Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and fortieth guest directed the legendary Fanboys – Kyle Newman.
Lightsabre – I spoke to the guys at the Force.Net the other day, they said to say hello when I spoke to you, so the guys at The Force.Net say hi.
KN – Absolutely, they’re great guys.
Lightsabre – They are, I was on the Force Cast the other week with Jimmy talking about Star Wars: A Musical Journey.
Lightsabre – It’s fantastic, when it gets to the States you’ve got to go, it’s absolutely amazing.
KN – How long did it play there for?
Lightsabre – It was only the two nights, the Friday and the Saturday a couple of weeks back but the plan is to take it into Europe and move it further afield and then get it to the States late summer I think. But it’s back in the UK November. Apparently Lucas was there on the Saturday night. Very cool.
So let’s talk a bit about Fanboys, that’s what the Star Wars crowd know you for. When did the idea for Fanboys first germinate?
KN – I first heard about the project online in 1998 on Harry Knowles website Ain’t-it-Cool News. I was a student at New York University and I was a huge Star Wars fan, and it just sounded like a cool project.
A few years later I was in post-production on another feature and I got introduced to the writer, I got involved and spent a few years developing it, putting the cast together. It was a side project. It didn’t take years of constant developing to get it into position.
Lightsabre – So it was very much under the radar when you were putting it together?
KN – It was under the radar for the longest time and something we were passionate about and worked on on the side.
Lightsabre – So how did that cast come together? Did you have the cast in place to give inspiration to the characters, how did that work up?
KN – Well, people really liked Jay Baruchel, people really liked Dan Fogel, I met him in New York and knew he’d be right for Hutch. I was friends with Kristen, so people really liked the parts and miraculously we got what we wanted. Seth Rogen came in to the game and wanted to play multiple roles, so that worked out great. Everyone we went after we ended up getting in the film.
Lightsabre – So how did Kevin Spacey come to be involved in a producers role?
KN – One of the producers, Evan, started working for Kevin’s company, brought it to their attention and they loved it and he got involved then.
Lightsabre – People obviously remember Spacey doing some Star Wars impressions on Saturday Night Live, I suppose that was the Star Wars connection people think of for him?
KN – At San Diego Comic Con he came on stage and he did one or two of his impressions.
KN – That Celebration Europe screening in London was very encouraging. It was a very key moment in the film’s history for me at least. It was the first time I screened it for fans and the response was incredible! There were over a thousand people in attendance and I could not believe the reaction. That gave me a lot of clarity… to fight for the right version of the film. For the most part I am happy with the release, but I really wish it would have been a wider one because I know there are so many people out there who still haven’t seen it. The response from the fans who have seen it has been really encouraging, and there’s more who are begging for it. That’s a little frustrating, when you know that there’s an audience that hasn’t been tapped into. Hopefully when it comes out on DVD and when it hits internationally it will. And each time the film expands into a new place I get very excited. I tried to attend a lot of the opening weekends here in the states. I may even head down to Australia for the June 5th screening in Melbourne. I would love to be there for that debut. And when it comes to the UK I will be there too!
Lightsabre – It’s kind of cool, it’s like way back when the original Star Wars was released on 32 screens and a few more picked it up the week after, and a few more the week after that. Fanboys seems to have had a similar kind of evolution.
KN – Yeah, we’ve hit a lot of cities so far. Over 150 markets I think. And this past weekend we added 15 more screens so it’s back up to 27. It actually came back to Los Angeles, so in that respect we’ve been very fortunate that it has had the longevity it’s had.
Lightsabre – What are your hopes for it abroad, I understand it’s in a few locations overseas as well?
KN – It is, I mean I hope we hit as many locations as we can, I hope it gets out on DVD in those regions, because Star Wars, which we tap into, is a worldwide phenomenon. It’s Japan and South America, all throughout Europe, it’s Australia, it’s everywhere, so we really want to get as many places as possible. You just want people to see your work, and everyone worked so hard on this and we’re all fellow fans.
