Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Founded in 2012 by Peter Levin and Chris Hardwick of Nerdist Industries, Course of the Force has already established itself as a popular charity event. Partnering with Lucasfilm, Nerdist proposed a relay in which participants run a quarter of a mile each on a prescribed route from Santa Monica to San Diego, California, in advance of Comic-Con International. To get fans and potential contributors motivated for this year’s relay, held July 9-16, Hardwick enlisted Jason Schwartzman and a handful of friends and fellow geeks to shoot a Star Wars-themed music video set to “West Coast,” a tune by Schwartzman’s musical alter ego, Coconut Records.
The setting for the video is Star Wars’ iconic Mos Eisley Cantina, where Hardwick plays Han Solo while his pals and co-stars filter themselves through the crowd of oddballs and monsters. Schwartzman, who spoke with Comic Book Resources from a holding area just outside the meticulously recreated set, explained how he became involved.
“Well, to be honest, this is just an incredible day – what a memory this will be,” he said. “Chris invited me to be on his podcast, and I think we really got along. And a couple of months ago he emailed me explaining his involvement with Comic-Con, and that he was shooting this video, and that he would like to have in the Cantina, my song ‘West Coast’ playing in the style of the Cantina Band. I was totally excited about, and then he said, ‘do you want to be in it for a second too?’ I was like, yeah, great, this sounds amazing.”
Although attending journalists were unable to speak at length with the clip’s bona fide Star Wars talent, Billy Dee Williams himself, VH1 Big Morning Buzz host Carrie Keagan and comedian Patton Oswalt were kind enough to sit down for a few minutes to discuss their participation not only in a fun homage to one of the most beloved film franchises of all time, but a promotional effort for a terrific cause.
Keagan, who plays Princess Leia – not the bikini-clad version but her bounty-hunter alter ego Boushh – said she was unsure what she was doing at first, but was happy to reunite with former Attack of the Show host Hardwick for a new collaboration.
Did they tell you that you were going to be playing Leia?
Carrie Keagan: They asked me if I was going to be involved, and then they told me I was going to play Leia. So how could you say no?
They didn’t ask you to wear a wig or anything?
Honestly, I wouldn’t have cared. I wouldn’t have cared if they put me in that big fuzzy outfit, or a big full suit of stuff. It would have been toasty, but I wouldn’t have cared because I love this stuff. And for Halloween every year, I don’t do sexy stuff – I think that’s lame (laughs). I like to do bloody, scary, weird, creepy stuff, so I would have done anything. And I’m really happy they didn’t put me in the Princess Leia bikini, because, well, I haven’t worked out in a minute (laughs).
How did you first get involved?
Chris and I go back to the Attack of the Show days, and we’ve stayed in contact. We actually were just at the Shorty Awards together, so that was the first time I’d seen him since G4 went away, and we started talking about Course of the Force. He was telling me about that and I got so excited, and he was like, “Why don’t you come and do that with me?” So I’m going to be doing that! And then this came up because it’s all promotion for the same thing – it’s just another excuse to do cool stuff. Yes, we’re promoting Course of the Force and Comic-Con, yes you are! Want to dress up? Yeah.
Are you bringing in minutiae to give your performance more authenticity?
You know, I didn’t even question it, and now you’re making me look bad, Todd. Thanks! No, I did not question it. Although somebody asked me if I wanted the buns [hairstyle] and I was like, “I’m pretty sure she didn’t have the buns in that scene.”
Schwartzman, who admitted he’s more of a music fan than a genre enthusiast like those around him, marveled at the set, which he said took him back to his childhood.
Do you have a favorite part of any of this – a costume or a part of the set that wowed you when you walked in?
Jason Schwartzman: Well, the set in general. I don’t know if there’s a word for it other than surreal, but you have a nostalgia for something that’s a part of your childhood, and then you get to walk onto a reproduction of it.
Like a sense memory?
Yeah, it’s a sense memory. I’m having a real emotional memory to something that was only a sense memory.
Oswalt, meanwhile, has geek cred to spare, having spent much of his career using sci-fi and fanboy-friendly material in his stand-up act. Although his participation seems like a no-brainer, he elected to get involved just because it was a fun chance to raise money for a good cause.
How did you get involved?
Patton Oswalt: I’m friends with Chris [Hardwick], and he emailed me, and I said yeah. I mean, it’s a pretty great charity, and the fact that they put so much work into this every year – and also, anything to make nerds look athletic, I’m all for. Anything where we’re in the sunlight and busting those stereotypes, I support 1,000 percent. But I was also telling Chris, whenever this is over, find a way to save the Cantina set – that should become you guys’ lobby where people wait. And then fix up the bar so it actually serves coffee and drinks and stuff like that. That would be amazing – imagine if that’s where you actually hung out when you weren’t working! He said, this is like weird rich-kid Instagram stuff – “I told my father to make us the Cantina. He’s a timeshare billionaire so he got some guys in and they did it. It’s pretty good … I mean, it’s OK. I’ll probably have him build the ship from The Matrix next year. But this will be cool for a few months.”
What character do you play?
I’m the weirdly – I mean, technically, I’m the bartender, and technically the bartender is racist. He goes, “We don’t serve their kind here,” yelling at the droids. And I hope if J.J. Abrams is listening to this, in Episode VII, he has a droid sit-in scene where they desegregate it.
It would certainly be appropriate for the bureaucracy in the prequels.
Exactly. The droids need a Martin Luther King to liberate them. “R2D2 was ma Jawa name, but my real name is …” – that would be really cool.
This is a cover of the Coconut Records song, correct?
Yes, it’s a cover of the Coconut Records song. It’s like it’s karaoke night in the Star Wars Cantina and everyone is just kind of singing. And you see little bits of the movie are happening around the song. It’s just a video to go online and promote this race.
Are you aiming to be as faithful to the movies as possible, or is this more of a parody?
From what I can tell, the way they’re dressing everyone up, they’ve really geographically mapped out accurately where everyone’s going to be in the bar – where they’re sitting. But then they’ll fit the song into it. If they pull it off, it’s going to be amazing.
Did you choose your character?
If there was a battle for Han Solo, I’m sure that Chris Hardwick won before this thing even started, because he’s the Nerdist. They simply emailed me and offered me, and I said, yeah, why not? The bartender, yeah, the angriest guy in the Star Wars universe!
Is this the first Star Wars costume you’ve ever worn?
This might be my first Star Wars costume. I think this is it, yeah! It’s very comfy! They’re all variations on karate gis.
Are you going to take part in the actual run?
(laughs) No! Oh, my God. With my knees? No, that’s not happening. I’ll be driving myself down to San Diego in a car, listening to podcasts and sipping a Diet Coke.
The perception of breaking stereotypes.
I’m all about the perception, but not the actual doing the footwork.