’t, that Jar Jar was just a fool for fool’s sake to entertain the kids. From this I went from understanding the purpose of Jar Jar to being a defender.
Back to Episode II, I was starting to date Chrissie who I had met while I was playing the Easter Bunny at an Easter event in Beverly Hills. Normally I don’t flirt with the party guests when I’m in costume but we started eyeing each other before I got suited up and we hit it off.
She wasn’t that familiar with the saga (I know, how could that be?), but that changed real quick. I quickly educated her with everything from Artoo to Zuckuss then filling her in with the events of the films. It was perfect timing since Clones was about to open. This was a new experience for me since I got to share this experience of seeing a new Star Wars film with someone I was with. I was so happy when she told me she went out with some friends a few weeks later and when the conversation turned to Star Wars she could hold her own.
Now it was Chrissie’s turn to share her interests with me. She got us tickets to a Sugar Ray concert and she was really excited about it. Well, it just so happens that it was on the same night as the red carpet premiere of Clones at the Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood which was about two blocks away from my apartment. So close…….
I really wanted to be there and see the cast as they got out of their limo’s and strutted into the theatre, maybe stopping to take pics with their fans. But Sugar Ray was important to Chrissie so I knew where I’d be that night – quietly stewing at the concert. I had never missed a Star Wars event like this before so it was nagging at me all the way to the Anaheim Arena.
We pulled into the parking lot and I got a bad feeling. We must be there super early since we were the only car in the lot. I felt like when Luke arrived on Bespin and there was no one around in what should be a very bustling city. Something’s up. Chrissie pulled up to a security guard and said we were there for the Sugar Ray concert.
“That’s tomorrow night,” the guard said. My teeth were starting to grind. I was seeing red. Not just any red, Palpatine red. This was my version of having a bounty hunter pop out from behind a corner and take pot shots at me. Must bury this feeling deep down…
Chrissie looked at the tickets. “Oh, yeah,” she said. Did I just miss the chance to make eye contact with Samuel L. Jackson, or get a smile from Natalie Portman? Yes I did! I never let Chrissie know that since I knew how much she wanted to share this with me and neither one of us could make it the next day. My teeth had been ground down to the nerve.
May 15th, 2002. Attack Of The Clones Eve. Chrissie and I went out for dinner at the Hamburger Hamlet across from the same Grauman’s Theatre (the same Hamburger Hamlet where Lucas ate as he watched the lines form for Star Wars 25 years earlier). Chrissie, my good friend, Matt Goudey and I had tickets for the 8am show the next morning. We opted not to sleep on the sidewalk again like Matt and I did for The Phantom Menace. We knew we’d be in good shape if we just got there sometime around 5am.
As we ate our bacon cheese burgers we noticed a huge crowd of fans and Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion outside the theatre. I pressed my face and hands up against the window. What is all this?! They were all posing for pics, talking to news crews while waiting for the midnight screening. Why didn’t I know about this Star Wars fan party? I wanted (had) to be part of it! I begged Chrissy to cut our dinner short so we could race to Venice to pick up my Jango Fett costume I was having made.
I felt bad since we planned a whole evening out but she knew how much this meant to me and agreed to leave. We ran out of Hamburger Hamlet and were on our way to get Jango. (Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I paid for dinner. I may owe Hamburger Hamlet a bill from 12 years ago. What’s the interest on that?)
An hour later we were back and I proudly walked up wearing the only costume from Episode II. Fans and press photographers from all over the world charged toward me snapping pictures. I felt like Jango Kardashian (I hope that reference isn’t too outdated).
This was an awesome feeling. And, Chrissie really got to see me in my element as she was also taking pics of me with my shoe-box sized digital camera. I made sure everyone especially the kids (shouldn’t they be in bed?) got a picture who wanted one. The kids were having a great time playing Jango-tag when a LEGO rep. came over and handed me a large box containing the Republic Gunship set.
“Thanks, wait what’s this for?” I asked. He said he was really impressed with the way I interacted with the kids and that I made sure everyone got attention. This kit was going for over a $100 at Target (and $150 at Toys R Us). Chrissie offered to hold it for me so I could continue playing with the kids even though the box weighed more than she did.
At 11:15pm, the midnight show was letting in and I felt a depression set in because I was not among those privileged fans. Truth be told I cannot stay awake during midnight shows. I’ve tried several times and I always conk out. I know, it’s Star Wars, but still it does happen. Nevertheless, I would be back in just a few hours, well rested and ready for an all-new Star Wars adventure.
