June 29, 2003....the day before shooting begins on Ep. III:
We see a large rectangular table with actors sitting side-by-side....each being handed a small packet of stapled papers by a Lucas Films staffer. It's the script, finished about 4 minutes earlier and hastily printed on a dot-matrix printer. Not the whole script, just their respective parts. Today is the day of the big script-reading. Shooting begins tomorrow. The final Star Wars film.
Lucas Staffer: Obi Wan? Is there an Obi Wan Keno....
McGregor: Oh, yes...over here. Thank you.
Staffer: Yoda...is there a....
...and so on. Next the principles are asked to introduce themselves and the part they're playing Lucas begins.
GL: I'm George Lucas and I'm king of the world (laughs). Just the cinema world, really. I'm responsible for this whole mess. Well, not the mess part. I have other people to blame for the messes, right Rick. (chuckles...nods to Ben Burtt) Well, anyhow. I'm the captain of this tug boat. Next?
Ewan: Hello there. (smiles) I'm Ewan and I'll be playing Obi Wan Kenobi yet again. And in this one, I get to kick this baddie's arse. (points to Hayden).
GL: Oh, someone's reading ahead I see.
Ian McDiarmid: (perplexed) That's not in my script, George. However (flips thru the pages)....(smiles) I do see where I fire roast a chicken over this young man's hot coals. (points to Hayden)
Hayden: HEY..! Where's the Vader love? Geez.
GL: Oh, you're skimming it too? So much for surprises.
Rick: Oh, c'mon George. We all know what's going to happen at this point.
GL: (Boasting proudly) Not if I re-write it. Ha!
(a collective groan can be heard from around the table)
Rick: George, we start shooting tomorrow morning. We've got 23 sets constructed...hundreds of costumes made and ready to go. A crew of 176 standing by, ready to begin at the butt crack of dawn.
GL: Let's see.....(thumbs chin thoughtfully) I could have Yoda fight Darth Sidious. That's not in there right now.
Ian: How exciting, George.
GL: And in the scene where....(flips thru the master script)....here.....where Obi Wan cuts off Grievous' head while riding his amphibious steed bareback.......I could have Ewan pull out a blaster like Harrison did in Raiders and shoot him in the gut..!! BANG. Ha! Steven would love that.
Ewan: Well alright...! (nudges Hayden) I get to use bloody blastah...!
GL: Well, that's tomorrow's problem. Natalie...?
Natalie: I'm Natalie Portman and I'll be playing...(reads)....Superintendant-elect Amidala-Skywalker?
GL: Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I figured in each movie she'd drop in rank. First a queen. Then a senator. Now superintendant for the Naboo school district.
GL: You're connecting with the people or something. What do they call that, Rick....?
Rick: A people person.
GL: Yeah, one of those.
Hayden: Good thing you die in this one or you might be (makes imaginary marquee in the air) "Sanitation engineer Amidala-Vader" in the next one.
Ewan: That's rich, boyo...! (slaps knee, laughs) Her royal recycless...
Hayden: Or how 'bout this...."Homeless Gungan Shelter Supervisor Amidala-Vader."
(Natalie crosses arms and quietly fumes)
Rick: Alright, alright. We've got a lot of work to do people. Let's focus.
Warrick Davis (former Ewok): (sits with his head barely appearing over the table's edge, Vulcan ears on, sticking straight up) I'm reading the part of Yoda today, I am.
Ian McDiarmid: And my name is Ian. I am a frustrated stage actor typecast, it seems, as a cackling Sith Lord for the remainder of my days on this earth. (flips thru the script) Oh, but here I see I get to....wield a light saber of my very own this time. Mightn't that be exciting?
GL: Right. Ok, people....you need to stop reading ahead in the script. I worked on it for an awfully long time and I don't want it spoiled by you reading it.
Peter Mayhew: (straightens self and sits upright, hitting his head on the low-hung lamps over the table) Ohhh....heh (clears throat) And I am Peter. I'm reprising my role as Chewbacca. I must say, George, this is a wonderful idea...getting us all together this way for a reading, and over tea at that. I must confess that I hardly know anyone here. I'm not a big fan of the prequels, I'm afraid.
GL: Yes....well, thank you Peter.
Peter: I love what you've done with the role this time, George, I must say. I've been studying with my Wookiee dialect coach for a few weeks now and I have some wonderful new phonetics to offer the part. It's more than just guteral grunts and squanks, you know.
GL: (impatiently) I'm sure you'll do fine, Peter. Shall we...
Peter: But I have a question to ask of you, dear boy. You're not going to put my Wookiee brethren and myself in front of that dreaded green screen, are you? I'm truly at my best when performing in a natural habitat. My best work, as you know, was the Endor scene in Return Of The Jedi. I really honed my craft that time because....
Warrick: (ears wiggling) Shut the @#!% up, you must.
Rick: Noted, Peter. We'll take it into consideration. But we've got a lot of work to do before lunch and I'm already famished. So let's just move on, shall we?
