Our series of interviews “From different points of view” highlights Star Wars fans from across the world and allows them to tell you about Star Wars fandom from their point of view and how it has influenced their lives and the direction it has taken them and this week’s guest is no exception!
Our next point of view is from Andrew Walker.
Andrew has been a lifelong fan of Star Wars and has had opportunities that some of us can only dream of. Andrew grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives in Sweden, he is an active member of the 501st Legion’s Nordic Garrison.
Andrew when did your love of Star Wars begin and how has it influenced you?
I was four years old when A New Hope came out. I loved it from the very first viewing and still love it now, 40 years later! I remember that at some point, friends of my parents had a video recorder which I was allowed to borrow when they went away for the summer. They had a somewhat dodgy copy of A New Hope and I watched it literally every day that summer !
Star Wars has had a huge influence on my life with probably the biggest single effect being the number of friends I have made through shared nerd-dom. I love that, thanks to my membership of the 501st Legion, I can now travel to just about any country and meet up with people who I know have the same interest as me.
Of course, I have now passed this love on to the next generation with my son, Carl, being a big fan. He’s adopted from China and we have pictures of the two of us watching Star Wars on the very first night that we had him.
This love of Star Wars led you to join Nordic Garrison, tell us about the roles you have had within the Garrison?
I joined the 501st Legion and NG as a basic trooper 11 years ago. I quickly became interested in both running events and helping the club grow. I was active member number 25 when I joined and today we are 191 people spread across Sweden, Norway and Finland.
I’ve had almost every role that exists. I’ve been the Public Relations Officer, responsible for getting NG’s name out in public as much as possible. As Country Rep for Sweden I was the first point of contact for any event requests that came in. I loved doing that as it meant I got deeply involved in some of our biggest ever events particularly when Star Wars: The Exhibition came to Sweden and when DICE released the first Battlefront game and had a massive release party.
I’ve been both Executive Officer (second in Command) and was Commanding Officer for a few years as well. That time was a lot of fun but also a lot of work. We were growing really fast and had to transition from a small niche group to a massive one with event requests coming in almost daily. The biggest challenge was to create rules to make sure everyone behaved as we expected but not to create so many that the fun disappeared. Sometimes we went too far, sometimes not far enough but we’re all still here and still having a laugh, so I can’t have been all bad!
Today I am the Garrison Web Liaison. That job is mostly about Photoshopping images for people’s website profiles and forum avatars. Through that I have made some friends in the US and we now produce trading cards for the any active member of the 501st Legion. I’m also the chief admin of our forum so I’m in there several times daily making sure it all works, that everyone has the correct access levels, removing spammers and helping new people find their way around.
The one job that I have not had but would love to try out sometimes is Garrison Membership Liaison. That would place me in charge of approving all new costumes that are submitted for membership. We have so many tiny details that nobody but us ever notices and I really love learning about all the different costumes.
You have built several costumes and had them had 501st approved, can you tell us about each costume?
I started off as a Biker Scout. I chose that for several reasons. Firstly, I’ve always thought they looked really cool. Then there was the actual making of the costume. There is much more you can make yourself on a Biker Scout than on a stormtrooper. Final, comfort. When I was in the Tournament of the Roses parade in Los Angeles, we were being transported to and from our training ground on a bus each morning and afternoon. All the stormtroopers either had to strip off half their costumes or stand up. Us bikers just climbed on board, sat down and made ourselves comfy. The others weren’t at all jealous. OK, maybe just a little bit…
Next up was what is still my favourite costume, Darth Maul. That was a lot of fun (and work) as we made all the cloth parts of the costume ourselves. We got all sorts of reference pictures, measurement guides and so on and then started working one layer at a time.
What really shocked me was the things that people noticed first about the costume. Not the sabre or the many layers of costume but the lenses and the makeup I have to wear on my teeth (you read that right). Kids totally freak out about the flaming eyes and adults think the teeth are just gross.
Maul is a really fun character to play as you get to be pure evil and nobody minds. The only down side is that to do the makeup well take about two hours. Luckily, I have a very talented and patient wife.
My third costume is an airborne clonetrooper. It looks fantastic but is very uncomfortable to wear and you can’t see a thing in that helmet! I’ve only actually trooped in it about two or three times.
It’s a bit of a strange one because the airborne clones only feature briefly in ROTS on Utapau so not many people know them. Those who do really loved seeing them, but most people just ask who I’m supposed to be.
My most recent acquisition was mostly just because we needed a bit of a project at home. We made Kylo Ren costume in time for the premier of The Force Awakens. It was hard because obviously the film wasn’t out yet, so we didn’t know much about the costume. I spent a lot of time at Celebration in Anaheim photographing the screen-used costume that was on display but that only really showed the outer layer. What most people don’t know is that the costume is actually made up of 4 layers two of which are almost completely hidden all the time.
It was such a cool experience to be among the first people anywhere in the world to be seen as Kylo. I’m really glad he turned out to be a good character and didn’t get killed off. Now I just need to get on with all the changes that are needed for The Last Jedi.
There are still loads of costumes I’d love to get but if I could only choose one, it would be Boba Fett. His costume is totally badass, everybody loves him, and my guess is that he is going to turn up either in the Han Solo movie or maybe even his own film.
The best way to start is to get to know some locals. Attend a few events, make a few contacts and tell them you want to join. In NG we have supporters who attend events with us. They help with photography, getting in and out of costume and so on. Once you are known to the group, it’s not uncommon for people to allow you to try their costume to see if you really want to be that character or not.
For the actual costume, first job is to set a budget. This is not a cheap hobby and you’ll only be disappointed if you have to cut corners. Once that is done, got to the Costume Reference Library on 501st.com, look at all the options available and pick your costume.
Join your local garrison’s forum and the forum for the costume’s detachment. You find details of all those on 501st.com.
When making your costume, measure twice, cut once. Ask hundreds of questions and then ask a hundred more. Take your time. Do not rush it just to get finished a bit faster. You’ll just make a mistake and they are usually expensive.
Post photos as you go along so that people who are experts on your costume can give advice. Once you are done, you fill in a form on 501st.com, send photos to your local GML and then cross your fingers.
What is the most memorable Star Wars event you have attended with the 501st?
Without a doubt it has to be the Tournament of the Roses parade.
You have a piece of artwork that has become a labour of love, what can you tell us about it?
After moving to Sweden, I attended my first ever convention and met Dave Prowse, the man behind our favourite asthmatic Sith Lord, Darth Vader. I got his autograph and was hooked on collecting as many as I could. The problem was that the autographs each came on their own photograph and they started taking over our house. I decided to start collecting all my autographs on a single poster and chose the original The Empire Strikes Back poster as it has always been my favourite.
Today it is completely full, so it has gone into retirement and I’m, now covering my The Force Awakens poster. So far, I only have three on there but that will grow fast.
I have George Lucas’s autograph from the Rose Parade but the one I really want is Harrison Ford’s because, let’s face it, he is not just Han Solo but also Indiana Jones, two of the most iconic characters in movie history. I’d also love to get Liam Neeson because, like me, he is from Northern Ireland and Ewan McGregor because he seems like such a nice guy and is a huge Star Wars fan himself. If anyone has their phone numbers, please let me know!
Where can we see you next with Nordic Garrison?
Not surprisingly we are gearing up for the release of The Last Jedi. We’ll be at about 10 different locations. Checkout our forum and Facebook page to find out exactly where. Then we start the new year with the first of what is usually four Scandinavian Sci-Fi, Game and Film Conventions. We’re always there and have tonnes of fun things going on.
Come and say hi. We might look scary sometimes but we’re all normally people. Well vaguely normal, at least.
To end each point of view we will ask some rapid fire questions, gut feeling and no hesitation…
- Favourite Star Wars Film? The Empire Strikes Back, no question about it.
- Favourite Character? Darth Maul. He’s not in it for long and gets his ass handed to him but he’s cool as !
- Most ridiculous random piece of merchandise? My Jango Fett toothbrush. The bathroom was the only room in our house with no Star Wars stuff in it so I had to correct that !
- Holiday Special or Caravan of Courage? Caravan of Courage. Really must watch that again.
- Clone Wars or Rebels? Rebels is way better.
- Worst Star Wars film? Attack of the Clones.
- Porgs or Ewok? That’ll depend on what the Porgs do in TLJ…
- Treasured Star Wars possession? My signed photo from George Lucas from when I took part in the Star Wars Spectacular at the Tournament of the Roses parade.
- What colour of lightsabre would you have? Red. I’m definitely a Sith!
- What planet would you visit? Whichever one I can steal the Millennium Falcon or Slave I from!