What I learned from the Star Wars open audition.


One of the queues around twickenham stadium.

One of the queues around twickenham stadium.

I queued with thousands of people last Sunday in London, and took a shot at stardom.

It was a blissful day for one to be a geek. The latest Dr.Who special’s taste was still sweet in my mouth, when I set out to join the open audition for the part of Thomas, in the latest expansion of the Star Wars universe. For those not in the know, three more films were announced last year (sequels to the original trilogy) with JJ Abrams of “Lost” fame at the helm. But as I reached Twickenham, where the open audition called for London was taking place in the borough’s rugby stadium, I began wondering: Who is Star Wars for nowadays?

Twickenham is an area of London that takes its rugby seriously. The imposing stadium, the rugby themed pubs all along the way, from the station to the concrete monster visible just down the road… It was all a bit strange, as me and a bunch of other similarly non-rugby material made our way there. The organisers of the open audition moved the venue here, upon realising how many people would turn up with the hope they might be the next Luke Skywalker. As soon as I joined the queue of about 4.000 people, I realised how completely unaware they were that one of us might be the next Jar-Jar Binks, hopelessly stumbling around the film’s sets, setting things on fire and pissing people off.

Who were these guys? A man looking almost 40, had clearly missed the memo that called for people in their early twenties to come forward. But he looked like the only one amongst us that might have seen the originals when they came out. Did these fresh-faced youngsters know what they were getting into? “I haven’t even watched Star Wars” the 18 year old girl from Jamaica next to me in the queue admits. Her friends, a joyful bunch of acting school students, are of the same category. If anything though, among them I’m the impostor. I admit to the fact I’m a hack, working on a story. Two guys behind us pop in. One is an actor who’s auditioned in several of these around the world. The other? A simple fan, who is doing movember, but thought it was worth checking out. But from what I see and hear, me and him, we’re the minority. Not a lot of Star Wars fans have showed up today.

To get back to my question, who is Star Wars for today? A departure from the realm of geekdom is certain. These are not fans dressed in Darth Vader or princess Leia costumes (unfortunately). These people look a bit… mainstream. But of course, the geeks have inherited the earth. What we deem worthy is now the mainstream. These guys, they must now follow our whims and portray aliens and space novelty, sure. What we must understand, forty years down the line since the original films hit the silver-screen, is that they do not partake in our culture. No, this is simply a line of people auditioning as receptacles of our money.

As the line was moving forward, I realise that there is very little chance I might actually make it inside. Even if I did, I didn’t have any headshots with me, because I don’t know these things, and I showed up with a notepad, a phone and my wits. My new comrades, whom I have by now made to feel pretty bad about their lack of pop-culture knowledge, encourage me to stay and try my luck. But I know better. I know that as a geek, a product of the same anti-social breed that gave us this franchise and many more, if I want anything, I must make it myself. So I did what any sane person would do, and left. Because, unlike these fellas, I actually had the script, a laptop, and a broadband connection.

One hour later, I was back in my flat, far-away from rugby, Star Wars non-fans and potential stardom. Or so they thought. After I woke up my hungover flatmate to read the other characters lines, the set-up was complete for me to submit an online audition. My chance has come. I read “Can you go any faster?”. My flatmate, now named Rachel, replies “Will you shut up and eat your apple?”. I enjoyed that, according to the script, but every step was sheer agony on my leg. The script itself, two pages long, doesn’t take long to go through and now, I have partaken in the miracle of auditioning along with tens of thousands of people, for the one male part. What an amazing publicity stunt this is. But of course, it has to be.

Since the release of the three Star Wars prequels, the films have taken on a completely new demographic of fans and non-fans. Their popularity entrenched the idea that Star Wars is no longer the property of people who own light-saber replicas, my household collectively owning two. I wish I could be Benedict Cumberbatch, bringing Sherlock, Star Trek and my devilish (and pale) looks, to their modern form, but this is not the case. Now Star Wars attracts those who would have bullied the films fans back in the day. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not. Maybe we needed this injection of new blood before inbreeding made us all watch hentai anime, about girls flying around the room when they have an orgasm. Maybe this is the future.

But I couldn’t help but feel betrayed at the apparent lack of knowledge my queue-comrades displayed. Star Wars was always meant to be commercial, Lucas never shied away from the fact. But geekdom, despite it’s obvious domination of popular entertainment after the release of the crown jewel “The Avengers” was, doesn’t necessarily belong there. Mainstream recognition comes with pitfalls and Jar-Jar Binks. It sometimes feels weird to see the very things that got you mocked in junior high-school, now displayed in billboards around London. And there is no way to reclaim it anymore. The geeks haven’t inherited the earth, it was stolen from us. But once I get that part, I’ll show them…

Yiannis Baboulias is a journalist and writer. He’s written for Vice, the New Statesman, the Guardian, the London Review of Books, Open Democracy, and others.

Written by

Yiannis Βaboulias

Journalist, bastard, not amused in the slightest. Politics, economy and #Greece for the @NewStatesman, @ViceUK and others. Views my own.

 

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