On the kerb: From left, drama students Oliver, Oscar, Timo and Poppy await their turn. Credit: MWN
To a rugby stadium far, far away they flew by the masses, bright-eyed and buzzing with the opportunity before them: to achieve immortality by landing a part in the most successful film franchise ever. When "Star Wars" auditions beamed down to a drab southwest London suburb on a frozen morning this past Sunday, true believers answered the call.
They were responding to a brief demanding “beautiful, smart and athletic” characters: a girl to play a 17- to 18-year-old, and a boy 19-23. A casting spokesperson had starkly reinforced the message, “If you don’t fit the brief, don’t come – you’re ruining it for others.”
But semirational hope – and the knowledge that Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, had been cast as an unknown – ensured that queues stretched around Twickenham Stadium when the audition tents opened at 11 a.m. They had grown to several thousand since the earliest arrivals before 6 a.m.
Tension built toward the front, a hotbed of motivational psychology. “I feel I meet the brief enough to give it a shot,” says Nathan Maccauley, a student originally from San Francisco. He had identified a “competitive vibe,” but felt that his knowledge of the series could provide an edge. “It’s full of strong characters that stay true to themselves when they are pulled in different directions.”
The competition was shown when dancer Freddy crashes our interview, bouncing with the nervous energy of a caffeine rush. “I’m doing this to challenge myself,” she says. “I normally do theater and music videos, but I’ll do anything. I’m not fazed.”
Farther back, later arrivals had been herded into a pen. “It took three trains to get here,” explains Colby, a musician with teeth filed to vampire points. A lifelong Star Wars fan, he said that bounty hunter Boba Fett was the best character in the series as subtle acting was “drowned” by the special effects.
Journey times ran into days and the queue demanded several hours, but applicants passed through the blue audition tents in minutes. “They just asked me my age and what experience I had, but it was all about looks,” an unsuccessful boy said bitterly, adding that no refreshments or toilet facilities had been provided during his ordeal – Hollywood glamour in short supply.
By 1 p.m., cynicism had spread through the ranks of the rejected. “This might just be a publicity stunt,” said Oliver, one of four drama students sitting in camping chairs pitched by the entrance. But then a text revealed that two friends had passed to a second stage reading, and a new hope spread among the faithful.