MONMOUTH — Josh McIntyre had the experience of a lifetime when he was selected to attend the December premiere of “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” in Los Angeles.
“I was so excited,” he said. “Giddy. It was fairly surreal, like, ‘Is this really happening?’”
He got the news a couple of months ago, but that giddiness still shows when he talks about it.
McIntyre is part of the 501st Rebel Legion — an international group of Star Wars fans who create their own costumes and do charity events.
“I’ve been doing it since 2014,” McIntyre said. “I have several different costumes — two different Lukes and then I have about four bad guys.”
He said Lucasfilm Ltd. sent out a request for people to apply to attend the premiere in costume.
“They had a list of costumes they wanted to fill, and they wanted to try to get at least one person from every state,” McIntyre said. “They wanted new people, people who hadn’t been to premieres before, which is really cool. Ideally they just wanted to have an awesome fan base. They invited some of the Mandalorian Mercs.”
He applied, but said he didn’t think he’d get in because so many people apply.
“I got a friend request from one of the gentlemen who was putting it together from the Rebel Legion side, and then I got an email later on explaining what was going on,” he said.
McIntyre had about a month’s notice to plan for the trip.
McIntyre is a business intelligence program specialist for Salem Hospital. His boss was understanding and told him to “make sure he was covered.”
“We eventually found out the date, which was really good because then we could actually book flights,” he said. “Lucasfilms put us up for two nights at the Hollywood Roosevelt. It was pretty fantastic. They put us up the night of and the night before the event.”
The “us” is the other members of the 501st who were selected to attend the premiere on Dec. 16.
“We all kind of started meeting up the night before at the hotel,” McIntyre said. “We went out as a big group and had most of the morning Monday free, so we ended up down in the lobby swag trading.”
Swag included patches, specially minted coins and trading cards, he said.
“As a group, we put together a yearbook for the event,” McIntyre said. “We had people submit photos of themselves in costume and out of costume, and had this book we could go through and see everyone who was there.”
The fans got in costume that afternoon.
“Then they walked us over to the red carpet, so we got to hang out with all the celebs and everyone at the red carpet, which was blue,” McIntyre said. “We were the only fans on the red carpet. As (the actors) walked down the carpet they just met as many fans as they could, signing autographs.”
That’s where McIntyre got to meet Mark Hamill.
“It was surreal,” McIntyre said. “I’ve wanted to meet him forever.”
McIntyre missed an opportunity to meet Carrie Fisher at a Comic-Con several years ago.
“She passed away a year later,” he said. “Knowing (Hamill) was going to be there, it’s something I didn’t want to miss out on.”
Luke has always been McIntyre’s favorite character.
“When deciding which costume to do on the good guy side, it was more of a question of which Luke Skywalker costume to do,” he said. “Bespin Luke, the one I wore to the event, is my favorite of his outfits, so it seemed the logical choice.”
It’s the outfit Luke wore when he battled Darth Vader in “Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back.”
The movie premiered in three Los Angeles theaters: Dolby Theatre, El Capitan Theatre and Chinese Theater.
McIntyre attended at El Capitan.
“They sat all our fan base in the first three or four rows in all three theaters,” he said. “Then there was just all the celebs and fans and whatever behind us. It was so amazing. Everyone had the pure love for Star Wars. It made it just even more powerful. Emotional.”
While he didn’t cry, he did get choked up, he said.
“It was very emotional, especially with that big of a fan base and those people there,” he said. “It was pretty incredible.”
His time in the 501st
Besides the chance to meet one of his heroes, McIntyre’s passion for Star Wars has given him new skills and new ways to volunteer.
“As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I’ve known about the 501st for a very long time,” McIntyre said. “However, I ended up purchasing a coffee maker from a guy in Salem who was a member of the 501st. We talked for a while about Star Wars and the 501st, and he told me about StarWarsOregon.com, where I got introduced to the group, started getting involved as a spotter and working on my first costume.”
Spotters are people who attend different events, but out of costume. They walk along in parades or help costumed people walk through crowds to make sure they don’t trip on anything.
“A lot of the helmeted costumes don’t have great vision,” McIntyre laughed.
Spotters, “basically keep them up right and if things fall off the costumes, they pick them up,” he said. “But that’s a great way to get involved. You start meeting people. You start understanding what happens at the events and how we handle things.”
McIntyre learned how to sew so he could make his costumes.
The first one he made was a member of the bridge crew.
“That one is kind of a stepping stone into several of the other costumes,” McIntyre said. “It uses the same jumpsuit, boots and belts and gloves as TIE fighter pilot.”
The new movies and the new technologies have made costume parts easier to find, he said.
“With the 501st Rebel Legion, you put together your costume and then you have to submit pictures to get approved,” McIntyre said. “They want fairly screen-accurate costumes. They have certain rules and guidelines for each costume. Once you get an approved costume, you’re in.”
Members have to get each new costume approved, but the process becomes easier, he said.
“You get a lot more access to a lot more people with a lot more resources once you’re kind of in the group,” McIntyre said. “We do a pretty good job when people are coming in and they want to get involved, especially here in Oregon and Southwest Washington, our group, two groups — the good guys and the bad guys — we work pretty much hand-in-hand.”
The 501st is an all-volunteer group, and its members put their own money into their costumes.
“We do our best to raise money for different charitable organizations,” McIntyre said. “Make a Wish is one of the bigger ones. In our group, I would imagine we do at least one event a weekend throughout the year.”
McIntyre doesn’t get to attend as much as he’d like to, he said. A lot of them happen in the Portland area.
One event that he looks forward to every year is “Reaching for the Star” at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.
“It’s one of the biggest events our group does, and we get 40 or 50 people in costume wandering the air museum and the space museum, interacting with all the special needs individuals,” McIntyre said. “It’s amazing. We stop and take pictures with whoever wants them and go and mingle, and it’s a pretty awesome experience.”
For more information, visit StarWarsOregon.com.