The Fandom Menace

Living on the sidewalk for a month. Sleeping with Wookiees. Thousand-dollar action figures. Think the new Star Wars is just a movie? You poor fool.

"On the initial day, there will only be a handful, probably five or so," says Chockley, who lives in a Waxahachie mobile home crammed with Star Wars memorabilia. "That's all that's told me they will be going. However, by the time we reach opening day..." He trails off, imagining the scene. "The majority of our folks are adding to the line on the last week, within the last week. As of right now, we've got about 60, but we expect that to grow tremendously once we start our advertising."

Chockley's deals with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Galaxy are about the extent of his planning for the big event, aside from showing up himself. But the guys in front of Mann's Chinese have cooked up elaborate plans for the line: a live Web broadcast called Countdown TV, outdoor Internet hookups, an elaborate point system to determine people's place in line, documentary crews, contests, and what Nakov calls "programming." Nobody, however, will get their hands on tickets until the day of the first show. Lucas has banned all advance sales, even through MovieFone, to eliminate potential scalpers, and it looks as though those who stand in line the longest will get their tickets first. Lucas also moved up opening day from Friday to Wednesday to get the fans out of the way early.

"Star Wars is a culture, and this is part of it," explains Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th Century Fox Domestic Film Group, which will release the film. "What better way to see Star Wars than to stand in line with other guys who are as excited as you? We don't want you to see it with 20 other people on a tiny screen next to 20 other screens showing the same thing. We want to have fun with this."

Kolby Kirk wants to have fun too. The 23-year-old Best Buy employee from Fullerton, California, is seriously into the lore and mystique of the line, and when he talks about it, he takes every chance to correct the terminology. It's not really a line. He calls it "blockbusting." Taking over a city block, making it yours.

"I think people have lost the meaning of blockbuster. I mean, there's a Blockbuster Video right over there," he says, pointing out the window of the Fullerton Coco's, where he's having lunch. "But a blockbuster means that people lined up around the block to see a movie. So I call what we're doing blockbusting. We're not lining up. Lining up is just lining up. You're standing there, sitting there, waiting for a movie to start."

Again, just so we're clear: Lining up is just standing there.
"Blockbusting," he continues, "is going to be an event in its own right. The movie is going to be the encore."

Kirk speaks about the line with authority and dignity, as if what he's doing is noble. For three months, he worked with Gasking and Nakov organizing the Mann's line, but they recently parted ways because, basically, he wanted to get paid. (Gasking makes his living from the site, and Kirk, having worked 40 hours a week, spare time, for free, wanted a piece.) Now Kirk will run his own independent newsletter from the line. He'll call it "SOS--Sleeping on the Stars."

Kirk now describes the line as a 30-day festival, a hybrid of Lollapalooza and Woodstock, or a month on the road with the Dead--something like that. It's the new mass youth experience. He just hopes his fellow fans keep things in perspective.

"It's not wise to dress up like a Star Wars character for a full month," he says. "It would become scary to see a Chewbacca sitting next to me for a month."

Jeremy Bulloch knows the passion of the Star Wars fan better, perhaps, than anyone else. The fact that anybody would even know his name, recognize his face, or interview him for an article on Star Wars fans is a testament to the strangely detailed mind attracted to the trilogy. The British actor, who spent the early years of his four-decade career in Scottish soap operas and whom you'd most likely find today on a PBS broadcast of the BBC's Aristocrats, took a small part in The Empire Strikes Back more than 20 years ago. The role was for a bounty hunter, an intergalactic rogue named Boba Fett who would capture Han Solo and deliver him to the notorious gangster Jabba the Hutt. A small part. No big deal.

"It was like they were casting for cowboys," Bulloch says from his home in London. "I fitted the costume almost like a glove. I'm 6 foot tall, and I'm athletic."

And so he played Boba Fett. He wore a green suit of armor, dented and battle-worn, and a chipped helmet. Nobody saw his face. He spoke only four lines. ("As you wish." "He's no good to me dead." "What if he doesn't survive? He's worth a lot to me." "Put Captain Solo into he cargo hold.") His character died in the first half of Return of the Jedi and had no back story, no love interest, no big scenes. He was just another alien in a world of aliens. Or a man in a world of aliens. Nobody really knew.

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