Lightsabre – What was your initial attraction to Star Wars as a kid, what brought you into being a Star Wars fan?
KN – It was like my first memory, Star Wars was my entire childhood. I loved the Force and the aliens, I would always draw the aliens as a little kid. I think I was a year old when it came out and one of the first things I ever saw was Star Wars at the drive-in. I had all the action figures. Up until 2004 I had every action figure they made.
Lightsabre – Did you sell them?
KN – I don’t have everything, the only two I was missing for the longest time were the Power of the Force Yak Face and the Luke Stormtrooper Power of the Force. I got those two, which was great. Outside of that it was maybe a couple of figures packed with vehicles but I think I had every single action figure. Then it just became too expensive and hard to track down.
Lightsabre – Don’t you feel that Star Wars is branching out so much now that you could be an original trilogy fan, a prequel fan, a Clone Wars fan or an Expanded Universe fan. There’s so much going on that it almost becomes a niche within its own thing.
KN – Absolutely, you can pick an choose, which is great. I mean I love some EU, not all EU, I’m a huge Clone Wars fan and personally I’m a huge fan of the Prequels. I love the Prequels.
Lightsabre – Yeah, and the Prequels takes a hell of a dig, people seem to really get on the Prequels backs. It certainly did exactly what it set out to do.
KN – Yeah, I mean maybe Anakin would have been cooler as a little older and they just used the same actor throughout the three, but you know what? They’re George’s stories, he told them they way he wants to tell them, he’s funded them himself, they’re his movies. Great respect to that, he’s an independent filmmaker.
Lightsabre – Yeah. people seem to forget that, he’s not Hollywood funded he does it himself.
KN – I don’t think people realise how good The Phantom Menace is, if they watch it again. They haven’t seen it in ten years, but you should check it out now that you’ve seen all of them, or watch them together and you’ll realise how well woven together they are, how there’s parallels between things that happen to Luke and Anakin and the mistakes they make and the mistakes Luke doesn’t make. It’s really interesting, there’s lots of little details and things that are layered in that make all the movies intertextual. I don’t know, it’s very frustrating, people just go off on them. “But George, they’re stupid”, and that’s the full extent of their analysis from something they read in USA Today in 1999.
Lightsabre – Well you clearly look back at The Phantom Menace with fondness, and Fanboys is based around that whole era. Lightsabre has been going since 1999 so it was one of the reasons why we kicked off as a Star Wars specific site. I feel the same as you, I feel that film gets better with every repeat viewing, because you pick more up and there’s more going on than people give it credit for. They just looked at the Pod Race and the lightsaber battles and nothing more.
KN – Yeah, I had a cool chance at Celebration IV in LA, they showed all six movies in HD on the big screen for the fans.
Lightsabre – Did they show them in the right order?
KN – In the right order yes, I got to see it all, it was really awesome. A lot of people who didn’t like the Prequels also have a new type of affinity for them after seeing the others, “They’re really good, was was I hating on the Prequels?”
Fanboys is set in this period where it’s not about…it’s 1998 and there’s all this hoopla about Episode 1 coming, it’s not about the movie.
Lightsabre – It’s about the expectation.
KN – It’s about the community, the expectation, the shared background everyone has, the nostalgia for their youth, so it’s really about looking forward to something as opposed to criticising the movie in anyway. There’s a few jokes to keep everyone serviced, because we know there’s people who don’t like it, so you have to poke a few jokes and criticise what you can, but it’s very fleeting stuff, it’s not permanent throughout the whole thing, just a couple of moments. There’s a couple of moments here and there, but it’s really not about that at all.
Lightsabre – I think if we can’t take fun out of ourselves a little bit then there really is something wrong, isn’t there?
KN – Yeah, absolutely yeah. You have to joke a little about everything, and that’s the niche of the movie, it’s a comedy. You have to have fun with it, we don’t do more than have fun with it. It’s very reverent, it’s a love-letter to Star Wars and to an era, you know 1998 it’s trying to be a time capsule not just about Star Wars but about pop culture and music and other movies.