I sprang awake at 4am. “Wake up!” I shouted at Chrissie and Matt who slept over. They were still a few hours away from consciousness so I left without them. This was okay because that meant I could get down to Grauman’s without having to tow two sleep-deprived zombies and secure a place in line while they got ready at their own pace.
Even though the theatre was just down the street, I still drove (I’m such a Californian). I paid an absurd amount to park and began running up the long escalator. My heart started to beat faster thinking I should have gotten here hours ago. I’ll never get a good seat now.
I got to the theatre and much to my surprise the line wasn’t unbearably long. Am I at the right place? Judging by all the celebrity footprints in the theatre courtyard, yup I was. I was happy but at the same time I wanted Star Wars to have a huge line that ended somewhere in Burbank. I guess with Fandango, which was becoming popular by then, that meant people could buy their tickets online. And Lucasfilm pulled way back on the marketing so the world didn’t have this film pushed in their faces from every angle like with The Phantom Menace.
Within the next half hour, more and more fans started showing up. I let out a sigh of relief. Until then. I thought Star Wars had lost it’s impact so the masses weren’t going to show up. I got to admit, it felt personal.
Matt and Chrissie got there around 6:30am bright eyed and bushy-tailed. It’s amazing what a little sleep can do. Just then a late-night showing was getting out and I was relieved to see happy and excited fans. They LOVED it. Star Wars was back. I can’t wait to get in there. It’s my turn now.
I’ve never had such a great time at the movies before, or since, than I did at Attack Of The Clones. When Padme’s ship came flying through the clouds in the opening shots, I was in! I was really excited. There’s nothing like seeing the opening shot in a Star Wars film for the first time.
When Jango Fett appeared on screen I heard someone in back of me say, “some guy was in that costume here last night.” I felt like I was part of the movie. However, (spoiler-alert) when he got his head cut off by Mace Windu I was shocked and appalled. How could Mace do that to me? I know it wasn’t personal.
Now, when Yoda summoned his Lightsaber from under his cloak, that was a moment. no one in that theatre could contain themselves. I’m glad there wasn’t any dialogue for the next few minutes because the cheering was deafening. I have never seen a crowd as amped up and on their feet as when Yoda was flipping and tumbling all around that hangar while fighting Count Dooku.
After the movie, I wanted more Star Wars! Matt and Chrissie had to work whereas I took the whole day off just to take it all in. I knew Hayden Christensen was going to be a guest on The Tonight Show so I drove to NBC hoping to score a ticket. Forget it! Those tickets were gone early that morning. Well, I tried.
I began walking back to my car when a guy walked up and asked if I had a ticket. He could see by the expression on my face and the fact that I was about to start blubbering that I didn’t. He said he got a call and had to leave so he handed me his. By the time I snapped back to consciousness to thank him he was gone. (Thank you kind sir, whoever you are.)
I couldn’t believe I had just seen Attack Of The Clones, now I was seeing Anakin Skywalker in person! During Hayden’s interview, he pulled out his own action figure. As he set it on Jay Leno’s desk the figure’s removable arm popped off. He then explained that his arm gets cut off in a Lightsaber battle in the movie. SPOILER! Luckily I had already seen the film or this would have ticked me off.
Afterwards I waited outside the guest gate like a stalker (I mean fan). I was the only male in the group of screaming girls. As Hayden was slowly driven by I stuck my hand in the open window and got a firm handshake. Now, all those screaming girls wanted to shake my hand. It was a good day.
Whenever some asks me what my favorite Star Wars film is, I tell them that they’re all my favorite. It’s like picking a favorite child. If they insist, I tell them whenever I need a go-to Star Wars movie I generally pick Attack Of The Clones. I loved everything about it. I especially love that this is where we see the start of the Clone Wars, something that has just been hinted at since A New Hope.
It’s also the memories I have surrounding this film. I was on my own living in Hollywood. My business was thriving. I had lots of great friends, and, Star Wars was officially back.
A few years later, long after Chrissie and I had parted ways, I was talking to the same client about booking another Easter Bunny where I had originally met Chrissie. I asked if she was going to be there. It had been a while since I’d seen her and I was hoping to catch up. I was told that Chrissie had passed away. She had some medical issues when I was with her and they just caught up to her. I’m so glad I was able to spend the time with her when I had the chance and that she had taken that step into a larger world and it had always brought a smile to her face.