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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Star Wars fans celebrate in LA

By David Willis
BBC News, Los Angeles

More fans in fancy dress
Members of the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance have been gathering - peacefully - in Los Angeles for the fourth annual Star Wars Celebration.

The BBC's David Willis went along to meet the fans marking the 30th anniversary of the stellar sci-fi franchise.

Another career opportunity goes begging: I will never make it as an intergalactic warrior.

That much is clear, following a session at the Jedi training academy - one of the many attractions at a four-day convention to mark the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.

As organiser Derek Petit put me through my paces - urging me to dodge and weave my way through a maze of inflatable obstacles while opponents took aim with 'guns' emitting an infra red beam - it swiftly became apparent that opponents several decades younger were running rings around me. Literally.

David Willis receives his Jedi training
Derek Petit (right) schooled me in the ways of the Jedi
Derek was far too polite to tell me my performance was pitiful: 'Room for improvement,' he said, 'but don't forget these youngsters are reared on this sort of thing.'

Second generation

I shouldn't have been too surprised to find myself licked into shape by a bunch of children.

Many of the sci-fi fanatics who queued for days to see the first George Lucas blockbusters have passed their passion onto their offspring.

There is now a second generation of Star Wars fans, and many who have made the pilgrimage to the Los Angeles Convention Center to pay homage weren't even born in 1977 when the first movie hit the screens.

But what became the most successful motion picture franchise of all time started life with a whimper rather than a bang.

Stormtrooper

Its release here in America was limited to just 32 screens because most cinemas didn't want anything to do with it.

These days they are more receptive.

As well as the Jedi training academy, this convention will hold a stormtrooper Olympics, a race involving home made R2-D2 robots, and - according to the list of events - belly dancing lessons by slave Leia.

There is also the opportunity to get the autograph or a picture of your favourite star in return for coupons costing $10 a piece.

More than 50 Star Wars actors are to be found seated behind neatly-arranged trestle tables ready to sign anything a fan thrusts at them

Greedo's mistake

Among them is British actor Paul Blake - who told me he was working on BBC children's programme Jackanory in 1976 when a colleague was offered work at Elstree studios in Hertfordshire, and asked Paul if he wanted to join him.

On arrival, Paul asked the first person he met if they could point out the director - oh, and if there was any chance of a cup of coffee that would be nice.

Merchandise stall
Anyone who wanted more merchandise was happily catered for
The man returned with the coffee and politely introduced himself.

He was George Lucas.

Paul spent a long hot summer in a green latex mask, having been cast as Greedo, a green monster.

It's just possible that for all his politeness Lucas was capable of bearing a grudge.

As for me, undeterred by today's failure I intend to return to the Jedi training academy tomorrow.

I may not be Luke Skywalker but I will not give in to the dark side.

May the force be with me.


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