Lightsabre – Yeah, that era. Well, like you say, it wasn’t only 1998, and obviously we all saw the trailer when it hit the net in the November and everybody went nuts when the film came out?
KN – Meet Joe Black had the trailer.
Lightsabre – I think The Siege might have had a trailer as well. It was the turn of the millennium as well and everybody was all hyped up for that. It was perfectly timed.
KN – Yeah, it had been sixteen years, right?
Lightsabre – Yeah, I still can’t believe it was sixteen years between the movies, and now that the Prequels have been and gone it…
KN – It’s ten years since The Phantom Menace.
Lightsabre – Where did you see The Phantom Menace, where were you when you saw it?
KN – I was in New York City and I saw it at the Ziegfield in midtown, I saw it at the Union Square theatre on 13th and Broadway area and I saw it like eleven times, saw it all over New York City, in New Jersey with the family. Was it the same release date in the UK?
Lightsabre – It was the 19th July, a lot later than the States, that’s why I flew over to see it in Las Vegas. I remember Sith was the same day, because we’re a few hours ahead of the States and friends of mine technically saw it before I did, and it was just as huge over here. You were here for Celebration Europe, you came over didn’t you?
KN – Yeah, I came over for it, I was only in London for about 19 hours. Were you there?
Lightsabre – I was there, yeah. We were lucky, we had a Lightsabre stand but we were in the dealers area, so we were really busy. We weren’t selling anything, they just couldn’t fit us in the fan area so Barry Eldridge the organiser was very kind and put us in the dealers area.
KN – That’s great, I thought it was a really good show, I only got to be there for the Saturday but I was really impressed with the international community. It was a good energy, it was very cool, similar to what was going on in LA, which just showed you that Star Wars was a universal phenomenon, it wasn’t like it manifested itself very differently…maybe there’s more costumes in the US. I don’t know, the scale is a little bigger here for LA.
Lightsabre – I think there were about 36,000 over the weekend in the UK. I understand the LA one was a bit bigger than that.
KN – Yeah, I’ve been to Celebration 2 and 3 in Indianapolis as well, been to four Celebrations now.
Lightsabre – You planning on going to the fifth one next year?
KN – I wish I could have gone to Japan. Are they doing a fifth one next year, I keep hearing rumours.
Lightsabre – As I understand it it’s Florida in May, so I’m saving my pennies. That’s only a rumour, so we’ll see. It would be perfect, Empire‘s thirtieth anniversary.
KN – It’s perfect timing. So I was talking to Dave Filoni last night.
Lightsabre – Oh yeah?
KN – And he was like ‘When’s Celebration?’ and I was like ‘I don’t know, I know they’re talking about 2010. I’m going to try and get to a Star Wars Fan Days that they’re doing in Plano, Texas, which I’ve heard is really good. They’re fun when you get all the fans together, a shared interest, I wish there was one every year.
Lightsabre – Well it would be great to get you over to the UK, if there’s a Fanboys premiere. Is that still on the cards?
KN – I’ve asked the studio what’s going on and I don’t think they’ve sold the UK rights yet. I keep saying let me do a screening but they’re still hoping we’ll sell it. They might have sold it and locked somebody in, but either way I’ll come over at some point and screen it on DVD.
Lightsabre – Well we’d love to see you over here again, obviously.
KN – Oh, it would be so cool. Do two or three screenings in one day.
KN – I like Star Trek, when I grew up I was into all the science fiction stuff. I was obviously more of a Star Wars fan but I was still a member of Starfleet, which was a Star Trek fan club. I had some of the toys, but I was always way more of a Star Wars fan. I still like Star Trek. I saw the new film, it was a fun movie. They even have the little guy in it, he’s kind of like a mixture between an Ewok and Jar Jar. It was very cool.
Lightsabre – Yeah, I went to the UK premiere and nearly knocked Simon Pegg over on the blue carpet, which was embarrassing.
