Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your autobiographical book, Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches! As a longtime contributor to the Star Wars franchise and the entertainment medium as a whole, on what period of time and creativity does your book focus, and what inspired you to tell your story?
Craig Miller: Thanks. Truth to tell, it doesn’t seem nearly as long as it’s actually been. I guess it’s true about “when you’re having fun.” The book covers from about the middle of 1976, when I first met Charley Lippincott and got involved in the pre-release marketing of Star Wars, through the middle of 1980, shortly after the release of The Empire Strikes Back, when I left Lucasfilm. And my journey from science fiction fan college student to a publicist-writer-producer, bringing out creativity I don’t think I knew I was capable of.
BD: As one of the most well-known franchises in the history of entertainment, what was your experience in being involved from its inception, and did you have any inkling that it would become as prolific as it has?
CM: Well, first, no one – No One – had any idea Star Wars would or even could become what it eventually did. Nothing had ever become so popular so quickly and certainly nothing’s been around so long. Star Trek comes the closest, but it never really reached the same level of acceptance with the general public, especially not in the early years. For me, working on Star Wars was kind of a dream come true. I usually use the old cliché “a kid in a candy store.” I loved science fiction and comics. I loved movies. And I had been involved in fandom, as a fan, since I was 12 years old. Now, suddenly, I was living in that world full-time and meeting and getting to know all kinds of great people. It was pretty amazing.
BD: Likewise, what was your experience in looking back at your time with the franchise and reflecting on the work, relationships, and memories that have been forged over the years?
CM: Writing the book was an interesting experience. I’d never really been away from it, in a couple of senses. After Lucasfilm, I stayed in the movie marketing business for another decade as a consultant to Jim Henson, Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, etc. working on a lot of great genre films (which was kind of my specialty area). Then, I got involved writing and creating animation for television. And I’ve always been involved with fandom, even while I was at Lucasfilm, going to a local science fiction club’s meeting, attending and working on conventions, etc. So, I stayed around. And I was always being asked about my experiences, on Star Wars and other movies, so I told a lot of stories. People were always saying, “You should write a book,” and I always thanked them but never thought I had enough stories about Star Wars to really fill a book. Then, a couple years ago, I was the featured guest at Visit Hoth, a Star Wars convention that was held in Finse, Norway, where we’d shot the exteriors for Hoth. I put together a slide show for them, about my experiences on Star Wars and Empire, and I decided to use it as a starting point and framework for the book. I started writing and I got together with a few old friends from my Lucasfilm days, and they helped me remember some details that were blurry in my swiss-cheese-like memory. It was fun reminiscing with them. They even reminded me of a couple things that I’d completely forgotten. Once they brought them up, the details came flooding back. Same with some of the things I did remember, but talking with them about it helped bring back more specific memories.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from Star Wars Memories?
CM: I hope they’ll get a sense that we all really loved what we were doing - the making of the movie and the time spent doing things with and for the fans. It wasn’t crass; it wasn’t “if we encourage them this way, we’ll get them to buy more stuff.” We really did things to please fans, because we wanted them to love the movies. Sure, there was a commercial element. No one was pretending there wasn’t. But we went full measures, because we cared about fans. I think this kind of comes out in the section of the book about responding to fan mail and about the creation and operation of the Official Star Wars Fan Club. And, of course, I hope they’ll get the sense of fun and excitement I experienced as a fan who found himself in the middle of where every fan would have wanted to be.
BD: In light of the fact that this is a personal telling of your singular experience with the franchise, is there a memory or experience that truly stands out to you that has had lasting impact on you either as a creator and/or as an individual?
CM: Gosh, that’s hard. The entire experience kind of pushed me here and tucked me there and formed me into the person I am - what I do, how I deal with people, everything. Sure, my life before then, growing up, going to college, etc. had moved me in certain ways. But this was a whole new “adult” life, and I was meeting and dealing with kinds of people I’d never met or dealt with before. There were some individual things, many of them covered in the book, like taking care of the last wish of a young man who was in a hospital, dying, who wanted to see Empire. Writing and producing the 800-number telephone messages we had for fans to hear in the months before Empire opened. Being Producer-for-Lucasfilm on episodes of Sesame Street. And, of course, the biggest impact came from being in Chicago, doing a presentation about Empire at a science fiction convention, and meeting a woman at the con who was there from New York and taking her out on a first date three weeks later when I was in New York for Sesame Street. 40 years later, we’re still married.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
CM: The biggest thing I’ve been working on for the last year and a half has been Star Wars Memories. It’s taken up most of my time. I’ve got a couple other book projects in the works and a live-action science fiction pilot making the rounds (though no one’s bought it yet). And I’m still writing animation.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Star Wars Memories?
CM: There’s a Facebook page for Star Wars Memories which has, unfortunately, not been as active as I’d have like, because my wife’s been very ill the last couple of months. She’s still in the hospital but more should be appearing on the page soon. Specific questions about the book and the stories in it asked on there do get answered pretty quickly. And I’ll be appearing at conventions.