Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I walked into the observation room in Cloud City, outside of the window I can see the nimbus landscape of Bespin. From the room’s speakers I can hear a jazz version of the Cantina Theme. Lobot the bald AI headset wearing right hand man of the Barron Administrator guides me into the opulent conference room. On the other side of the table is one Lando Calrissian. Gambler, rouge, politician and hero of the Republic. “Take a seat.” He says with a wave of his hand and a rakish smile. “I hope you had a pleasant flight in.”
“Yes.” I reply sitting. “The Starspeeder 3000, had a quite a bit of leg room.”
“Well.” He said the magnitude of his smile never diminishing. “You know they build them to comfortably seat a Herglic, or a Wookie, I hope you didn’t have to fly coach.”
“Business class.” I reply.
“Well enough of the small talk.” He says “I understand you came here to talk about me.”
“Yes.” I say, he is so affable that I nearly forgot my mission. “So let’s start off with…Are you a good guy or scoundrel?”
He raises an eyebrow, the smile never demising. “Yes.” He replies in a smooth tone.
“Yes, what?” I ask.
He lets out a small laugh. “I am a good guy but I am a scoundrel too. In the end I do what is right, but I am willing to break a few rules, to get to the desired result if I have to. But my primary Modius Operandi is to use the system for my gain if I can’t, then on to plan B. I am also pragmatic There is no way this guy.” He points at his chest with his thumb. “Is going to get himself or others killed when he doesn’t have to. Live to fight another day, that is my motto. I know audiences thought I was worse than a sarrlac’s belly when I betrayed Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back. But Vader would have killed Han right there if he’d fought back, I had to play it cool and find a way to get him out when I could. I more than atoned for my actions.”
“You did blow up the Second Death Star.” I admit.
“Exactly.” He said with rakish glee.
“OK, speaking of Evil Empires, what are your feeling s about Disney?” I ask.
“Well first of all never go on the record bad mouthing a potential employer.” He laughs. “I get that the fans are upset about this. But well, George wanted out. Star Wars wasn’t going anywhere. Now I know the books, the comics, the TV Shows and the games where all strong. But the movies were all stalled. I think after the prequels Lucas lost his drive…I think fan backlash just knocked it out of him. It was always said in the series heyday that there would be nine movies, the original trilogy. The back stories and three visions of the future after the Return of the Jedi universe. But After the Revenge of the Sith, no one was talking about the other three movies anymore. So it is good that someone took over the controls that will carry on legacy.”
“Is Disney the best choice?” I ask.
“It is a good business choice.” He said after thinking about it. “They have the distribution channels, the money and the talent. Their track records with The Avengers is good. Disney isn’t going to throw good credits after bad, so yes, I understand that the fans are worried, but let’s see what they can do, before we shove the whole project out an airlock.”
“OK, there is a lot of talk about spin-off movies based around the supporting cast.” I explain. “Pretend I am a Disney exec about to get in to a turbo-lift. You see me and jump in to the lift. You got ninety seconds to sell me on a Lando Calrissian movie…Go!”
He takes about ten seconds to get the ideas in his head to come together. “OK, kind of a James Bond in space thing…action, intrigue, romance… An entire world is about to go to the Darkside…But the New Republic can’t intervene officially…So they call on an independent operator they can trust…Good old Lando…I will have a big temptation, offered by a sith witch…preferably played by Beyoncé or Halle Berry…You know Lando is going to do what is right in the end….but can I persuade her to turn form the Darkside in time…near the end she takes a blaster bolt for me…says she loves me…I reply ‘I know”… and then she dies in my arms…The big bad is about away scot-free, he has escaped into his ship and I have no way to chase after him when Chewie shows, up sent by Leia and Han, in the Millennium Falcone and we chase him down and fight it out in an epic space battle.”
“OK, I am sold.” I tell him excited about the hypothetical movie.
“And the best part is I do all my own stunts.” He adds.
“Now back in 1978, there was a big flap about you being a token black character. Care to talk about that?” I say as the interview takes on a more serious tone.
He shrugs and looks out as the gas clouds of Bespin. “That’s one of the things about space you assume you are light years away from that. We are all human beings, race doesn’t matter. Sure my actor Billy Dee Williams brings with him his experiences as an African American, and you can see some of them on the screen, but I always thought the character of Lando was more than just about the color of his skin.”
“But you have to admit George Lucas didn’t really have a good record when it came to diversifying a cast” I add.
