Crowds gathered in the Bury St Edmunds market place this morning as Stormtroopers and a host of other iconic Star Wars characters arrived at Moyse’s Hall.
The museum, on Cornhill, today launched the seventh annual Bury Sci-Fi and Action Exhibition with the help of Darth Maul, Yoda, Darth Vader, Princess Leia and other costume characters provided by members of the Norwich Star Wars Club.
The exhibition, which will run until November 13, features more than 100 items of sci-fi and action film memorabilia including original costumes, prop replicas, artwork and comics, and a few special guests.
David Rayner, of Newmarket, visited today with his two children, Ebony, age three, and Harry, five, who dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi and won a lightsaber fight with Darth Maul.
Mr Rayner said: “We came last year and really enjoyed it and this year he’s got dressed up – he’s well into Star Wars. We came out to see the characters and he wanted to have a fight with Darth Vader.”
Aaron Durler, of Stowmarket, went along with his two sons, Logan, who dressed up as Captain America, and Ashden who went as Kylo Ren.
Mr Durler said: “We came last year and they really enjoyed it so we’ve been keeping an eye out for it this year.
“It’s just lovely to see all the characters dressed up and for them to give them a ‘high five’ is so cute. They’ve got big smiles on their faces so that’s what it’s all about, and for me I’m a big kid.”
For this opening weekend only, actor Chris Bunn, the ‘original Stormtooper’, legendary movie prop maker Brian Muir, who sculpted Darth Vader, the Stormtrooper armour, Death Star Droid, CZ 3 and did finishing work on C3PO, and Phoenix James, who played a First Order Stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will be on hand to meet fans.
Mr Bunn, who appeared in all three of the Star Wars original trilogy films, is the man on whom the first Stormtrooper costume was based, but he does not have fond memories of it.
“It was so uncomfortable and horrible to wear, eight hours a day, five days a week, for five weeks – it carried on but I got called off because I was contracted to go on another film,” he said.
He added that making war film The Eagle Has Landed was his ‘favourite of all time’ because it was shot during a hot summer and allowed him to spend his days sunbathing and drinking on the banks of the River Thames, ‘with a little bit of work in between’.
Having retired three years ago, Mr Bunn now attends sci-fi conventions throughout Europe and was also at last year’s event in Bury.
“I love the town,” he said. “I live in central London so it’s nice to come to the little towns and see the difference.”
Mr Muir has worked on more than 70 major movies, including 10 James Bond, four Harry Potter and three Indiana Jones films, as well as the likes of Alien, Thor 2, Captain America and the not yet released Beauty and the Beast.
He got his break 48 years ago, when, at the age of 16, he started an apprenticeship at Associated British Productions, what is now Elstree Film Studios, becoming the UK’s only apprentice sculptor in the film industry.
When he finished his apprenticeship he went outside the industry and worked on commissions like the Royal Coat of Arms for the Crown Court and plaque for the Stock Exchange before agreeing to work on A New Hope, the original Star Wars.
He still remembers going to the crew showing after that first film was finished.
“We were all absolutely amazed,” he said. “It was so ahead of its time as a film and we’d all been quite pessimistic of how good it would be. Everyone was so blown away with it that it got a standing ovation at the end – that’s the only time I’ve ever seen that in all the years I’ve been in the film industry.”
Having retired towards the end of last year, he and his wife Lyndsay now attend conventions throughout the world.
Of Bury, Mr Muir said: “It’s a lovely little town, we’re very impressed with it. We didn’t know what to expect, but it’s lovely.”
Mr James plays a Stormtrooper in the latest Star Wars movie and became recognised for his role in it after Disney and Lucasfilm decided to use him in their Behind-the-Scenes video which they released ahead of the film.
The actor, who is also an accomplished writer, poet, singer and model, said: “I’m known now in places I wasn’t before for anything else I’ve done. It’s definitely put me in a different category in terms of people’s awareness of me.”
“I knew if I was seen without my [Stormtrooper] helmet on it would have an effect, but I definitely can’t say I knew the extent of that effect,” he added.
Being involved in the film was a ‘childhood dream come true’ for Mr James who watched the earlier films as a young boy.
He said: “The first movie came out three months before I was born and I used to have all the toys. A Stormtrooper is one of the things that I wanted to be, I used to fantasise about becoming a Stormtrooper, but I never believed it would happen – how cool is that?”
As an award-winning model Mr James was used to being in front of the camera and ‘wearing crazy make up’ while as an award-winning performance poet he was used to acting and learning lines so he said it was ‘inevitable the two merged together’ making his move to the big screen a ‘natural progression’.
His television appearances include Eastenders, Holby City and Luther II and Luther III, while his film appearances include Cleanskin and Skyfall.
Moyse’s Hall opens Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 12pm-4pm.
To find out more about the exhibition, go to www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk