Popular podcaster and affable funny guy Chris Hardwick and his company, Nerdist Industries, are taking another run at Jedi fun this summer with the second annual Course of the Force, the fundraising relay where fans and celebrities take turns running with a lightsaber that they will eventually deliver to Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Modeled on the Olympic torch tradition, Course of the Force was a big hit last year and we caught up with Hardwick for a quick email interview about the miles covered last year and Episode II’s expanded route. (Instead of repeating the 2012 Santa Monica to San Diego route, the 2013 edition will start up in Marin County, more than 500 miles north of San Diego.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s a defining memory you have from Year One?
CHRIS HARDWICK: It’s sort of a mash-up of images. We had hoped that some people would run in costume. We had no idea how many people actually would. My memory is a flash of all the amazing cosplay — some Boba Fetts, father and son Stormtroopers, an unreal General Grievous, and even a Marty McFly (we had stressed that all cosplay was welcome) among many others, running down the I-5 Freeway while being led by Jabba’s Sail Barge, which we had built to be our pace vehicle. True story!
People run with torches, people run with batons. You guys run with lightsabers. That’s pretty fun. Is there any movie weapon cooler than lightsaber?
It’s hard to top the lightsaber. I love proton packs from Ghostbusters, the Highlander blade, Deckard’s gun, and those flip-action repulsor rifles from Minority Report. Still, the lightsaber was a sci-fi weapon that ushered in a new era. (My girlfriend’s dad, John Dykstra, brought it to life in the original Star Wars.) It’s perfect — a sword made of light. You can use it for offense, defense, as a deflector or just to look really cool for no reason. And I DEFY you to swing one without going “vvvvvv vvvvvvv VVVVVVVT.” It’s impossible.
You have a different route planned for the second year, what can you tell us about it at this point?
Last year we started in Santa Monica. Our thought was that we needed to see if it could be done so we kept it to Southern California. It worked! Year One went off without a hitch, everyone had a blast, and thanks to the participants we were able to grant something like 1,000 wishes for Make-A-Wish.
This prompted Lucasfilm to say, “Hey, why not start at our house this year?” And so it shall be! COTF this year will be a few days longer and actually start at Skywalker Ranch and head into San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. I just caught myself in the mirror with a big stupid grin on my face while typing this information. I mean, just the idea that we can take our fandom out into the streets and run at SDCC screaming while raising money for children? It is a combination of the best reasons to do anything. To quote classic inbox spam: “I AM EXCITE.”
There’s a real sense of a new era getting underway in the Jedi universe with new trilogy and solo films. What are you most excited about? Or maybe most anxious about?
First and foremost I’m excited about more Star Wars. I really do think Disney was the perfect company to take the baton. You need a company with their massive resources to take over all of Lucasfilm and understand how to do it properly. They’ve done a fantastic job with pre-existing IP like Marvel or the Muppets. Then you take J.J. Abrams, who is a lifelong Star Wars fan, but who now has the experience to take it new places. The new trilogy will basically be REALLY high-end fan films, and that is what I am the most excited about. I’m truly not anxious about any of it. Unlike many parts of the Internet, I like to get excited about things and then judge them AFTER I see them. DO YOU HEAR ME, INTERNET? I’M TALKING TO YOU! Wait, who am I yelling at?