All Things Geek — New Star Wars podcast dives deep into movie's origins

Matthew Lane • Jul 11, 2019 at 8:45 PM

It seems like these days everyone has a podcast. Just go to Stitcher or the Apple Podcast app and you’ll find hundreds of podcasts on every topic imaginable.

From news and politics, to comedy and sports, business, history, true crime, arts and entertainment, pop culture and even professional wrestling. If you can think of it, there’s probably a podcast out there talking about it.

Thanks to my wife, some of the best podcasts I’ve listened to are of the true crime variety, where the narrator takes you on a journey into the mind of a murderer, drawing on news accounts and real life interviews with the people involved directly in the case.

These podcasts remind me of the old radio serials, where the narrator tells a story, often using different voices for different characters, there’s music in the background and sound effects that really immerse you in the action.

Which is why a new Star Wars podcast from Wondery caught my ear recently. In case you don’t know, Wondery is the largest independent podcast publisher in the world and is known for its immersive podcasts.

And this new immersive podcast — called Inside Star Wars — certainly lives up to its claim.

The show depicts many of the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations faced by George Lucas and his team on the creation of Star Wars — from a fleeting thought to the final, post-production touches. It follows the people who made the original classic and those who did their very best to stop it dead.

Inside Star Wars goes into Lucas’ childhood, the conflict he had with his father, a vehicle accident that should have killed him, and his decision to create one of the galaxy’s greatest space epics.

I recently had a chance to talk with Mark Ramsey about his podcast, the amount of work he put into the endeavor and what you’ll learn after listening to all seven episodes of the series.

How did the idea for this podcast get started?

Ramsey: “A few years ago, it occurred to me that audio is a very powerful thing, and yet the people who had populated radio had forgotten about it. Where was the ability of audio to compel and thrill and delight and bring you joy and sadness? Where did all that go?

“I thought the opportunity to bring that back was very much present because of the dawn of podcasting and on demand audio. I thought it would be a good way to show just how powerful audio can be.”

After listening, Inside Star Wars reminds me of the old Star Wars radio drama.

Ramsey: “There are some similarities and differences. I like to refer to this as an audio graphic novel, because the scenes are very fast and short. I tried not to do the pure radio drama ... in that there’s not a cast with a crew of actors. It’s all my voice portraying these different roles, and it’s more designed to be as if you’re telling a story around the campfire to a bunch of friends.

“This is actually a movie about a movie, about the people behind the movie.”

Ramsey, who also created the popular podcasts Inside Psycho and Inside Jaws, focuses on Lucas as a person, allowing the listener to see the famed director in a new light and gain appreciation for what went into the development of Star Wars.

How much research went into making Inside Star Wars and what did you use for reference?

Ramsey: “I started last November with about a dozen books, everything from ‘The Making of Star Wars,’ the biography of George Lucas, Carrie Fisher’s book, a book by Peter Cushing, two by Alec Guinness, and a bunch of other books combined with Internet sleuthing. Some tidbits that haven’t made it into print yet.

“And I took some creative license. There were scenes created out of nothing that resonated out of the personalities of the people involved. My goal was to remind people of why they fell in love with this thing from the beginning.”

What are some of the main themes of the podcast?

“This is not a book on the making of the movie. This is about the larger story and its origin, of the people who made it and the people who tried to stop it. The people whose lives were changed by it and the people who changed lives because of it.

“One of the main characters is Carrie Fisher and her legacy. She’s an icon for something that’s much bigger than anyone anticipated back in 1977. Her tragedy needs to be put alongside her legacy.

“And the Death Star. The ability to trust your instincts and to overcome that obstacle. Communicating to people that no matter what’s going on in the world around you, you can trust yourself, you can destroy that Death Star. ... That’s the message of the film and what we try and bring to life in this series.”

Did you learn anything new while making the podcast?

“I’m definitely not a Star Wars geek, so to speak. I’m not the person who knows everything about every character in the universe. That’s not me. I’m just interested in the story of these people against all better judgment and most of the words of people who were their friends and made this thing:

“Peter Cushing, the legendary British horror actor, and at this point in life, he was grieving a wife who he lost in the early ’70s and would ride a bike every day to her grave during the making of Star Wars.

“The R2-D2 actor had a son out of wedlock, who he didn’t recognize.

“George Lucas for years made nothing from Fox for the film because they would not commit to making it, only for writing a screenplay and paid him $10,000 for that. (Lucas) had to do everything for three years on his own dime and if not for the good fortune of ‘American Graffiti,’ he wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

With all of the podcasts out there about Star Wars, why should fans listen to yours?

“This is an experience months in the making, with tens of thousands of dollars going into it, and with state of the art immersive audio. It’s completely unique from anything out there. If you want to really know the human story about the people who tried to make this thing, what they went through and who they are and walk away with a message that’s as strong and resonant as the one you got from the movie, then this is the place to get it.”