Go to Skywalker Ranch, meet George Lucas, see one of the "Star Wars" films with Lucas in his own private theater. That's the dream. A dream, for me, that was 20-plus years in the making.
Now you have to understand, this wasn't like bumping into your favorite actor on the street or at some wine-and-cheese party in the Hollywood Hills. This was something that had been with me from the age of 6. I remember sitting in the theater and watching that first shot of the Star Destroyer passing overhead in "Star Wars" and I was blown away. By the time the movie ended I was a "Star Wars" junkie. Since then I've seen "Star Wars" roughly 600 times and "The Empire Strikes Back" (my favorite of all the films) about the same. I've caught "Return of the Jedi" about 300 times and "The Phantom Menace" about 100 or more. That's a total of 1600 viewings, which means I've spent roughly 216,000 minutes watching the "Star Wars" films (which also works out to 3,600 hours or 150 days). It's like watching all the movies over and over for five months ... like I said, I'm a junkie.
So when I found myself standing at the gates of Skywalker Ranch, getting ready to turn the dream into a reality, I started shaking. Skywalker Ranch is set in the upper regions of Marin County in San Francisco, and it really is the coolest place on earth. (Click for photos from the Skywalker Ranch.) You're standing on the threshold of 20,000 acres of land. As you drive up to the gate, you see everything from deer to longhorn cows to llamas living within a lush green forest background. This place has its own fire department, two restaurants, a 40-room inn and, of course, the special-effects and sound houses that gave birth to effects for films like "Titanic" and "Jurassic Park," the "Indiana Jones" movies, Tom Cruise's upcoming "Minority Report" and tons more.
Of course, this is all outside of the main house where Lucas does most of his writing and creating for his own films. Carson Daly and I had converged on Skywalker Ranch to celebrate the second chapter in the "Star Wars" saga, "Episode II: Attack of the Clones," the film where we get to see an older Anakin Skywalker and the events that transpire to destroy him and the galaxy. To kick the party into high gear Lucas had provided live-action versions of C-3P0, R2-D2 and Jango Fett (the newest character in the series), which was amazing to me. I was already giddy just being there and knowing I was going to see the film with George Lucas in his private theater, but having the droids and a bounty hunter walking around just pushed it over the edge.
The day's celebrity guests started arriving, and it was a who's who of film and music. Papa Roach, Ludacris, B2K, Alyson Hannigan, Jack Osbourne, Sam Jackson and more all mingled about, talking, eating and basically being fabulous. Besides the A-list folks, "TRL" had chosen a slew of "Star Wars" fans to be brought to the ranch for the screening as well. It was a rare sight to see celebs and fans all turning to jelly when they saw C-3P0 and R2-D2. Imagine jaded Hollywood types rushing to get pictures with two fake robots; it was pretty amazing.
MTV had denied me access to George Lucas until we officially met on camera hey, it makes good TV. So I was not ready to turn around and see him standing 15 feet away from me. I lost it, like a 15-year-old girl at an 'NSYNC show. I was flushed, and couldn't stop laughing. Of course, MTV was kind enough to get it all on tape.
The screening of the film itself was amazing. Everybody fans and celebrities sort of forgot their place and we all reverted back to 12-year-old kids. Cheering the Jedis and booing the villains, the energy in the theater was electric. After the movie finished, we caught some celebrities outside, all with universal approval of the film.
Then it was time. All the energy I had as a "Star Wars" fan was leading to this moment. Carson introduced George Lucas on camera and then (insert drum roll) brought me over to meet the man himself. I was strangely composed for the experience. I thanked him for giving me something to believe in, showed him all of my "Star Wars" tattoos and asked him if he thought I was creepy. Thankfully, he didn't. He told me the only people that make him uneasy are people with tattoos of him on them. I smiled, silently thanking God that I never did get that George Lucas tattoo.
The rest of the day was a blur. I talked "Star Wars" with Lucas, spent too much money at the Skywalker Ranch store and had a toy lightsaber duel with Jack Osbourne. When it was over I wasn't sad; I was so stoked that I got to live out a dream, one that had taken me a lifetime to realize. Being there, meeting George Lucas, seeing the film at Skywalker Ranch ... for a geek like me, it's as close to heaven as you can get while still breathing.