Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Empire Strikes Back" 30th Anniversary Benefit Screening with Harrison Ford!

OMG, I am SOOOO glad I attended this!!!

When tickets sold out almost immediately for this screening, the Arclight decided to open a second house and show Harrison Ford's Q&A on the big screen for us across the hall via closed curcuit. What an incredible second chance for me, and opportunity to celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the two best "Star Wars" movies (the original being the other) of all time!! But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself...

A few days before the event I found out this would be a red carpet screening. Not surprising since it was a benefit, but I had no idea, aside from Harrison Ford himself, who'd show up! There were hints that Mark Hamill and/or Carrie Fisher might do a surprise visit. Ultimately, Billy Dee Williams and Ewan McGregor graced the red carpet and wowed the fans! Not to mention director Christopher Nolan, who literally brushed by everyone without even being noticed, and Jon Favreau whose about to direct Ford in "Cowboys and Aliens".

I knew I wanted to get out of work just a bit early because I had no idea what to expect as far as crowds were concerned. Since this seemed like it was going to be a general admission event, I assumed people would be lining up earlier in the day. No such happening. I got out of work a bit before 4pm and got to the Arclight about a half hour later. The only people in the Arclight courtyard right outside the theatre were workmen putting the red carpet area together and a group of well worn paparazzi being cordoned off behind ropes. O.K. I'm way early, I thought. So I hung out until people started congregating by the St. Jude's Hospital will-call table.

While waiting in line I started talking to a couple of other fans in front of me about how they heard about the event and "Star Wars" movies in general. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of young actor Rico Rodriguez, who plays 'Manny' on Modern Family, my new favorite TV show! He was there with his Mom and asked us if we were in the will-call line. Passing by, realizing they were headed in the wrong direction, they turned around and walked back. At that moment I just had to say something. I stepped out of line to tell him how much we love the show and how funny he is on it. He said 'thank you' with a smile and his Mom added her thanks as well. Unfortunately, because they seemed to be on a mission to be in the right place, I was unable to get a photo of him, or even of he and I.

After my ticket was secure I headed straight for the red carpet area, where the roped off area that divided the press from the rest of the courtyard was only two people deep! Positioning myself right in the center of the run, I was able to get incredibly close to all the stars who happened to stop right in front of me due to the central influx of entertainment news networks like E!, Extra, CNN's Showbiz Tonight, etc. Many of the photos I took that you can find here were shot WITHOUT ZOOM! I was THAT CLOSE!!! I kept saying 'wow!' and 'oh my God!' under my breath so many times, echoing that to a couple of guys around me who were trying to get the same close up shots. There, right in front of me, was Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, and Ewan McGregor!! It was INSANE!!!

After a few moments, Peter Mayhew arrived...and that's when the press went nuts!! Dozens of camara flashes began feverishly poping as everyone was trying to get he and Harrison Ford to stand next to one another. It was hard to get a really good photo of this because everyone was in the way, plus there was a two foot riser to the right of me where cameramen could get a better shot. Shortly thereafter I was able to snap a couple when Billy Dee Williams and Ewan McGregor joined in for a group shot.

Then, at the end of the red carpet right before the entrance to the Arclight, Harrison Ford did something I never would have expected him to do; he signed autographs for waiting fans! He NEVER does this sort of thing, as he's always traditionally shied away from crowds and the press. A flurry of 8x10's, posters, and framed artwork went flying up over everyone's heads to clammer for that all important signature. That's when someone behind me said, 'hey, there's Chris Nolan'. I looked in the direction the guy was pointing and sure enough there he was (!), trying to make his way past Darth Vader and two stormtroopers. Awesome!

Now it was 6:45, and the movie was scheduled to start at 7. Arriving near the concession stand, I saw several tables set up which held hundreds of filled soda cups and popcorn buckets, all for free! Signs below the stacks read which kinds of soda were in each section. The main theater was on my right, so I made my way, soda and popcorn in hand, to the second house across the hall to find my seat.