KN – Oh wow!
Lightsabre – He was in a kilt, and was going commando, so that could have been quite embarrassing. He looked really cool, his wife’s Scottish and he was playing Scotty. ILM totally knocked it out of the park on that film.
KN – That’s so awesome.
Lightsabre – It seems that Lucasfilm really took to the whole Fanboys concept, to the extent that they helped you with it by releasing certain rights for certain things. How did that relationship build up?
KN – I think Kevin Spacey made the initial call to George Lucas and started the process going, but they read the script, saw that it was a love-letter to Star Wars fans, that it wasn’t a malicious movie, they trusted us and that’s how it started, and then from there we told them every detail of what we wanted. If we wanted a Burger King cup from 1978 in that scene, we made a whole list. They knew what we were talking about and what we were doing and how respectful we were being. And then they started being more lenient, we put the Ewok humping scene in it and things like that we got away with because we’d developed this rapport and this trust. That was really awesome, getting to work with them so closely, being such a fan of that company. There’s an Industrial Light and Magic effect in the movie, Rick McCallum did a cameo which didn’t end up in the movie and Rick was very helpful and supportive and opened up some doors for us there. Overall working with them was incredible.
Lightsabre – I think they’re cooler than people give them credit for.
KN – Way cooler, I mean people just want to reduce it to ‘Oh, George Lucas just releases the DVD’s just to make money.’ Well, Star Wars wasn’t the first movie out on DVD, or the first movie out on Blu-Ray. He waits to see what the technology is going to be, what’s the best thing for fans, what’s the best thing for the movies, and I remember him saying you don’t have to buy them either. The merchandise is great but he creates the merchandise we want. I don’t see what the problem is and why there’s a bad rap there, if people didn’t desire a part of that universe then it’s not like he’s making a bunch of toys for a movie no-one cares about, people want it, people desire it, people buy it, people request it so I don’t see the problem there. I see a smart, well-run company. It’s a small company, but they have a global brand and they’re managing it very successfully giving it life every ten years. I mean there’s only one dark period in Star Wars history and that’s probably Ewoks Battle for Endor, the Star Tours era, but then you look at it and you go ‘there’s still a Star Wars in the world’.
Lightsabre – And even after Jedi there was Ewoks and Droids cartoons, but West End (Games) started the roleplay back then, that was huge as well. It’s certainly had a longevity that other franchises haven’t had.
KN – I think the beginnings of the EU were in that era, Caravan of Courage, Battle for Endor, Star Tours, the West End roleplaying game and the Heir to the Empire trilogy. Star Wars almost took a step backwards and went in these different directions to take a big step forward.
Lightsabre – I think if it had carried on as it was we could have had more Holiday Specials, if it hadn’t gone away for a while.
KN – Yeah…yes, that was a scary chapter.
Lightsabre – You can’t help but watch the Holiday Special with your hands over your face. I still think they’ll release it as an Easter Egg on a DVD.
KN – It has to somewhere. Everyone knows the joke about it, everyone knows it’s bad. Why not? I guess then people will go ‘Oh he’s definitely making money, they make money off everything’ There’s a prime example of how it’s not all about making money. It’s all about quality for him. I guess if the fans really want it and request it then they should put it out, but you can tell for George Lucas it’s about quality and he doesn’t need to put it out. He doesn’t want people who’ve never seen it to see it, so…
Lightsabre – I suppose that was the one time he really genuinely released control of Star Wars to somebody else and they made a right pigs ear of it.
KN – Yeah, and I guess he learned a lesson, but we had the Boba Fett cartoon, that was great.
Lightsabre – Your wife Jaime had a voice role in the final episode of season one of The Clone Wars. Do you have any ambitions to be involved with The Clone Wars at all?
