Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and forty-eighth guest is a long-time Lucasfilm employee and author – Pete Vilmur.
Lightsabre – Pete, welcome to Lightsabre.
Lightsabre – You work for Lucasfilm, the home of Star Wars, but where did your personal Star Wars journey begin?
PV – I was eight when I first caught Star Wars in 1977, although I can’t pinpoint the exact date or location. Like most eight-year-olds at the time, I was totally blown away. That year, though, there wasn’t a lot of merchandise available yet, so I really got into the Topps trading cards. I remember I started with the third series, the yellow cards, and traded for the earlier blue and red sets I’d missed. Strangely, I wasn’t into the toys as much as my friends were, although I’ve since had the figures I played with at my best friend’s house given to me as a gift. My favorite Star Wars items at the time were the trading cards, soundtrack, story of record, and Kenner’s hand-crank movie viewer. The only figure I ever owned back then was the 12-inch Darth Vader doll.
Lightsabre – As internet content developer you play a huge part in determining what stories arrive on the Official Site. How are these stories and announcements decided upon?
PV – Every Monday, the Online content team meets to schedule the week’s content, which may or may not be directed by a theme – we’ve discovered that themed weeks are great for coaxing out ideas for content, be it girl’s week, “scum and villainy” week, back to school week, or what have you. My favorite so far has to be the week of Holiday Special content we served up last November 2008 – that was a kick to post on the official site.
Of course, major announcements are usually directed by Marketing, and product announcements are determined by the various licensees. The frustration is getting to see all the fantastic merchandise coming down the pike, but not getting to talk about it – product reveals have become quite competitive among both fan sites and licensee’s own official websites.
Lightsabre – Which of the movies stands out as your favourite and why?
PV – Boy, tough one. Well, naturally I hold a special place for A New Hope, since it’s the film that basically introduced me to the Star Wars universe and is indelibly hardwired into the memories of my youth. And you can’t beat its soundtrack. Critically-speaking, Empire is certainly the most well-crafted of the bunch, and is the most satisfying to watch. I have to say I like Revenge of the Sith the more I see it, and especially appreciate some of the musical risks John Williams took with its soundtrack – “Padme’s Ruminations” is one of the most poignant pieces of the saga for me.
Lightsabre – You worked alongside collecting legend Steve Sansweet on the exhaustively detailed The Star Wars Vault. It seemed like a monumental project to undertake. How much of your life did the book consume?
PV – Well, my co-authoring relationship with Steve actually started with The Star Wars Poster Book, which has to be the most intensive publishing project I’ve worked on so far. Just tracking down the artists and those involved with marketing the earlier films was a real challenge. I was happy to have found early publicist Charley Lippincott while working on that project, who has been a great source of information for my subsequent projects with Steve and others. The Poster Book was my first real publishing endeavor and I am eternally grateful to Steve for the many opportunities that project has opened for me.
I’d have to say Vault was actually more fun to work on, since the scope of Star Wars history and memorabilia was more broad and open to exploration. For that project, Steve and I had to search and sort through his vast collection of paper ephemera and other materials, stuff that hadn’t really been cataloged or researched until then. In addition, I was able to bring in a lot of stuff from my personal collection to share, random stuff that really hadn’t found a place to be showcased outside of the Vault project.
How much of my life did the book consume? Well, spending countless nights at Steve’s museum pouring over his vast archive for research did take a lot of time, but was worth every second.
Lightsabre – In researching The Star Wars Vault were there any big surprises that turned up, as you must have really been pulling stuff from deep in the archives?
PV – I think the find that was the most fun was finally locating the original tape marked “Reel 2 Dialog 2”, the oft-cited item that became the source for R2-D2’s name. I kind of threw the idea to Steve as a joke, but he really dug in and pursued it until I believe it finally turning it up in the collection of Graffiti sound man Walter Murch.
Lightsabre – Your next project is The Complete Vader, with Ryder Windham. What made you decide to delve into the onscreen and pop culture life of Vader, above any of the other popular characters? And what can we expect from the book?
PV – I came on this project to help with some of the history and collecting categories that we wanted to include in the book. I’d done something of a Vader collectibles retrospective a few years ago for a one-shot magazine, so had a pretty good handle on what Vader merchandise needed to be covered in The Complete Vader. I also thought Vader’s effect on pop culture deserved some in-depth coverage, which I think is well-served in the book.
Lightsabre – Clearly you enjoy the research and work involved with being an author. Is it something you’d like to continue going forward, alongside your work on the Official Site and The Star Wars Insider?
PV – You know, the research really is the best part of my job. When I was a kid, I had two real loves – Star Wars and archaeology (and this was before Indiana Jones – that was just a happy coincidence). Researching for the site and for the books has become the perfect marriage of the two – I basically get to hunt down and document the lost history of one of our generation’s most influential works. In fact, if Lucasfilm were to ever create an official historian position, I’d be first in line to enlist.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Jonathan Rinzler calls you into his office and sits you down with a large glass of Coca Cola. There are 3 possible projects he’d like you to tackle for a new coffee table book. First off is The Complete Jar Jar: An in-depth look into the Gungan Menace. Second is Once Upon an Ewok, the making of Battle for Endor, and the third is Princess Leia’s Costume Nightmares. Which book do you choose and why?
PV – Oh, absolutely the Jar Jar book. I’ve long held a sneaking suspicion that Jar Jar’s day will come, as he’s already become a fixture of pop culture whether we like it or not. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not a big fan of Jar Jar’s character, but there is something seductively appealing about him. I actually think a book about Jar Jar collectibles, etc could be whimsical and a lot of fun. I’m guessing this will be something for the next generation to tackle, though, after Jar Jar’s had a good 30 years to mellow in the public conscience.
As someone who coordinated a week’s worth of Holiday Special coverage on starwars.com in 2008, can my choosing the Jar Jar option be much of a surprise?
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 25th October 2009.