Ewan: You must do what you think is right, of course. (smiles....Lucas glares)
GL: Ok, the first scene I want us to read today is the scene that sets everything up. It's between Obi Wan and Anakin and it takes place in the Separtist conference room on Muss-STAH-far....that's the lava planet where Ian gets to cook a chicken over Hayden bubbling flesh. (laughs)
Rick: I thought it was Moose-ta-FAR...?
GL: No, that's wrong. Second syllable accent. Muss...not moose.
Ewan: Like the Disney character James Earl Jones plays?
GL: That was a lion, not a moose.
Ewan: No, I mean the name, not the animal.
Natalie: What was that lion's name?
Hayden: (puts a megaphone to his vocal chords and says in a booming voice) MUSTAFAAAAAHHHHH
Ewan: Oh, boyo...that was a pretty good Darth Vader. Spot on, right?
GL: Hey, that was pretty good. (turns to Rick) Have we had James sign anything yet?
Rick: No. He keeps asking and I keep telling him you're still writing the part.
GL: Alright, well Hayden's in....Jones is out. A dollar saved is a dollar earned.
Rick: But he's an icon, George. The fans want to hear his classic voice.
GL: Then they can pop in the classic trilogy DVDs....available next year. Send James a free copy and a 49ers ball cap. That'll smooth things over. Ok, in this scene Obi Wan walks into the conference room to discover than Anakin has just filleted the Trade Federation. Anakin turns around with these eyes....I've got a great idea for his eyes. But that'll be in the trailer. I can't spoil that on you people. So, go on....do what it is you do.....act or...whatever.
Ewan: (clears throat) Anakin.....? What have you done?
Hayden: (simulates head turn...puts megaphone to throat) IF YOU ONLY REALIZED THE POWER OF THE DAHHK SIDE.
GL: Ok, cut...!!
Rick: We're not filming, George.
GL: Hayden that's not what it says. And you don't have the mask thingy yet in this part. It's just your voice. The mask comes later....after the ham-glazing.
Hayden: I know....I couldn't help my self. Pretty cool, though, huh?
GL: (leans over to Rick) We can do a digital double here. I can't work with shenanigans, Rick. Not this time.
Hayden: Ok....sorry. (clears throat).....Obi Wan. What are you doing here? How did you find me?
Ewan: I hid a tracking device in your underwear, Anakin. Be mindful of the moment, my young padawan.
Hayden: But I'm not your padawan anymore, Master.
Ewan: Then why did you call me Master?
Hayden: I didn't mean that...! I'm conflicted...! I'm confused, can't you see? I.....(turns, dramatically)
Hayden: (spins head around) YOU...!! You told Obi Wan where I was!
Rick: (opens bag of Jiffy-Pop, leans over to George) Hey, this is pretty good.
Natalie: Anakin.....we came to save you. Can't you see that? We love you.
Hayden: And this is how you show it? By betraying me? Don't you know that could never happen? Don't you know that I would use every bit of my power to stop that from happening?
GL: (to Rick...whispering) Another homage. I'm going "serious" this time. I slipped Francis a little hush money too.
Ewan: Who's more the fool, Anakin? The fool or the fool who follows him?
Hayden: I don't understand....(grips face in hands, tugs at hair)....
Ewan: (leans over to Hayden, whispering) It's old dialogue. bloke...from the first movie....
Hayden: (whispers back) No, that's my line.
Ewan: Oh, right.
Natalie: Anakin. You're empowered by something....I....could never understand. But you've got to snap out of it. Come back to reality. Come back to our real world...
GL: (whispers to Rick) Now tell me you're not remembering that fireplace scene and how she looked there?
Rick: But Geogre, I'm gay.
Ewan: Nice Leia reference George....(winks)
Natalie: Anakin, look me in the eyes and tell me you don't still love me. Can you do that? Can you Anakin? CAN YOU?
Anakin: (makes force-choke gesture) You should've never come back, woman....
Natalie: (starts to cough)
Ewan: Anakin....Let her go. Take me...! I'm the one at which you're engorged with anger.... (turns to Lucas) Can I say "mad at" here Mr. Lucas? Engorged sounds a bit....sexual, don't you think?
GL: I worked hard on that verb though, Ewan. I'm afraid it stays. Plus we're going PG-13 this time, so innuendo is good.
Ewan: Right then. Take me, Anakin. It is the only way.....
Rick: (stuffs face with popcorn, tears streaming down his cheeks) I never thought she'd go out this way, George. By the hand of her own lover. I'm riveted. I'm angry. I'm shocked. I'm hungry, George. I'm really, really hungry.
GL: Ok, everyone that was great. Let's break for lunch.
Peter: (walks over to George and puts his arm over his shoulder) That's marvellous stuff, George. I think I even started to well up.
Ewan: (shaking Hayden's hand) Great stuff, boyo. It's good to be back to work, isn't it? Just think tomorrow we'll be in costume doing this for real under the bright lights and green screen.
Hayden: We're back in hell, aren't we?
Ewan: For twelve weeks, I'm afraid....yes.