KN – Oh yeah, I would love to be involved with The Clone Wars, it’s one of my favourite shows on TV ever, I watch each episode multiple times, I’m a big fan of what the guys are doing in this era of Star Wars because you get to play with a lot of familiar characters but you get to see them in roles that are outside of the Anakin Skywalker storyline, yet you’re still in this universe where there are your key, core characters but you can pop in on some ancillary ones and see the world in a different way. We see a lot of history that before you never actually got to see. The battles in the movies other than the beginning and the end. I think it’s a fun world to play in and I’m a huge fan of it. I’d drop anything to do something like that.
Lightsabre – I think it surprised a lot of people, a lot of guys thought it would be aimed just at the kids but certain elements of The Clone Wars have just…?
KN – …got darker and darker, it’s gradually progressed, lots of back-stabbing, lightsaber’s, blasters to people chests and it’s going to get even darker as there’s an arc to it. You can’t start out as dark as possible, but it will get there as the world gets worse.
Lightsabre – I wonder how they’ll play the live action, as the rumour is it will focus on the underworld and aimed at an older fanbase, so it will be a bit edgier. I think Rick McCallum has gone on record as saying that, but I’m wondering how they’re going to play that and fit it all into the chronology?
KN – Yeah, I’d heard it’s darker for sure but there’s definitely room for that. Some might be more of a fan of that than The Clone Wars, and visa versa, so it’s great that what makes it incredible is Star Wars and its universe. Going back to the universal characters that people love and that’s why the roleplay games and online games work, video games work. It’s huge, so you want to…so many things haven’t been explored yet, so it will be exciting, that kind of tone. I’m pretty sure people will take to it, because the kids who grew up on the Prequels are going to be more mature now and ready for a show like that.
Lightsabre – When we were setting up this interview you mentioned that you were familiar with Lightsabre. Had you just seen us browsing around other sites, or followed links from other sites?
KN – Yeah, I have a friend who first linked me to something there a couple of years ago, that’s how I first came across the site and I added it to my list of sites that I visit frequently. There’s a lot of different sites that I like to pop in on, and Lightsabre’s definitely one I like. There’s six or seven of them that I check weekly or daily sometimes, depends. When did you start, you said 1999?
Lightsabre – Yeah, the whole website started in about ’95, we were a Star Trek site called Q Continuum originally, then that went by the wayside. We were Wirezone for a while, then FantaWar and in ’99 Louis bought the name Lightsabre and we launched June ’99. But we’ve been going almost non-stop for ten years.
So, what’s next for you? Obviously you’re still pushing Fanboys and getting the word out there about it but what’s you’re next project? Do you have your eye on something yet?
KN – There’s a couple of things. There’s a property called Emo Boy based on a popular Indie comic book, it’s a dark comedy set in High School with a big music tie-in to it which is great, I’m very excited about that. There’s also a biopic about Brigitte Bardot and another project that I’m doing which is the race to the South Pole between Scott and the Norwegian explorer Amundsen, and I’m developing that, I have a script so that’s in a Master and Commander kind of vein but we’re trying to do it more kind of green screen, trying to do it as small budget as we can but still make a historical epic in a very different way. And there’s a couple of Indie projects that I’m looking at, I really want to do something independent of the studio system if I can, so there’s a few options out there, I’m also developing a reality series with my wife. So there’s a bunch of different things.
Lightsabre – So Fanboys has opened some good doors for you?
KN – Definitely, yeah. And I’m still trying to get this whole Wolfman Jack biopic thing going and I think this could be the year.
Lightsabre – So who would you get to play Wolfman?
KN – Dan Fogler who’s also in Fanboys.
Lightsabre – Well that will do us great I think.
KN – Awesome, thank you very much man, glad I finally got to talk to you on the phone.
Lightsabre – Well I’m sure we’ll speak again and when you get over to the UK for the Fanboys premiere we’ll have to make sure we catch up for a few beers.
KN – Absolutely, let’s do it. Hopefully I’ll be over there soon with the movie. Thank you very much, bye.
Interview originally posted on www.lightsabre.co.uk on 3rd and 31st May 2009.