“Well the thing is in the original movie if you don’t count the actors who were covered head to toe in some kind of costume, like Vader or the droids, there were just four primary characters. Luke, Han, Leia and Obi Won… And two of them are related, so there wasn’t a lot of room for diversity. I do admit Lucas could have done better job with the supporting cast, like in the cantina and among the rebel troops. But I think he learned that lesson in the prequels when he added supporting characters like Captain Typho and Mace Windu. Yes Jar-jar was a fiasco, but I think George didn’t see it as racist, he thought he was just adding comic relief. He had kids since he had made the original movie so he wanted to make the new ones less dark. In Lucas’ defense he did make Red Tails, about the Tuskegee Airmen, one of the best movies about contribution of African American’s in history.”
I want to lighten the tone so I change the subject. “Tell me about the conflict between Star Wars fans and Trekies?”
He laughs a deep laugh. “Well you know originally the two just hated each other. I mean it was like gangs with gang colors Star fleet uniforms or Jedi robes. But know it is more like a blending of the two. It is now cool to like both.”
I nod as I think about the hot girl wearing a TOS uniform at a convention that I got to poses with R2D2 as a joke and she confessed that she really liked Star Wars better but that the Star Trek uniform allowed her to show off more leg.
“Besides Star trek is becoming more like Star wars.” Lando adds.
“How so?” I ask.
“It used to be Star Trek was about the science and the humanity. And Star Wars was about the action and the myth. A classic comparison is the battle in Wrath of Khan between the Reliant and the Enterprise. It was a good scene, but it was cerebral, more like a 3D cheese game. Now compare it to the Battle of Yavin with star fighters flying all around. It was more like a World War Two bomber movie. Now with the Star Trek reboots it all about the action, our forte, they blow up Vulcan like we blew of Alderaan. Sulu and the Romulans are sword fighting on a space platform like Vader and Kenobi.”
I nod at his answer. “OK, when I interviewed captain Kirk, he said he could beat up Han Solo, who would win a fight between you and Kirk?”
Lando laughs. “See I would win because I would out think him. Sure he would come in wanting to fight, but I would offer him a few Sullustan gins. Get a few hot ex-salve Twi’leks dancers or maybe the Tonnika sisters to sit next to him and distract him. Challenge him to a few games of chance and soon I would have the Enterprise all to myself.”
“Earlier you mentioned that Star Wars is about myth. Care to elaborate on that?” I ask.
“Sure.” Lando replies. “In 1961, a few days before he graduated high school George Lucas was hurt in a car crash. In the hospital, he was introduced to Joseph Campbell’s A Hero with a Thousand Faces. A book that breaks down the core concepts that permeates most mythic stories. The concept is as old as humanity. A young man receives a call to journey into a strange world, and at first declines the call, but then goes forth, and learns to be a hero. See the core of Star Wars is as old as the epic of Gilgamesh or King Arthur. The story is based on some very powerful mythic concepts.”
“All right, tell me about the cape? Why capes?” I ask.
Lando shrugs. “Because they are cool. With capes you can dress up be formal and classy but not a slave to the corp-sec. They are kind of like the Star Wars equivalent of a tie, without the stuffiness of a tie.”
“The original script for The Empire Strikes back had you being a clone. Why was that changed?” I ask.
“Well that tells me that Lucas had a different idea for the prequels and the Clone War than what he eventually went with. The first idea that I would be descended from a family of clones from the Clone War, then drop the Clone war angel and just go with a more traditional upbringing.” He then adds. Originally TESB was also going to have a claw to claw fight between Chewie and a wampa. Not that would have been something.”
“Yes it would have.” I admit. “So what is your official background story?”
“Well, it pays to play up the mystery but… Basically I was born to a normal middle class family and found I had a talent for gambling. I traipsed across the universe as a professional gambler, but occasionally need more money so I hired out as mercenary and treasure hunter. Eventually I won the Melinum Falcon, but didn’t know how to fly it. So I paid Han Solo to teach me, he won the ship from me in a game of Sabbac. I won it back but, it like taking your best friend’s girl so I gave it back to him. When I wound up on Cloud City I won my title of Barron Administrator in a card game. The rest is they say is history.”
“What is the difference between you and Han Solo?” I ask.
“Well it is often said I was what Han would be like if he hadn’t joined the rebellion. The thing is that since I join the Alliance after just a little screen time I would say that isn’t accurate. I would say that Han is a rebel, both as in being a member of the Alliance member but also as a person with a rebellious nature. Sure I don’t mind stirring a pot of bantha poop once a while, but I try to use the system to my advantage as much as I can. Like cards you manipulate the rules without cheating. That was why I was a Barron Administrator and Han was flying around in his spaceship with his wookie…” he looks at his chronometer. “Sorry but I have an appointment with a bottle of Bothan whiskey, a rutian Twi’lek gal, and a deck Sabacc cards.” And with a flourish and flare of his cape he was out the door.