by Jeff Marshall
STAR WARS is the first movie I ever remember seeing in a theater. Even though I was only four years old when the movie was released, I vividly recall sitting in the dark theater, hearing the majestic strains of John Williams’ score, and my mom whispering in my ear the words on the screen I was unable read for myself: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
STAR WARS has been a cinematic institution for nearly 40 years. While I consider myself a fan and would gladly share with you my reviews and thoughts, I thought it would be much more fun to interview a true STAR WARS geek!
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I have known Fred Saurmann for over 20 years, and in addition to being a dear friend, he is probably the smartest person I have ever met.
We were partners together in a music studio for a number of years, and his knowledge of all things musical and technical knows no boundaries. He is also the biggest STAR WARS super-fan I have ever met in my entire life.
With the release of the seventh installment in the franchise, I thought I’d take this opportunity to delve into the mind of a true intergalactic aficionado to try uncovering the root of his fanaticism. Enjoy…
Everything You Need to Know About Star Wars
Jeff’s Interview with Fred Saurmann, True Intergalactic Aficionado
JEFF: When did you first become a fan of the STAR WARS series?
FRED: When I was younger, we would always spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents. As part of the trip, before coming home, we would make stop at the home of my dad’s aunt and uncle. During one of those trips, my uncle pulled out a copy of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK on VHS, and I was hooked for life! Every year, when we would make the trip, I would request to start one of the films. Rarely would we make it through a whole movie, but that’s where my obsession began.
JEFF: Are you able to narrow down specifically what the appeal is for you and why you think it has become a world-wide phenomenon?
FRED: Initially, I think it was the “light-savers” as I used to refer to them, but as I began to appreciate the stories, it became about the vast worlds and how one kid became the hope for an entire movement. And the epic space battles certainly didn’t hinder the appeal to a self-proclaimed sci-fi geek. From a film standpoint, STAR WARS changed the landscape of how films were made. It really established a new age for sound design, special effects, and telling a story of good vs. evil. It launched a surge of science fiction films of the 70s and continues to influence film and television today.
JEFF: You have three young children. Have any of them started watching STAR WARS with you yet or expressed interest in doing so?
FRED: We started them softly with the CLONE WARS cartoon since it is now considered established canon. They enjoyed it initially because it was a cartoon and introduced a new female lead, Ashoka Tano. From there, I’ve started to let them watch parts of the prequels, though they tend to get bored with them quickly – probably due to a lot of the political talk. As the three of them age, I’m sure we’ll enjoy the full films together. Until then, I will continue to whet their appetites with the more kid-friendly STAR WARS REBELS.
JEFF: Honesty time – what is the dorkiest STAR WARS related thing you’ve ever done in your life?
FRED: Well, two Halloweens ago, I asked my mother if she would consider making Jedi robes for me. She quickly obliged, and I completed the ensemble with an authentic belt and boots, and I was a Jedi Master. The nerdiness did not stop there. This year, as I patiently waited for tickets to go on sale for THE FORCE AWAKENS and a full trailer to drop, I dressed in my robes again to celebrate. I plan on breaking out the robes again for the premiere of the latest film.
JEFF: Do you find any religious undertones in the films, particularly when it comes to “the force”, and if so, as a Christian, how seriously do you take them?
FRED: Absolutely! I think the nature of the force is peppered with religious undertones, and in the films they even speak of it as a religion. They are films, and I realize that they’re not real, but I think it’s interesting how one could use them as illustrations for a world in need of a Savior and that world being redeemed by someone who no one thought could be The One.
JEFF: What rules and guidelines have you and your wife Melissa set up for your kids regarding what they can and can’t watch?
FRED: We monitor very closely what our kids watch and how much screen time they have. Honestly, it’s easy with busy schedules to hand them a device and let them stare at it mindlessly sometimes. I think though it’s important to establish the boundaries early; otherwise, it can get out of hand very quickly.
JEFF: In general, are you and your family big movie lovers? What are a couple family friendly movies you’ve seen recently that you can recommend to our readers?
FRED: We do love films, and we are big fans of what Disney puts out. Surprisingly, even a lot of the older films still stack up with our kids. Recent films that we love include INSIDE OUT and the TOY STORY films, though classics like THE WIZARD OF OZ, MARY POPPINS, and THE SOUND OF MUSIC are big wins for us, too.
JEFF: Name some negative things about the STAR WARS series – be it a character, a storyline, an actor, or one of the actual films.
FRED: I think one of the best and worst things about the series has been George Lucas. He’s a great idea guy but not always a great filmmaker. If you watch THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and compare it to THE PHANTOM MENACE, you can understand my point. EMPIRE was written and directed by people other than George Lucas – and it was fantastic! I think George wanted to see his vision realized in the prequels and just got too bogged down in the special effects and marketing – he forgot to tell a good story. See Jar Jar Binks. Barf! There were good things in the prequels, but as a whole, they just don’t stand up to the original three. George should have stayed away from a lot of the political stuff in the prequel trilogy, too. It just didn’t need to be a major part of those stories.
JEFF: Finally, at what age do you think children would start enjoying the STAR WARS movies?
FRED: It depends. Some of the films definitely deal with some darker themes. REVENGE OF THE SITH is one that I would NOT let my young children watch for awhile. A NEW HOPE is definitely a safe starting point for the saga as long as they don’t get too spooked by Darth Vader or the weird aliens that show up in the Cantina. I think you have to gauge whether kids would be into the films’ rich allegory. Whether that’s as young as 4 or as old as 10 is probably up to the parents. At any rate, it’s a good excuse to snuggle up next to them and get lost in a galaxy far, far away…
Be sure to check out: Star Wars Gifts: Your Ultimate Guide to the Best in the Galaxy
Jeff is a musician, humorist, gardener, and uncle. Jeff is Sara’s cousin, life-long dear friend, and “Uncle Oscar” (our nickname for him because of his love of all things movie) to Sara’s kids. Our lives have been intertwined in the most blessed way.