Steven Sansweet is hands-down the biggest Star Wars nerd on the planet. He loves the films so much, he has become the official liaison for Star Wars fans worldwide. He knows every single thing happening in the Skywalker Universe at all times, and this weekend he will be MCing the opening night ceremonies of Celebration IV.
Celebration IV is going to be one jumping party. It will look back on the first thirty years of Star Wars and Lucasfilm. The event will be taking over the entire Los Angeles Convention Center for five days of live entertainment, celebrities from all six movies, special film and video presentations, an exhibit of movie props and costumes, exclusive merchandise sold at a 24-hour-a-day store, pop culture tributes, immersive events, costume contests, and scores of additional activities.
Steven Sansweet was generous enough to take time out of his busy schedule this morning to talk to me.
Steven Sansweet: Hello?
Hi, is this Steven?
Steven Sansweet: Yes.
This is Paulington from Movieweb.
Steven Sansweet: Hi, Paulington, how are you?
Good, how are you?
Steven Sansweet: Great, except that it is overcast and smoggy in L.A. But why should I expect anything else.
How long have you been in town, now?
Steven Sansweet: I got in yesterday. But I lived here for twenty-five years before I escaped up to Northern California.
How is it in Northern California?
Steven Sansweet: Beautiful. Beautiful, yeah. Yes. Sunshine, blue sky. Its great.
Yeah, I just got back from Hawaii yesterday, so this cloudy sky is something I'm not yet used to.
Steven Sansweet: Ha!
So, why don't you tell me what I can expect from Celebration IV?
Steven Sansweet: We've got so much great stuff lined up. It starts on Thursday for members of the fan club, and on Friday through Monday for the general public. At any one time there will be between twenty to twenty-five different things to see, which is what our fans complain about the most...THERE'S TOO MUCH!!! Everything is competing against each other, and they want to see everything. We have some of the celebrities that were in the movie, like Carrie Fisher and Dave Prowse. Jeremy Bulloch who was Boba Fett. Anthony Daniels as C3P0. There are actually a record number of people that were in the movie signing autographs. One of the things that really excites me is that, for the first time, we have gathered a lot of the guys who were responsible for changing the face of the visual effects industry thirty years ago. We've got a panel with Ben Burtt, the sound guy. All the people that were on the visual effects crew. I think our fans love the behind the scenes stories as much as they love the celebrities. So it will be great having those guys there. The things to visit while you are there? We have an amazing exhibit of Vader helmets that have either been repainted, rescultpted, or reworked. These are full sized Vader helmets that have been decorated by fifty of the hottest underground, pop culture, media artists going today. From Shag, to Marc Ecko, to Urban Medium. I have seen pictures of about ten of these things, and I am just dying to see those all in person. They are going to be great. We have a wonderful exhibit from the Lucas archives that is different than any kind of exhibit we've done before, or that has been on the road before as part of a museum tour. These are items that have never gone out before. All of the severed pieces of the Jedi and the Sith, things that have tent-poled the Star Wars movies. Some of the items are actually challenging Star Wars fans to figure out what they are, because some of this stuff doesn't look the same in person as it does on the screen. We have a couple of big props. We have Anakin's speeder from the big chase in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones. And we have the operating table from Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. The one where Anakin was turned into Darth Vader. I have never seen that in person.
That sounds pretty neat.
Steven Sansweet: Yeah, it does. We've got a family room for the kids where they can hear Star Wars stories being read. Artists will teach them how to draw Star Wars characters no matter what age they are. They can put together costumes from paper, and things like that. There's a wonderful Jedi training academy, thanks to our friends at Disney. You get kids that are anywhere between four to twelve and thirteen, and they put on their Jedi robes, and the Jedi Master comes out and trains them in seven moves on the light saber...Just in case...Someone from the Dark side shows up...AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS?!?! Either Vader or Darth Maul confronts them, and the reactions you get from these kids are priceless. It's so funny. Some of these little kids have such determination in their eyes. And they do an amazing job of fighting the Sith. But some of them go to the edge of the stage and say, "Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom now." That's always wonderful to see. There's a store that is open twenty-four hours. It should cut down on the long lines we've had at all the Celebrations, with people wanting to buy the exclusive action figures. There will be some very cool stuff. There is going to be a twenty-five foot inflatable Death Star that is going up in the main hall. I've wanted something like that for quite a while. So, I'm pretty stocked on that. We have a lot of surprises planned for the opening ceremony at 7:30. And we've put it in a really big hall, so anyone that really wants to come will be able to see it. We had seventeen groups of fans that were selected to do their own programming. And have their own room, so we've given them the space and time. We're looking forward to seeing what they came up with. They are rebuilding the Forest Moon of Endor. Anyone can come play. We have a make-your-own tree hut and miniature. You can take it home with you when you are done.
George Lucas recently said that he was planning two more Star Wars movies, most likely for TV. Can you tell me anything about that?
Steven Sansweet: No, no, no, no. There are going to be two more Star Wars television series. One of them is well into production. That is Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It's a CG animated show, which we suspect will be on the air sometime next year. And then George and Rick McCullen were just now starting work on a live action series. A drama. That will probably be coming out in 2009 or 2010. He is actively at work on both of those. But the CG animated series is more adult. It has a lot of humor in it. It is very cinematic. We will be talking about that for the first time at the celebration. That's going to be an interesting series.
Well, there was an article making the rounds on the Internet that Lucas was planning two made-for-TV movies based in the Star Wars universe. So, that's not true?
Steven Sansweet: There is no truth to that whatsoever. I haven't even seen that rumor. I can absolutely tell you that is not true.
Can you tell me anything about the footage we will be seeing from Star Wars: The Clone Wars at the Celebration?
