Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017 kicked on on Thursday morning. If you couldn't make it out to the Sunshine State to join the festivities, the main panels are being broadcast live on YouTube.
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy kicked off the panel after a sizzle reel reflecting on the franchise's 40 year history by thanking fans for sleeping outside in an effort to get into the crowded room and introducing George Lucas.
Lucas tells the story of how he willed Star Wars into existence. He admits Star Wars was a movie for 12-year-old's, as seeing the look on children's faces is more important than satisfying critics.
Dave Filoni, executive producer of Star Wars Rebels, takes the stage. He discusses a new progrem used to create Clone Wars. "We did it and the show got incredibly better because of it," Filoni said. "Make no decision out of fear. That's key."
"It really came out of the idea that there's a lot of stories there," Lucas said. experimented in television because he believed these stories were better in long form. "I would come in in the morning and say we're gonna do this and this and this and this and their jaws would drop and they'd say, 'We're not really gonna do this are we?'"
"A lot of the things we'd done had never been done before," Lucas said. "With ILM, we went from old fashioned visual effects to digital effects and created the digital cinema. It was the same thing with animation, especially the Clone Wars, which we were trying very hard and I think we succeeded in doing a feature quality TV show. The lighting, the characters, and animation was all feature quality and we did it on a TV budget."
Host Warwick Davis points out that Lucas has always been raising the bar.
"The TV series lead us to something unique in that we were on all the time, week to week," Filoni said. "People wanted to connect with this more and more and more. The actors were really great about being out there and being open with fans."
"It's important to reach out to [the fans] and make them feel as important as we can," Filoni said.
Filoni heads off the stage before a message from Liam Neeson takes the screen.
"40 years! 40 years of story telling, mixing myth, mythology, legend, technology, and this extraoridnary cinematic form. I've been very honored to play QGJ in the Phantom Menace. I'm actually here on location in the Canadian Mountains...We're making a movie, a very official movie, about what happened to Jar Jar Binks. Spoiler alert: he did go to the dark said. MAy the Force be with you."
Hayden Christensen and Ian McDermid take the stage.
"The on that stands out for me is in Revenge of the Sith and that's when we got to go to the opera," McDermid says of his favorite scenes. "Hayden and I could really sit down and, from my point of view anyway, have an evil chat. I think it's one of the longest dialogue scenes in the whole of the saga. I was allowed to tell a story and really connect."
"Working with Ian was just a real treat and a privilege. Everyone knows that he is such an amazing actor but he is also an incredibly generous actor and really took me under his wing and was very caring and giving and I owe a lot of what I was able to accomplish in Episode III to being able to work with Ian," he said. "He's so captivating in his work. It was amazing."
Lucas chimes in to point out how sweet McDermid is in real life which is a nod to his acting abilities. Davis asks Christensen about his ligghtsaber training.
"All of the lightsaber work was some of my favorite parts of getting to play this charater and be a part of the Star Wars world. It was jsut a childhood dream come true."
"I had been conditioned from a very young age to make the sound effect when you're swinging a ligthsaber...It was a difficult habit to break!" Christensen said. Lucas would come over and say "That looks really great but I can see your mouth moving and you don't have to do that, we add the sound effects in afterwards," according to Christensen.
"George doesn't go in for lengthy explanations," McDermid says of his first meeting with Lucas to hear about the Emperor role.. From the moment he got the part it was "make-up, hood, yellow eyes, and the script." The two shared a conversation about a drink and Lucas asked if he knew anyone who wanted to play an Emperor. McDermid was interested and he got the part.
"When we left that very short and agreeable meeting, you said, 'Great nose,'" McDermid tells Lucas.
Now, a message from Samuel L. Jackson:
"I just wanna say, it's been a real honor and privilege to be a part of the Star Wars community. Thanks George for giving that opportunity to ride through at least three episodes...While you're all sitting there, I know you're all in my corner on this, we know, Jedis can fall from incredible heights and survive, so I am an not dead!"
Yes, I have two appendages right now," Jackson jokes before adding that Jedi tend to come back stronger with less limbs. "Mace Windu is awaiting his return! Kathy, you're sitting right there..."
Peter Mayhew, Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Daniels take the stage to discuss their heavily costumed roles.
"I can maintain the Falcon," Mayhew says of his similarities to Chewbacca.