There was a guy who had his backpack on my seat and promptly moved it when he saw me coming. We hit it off right away, as he has a movie news site on the web called Talked about the "Star Wars" special editions as opposed to the originals, etc., great conversation. Then someone came in with microphone in hand to say welcome and introduce Billy Dee Williams! Billy Dee came out and talked about his recollections of the movie thirty years ago, saying with a wink he was amazed he hadn't aged that much. Everyone laughed. Thanking the crowd for attending and giving generously to St. Jude's, he gave way to the lights dimming. The familiar Twentieth Century logo appeared on screen accompanied by that theme I think will forever be associated with the beginning of any "Star Wars" movie.

Suddenly we found ourselves watching a digital copy of the 1997 special edition of "The Empire Strikes Back"...and it looked INCREDIBLE!! The detail and clarity of picture was truly eye popping! Combined with sound quality I've never heard before in any theatrical presentations of this movie, which surrounded the audience. We were off!

I kind of wished we had the opportunity to see THE ORIGINAL 1980 version. But because Lucas had, in part, arranged this shindig, I knew we'd get what he decided to show. Nonetheless, I loved every minute of it!!! Scott, the guy sitting next to me, piped in at the end, with my full agreeance, that we miss Vader saying 'bring my shuttle' as he leaves Bespin. We were laughing about the fact that WE GET IT...Vader is leaving Bespin to head back to his star destroyer. I don't think anyone was confused about that thirty years ago to warrant this change!

As the lights came up afterward, we were told that our movie started about ten minutes earlier than the main house. So I had a chance, along with everyone else, to hit the bathroom! Shortly thereafter the lights dimmed again for the Q&A session that would be broadcast live from across the hall. Harrison Ford met with a standing ovation, after which he was interviewed by Geoff Boucher of the LA Times Hero Complex. Ford had a few great viewpoints about making the movie and some of the other actors. He pointed out that at the time he felt that Alec Guinness certainly was an old man. But in retrospective he realized that at this point in time, thirty years on, Guinness was six years younger than he is now. Ford said that was sobering. He also talked about how they were originally going to shoot his Hoth scenes on a sound stage. At the last minute the studio decided to ship him to Norway where his costume had to be altered for the cold. Plus he talked about the infamous 'shooting out the back door' scenes where it was so snowy and cold, the camera and crew shot out the back door of their hotel to keep warm while capturing footage of Han finding Luke in the snow.

Ford's interview lasted about twenty five minutes, but it was so worth it! He even took a couple of well thought out questions from the audience (no stupid nerdy quirries!) and even spoke about the upcoming "Cowboys and Aliens", pointing to director Jon Favreau who was in the audience. I never did see him though.

As we filed out of the auditorium, everyone stood in anticipation of Ford and company coming out into the lobby area. No such luck, as he went out the theatre's back door to a waiting car. However, as I was making my way closer to the concession stand to avoid the crowd exiting, my eyes suddenly came upon director Christopher Nolan right in front of me! He was talking to someone and heading for the stairs. It wasn't quite the right moment to approach and say anything, although I probably would have choked on my tongue trying to get something out. Instead I parralled his walk to the stairs and managed to take one overhead shot which you'll see in the Flickr set.

Once I made my way back to the main lobby, I happened upon the two guys I was talking to in line earlier. To their utter surprise, the tickets they possessed for the second auditorium were to the main house at the last minute. Apparently some people were unable to make it and they were trying to share those openings (and fill those seats) with some anticipatory fans. Incredible!

WHAT AN AMAZING EVENING!!! Even though I paid less ($75) and was in the second theatre, I still feel like I got the full treatment that those people who paid $100 to $175 received, especially with my proximity to Harrison Ford and the other stars on the red carpet!! The photos say it all!


At May 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM, Anonymous Allen Pinney said...

And you didn't buy me a ticket why!?! LOL This looks (sounds) amazing, I'm glad it was so amazing for you!

At May 21, 2010 at 4:17 PM, Blogger LA Filmcutter said...

It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event!!


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