Let me just begin by saying that in no way did I expect my name to be at the top of the poster for the newly planned Star Wars film, I wasn’t even sure I was going to go to the casting call until one of my friends decided he wanted to try his luck. We were in London on this particular day anyway for a screening of Doctor Who so I thought why not? Had I known what awaited me at Twickenham Stadium I may have re-evaluated.
I slept badly the night before; not because I was nervous. It was more that I knew I had to be up at the ungodly hour of 5:45 in the morning – I can’t sleep when I know I have an early start. That and the fact that I was still full from my calzone that evening. Still I clawed myself out of bed and got ready for the day. I was out of my house by 6:30. I won’t bore you with the details of the journey but it took two and a half hours and a stop off for an egg McMuffin to get to Twickenham Stadium where the casting call was being held. Walking to the venue there were various people aged from around 16 to 25 walking in our direction but not as many I had expected. This gave me hope that the queue might not be as long as I had originally expected. Oh how wrong was I. As we turned the corner into the Stadium car park I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I may have settled somewhere in between, but who wouldn’t if they knew they were joining a queue that was already around three thousand strong.
Still it was only 9:00 in the morning so we had all day. And all day was what it took. The queue was rather uneventful but I’ll do my best to describe it. I could overhear people around me. One man in front of me I could hear saying ‘I hope I at least get to read some lines so I can show my talent.’ The group he was speaking to all agreed though I imagine it was wishful thinking. Then another girl in front of me revealed she had travelled all the way from Malaysia to meet friends and do the casting call. This was the furthest that I had heard anyone had come. It made me put my journey into perspective; at least I could go home within a few hours while some of these people had actually booked hotels they were so hopeful.
It surprised me how few people were cosplaying and dressing up. I assume most people rightly had the idea that coming across too obsessive would turn off the casting directors like sour milk. This didn’t stop the man we decided to nickname ‘Jedi Steve’ who had arrived in full Jedi attire, lightsaber and all. He was the only person dressed up that I saw apart from the two stormtroopers who were sent by Disney to entertain the crowd. ‘Jedi Steve’ was getting a fair amount of attention though which must have been great for being entertained in the queue.
I spotted a friend from college in the queue. He had been told to audition by the stunt coordinator Nick Gillard who worked on the prequel films when he visited my friend’s university. I don’t know if he got a callback or not but he would have been one of the lucky ones if he did. Later on we got talking to a guy who had travelled from Yorkshire and paid £70 to get there. He had a little acting experience and was hoping to get to read too. He remained talking to us till the end of the queue which arrived at about 12:30. The sense of relief in the air was tangible.
We all trudged along after four hours in the cold hoping that once inside we could get warm and be seen by the casting directors. We were waiting behind a gate when a man in charge of the gate appeared and told us the next part would be more ‘civilised’ and that we could leave the queue to go and get food and go to the toilet. So this wasn’t the end.
As we waited a boy of about 19 was leaving the venue and shouted to us people in the queue: ‘Its not worth it!’ I wondered if I would agree, but after being there for four hours I was not going to leave on the advice of somebody I didn’t know. The gate opened and there were cheers of jubilation as a huge block of the queue, including us went through the gate to be seen. We were greeted with another queue which looked shorter and lead inside. We weren’t that far from the end.
Except we were still a long way from the end.
The queue lead inside and continued.
At this point my friend, me and the people we had met were speculating conspiracy theories about the queue in our boredom. One theory was that the queue was just one long chain and that they were just sending us around in a big circle. We spent the remainder of the queue trying to spot ‘Jedi Steve’ and spouting more conspiracies.
It was still bitterly cold inside as it wasn’t indoors, it was just shelter. I had long since lost the feeling in my fingers and toes along with the will to live. I was at the end of my tether when we reached the area to fill out the forms.
But they had run out of forms.
I just laughed. Was this real?! We then had to wait another fifteen minutes for them to get some more forms. I realise by this point that I sound miserable but after over five hours of queueing I was just annoyed by this administrative error. We were all still in high spirits despite feeling tired and fed up and people were still making jokes and laughing. The forms came soon enough and we filled them out.
After stapling a headshot to the form we were led to two tents. One to make yourself up after the queue and the other to meet the casting directors. If they gave you a ticket you were in, and you went to the left. If not you left at the right. I went in.
‘Hello how are you?’ said the casting lady and I replied with an upbeat reply of ‘Fine thank you!’
She stared momentarily at the form and picture.
She then said ‘Thank you for coming along, this man will now show you where to go.’
He directed me to the right. And that was that. It was the same for everyone I had met and seen. Nobody I saw went left. Almost six hours of queueing for barely ten seconds of consideration. I was not surprised to have been rejected. Some were. Our new friend from Yorkshire was disappointed he didn’t even get to talk to somebody, granted he had come a long way for it. I felt bad for him more than myself.
Overall I would call the experience an insane test of patience. It was interesting to be on the receiving end of the superficiality of Hollywood filmmaking if only for a few seconds, and I get to take away the novelty of saying that I auditioned for Star Wars. Though I think the main thing I will take away from this experience is that next time I end up in a queue I can say ‘I’ve been in worse queues.’ In fact I think no queue I will ever face from now on will be as long, or as cold as that one. And I can see something positive in that.