Mayhew is asked his favorite memory of Carrie Fisher. "She's a hell of a rebel but she's also a beautiful princess," Mayhew said. Think about that."
"Originally, the Wookies were what the Ewoks became. They weren't technical at all, they were primitive," Lucas said. He went on to cut the Wookies from the film, except for one. "I decided to save one and make him the co-pilot and that's really how we ended up with his starring role."
Warwick Davis brings Mark Hamill to the stage.
"I can never get over the fans," Hamill said. "They are supportive, theyr'e with you in good times, bad times, they're more supportive than my actual family."
"To be honest with you, meeting you and hearing your stories and how the movies effected your lives or inspired you or you met your future wife or husband, the wave being passed down to generations, it's really moving," Hamill said. "I'm stunned at the passion that has lasted all these years."
Davis asks Lucas why he chose Mark Hamill to be Luke Skywalker.
"We did a lot of testing for a year," Lucas said. "A year of sitting in a little room, talking to actors every five minutes, weeding those out..."
"We went on and then we did screen tests. We did screen tests with all the finalists for three main characters and we would mix them. I think we had maybe two or three of each of you and you would each test with another person. We found the combination of the group that worked the best together. The group that was ready to be an ensemble and played it as old friends. I was trying to get that even though they start out not knowing each other. I wanted to have the chemistry built in. That, and the fact that he was shorter than I was."
A brief clip of Hamill's audition plays and Hamill recites the line and analyzes it. "The trick was, how can you make it sound like it's spontaneous dialogue that's rolling off the tip of your tongue," Hamill said.
Harrison Ford takes the stage to an eruption from the audience.
"I said to George, 'You can type this stuff but you can't say it. Move your mouth while you're typing it.' I couldn't say it! It took me like 15 takes," Ford says of auditioning with Lucas' dialogue.
"I can't believe we managed to keep it a secret considering you landed your plane on I-4," Davis jokes about Ford's first Celebration.
"It was the beginning of an incredible ride," Ford said. "It's been a good ride."
"In American Graffiti, I could see that he was a real talent. He didn't have much of a part! He was actually working with a carpenter, American Graffiti wasn't a big hit for him, he had to go back to work. Later, I found out it was the casting director who said, 'Sit out right in front of the office and pretend like you're building something!'"
Ford was installing a door and insisted on only doing it at night so people wouldn't bother him. George Lucas walked in with Richard Dreyfuss and Ford walked in "He was having, I thought, it was an interview for a new science fiction film. Anyway, we just chatted and said, 'Hello.' I was actually there working."
"I was working, making a living, and happily I still am," Ford said. "Thank you very much."
Lucas asked Ford if he knew how to fly. "I said, 'Fly? Yeah. Land?'" Ford joked.
"The story that we had to tell was more than sufficient," Ford said of Star Wars. It was a brilliant invention of a mythology that has sustained interested for over 40 years."
Davis thanks each of the actors on stage for their contributions to Star Wars. Kathleen Kennedy takes the stage again, where she and Lucas will
"She was a princess. She was a senator. She played a part that was very smart and she was having to hold her own against two big lugs and goofballs who were screwing things up."
"When I cast it, I said'I want somebody tyyoung to play the part.' When Carrie came uin ,she was that character. Seh was very smart....Very bold, very tough."
"There are not very many people like her. They're 1 in a billion. For this particular part, it was absolutely perfect because she could hold her own..."
"She wore a dress through the whole thing but she was the toughest one of the group. That's the key to Carrie playing that part. It was a hard to play and she pulled it off brilliantly."
"She was fun to be with. She kept the whole group going. She was very challenging in terms of pointing out the certain pieces of dialogue were a little hard to say! She was brilliant and obviously we'll all miss her. She'll always be the princess who took command and never backed down, never wa sin jeopardy, she was always helping the other guys get out of the messes they created. We'll all love her forever and ever."
Now, Kennedy chimes in:
"I'm gonna mirror a little bit fo that. I think there was no greater honor than that of working with the late and truly great Carrie Fisher...Her humor, her insight, her brilliance, when you associate Princess Leia, you realize: that was Carrie..."
Billie Lourd takes the stage.
"My mom used to say she never knew where Princess Leia ended and Carrie Fisher began. She went from being an unknown actress...to Princess Leia...."
A reel takes the screen, paying tribute to the late Fisher.