Think dreams can’t come true? Or that the only ones that do are mediocre ones that were achievable anyway? Think again! I can prove that if you believe hard enough, for long enough, even the most ridiculous fantasy can come true. But to do so, I must take you into the past…
Here in the UK, back when we had but four TV channels, BBC1 and ITV (now ITV1) waged Saturday Morning Kids’ Show War. Both would have a live show lasting several hours that would feature celebrity guests, cartoons, “zany” games and competitions. People of my generation remember TISWAS fondly, the ITV show that launched the careers of Millionaire-maker, Chris Tarrant, budget hotel chain spokesman, Lenny Henry, and non-ventriloquist, Bob Carolgees. I never watched it, though, as every Saturday I was glued to the BBC’s Multicoloured Swapshop fronted by the pussy-mouthed Noel Edmonds. It enjoys a lesser reputation than TISWAS, but I don’t regret that I never even compared them at the time, as Swapshop had Battle of the Planets, and I know that I wouldn’t have dared miss it no matter how hilarious Henry’s David Bellamy impersonation was.
Oddly, though, when those shows made way for their successors, and the BBC began to dominate Saturday morning telly with Saturday Superstore and Going Live! I switched to ITV with its notably inferior programming which only got worse as time went on. Its formats were shorter-lived than the beeb’s with each replacement more desperate and patronising than the last. I think my reason for sticking with the worse option was the same as before: better cartoons.
There was another element to TISWAS’s first replacement, The Saturday Show, that caught my imagination, though. They had a wish-fulfilment section, kinda like a bargain-basement Jim’ll Fix It, that didn’t seem constrained by the same reality that Jimmy Saville operated within. For example, one time, a kid asked to be given the power of flight, and was granted the next best thing — a sixty-second clip of himself genlocked against aerial footage, foiling a crime or something with his ability to “fly”. Though I was too young to articulate it, I knew the stuffy old BBC would never claim they could bestow superpowers and then make a seven-year old stand in front of a bluescreen all afternoon. This, though, was my kind of bullshit; I’d happily forgo any experience in favour of evidence that I’d had it.
So it was that sometime in 1985 I wrote to them asking to make my not-unreasonable wish come true: that I be given a role in Return of the Jedi, a film that had hit cinema screens a mere two years beforehand. I assumed that for convenience they’d put me in some of the Endor scenes; I certainly didn’t expect them to go all the way to Tatooine or reconstruct the Death Star. I’d seen it blow up, for one thing, and it looked expensive.
A while after I sent my request I received a postcard from them, a mass-produced effort in a pseudo-handwriting font, thanking me for my wish, adding, “We don’t know if you’ll be one of the lucky ones, but if you are we’ll let you know.” Again, my young brain knew what it couldn’t quite put into words: that I was being fobbed off. Soon after that, I switched to Saturday Superstore and never looked back.
About fifteen years later I was studying drama at the RSAMD when a rumour went round that our department head had been contacted by casting agents looking for potential teenage Anakin Skywalkers, but our mentor had dismissed the request outright, arguing that our studies were more important than a silly science fiction film. (To compound the snobbery, they were only too happy to let James McAvoy go and do the somehow worthier Band of Brothers. Admittedly, that worked out well.) Needless to say, for such a chance I’d have ditched my studies in the blink of an eye (as I did anyway not too long after that), but I couldn’t muster much outrage. I knew it was a poisoned chalice, that part — there were millions of fans standing ready to despise whoever fucked it up, as any actor with Lucas’s direction and dialogue inevitably would. Nevertheless I felt I could’ve been a contender, being slim and fit back then, though with a roundish face not unlike Jake Lloyd’s infant Vader, and I have the same hair colour as both he and Mark Hamill. (I know, I know, I was a shoe-in.)
The one time it did strike me painfully that I’d been robbed of the chance even to audition was when the original trilogy was released on DVD. In the closing moments of the saga, at the Ewok party, Luke shares a moment with gate-crashing spectres, Yoda and Obi-wan, and just as good ole’ Sebastian Shaw’s due to materialise triumphantly as never-mind-the-genocide-I’m-now-a-kindly-old-man Anakin, he is usurped by Hayden Christensen’s virile young ghost. (Why Obi-wan’s stuck for eternity as an old codger, no one’s made clear.)
So now it’s plain that had I won that part I would not only have been able to impregnate Natalie Portman (or rather, provide evidence of having done so, which is almost as good, as we’ve seen), but I would have been in Return of the fucking Jedi! My childhood wish would have come true!
So, hopes of being part of Star Wars cannon are now deader than a Jedi who never achieved sufficient communion with the Force to maintain his living essence beyond the demise of his body. Yes, that dead.
Until, that is, those kind souls at JibJab threw me this bone. They offered me Jedi, as per my original wish, but Mr. Christensen’s stolen my thunder in that respect, so I’ve opted instead to play all the main parts in the series’ zenith.
Here, ladies and gentlemen, is what could have been: