Continued from part one
“Okay, thank’s a lot, that’s really great, okay, bye.” The Skype call with Omaze ended and when I came back to my senses I was the proud owner of two tickets to the Red carpet European premiere of The Force Awakens, and two tickets to the Invite only after party to ‘meet the stars’. I had no idea what this after party was going to entail, maybe this is where Harrison Ford is going to jump out of a cake and be my BFF, who knows? I also had no way of knowing I was about to experience the greatest moment of my life, meeting the maker.
Days passed and excitement built. The L.A. premiere was streamed online and I watched what was surely going to be a very similar affair to the U.K. premiere. Carrie Fisher stole the show with her own brand of chaos, and The first real screening of The Force Awakens took place. After seeing that, it was clear I was going to have to hire a suit or be thrown off the Red carpet in my Austin 3:16 T-shirt, so off we went to obtain fancy dress. We had to hire a lawyer and sign a non disclosure agreement, an indemnity waiver, and it was made very clear that we were not to mention anything on social media or risk losing the prize!
On the day of the event, Omaze sent a car to collect us and in no time at all we found ourselves in the theatre district of London checking into a fancy hotel. A minute or so later the second European winner Grzegorz arrived, with his sister and parents, fresh off a 3AM flight from Poland. That’s dedication. Grzegorz and his family were the nicest folks you could hope to have on the same journey, so polite and friendly, and loving every second of it. We spent the rest of the day looking around London and getting ready in our rooms. The hotel had a copy of GQ with Harrison Ford and John Boyega doing a fashion shoot, and unbelievably I was only hours away from seeing their new movie and going to a party with them!!!
Starting to freak out a little.
We were all summoned to the lobby to meet the Disney representative, Laura, who led us on foot through the now dark wet streets of London. We passed pubs full of post work drinkers and steamy takeaways to a pre event where we had some drinks ourselves and were issued with tickets and wristbands. There were maybe forty other people, including a room full of kids who Laura proudly informed us were here because they had made a wish. Everyone was buzzing on the same frequency…Star Wars was happening right now!!
Out into the night again Laura led us through crowds of people trying to see into the red carpet area, flashed her badge like a detective arriving to a crime scene, and security parted to let us through without a word. Stepping onto the red carpet the floodlights were blinding, it was like stumbling onto a stage in the middle of a play. There were people everywhere, filming, organising, making notes, moving cables, and a squad of First Order Stormtrooper’s was marching into position in front of the stage. We were positioned directly opposite the stage where all of the interviews took place and had a perfect view of the celebrities passing by. The first face I recognised was Peter Mayhew, being helped to a seat for an interview, and moments later up rolls BB8 to steal his thunder. Just like when he rolled onto the Celebration stage in Anaheim, everything stopped and all eyes were on this real life Droid right before us.
One by one the stars arrived and were announced somewhere out of sight, visible only on the giant screen above the stage. Laura earned every penny that night bringing as many of them as she could, over to meet us. Warwick Davis agreed to pose for a selfie, hilariously calling out “I’m down here, I’m tiny.” Suddenly Laura had appeared again with Carrie Fisher, just like that, Princess Leia is signing an autograph and asking me how she looked as if we had all arrived together. I put my hand on her shoulder and told her she looked marvellous. Then I realised what I had done when I noticed she had a minder right next to her, who thankfully was smiling, and not punching me in the throat.
Max Von Sydow passed by, Ming the Merciless himself, or to modern fans, Lor San Tekka. Laura was back and said hey there’s JJ Abrahm’s, do you want to meet him? Ummm, YES!!
I told him I thought he had done a great job with the movie. I know when I met him it was night time, but in my memory it’s a summer afternoon because the floodlights made it so bright, and warm, I have to remind myself it was really a cold winters night. As he signed for me I mentioned I love Armageddon and he joked “So you’re the guy”, had a quick picture with him and he was off down the line signing furiously.
“And now Ladies and Gentlemen, the creator of Star Wars, Mr George Lucas”. Grzegorz and I looked at each other, we didn’t say a word. Each knew what the other was thinking.
If this was a movie, then this would be the flashback. I have a clear memory from my early childhood of the back of a Star Wars toy packet, looking at the colourful, fantastic aliens and robots, Luke and Vader, Land of the Jawa’s. I remember wondering how it was that one person could think all of this stuff up, what sort of amazing guy makes Star Wars and everything in it? That thought came back to me like a boomerang that has been flying for almost forty years. Jordan from Omaze had asked me who I would like to meet if I won The Force for Change competition. Immediately I replied “I would like to meet George Lucas and thank him for everything he has done”
Suddenly there he was, past the many security guards, lawyers, media people and clipboard holders, I was looking right at George Lucas. “Laura, can you get him?” my girlfriend asked, knowing I was stunned. Laura strode right up to him and brought George Lucas over to us. All the years, the happy hours watching the movies, and all the toys and books and posters, my whole life’s direction because of this man who is shaking my hand as I gush out my words of thanks. He paused for a few photos, signed for Grzegorz as well and was gone again. He didn’t say a word apart from Hello, and if I hadn’t spent my life watching George I might have been offended. Classic George. I even managed to hold off from crying until he walked away. Nailed it.
We walked the red carpet, entered the theatre and took our seats in the back row. The cast and film makers appeared onstage, cut a promo, and filed out to their seats. An assistant came and gave a Chewbacca badge to one of the wish kids sitting next to me on the aisle “With compliments of Mr Mayhew”. As the cast trooped past his father lifted his sons hand and shouted “Harrison, Harrison hi five.” To his credit Harrison did it, and that dad went on to become father of the year 2015. Kenny Baker was wheeled in behind me, and they dimmed the lights. I watched The Force Awakens next to R2D2. This night just keeps getting better.
We went to the afterparty, which was coming up to 24 hours on their feet for Grzegorz family. I managed to meet Kathleen Kennedy, and John Boyega who both kindly posed for photo’s. I got within arms reach of Daisy Ridley, Gwendoline Christie, Simon Pegg, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was standing right next to Joonas Suotamo. He’s so tall I came up to his elbow. I suspected he might have been the new Chewie…Peter Mayhew certainly wasn’t running round in that suit. Harrison Ford was there, but he was protected by a mountain of a security guard…so we didn’t end up becoming BFF’s after all, but that’s ok…I have a picture of the greatest moment in my life, and that’s worth a very great deal indeed.
More photo’s from the Premiere can be found in the Gallery