The Indy Pop Con, July 7 – 9, hosted many different entertainment guests, and one of the biggest panels was the Star Wars Celebration Panel. Garrett Wang (Ensign Henry Kim, Star Trek: Voyager) moderated the panel, and he told the audience when he first saw Star Wars at the age of eight he “fell in love immediately with sci-fi because of Star Wars, which started [his] life-long career as a big nerd.” The panel included Roy Thomas, comic writer who helped bring the Star Wars franchise to Marvel; Timothy Zahn, author and creator of Thrawn; and Greg Grunberg, who played Snap Wexley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The panel was fan-focused, so questions came from the audience. For obvious reasons, Greg couldn’t comment on future Star Wars projects.
As someone who has been a character in the influential franchise, Greg was asked many questions. The first film had a huge impact on his childhood. He saw the film with his good friend J.J., as in J.J. Abrams, director of small films such as Super 8, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. About Star Wars he said, “It was the first movie that I saw as a kid where it changed everything for me; up until this point I hadn’t really left a movie and talked about the characters and talked about the world, and just felt so immersed in something so different and it got me and it locked me in as it did a lot of people.”
Of course, Greg was beyond ecstatic when he was cast in The Force Awakens. Security was tight, but, feeling emboldened by being besties with the director, he secretly snapped photos of the Millennium Falcon with his cell phone. “I geek out about that stuff just as much as anybody else.”
Greg was enamored and excited to work with the legendary Carrie Fisher, and he feels honored and lucky to have worked with a professional who was full of energy and life. He told a wonderful story about working with her. “One of the first things that I shot was I was off camera, Carrie’s there, and she’s kinda berating Snap Wexley, so she’s like, ‘C’mon, Snap, pay attention,’ blah, blah, this whole thing, and then you cut to me, and I kinda roll my eyes and follow her. And I think they cut it out, I know they cut it out, it’s on the DVD I think. Anyway, so the camera’s here [puts a hand by his face], so I’m right next to the matte box, and she’s doing her side. And she does it, and I’m just trying to get my stuff right, and I’m so excited to be working with her. I’d met her, but it was just very briefly. She says her lines, and then she was just supposed to cross right to me; she says her lines and then she crosses right at me, wraps her arms around me, and grabs my butt.” Afterwards, J.J. walked up to Greg and whispered, “Welcome to Star Wars.”
Roy had the best story about seeing Star Wars for the first time. He saw a rough cut in George Lucas’s editing room. It was two or three months before release, and the film had no special effects. World War II footage was in place of TIE fighters. When people fired ray guns, there were arrows, and James Earl Jones had not recorded his lines. “It was just David Prowse with a heavy Scottish accent and speaking through a helmet. I could not understand a single word he said.”
Timothy was asked many questions about Thrawn, and he revealed that the name is Scottish for “twisted”. He went in knowing that every word belonged to Lucasfilm once it was written, but he was never forced to include certain characters, places, or events. During the process, he submitted outlines and received notes, slowly melding his world with the existing Star Wars universe. He said it is “extremely cool” to see his creations, such as Thrawn and Coruscant, used in other works, but he has no input with how they are used and isn’t told when they are used; when they do appear, there’s no extra money, just bragging rights.
When asked about Thrawn being canon again, he replied, “It is beyond awesome, it is wonderful, it is exciting. The only downside was that we found out Thrawn was going to be in Rebels eight months before it was announced, and we had to tap dance madly around questions for eight months.” He was required to keep things under wraps because Lucasfilm’s non-disclosure agreements are strong; he even joked that the company might take a kidney if he broke the NDA.
A fan asked the panel what their favorite thing about Star Wars was.
“My favorite thing is the family dynamic,” Greg said. “For me, it doesn’t matter what you’re watching as long as the characters are engaging and identifiable, and you want to spend time with them. This more than anything else has just gripped me like nothing else and so for me, that’s what I gravitate towards, and I think most people do. Who’s related to who? And of all that. Look at the world that they created and yet we’re asking such a simple question. The characters, how beautiful they’re portrayed and written and crafted.”
“I think what George really hit with me was the lived-in look of the universe. Everything is a little scruffy, worn down, comes apart, maybe goes back together, maybe it doesn’t go back together correctly. It was just a far cry from my earlier science fiction standard Star Trek where everything was right out of the box and nothing is right out of the box in Star Wars,” Timothy said.
Roy answered, “Star Wars made a different kind of movie possible that really hadn’t been possible before, which led very quickly to Superman, and the superhero movies starting in the last decade or two, to the Marvel movies, so I’m really happy to have that universe and that bunch of movies to go to and, since Marvel does pay residuals, making my old age a lot happier.”
On the topic of Roy’s time at Marvel, he discussed being a part of one of the first spin-off properties. In the beginning, he was frustrated because his ideas for doing a story with Luke and Leia, or Darth Vader, or the Clone Wars were off the table. His favorite characters are Han Solo and Chewbacca because they remind him of the old space opera characters and pulp stories he used to like, and, eventually, a Seven Samurai style story with them was approved. However, not all aspects of the story succeeded. “I became the first person to offend George,” Roy said. According to Roy, George Lucas did not like Jaxxon, the tall, Bugs Bunny looking guy in a space suit. “The word came down George did not like the rabbit, and he was to never appear again in the comics. They tried to use him once again in the comics later, but the word came down, ‘no.’”
Many were disappointed when Disney decided to wipe the majority of the extended universe aside. When Star Wars started to expand into other media, Roy asked George how the inevitable inconsistencies and plot holes were going to be dealt with. Even back then, George had a plan and told Roy, “My feeling is this – the movies are gospel, everything else is gossip.”
After the panel, I looked up Jaxxon, and he seems like a fun character and a lot more interesting than Jar Jar Binks. In honor of the piece of gossip created by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, I’ll leave you with this so-called offensive image: