Any Star Wars fan with internet access has probably seen the work of Dan Brooks, senior writer and editor of StarWars.com. From the Empire’s Say No to May the 4th campaign and Yoda’s appearance on ESPN to numerous iconic features and interviews, you would have to be living under a rock on Ahch-To to overlook Dan’s contributions to our favorite far off galaxy. With Dan often working behind the scenes, we thought it would be fun to bring him into the spotlight by interviewing the man who usually does the interviewing. Unsurprisingly, Dan did not disappoint.
Instagram and Twitter followers may already know that Dan is a family man, music connoisseur, one third of the podcast It Came From The Depths Of Netflix, and a New York sports fan despite living in California. Our goal was to shed some additional light on the man himself and we got more than we bargained for. Dan generously shared glimpses of his own Star Wars journey from receiving his first action figure at the age of four to working at Lucasfilm several decades later, fascinating insight on his most memorable interviews over the years, and even a couple of hilarious stories at his own expense. Brace yourself for a fun read, as we trust that you will enjoy Dan’s answers every bit as much as we did.
FT: What are three interesting facts about you that the average StarWars.com reader may not know about?
DB: Oh man, throwing heat right out the gate! This is tough. Disclaimer: I promise that these are three facts, but not that they’re interesting.
1) I did not beat Super Mario Bros. until it was released on the Wii’s Virtual Console. As a huge Nintendo fan, never having finished it was like carrying a scarlet letter that only I knew about. It haunted me. I’m glad to have finally done it but still shamed that it took me about 20 years to do so.
2) My Instagram is filled with photos of vinyl records but I’m still a pretty big CD proponent and collector. They sound great, they’re portable, they’re easy to use, and they’re really cheap now. I don’t understand why people have not only abandoned them, but seem to hate them so much. I’m sure they’ll have an ironic renaissance at some point, and I’m glad I’ve kept mine.
3) I was once ordering a sandwich at a Subway, choosing my toppings, and I could not, for the life of me, remember the word for “lettuce.” Even worse, the guy behind the counter just stood there, watching as I struggled to bring the word forth. I mean, it really felt like a long time. Finally, I was able to eke out a description: “You know, the ‘salady’ stuff.” He stared. “You mean lettuce?” “Yeah, lettuce,” I replied. It was not my greatest moment.
DB: It’s hard, with memories from when you’re really young, to know which happened first — they’re more like “images, really. Feelings,” to quote Leia — so I’ll throw out a couple.
When I was probably about 4 years old, I have a pretty strong memory of my father coming home from a business trip with a Kenner Darth Vader action figure for me. I can still see him putting it on an ironing board in the kitchen of our Brooklyn apartment, and I remember the feeling I had picking it up. It was such a surprise and it was Vader, which is basically all you need to know to understand why it was so impactful.
I’m pretty sure this next one is after the Kenner Vader. My parents took me to see a re-release of Return of the Jedi in 1985, somewhere in Manhattan, I believe — I took all of my toys with me to the theater and stood them up on my seat, and then watched the movie sitting on my dad’s lap. This one’s a little hazier but I can still recall placing the figures and the excitement I felt. To hear my dad tell it, I didn’t move for the entire movie.
FT: What Star Wars quote do you live by?
DB: Hmmmm. I’d like to say “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” But in reality, it’s probably more Han’s “It’s not my fault!”
FT: What is your rarest Star Wars collectible or memorabilia?
DB: I’m not sure that I have anything that rare, but I do have all of my old Kenner stuff — probably around 40 or so figures, a bunch of vehicles, and playsets. I have the widescreen VHS box set of the original trilogy, with the hologram on the cover, which I really love. Otherwise, I kind of count things by how meaningful they are to me, not by how rare. I have a painting of Greedo that some friends gave me, which I keep in my office; a StarWars.com fan made LEGO toys of a bunch of the team members, so I do have my own LEGO Jedi Dan, and that blows my mind. One my favorite projects here was working with Marvel artist Phil Noto to create a custom Blu-ray cover for Solo, exclusive to StarWars.com, and I have the first printout of it ever on my copy of Solo.
