How does one prepare to weep openly in front of 3,000 strangers? Well, 3,000 people found out really quickly during the Star Wars 40th Anniversary panel during Star Wars Celebration 2017. For a fandom that's clung dearly to the franchise for a full 40 years, there's a monumental amount of emotion attached to the films and the people responsible for them. We've watched these characters explore the world, grow old, and come back together. The magic was reignited the minute young Rey — our new hope, if you will — stepped on screen. So yeah, when you bring Kathleen Kennedy & George Lucas together on a stage to talk about the legacy, you're going to get some tears.
Fans had almost no idea what would be in store — the preparations were ridiculously secret. Star Wars Celebration is always full of surprises, besides Mark Hamill bringing one of his adorable dogs along with him (see: Celebration 2016 during which the new Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, surprised the crowd at a nebulously named film panel and the moment at which the entire Rogue One cast strolled onstage during a Rogue One panel that had previously only promised footage).
So when it came time to celebrate a birthday that's nothing less than a milestone, of course, Lucasfilm went all out.
1. George Freaking Lucas Showed Up
And everyone immediately cried. (Just me?) It's not often that the man himself shows up to a Celebration panel, especially since he parted ways with Lucasfilm and handed the reins over to Kennedy. Lucas spoke a bit about the process of creating the little film that would become a movement — including his assertion that A New Hope was a "cockamaymie idea."
Ultimately, he says "this is a film for 12 year olds," offering up the purpose of the film as a sort of instruction manual for young kids — choose the light side, avoid the dark side, choose friendship, etc. I'll admit, he's got a point. There's something about these films that takes all of us back to that formative stage of life.
2. Warwick Davis Read A Letter He Wrote As A Child To Lucas
"Dear Mr. Lucas, My name is Warwick, I hope you remember me, I helped you make the new Star Wars film last year," opens the adorable letter that young Davis wrote to Lucas. The point of the letter, of course, was access to the new slate of Star Wars toys — the Ewok ones, specifically.
3. Messages From A Few Fallen Jedi
Qui Gon never got the chance to be the character he could have been, when he was killed at the end of The Phantom Menace. Luckily, he brought some jokes with him. The reason he recorded a video message instead of coming by in person? He's shooting a "very secret film about Jar Jar Binks." Thank God that's a joke.
"Spoiler alert: he did go to the Dark Side," he added.
Samuel L. Jackson also sent a message to George: "We know that Star Wars characters can fall from great heights and survive," he said, offering the suggestion that Mace Windu should return after his unceremonious death.
4. Hayden Christensen & Ian McDiarmid Stopped By To Share Some BTS Secrets
The panel brought young Anakin and Emperor Palpatine back together to share a bit about what it was really like to make Episodes 1-3. For McDiarmid's part, Lucas wanted to assure the audience that the actor isn't as fearsome as his character.
"He's the nicest, loveliest, kindest, sweetest guy in the hold world. He is nothing like the Emperor," offered Lucas. "Maybe occasionally," joked McDiarmid.
Christensen, however, was very willing to embarrass himself a bit for the crowd, betraying the fact that when he was making Episodes 1-3, he couldn't stop making the lightsaber sounds that every kid who's ever picked up a lightsaber has learned to do.
"It was a difficult habit to break," he said, explaining that some lightsaber fight takes had to be scrapped because he was visibly making the saber sounds. "I was just so focused, I wasn't even aware I was doing it." I doubt any Star Wars fan would have done it any differently.
5. Peter Mayhew Shared The Sweetest Quote To Remember Carrie Fisher By
"She's a hell of a rebel, but she's also a beautiful princess," he said, sitting alongside Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams.
6. Mark Hamill Ribbed George Lucas About His Clunky Dialog
First, Lucas got a dig in on Hamill: "I wanted to have the chemistry built in, that and you were shorter than I was," said Lucas.
But after they played Hamill's audition tape, in which he spouts a line that was eventually cut. Hamill joked that he couldn't make it sound like "spontaneous dialog" but added the kicker that Han Solo's line in response was so complicated "there's no way Harrison would say it."
Luckily, we found out whether or not he would, because...
7. Harrison Ford Actually Showed Up
... And he said the overcomplicated line before ribbing Lucas too. "I said to George, you can type this stuff but you can't say it," he joked.
Ford doesn't generally show up to Celebration, but for the 40th anniversary, the powers that be made it happen. (And they even let Davis make a joke about Ford landing his plane on the highway. Whoops.)
Naturally, the crowd went insane.
8. Billie Lourd Gave A Tribute To Her Mother In The Best Way Possible
While Lourd, donning a Leia-esque white turtleneck dress, also gave moving speech about her mother, Carrie Fisher, she delivered what might be even more fitting: Leia's entire hologram speech to Obi-Wan Kenobi, word for word.
Fisher famously never forgot a single beat of the speech, dropping it in its entirety at any request. And to see Lourd show this treat, as something her mother left her with, was enough to make a room of 3,000 people weep openly.
9. Star Wars Composer John Williams Showed Up With An Orchestra To Play "Leia's Theme" In Tribute
The beloved composer (and the "greatest in the universe," according to Lucas) directed the Orlando Philharmonic to play the iconic song associated with Fisher and her iconic character, and there was not a dry eye in the house.
To cap off the event, Williams also led the musicians in playing the Star Wars theme itself and "The Imperial March." If you thought there's no way a room of people would be rocking out, standing on chairs, and getting down to some orchestra music, you've clearly never met a Star Wars fan.
Overall, nearly two-hour celebration gave fans everything they wanted: familiar faces, Harrison Ford & Mark Hamill in the same room, and a truly fitting and lovely way to say goodbye to General Leia.