I don’t have an actual ‘first time’ memory of Star Wars. I have impressions. Snow monsters, a gleaming black helmet. An ominous and impenetrable sphere. A Wookie who I have loved forever. Ewoks, and a princess in camouflage. I suspect (but can’t confirm) that Return of the Jedi was the first Star Wars film I saw and that I was taken to see it at the drive-in. Return of the Jedi is the one that I still have an inexplicable connection with. I have had the great experience of seeing both Episode I and Episode VII on opening night in the cinema after months of frenzied anticipation. But I had seen Star Wars before the new episodes were released, it has always been part of my life. I am not sure I can imagine what it was like watching it for the first time back in 1977, when George Lucas changed cinema forever.

Mike Fleming of Deadline has interviewed several iconic directors on the moment they saw Star Wars. Here are some excerpts.

Peter Jackson: I first saw Star Wars at the Cinerama Theatre in Courtney Place, Wellington. It was summer 1977, and I was 16 years old — possibly the perfect age. The theatre was packed and bubbling with anticipation. I have a vivid memory that at the moment the Death Star blew up, the entire audience leapt to their feet cheering, including me. That type of emotive behaviour never happens with NZ audiences — it was my first (and last) experience of mass hysteria in a cinema…

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Ridley Scott: George’s first one, that he directed, just seminal. So creatively brilliant…I cancelled the film I was going to do after I saw [Star Wars]…I enjoyed making The Duellists so much that I decided, with David Putnam, that I’d do Tristan and Isolde. Go back to Salah, that part of the countryside, and do fundamentally a version of Tristan and Isolde. I was in LA to show The Duellists and David said to me, there’s a film called Star Wars at the Chinese. I can get two tickets, do you want to go? I think you should go.

We went to an afternoon performance at 2:00, I was eight rows from the front with David Putnam. We sat in there and I never saw or felt audience participation like that, in my life. The theater was shaking. When that Death Star came in at the beginning, I thought, I can’t possibly do Tristan and Isolde. I have to find something else. By the time I finished the movie, I was so miserable because the film was so stunning. That’s the highest compliment I can give it; I was miserable for weeks. I hadn’t met George at that point, but I thought, Fuck George. Then, somebody sent me this script called Alien. I said, wow. I’ll do it.

Ron Howard:  Cheryl and I went to a matinee at the Chinese Theater on Saturday of the opening weekend, having read a great article and review, and that was about it…We stood in line for close to two hours and shared with that audience the most amazing experience….watching that world and story unfold. I felt such a surge of emotion during the final scene and credits that as we walked out I looked at Cheryl and simply asked, “Wanna see it again?” She didn’t even blink. “Yes,” and without breaking stride we got into another two-hour line and though it seems impossible, were floored even more by the second viewing. Our best day at the movies ever.

Guillermo del Toro: Now, what the true secret of Star Wars is that it is really not sci-fi. It’s really sci-fantasy. It’s a tale of princes and princesses and evil wizards. George combines, in a majestic way, the best of Tolkien, the best of Nordic lore, the best of science fiction. All of this appetite that he has for these mythologies, all packed into one movie. I think that it’s not something that will be repeated. Honestly, he’s created something that is unique in film history.

Luc Besson: I will never, never forget when, at 16 years old, I sat in a film called Star Wars, and then suddenly, there’s a sound, and everybody did this [he turns around and looks behind], because for the first time, the sound was coming from the back. Everybody turned, and we look at the spaceship from the roof coming on screen, and everybody was like, wow. That’s why I’m working so hard. I want to offer people a wow moment that they will remember, you know?

Do you remember your first Star Wars moment?

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About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

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