'Return of the Jedi' 30th Anniversary: Like A 'Jedi'...For The Very First Time

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Remember your first time? We do. And no, it didn’t involve an awkward fumbling in the backseat of a car. We’re talking about that initial viewing of “Return of the Jedi” 30 years ago. 

May 25, 1983, Opening day of “Jedi” was of monumental proportions. The biggest space saga to ever hit celluloid was wrapping up. Everyone wanted to see Han thaw from carbonite, who would score Leia, and Luke and Vader duke it out in the ultimate galactic grudge match.

We wanted to hear recollections and anecdotes from a few nerdy celebrities who went to see “Jedi” opening weekend. We set out like bounty hunters in search of nostalgia. Here’s what we found: 

Brann Dailor, drummer for Mastodon

Brann Dailor Drumming

I was 8 years old at the time. I was super excited to see it. I went with my dad. I had a weekend dad, and we went to the movies almost every single weekend. I think it was a Saturday, the day after it opened. The theater we went to only had two screens. There weren’t many multiplexes at the time. So we had to wait in line outside, and it wrapped around the building. You had to pretty much wait through a couple of showings of the movie to get in. You just had to sit in line for like four hours to see the movie. And it must’ve been one of the hottest days ever in Rochester, New York. We were basically standing next to the side of a building, and there was no shade. It was so hot that I basically passed out from heat stroke, I guess. I remember my legs getting weak and going down. They had to come out and give me water, and get me back on my feet to continue waiting in line. [Laughs] It was brutal. But I’d do anything for “Return of the Jedi.” We weren’t about to leave and give up our spot. We saw the movie that day. I was about to die from heat exhaustion, but I had to get in there and see those Ewoks throw rocks at Stormtroopers and be successful.

Mastodon is about to embark on a summer tour of Europe and North America. Keep an eye out for Dailor behind the drum kit; he might be wearing his "Star Wars" tee. 

Cat Staggs, DC Comics artistCat Staggs

By the time ‘Return of the Jedi’ came out I had ‘Star Wars,’ aka ‘A New Hope,’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ memorized, having watched them over and over again. So I was ready to see how this was going to play out. My mom had gone to the theater a week or so ahead of time and picked up T-shirt tickets for us. Each shirt was ‘one admission ‘Return of the Jedi’ good only opening day May 25.’ We completed the trilogy at the same theater we saw ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Empire.’ I still have the shirt.

Cat Staggs Jedi Shirt

Staggs has gotten her "Star Wars" geek on by illustrating short fiction for StarWars.com, and producing sketch and trading cards, and exclusive prints for Star Wars Celebration conventions. 

Michael Price, writer and executive producer of “LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles - The Phantom Clone”

LegoYoda

I saw ‘Return of the Jedi’ the day it came out, and I was really thrilled to see it. I was going to school at Tulane University in New Orleans at the time. Me and a bunch of my friends went to a theater out in the suburbs. ...We were all in a huge line at the multiplex. My main memory of it was loving it, loving it, loving it. And then when it came to the ending, I didn’t mind the Ewoks too much. So many people have a problem with the Ewoks. I thought they were really fun, and I enjoyed them. ...But I must say that at the time I had a feeling of disappointment the way they redeemed Darth Vader and made him sort of mushy hearted at the end. [Laughs] It really threw me, because I wanted a really huge, giant super fight. I wanted to see Darth Vader be the bad guy all the way to the end. Then there was the very last image of the movie with all of the force ghosts standing there. You’ve got Obi Wan, Yoda and this guy no one’s ever seen before. [Laughs] It didn’t even look like the Vader whose helmet got taken off. I’ll never forget the look he has on his face is kind of like “yeah, here I am.” [Laughs] So I remember being disappointed with that and wishing it had been straight-on action instead of the touchy feely stuff. Then to bring it around the bend, I recently saw a special screening of it in Los Angeles at the American Cinematheque when Mark Hamill came and spoke. It was the special edition version that George Lucas made in 1997. And I loved it. [Laughs] I loved it so much, and it made so much sense to me. ...The young me did not like it, but the older me really understands it. I understand the theme of someone’s life going in a good direction, then going really bad for like 30 years, and then at the end he has a chance to redeem himself. That totally resonates, because I’m older now. [Laughs]

“LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles - The Phantom Clone” premieres 8 p.m./7 p.m. C May 29 on Cartoon Network. Price also wrote “LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out” and “LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace.”