Outside their normal orbit Film: An alien notion indeed as Democrats and Republicans, free of politics (and free of charge), go to see 'Return of the Jedi.'

March 12, 1997|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Forget standing on line for eight hours or camping out overnight. Members of Congress and their aides got to see the re-release of "Return of the Jedi" the old-fashioned way.

Free tickets.

Dozens of lawmakers, Capitol Hill staffers and their families enjoyed a little intergalactic perk last night as they filed past the spotlights and into a free private screening at the Uptown Theater -- a preview of the "Jedi" re-release sponsored by Twentieth Century Fox.

For the rest of the earthly population, the movie opens Friday.

Some folks, like Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., were relieved not to have to wait on the lines that have snaked around theaters during the re-releases of the first two movies in the "Star Wars" trilogy.

"When we went to the first one it was sold out. We had to wait two hours," said Smith. "It is nice. It is really nice. You can't beat this."

R2-D2, C-3P0 and Darth Vader vogued for the cameras on the red carpet while members held sometimes-petrified, sometimes-thrilled children up for pictures. Sen. Phil Gramm's grandchildren practically jumped the velvet barricade, they were so excited.

"This movie just brings out the good in you," said Smith, a father of four who brought his children to the movie. "My kids love it."

(Still, it became clear who the real film fan in the family was when Smith began lapsing into "Star Wars" dialogue during the interview, doing his best Darth Vader.)

With chocolate "Star Wars" creatures to munch on and croissant sandwiches in black paper bags by the front door, it was a good evening for both Ewoks and the elected. Also joining the members was a group of inner-city school children from a local tutoring program.

Although California Democrats Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Lynn Woolsey were there to emcee and sing the praises of their high-flying constituent, "Star Wars" producer George Lucas, other lawmakers were there solely to soak up some sci-fi action.

"I love this stuff," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who rushed into the theater so he could save a seat for his D.C. house-mate Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "I'm a fan."

Miller said he sees himself as a Yoda type -- wise, lots of advice, even-tempered. Well, the first two anyway. "Sometimes I'm a little more like Chewbacca," he said. "Chewbacca gets to scream a lot."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, felt a different connection to the film. "I identify with the musicians in the space bar," he said, referring to the famed cantina scene, where oddball creatures socialize over drinks. Reminiscent of life in Congress? Not exactly. "As a failed trumpet player, I thought, 'Oh, that's where I would have ended up.' "

While many at the preview found themselves talking about the power of good and evil, the forces of light and darkness -- oh, and those cool lightsabers -- for most, last night was a time to put partisan differences aside.

Still, Republican Hill staffer Mike Platt, 23, swore the Darth Vader character on hand outside the theater attacked him because of his GOP elephant tie.

"He tried to strangle me," claimed Platt, a legislative assistant to Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark.

Platt might have invited trouble, though, through his analysis of the film's "small, furry, helpless creatures," the Ewoks. "They're a totally different species of race -- that could be the Democrats."

As the staffers and lawmakers filed leisurely past the wall of candy and into their velvet seats, some bystanders were going hopelessly crazy for a chance to get inside.

Jacob Grossman, 13, who has seen every "Star Wars" movie several times, had staked out the theater right after school at 4 p.m. He'd brought along his "Star Wars Essential Guide to Characters" with the hopes of getting autographs. He even brought his camera.

The one thing he did not bring was a ticket. He didn't have one.

"If I just walked in without anyone, do you think anyone would notice?" he asked his mother. "How do I get in? Do you know? Can you tell me?"

His mother, Ann, who had waited hours to snag her son tickets to the other re-releases, urged him to sneak in past the guards and the lawmakers. "He can read the script word for word," she said in his behalf. "I was hoping someone would just take pity on him and let him in."

After many attempts, the force was finally with Jacob: A friend with a free ticket arrived.

"He's in," his mother beamed. "You see -- this story does have a happy ending."

Pub Date: 3/12/97

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