Last night in Downtown Los Angeles, Film Independent put on one of the best live reads I've ever had the privilege of witnessing.
... Okay, so I've been to a total of three live reads, but for any fan of the epic Star Wars saga, last night was incredible: Jason Reitman has been putting on live reads of scripts for a while, taking classic movies and spinning them in unconventional ways, often by casting actors straight out of left field as fan-favorite characters. The result - at least the one that came out of last night - is pure magic.
After dashing out of the Moviepilot office at the end of my work day, I whipped up a $20 Han Solo costume and arrived early at downtown Los Angeles' Ace Hotel theater (the show sold so much and was in such high demand that Film Independent moved it from its usual home at LACMA to accommodate the ticket sales). The 501st Legion was on the scene, assisting the show and taking photos with fans.
But enough about me: Jason Reitman got right into introducing the cast after welcoming the audience, and while the most anticipated cast member at that moment was easily Ellen Page (Reitman said, verbatim: “I’m so excited to say these words. In the role of Han Solo… Ellen Motherf***king Page!”) the production had a few more tricks up it's sleeve.
Reitman made a big show out of the fact that characters were missing, and members of the 501st brought out two extra script stands. Reitman then announced [The Office](series:723298)'s Rainn Wilson as Chewbacca ("and only Chewbacca!") before mentioning that there was one more seat missing.
In a moment that I'll probably tell people about for the rest of my life, Reitman then announced Mark Hamill as Emperor Palpatine, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett.
Seeing Hamill, who we all know so well as our hero, take on roles that ranged from fan favorite to that of his own mentor was incredible. Hamill looked awesome, and watching his reactions to the casts' take on characters was truly endearing.
The full cast line-up saw [Breaking Bad](series:200567)'s Aaron Paul take on a gruff Luke Skywalker, but the actor fell right into the role as soon as he interacted with Kevin Pollack's charismatic and wise Yoda. Ellen Page took Han Solo's role in stride, causing the audience to swoon as soon as that iconic exchange between the Captain and Jessica Alba's Princess Leia played out.
Reitman assisted as the precocious R2-D2 to Stephen Merchant's arguably sassier, show-stealing C-3PO ("E tu cha!" said the silver protocol droid, to which Merchant's Threepio responded: "How f**king rude.") as Dennis Haysbert tackled the role of the suave Lando Calrissian. J.K. Simmons was escorted on stage by Stormtroopers, which was only fitting for his dark and interesting take on Darth Vader.
A master of voices, Mark Hamill's roles were a wonderful tribute to his former co-stars, as he took on smaller Imperial Officer roles with a tinge of the Joker's voice shining through. He was completely wonderful, and especially humble for an actor that just wrapped next year's most anticipated film, [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](movie:711158).
The night saw some hilarious moments: when Han and Lando reunited, their argument turned into a slap-fight between Page and Haysbert, while Aaron Paul and J.K. Simmons provided lightsaber sound effects during their epic showdown.
Various iconic moments were redone masterfully, especially for a cast that was reading the script cold. The 'I am your father' scene was absolutely wonderful, and definitely one that I had worried about because it was a cold read. By then, Aaron Paul embodied Luke Skywalker, and the tremor felt when Simmons informed him of his parenthood was amazing.
One year to the day before the official premiere of The Force Awakens, I was given the chance to watch the best installment of the franchise (so far, in my opinion) played out live on stage, with the original hero taking on the role of the villain. I almost felt bad for the woman next to me because I squealed, cheered, and clapped so loud that it almost got obnoxious. Needless to say, I would be totally down to relive this night, every night until The Force Awakens hits theaters.