Steven Sansweet: We have no plans right now to show any footage. The TV show has not yet found a home on television. Until that happens, they are telling me that they are unable to show any actual footage. So, we'll just have to be patient and see what develops.
So we won't be seeing any clips from that as of right now?
Steven Sansweet: That is correct.
Is there anything about Indiana Jones 4 that you can tell me that hasn't really gotten around yet?
Steven Sansweet: Wish I knew. Mr. Spielberg is keeping that very close to the vest. While Lucasfilm is the producer of the film, it is really a three-way venture between George, Steven, and Paramount. As of right now there is very little that is out there. Right now, we have a couple of Indy panels, but those will focus more on classic Indy. I'm sure there will be some speculation as to what is coming. It will probably be Comic Con at the earliest when we have anything of substance to say about the film.
Has there been any progress on getting The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series out on DVD?
Steven Sansweet: Yeah, I think there are some preliminary plans. We're starting to get that out. I think they are still working on how to put that together for the market place. The final decision has not been made. But its pretty clear that it will be released sometime between now and the release of Indy 4. Those are probably going to be out there. What makes them really special is that for the last three years, Lucas has had a very large and active documentary department and its finally fulfilling George's dream. There are nearly a hundred hours of documentaries that go with the two-hour movie versions of the Young Indy series. These explore all the real people, places, and events that are fictionalized in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. So those will be part of a set, or many sets.
Can you tell me anything about future Star Wars DVD releases? Are they going to Blu-Ray or HDDVD?
Steven Sansweet: We're still very much looking at that whole situation. It's really a matter of timing. Certainly, Lucasfilm has made no decisions as to a format or even when that will take place. That is a very active type of thing that we are always looking at.
Before that happens, are you guys still planning a six-disc set with the entire series on it for regular DVD?
Steven Sansweet: There is nothing happening right now on that front. Anything is possible. It is something that we have looked at, and it is something that we will continue to look at. But certainly, there is nothing that is going to be released this year.
What can you tell me about the conversion process of turning the six original films in the series into 3-D. Is that still going to happen?
Steven Sansweet: Well, you know, we're hoping that happens. George and Rick McCullen are very high on the 3-D process. I think, again, it's a matter of deciding when the right moment is. When there are enough theaters that can project a film digitally, because it does take a digital projector. And then there are a couple of formats in the field now. One of them requires a special screen. One of them is just sort of coming on line. I think we have to see how the market develops. I'm sure hoping that it happens sooner rather than later. It's not at the top of the priority list right now.
As far as the Celebration goes, are you going to be bringing in any of your personal collection?
Steven Sansweet: Actually, Hasbro borrowed some of my collection, and they are having a thirty years of Star Wars exhibit. That's going to be interesting. There's an amazing collectors track, and it focuses on every single aspect of the collectables. There are thirty to forty major collectors taking part in this concession. They have solicited twelve collectors to fund a set of medallions that pay homage to the original twelve action figures. These will be released at random times throughout the sessions. The trick will be to try and figure out how to get the full set of twelve. They are very limited. There will only be three hundred and fifty of these medallions. There is also a major auction of vintage Star Wars toys. It is a live auction that takes place at the show Monday at noon. Its mostly big lots. One lot has forty-eight vintage mint action figures. There are radio-controlled Jawa Sandcrawlers mint in the box. Special sonic Landspeeders that were a JC Penny exclusive still in the box. Seeing some of this stuff sort of freaked me out. Just to see how good the toy was and the quality of the packaging. There will also be some silent auctions from Thursday to Sunday. There's a great chance, if you are a collector, to pick up a really cherry item for maybe as low as a buck.
What is your own most cherished item that you have in your private collection?
Steven Sansweet: That sort of varies day by day. I guess, right now, I have an original Darth Vader costume. All the pieces are authentic from Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. I actually put it together through various different auctions in the late 80s and early 90s.
That's pretty neat.
Steven Sansweet: It's very cool. Yes. I love the fan stuff, though. That shows the passion of the fans. One of my favorite things was this Bantha pinata that won the Mexico City Pinata fan club category at a convention a couple of years ago. You lift the saddle and you put the toys and the candy in.
You were talking about the giant Death Star that is going to be at the Celebration this year. Is that something you are going to be able to take home?
Steven Sansweet: I don't have space for a twenty-five foot helium and air inflated Death Star. But we will keep that, and hopefully we will be able to bring that out to future events.
So, that's not something you want to put in your back yard?
Steven Sansweet: No. I don't think that I will get that opportunity even. Another thing that we are bringing along is that we have some of the pieces we had on our floats at the Rose Parade. That will be fun to see, along with some of the flags from the march.
Is there anything else you can tell me about this weekend that you haven't already gone over?
Steven Sansweet: I think it's going to be non-stop fun. One of the reasons fans come to an event like this is for the sense of community. It's a wonderful party. And new people are always welcome to join.
One more question. What are you personally excited to see this weekend?
Steven Sansweet: Wow. Everything. I'm looking forward to the Saturday evening conversation with Carrie Fisher, which I think should be a hoot! And she'll be reminiscing about thirty years of Star Wars, and how it has changed her life. And some of the behind the scenes stories form the original series. You know Carrie, she holds back nothing. That is going to be a great evening. My biggest personal joy is going to be the Opening Night Ceremonies on Friday, because I am the MC. We have some really knock out stuff. That will be the place to be.
I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me this evening.
Steven Sansweet: My pleasure. Thanks a lot for calling.
Star Wars Celebration IV will fill the L.A. Convention Center from Thursday, May 24 to Monday, May 28, 2007. Admission to the first day of the event will be for worldwide members of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, many of whom will help plan and run special programming themselves. The convention will be open to the general public from Friday through Monday, Memorial Day.
CLICK HERE for more information about Celebration IV!