DB: It’s a combination of everything that lands you any job, to be honest: skill, timing, and a little luck. When the opportunity arose, I had a pretty balanced resume for what they were looking for. I had a strong portfolio of copywriting for other brands and writing about pop culture, I had interned in the Marvel Digital Media Group and a bunch of other places, and I had run a successful blog. These experiences provided a solid foundation, and I loved and knew Star Wars, so I think I was a well-rounded candidate. That said, I couldn’t believe it when I got the job. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe. I don’t take it for granted.
FT: What has been the biggest change in your life as a result of working for Lucasfilm?
DB: Living on the West Coast, for one thing. I’d only ever lived on the East Coast, and that was mainly in Brooklyn and Staten Island. I moved to San Francisco specifically for the job, so it was a big deal, especially in my family. Almost everyone — my parents, my sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, whoever — is still in Brooklyn, Staten Island, or New Jersey. No one leaves! But I couldn’t turn it down. It was a dream job.
Otherwise, I don’t know that I’ve experienced big changes, but rather opportunities. My boss, Mickey Capoferri, is really generous in terms of how much creative freedom he gives me and the whole team. (I also want to take a moment to mention Kristin Baver. She’s our associate editor and an excellent writer. Kristin started about a year ago and has been a great asset to the site and team overall.) As a whole, the people I work with internally and externally are all eager to help create good content. Interviews, recipes, crafts, guest blogs, behind-the-scenes features on comics, clothing, and movies, fan spotlights, custom Blu-ray cases, whatever — I’ve been able to do a lot of what I’ve wanted to do in terms of content and content strategy for StarWars.com, and I’ve learned a lot. Writing and working on video content, too. It’s been really amazing.
DB: This is hard. I’m going to have to give you three. Sorry, and get comfy!
Dhani Harrison was a really special one for me. Dhani is George Harrison’s son. I’m a huge fan of the Beatles, and of George especially, and I’m a fan of Dhani in his own right. He’s a talented musician and just a creative, thoughtful person. I had an inkling that he was a big Star Wars fan, and I tried for a long time to get in touch with him. When we finally got to talk, he had such great enthusiasm for Star Wars that our conversation just went by in a flash. And he told some great stories about his dad, that I loved hearing. I think he enjoyed it too.
Another one I’m really grateful for is Mark Hamill. I only had 20 minutes with him, and it was pre-Last Jedi, so I had to keep things moving and mostly avoid talking about Episode VIII, but still make it meaningful. I basically asked him all the things I wanted to know about him and the original trilogy, and I also tried to have some fun with him. He was so kind and honest and funny, and I think it came out well. Luke has always been my favorite character, and I’ve always felt that Mr. Hamill was a great actor, so that one meant a lot.
And I recently published an oral history on The Phantom Menace for its 20th anniversary. I spoke to George Lucas for about two hours, which was incredible, as well as Doug Chiang, John Knoll, Ahmed Best, and a bunch of other really talented people who worked on the movie. Lynne Hale, who’s the head of Lucasfilm PR, really helped and was behind it 100 percent. It’s honest and in-depth. It was an honor to do it and to tell their stories, and I’m very proud of it.
I can keep going, but I know you said one, and I’m already pushing it!
FT: What item on your desk or wall is the most inspirational to you?
DB: I have a mug with my name all over it — literally — that a friend (thanks, Paula!) gave me, because someone stole my Beatles mug from the kitchen. Inspiring? Maybe not, but it’s my mug and now everyone knows it!
But aside from that, it’s either the photos of my wife and kids, which I take time to look at every day, or what I call my “Star Wars memory shelf.” It’s just a collection of things I’ve picked up over the years here, from Black Series figures to convention badges to LEGO Jedi Dan.
DB: Cold. Death. That incessant music sting you hear every time you die in the game.
Seriously, I have no idea how we beat the Super Star Wars games back in the day. They were so hard. But I love them.
DB: Hmmm. One goal of mine is, someday, to write comics — and I’d really love to write Star Wars comics. That would be incredible and I’d give it everything I’ve got. There are a few other things, but overall I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to do so far. Life is good.
Dan Brooks is the senior writer and editor of StarWars.com. When he’s not waist-deep in Star Wars, Dan co-hosts the It Came From The Depths Of Netflix podcast and enjoys rock ‘n’ roll, the outdoors, video games, and the New York Jets, Rangers, and Yankees.