The Force is with him
Charles Ross, who hails from Victoria, British Columbia, has made his “One-Man Star Wars Trilogy” — imitating Darth Vader’s heavy breathing, Jabba the Hut’s big mouth, Han Solo’s brio and other characters, recreating the sounds of soaring spaceships and explosions, light sabers and other eruptions with rough-and-tumble moves — into a 75-minute show. Ross energetically condenses “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi” and “A New Hope” into a fun tour de force. Wearing just a black top, pants and sneakers, his humor and spot-on imitations have taken him to Star Wars conventions here as well as to London’s West End, Off-Broadway, Dubai and the Sydney Opera House.
He’ll be in Bellport at The Gateway this Saturday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. for one night only. Take the kids or come by yourself.
Ross spoke to the Advance this week by phone.
Long Island Advance: How many years are you doing this and how did you start?
Charles Ross: I first wrote it back in 2001. By 2002 it was completely formed and I’ve been doing it ever since and touring the show. It’s my only job. I never set out to perform it for that length of time. It is ridiculous where I’ve been to, but “Star Wars” is everywhere. The good-versus-evil theme is rudimentary and appeals to all walks of life. It’s sort of having a passport of reference. I don’t have to explain what it is and my experience watching it as a kid has been shared by others. Everyone remembers the first time they fell in love, or their first day at school, but as a piece of film, I think “Star Wars” is the only one out there of this caliber with the same definite memory.
LIA: You got permission from Lucasfilm Ltd. to do this. Was that hard?
CR: I think if I had gone in the direction of asking for permission in the beginning, it would have been more difficult. I was already doing the show; it was low-key then, with maybe 100 seats in the theatres I played. When Lucasfilm found out about me it was through reviews and radio interviews. I wasn’t trylng to sell T-shirts or have an army of people out there recreate the show. They understood the size I was going for and it wasn’t until I did the show Off-Broadway that I got a licensing agreement, so the introduction was as normal and as nice as they could be. It was an original thing and they liked it and I was able to do the show at their live conventions. It was an homage about how much “Star Wars” affected me; I’m like an 8-year-old kid. The 8-year-old kid that loved “Star Wars” is still in there and don’t you love it, too?
LIA: How many times did you see the “Star Wars” film you recreate?
CR: We lived on a farm in Prince George, British Columbia for a couple of years and raised hay and other crops and had some cows, lots of chickens, rabbits, ducks. It was quiet, so my imagination took over. We didn’t have television reception so I watched them on videotape. My mom kept count and told me I watched just “Star Wars” alone 370 times. If I wanted to listen to the music in the background while I was doing homework, I had to put on the movie, so I kind of absorbed the sound and music and everything else. Then we moved to Nelson, B.C., and had television reception and I taped “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” and probably watched those 20 to 50 times, so when I sat down to write the show, I knew the films by heart. I knew I would be preaching to the converted and they’d have some appreciation of what the show was. Over time, it’s become a family show for everyone.
LIA: Have you met any of the actors?
CR: Yes. I met Harrison Ford while working on a film, “K-19: The Widow Maker,” directed by Katherine Bigelow. I was doing some stand-in work in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ford was also a producer on the show and was present on the set all the time. Also, after a convention in Orlando, Fla., when I had finished my show in a 4,000-seat convention center, Carrie Fisher was scheduled to come out to do a Q&A. I wound up seeing her backstage and when I went to the green room for a bottle of water and got it, sitting on the couch was George Lucas, Mark Hamill and director John Stewart, just having a low-key conversation, no one-man-upmanship.
LIA: You take a lot of pratfalls to portray the characters and keep it fast moving. Do you work out often for that?
CR: I’ve got my little girl, who is 3, and in two weeks we’re having another child. Before having my daughter, I spent a lot more time conditioning myself. Now I do yoga at home. It’s maintaining and strengthening what’s there.
LIA: You enact the John Williams theme, R2D2, Darth Vader in rapid succession with a humorous take. Do you vary the show?
CR: It’s down pat, but I can freeform if I want to. I certainly allow myself to chat with the audience and if something happens during the show I incorporate it. That can be manna from heaven.
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