Last week we interviewed Nice Peter from Epic Rap Battles of History and, continuing the trend of talking to lovely Americans who are doing interesting things with history, this week we are talking to Ian Doescher, the man behind ‘Shakespeare’s Star Wars’. Just so you can revel in that a little bit more, let me hit you with some play titles; ‘Verily, a New Hope’; ‘The Empire Striketh Back’; ‘The Jedi Doth Return’. Seriously, this is awesome, and if I need to tell you that, you definitely need to read this blog more.
History Mine: How much additional research into Shakespeare and Star Wars did you have to do for this project?
Ian Doescher: Not a lot — almost all of the Shakespearean references I used were stored in my head from having read or seen the plays. More research actually went into getting Star Wars right. I used the online script to get the names of minor characters correct, and to make sure some of the lines were right. When it was time to write the educator’s guide, I also did some checking into the terms for various literary devices used by Shakespeare.
HM: You are quite irreverent with the source material where other authors might have been tempted to play it straight-faced and let the humour come from the contrast. How important was that editorial freedom to you?
ID: All along, this was a project that was meant to be fun. I don’t know that you could write a straight Shakespearean take on Star Wars and expect it to come off seriously. But the editorial freedom you’re referring to was also a gift given to me early on by Lucasfilm. When I wrote the first draft of the first act, I stayed very close to the original movie in terms of plot line, dialogue, and so on. Lucasfilm reviewed that first act and responded by saying that they liked what I had done so far, but wanted me to feel free to have some fun with it and take the book outside the bounds of the movie. What a great gift to give a writer! After that, I added in more soliloquies and asides, and things like R2-D2 breaking into English.
HM: Why did you decide to publish as a script rather than in any other medium (for example, as a book or a touring play)?
ID: My inspiration was really just the way that Shakespeare’s plays appear in print. I’m a big fan of the Arden Shakespeare series, so I wanted the book to approximate that look as much as possible. Arden isn’t a version of the plays that is meant to be performed; they are meant to be read. Similarly, as I wroteWilliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars I actually never thought of it as a play to be performed. In my mind, it was always going to be a book. But I wanted that book to look like a Shakespearean play as much as possible (for that reason, adding in the line numbers was very important to me!).
HM: How did you manage to square copyright?
ID: Dumb luck. After I had the idea for the book, I approached Quirk Books because I knew they had published several mash-ups. Once they were on board, they took that first version of act one to Lucasfilm. Once I had satisfied Lucasfilm that I could play with the script more and have fun with it, Lucasfilm was prepared to work out the licensing deal with Quirk. From there, I’m pretty much blissfully unaware of the details. But I do know I am lucky to have had Quirk trying to make the deal on my behalf instead of approaching Lucasfilm myself, which would have been more difficult.
HM: Where will you go after the original trilogy?
ID: I don’t know how many more Shakespearean parodies the world has interest in. That said, if someone approached me to do something like William Shakespeare’s Star Trek or William Shakespeare’s The Godfather, I would probably say yes. In the meantime, I’m working on a new project that is in some ways a natural next step from William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, but is also very much its own thing.
HM: You are now a bestselling author; could you ever have imagined doing it this way?
ID: Absolutely not. I always hoped I might publish a book, but because of my academic background I thought it might be an academic book. I never would have guessed I would end up on the New York Times bestseller list, and certainly not in the hardcover fiction category. It has been both an exciting and a humbling experience.
Thankyou Ian! If anyone know’s anyone else I should interview, please get in touch (particularly if they aren’t male, white or American – represent yo)!