He doesn’t live in a galaxy far, far away, but he does live on an island somewhat far away.
Charles Ross, the man behind One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, lives in Victoria, British Columbia, a picturesque hamlet on Canada’s Vancouver Island.
“It’s a nice, little, secret place in a lot of ways,” Ross says on the phone. “And it’s away from the whole hubbub.”
The “hubbub” he’s referring to is completely self-inflicted. Since 2001, Ross has been famous (in the way that people in the theater world are famous without being all that famous) as the guy who condensed the original trio of Star Wars movies (episodes IV, V and VI for the geeks) into an hour-long show. He performs all the parts, re-creates all the sounds effects and hums all the music.
It has taken about six years, but Ross is finally bringing Luke, Leia and Papa Vader to the Bay Area. His One-Man Star Wars Trilogy opens Feb. 27 at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre.
This whole thing is rooted — not surprisingly — in Ross’ childhood, which was spent partly in rural British Columbia and partly in Hawaii (to escape the Canadian cold). For various reasons, lack of substantial channels among them, Ross’ TV watching was pretty much confined to a VHS tape of Star Wars.
He saw the movie more than 400 times (his mother apparently counted). He saw the sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Jedi, sorry RETURN of the Jedi, about 50 times each.
So when he had the brainstorm to perform the movies himself, he didn’t need to re-watch the movies at all. He just went with the movies in his head.
The 32-year-old Ross has now performed his Star Wars show more than 1,000 times in 116 cities around the world, including a five-month run off-Broadway.
His fans include Vin Diesel and Ian McKellen along with Star Wars actors who played an Ewok (Warwick Davis) and Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and a host of Storm Troopers.
He also has one very important fan: his Imperial Highness George Lucas.
Rather than sue Ross or slap him with a cease-and-desist order (which the Lord of the Rings people did with Ross’ one-man Rings trilogy), Lucas embraced the show, gave it an official license and invited Ross to perform at several Star Wars conventions.
“That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a rock star,” Ross says. “It’s nothing short of a miracle to perform at a Star Wars convention. Talk about the perfect demographic. I cannot describe what it’s like to perform this show in front of hard-core, screaming Star Wars geeks.”
Ross says he also loves performing for regular audiences, even though some of the details zoom past them like a landspeeder
“He’s a Shakespearian actor, so he takes Lucas’ script to places the others, except maybe Alec Guinness, can’t,” Ross says. “He’s a lot of fun to do. I’ve never been fond of my Yoda. But hey, you do your best. It’s a short show. What doesn’t work goes by quickly.”
Lucas has never seen the show (except possibly on the DVDs Ross has sent him), but given that he lives in the Bay Area, there’s a chance he might finally catch it.
“Of all the people on the planet, he’s one of the busier ones,” Ross says. “But maybe he’ll come check it out. If I got to meet George Lucas and he saw the show, it couldn’t get better than that.”
Well, maybe it could: Ross could be turned into an action figure.