ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, while movies and TV shows can sometimes seem to become the most important things in the world to us — especially when they're cancelled, or monumentally screwed up — life tends to have a way of bringing us back down to Earth, and reminding us that there are some things that make even the release of a shiny new Star Wars: Rogue One trailer insignificant by comparison.

Take, for instance, the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. While most of us were taking over-excitement to a whole new level of frenzied geekery, some fans were dealing with something a whole lot more unavoidable: terminal illness. There were, as it turned out, a whole lot of dedicated Star Wars fans of all ages who weren't likely to make it through to the release of The Force Awakens. And, as it turns out...

That Prompted Disney (And J.J. Abrams In Particular) To Do Something Pretty Darned Incredible

Now, countless fans around the world were touched by the story of Daniel Fleetwood, a 32-year-old Texan who was given only two months to live back in July of 2015. Using the hashtag , fans — and several Star Wars stars — used social media to plead with the filmmakers to screen the movie for Daniel, who had little hope of making it to the film's December release. Now, in the end, Daniel defied all expectations, and made it all the way through to five months, eventually passing away on November 10 — five days after J.J. Abrams made sure he got to see The Force Awakens.

Now, that's incredibly touching — and proved to be inadvertently excellent PR for the movie — but, as it turns out, Disney, Lucasfilm and Abrams had a bigger plan.

Abrams Didn't Just Screen 'The Force Awakens' To Daniel

Far from it, in fact. Instead, as Abrams recently revealed to EW, after being asked about his favorite fan experiences related to The Force Awakens:

"You know, there are a lot of examples of passionate and excitable people but the most, I think, profound experience was that in the time before the movie came out — about a month before — we had a couple people go around to those fans who were not going to survive because of terminal illness until the movie came out...The movie was screened probably two dozen or so times to various people who, tragically, were struck with illness that would prevent them from seeing the movie otherwise."

Yup, that's right. J.J. Abrams and the folks at Lucasfilm (presumably with a sign-off from the higher-ups at Disney) formed a team to go around the country, screening a rough cut of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, one of the most eagerly anticipated movies of all time, to those fans who weren't going to make it through to the film's opening.

Which Isn't Even The Most Touching Part Of That Story

That particular honor goes to Abrams himself, who took the time to call everyone of the fans and personally introduce the movie:

"I would speak with these people before and after...Sometimes they were adults and other times they were children and it was always…it was the most profound thing to be reminded in such a clear and wonderful and heartbreaking way how important this world was that George Lucas created, what it meant to these people."

Indeed, as he went on to note:

"It was a reminder to all of us how what we were doing was really important to so many people...It was also a reminder about what was important in life with all the pressure and everyone always asking, ‘Oh, how do you deal with the pressure?’ Then you talk to someone who’s going through something like this, or a family member who’s going through something like this, and you very quickly realize that this pressure [of making the movie] is nothing. This pressure is a luxury. And that was probably the most impactful type of experience with a Star Wars fan."

Now, here's the real kicker of all that:

Lucasfilm and Abrams Went Ahead And Did All Of That Without Telling Anybody

Yup, that's right. Aside from Daniel's screening — made public by his own family — Abrams and Lucasfilm's pretty darned remarkable gesture flew completely under the radar, and Abrams clearly intends to keep it that way:

"We didn’t want it to turn into a publicity stunt... This was a quiet thing we were doing for people who will remain anonymous but it was you know… the exchanges and the conversations that we all had with these families and these people were really moving."

Which, when you think about it, is pretty damned incredible. Nicely played, Star Wars folks. Nicely played.

What do you think, though?


Just how incredible was it of Lucasfilm and Abrams to put on those screenings?

via EW


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