As the world gears up for the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the team at VisitMO thought about recasting the films with historically important Missourians.
Strangely enough, it wasn’t destroy-the-Death-Star difficult to make some real-world connections to George Lucas’ iconic fictional characters.
So, after some debate and discussion, here’s where our Millennium Falcon landed:
Mark Twain is Luke Skywalker: Skywalker was a master of the lightsaber, Twain was a master of the written and spoken word. Skywalker found how to channel his energy while training in the swamps of Dagobah, Twain’s muse was the Mississippi River.
Josephine Baker is Princess Leia: Leia sought peace through diplomacy, Baker worked to end racial discrimination in the U.S. Leia moved politically to advance her goals, Baker spoke alongside people like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during one of the most important times in American history.
Harry S. Truman is Han Solo: This was the one we debated the most, but ultimately, it had to be Harry. Han exuded a cool confidence; Harry was confident but quiet. Han knew what it took to get a job done; Harry did what it took to get a job done.
Walt Disney is Obi-Wan Kenobi: Again, this one we debated, but ultimately it was clear that Obi-Wan’s knowledge and ability to see the big picture best fit Disney’s personality. When it came to animation and entertainment, Disney’s contemporaries were playing checkers while he was playing chess. Also, the Star Wars franchise is now owned by The House of Mouse, so you knew Walt was going to appear somewhere on this list.
Gen. John J. Pershing is Chewbacca: This was an easy one. You don’t want to be in a fight against either one of these guys.
Dr. George Washington Carver is Yoda: No one in the Star Wars universe was more in tune with his surroundings than Yoda, and perhaps no one in Missouri history was more in tune with nature and the world around him than Dr. Carver. Yoda was the master Jedi instructor, Carver reached thousands of students during his career as an educator.
J.C. Penney is Lando Calrissian: He ultimately became a leader in the rebel alliance, but Lando was, first and foremost, a businessman. Penney launched a chain of stores that revolutionized the retail industry and spent much of his time working on philanthropic causes. But at his core, Penney was all about business.
Jesse James is Boba Fett: Admired by some, reviled by others, Jesse James is among the most controversial famous figures in Missouri history. The Fett character is unquestionably a “bad guy,” but fans of the franchise love him so much, you often forget who and what he is. Either way, you don’t want to “high noon it” with these two.
Scott Joplin is the Figrin D’an (the leader of the Cantina Band): A pretty easy call here, as Joplin’s ability to compose and perform is second-to-none. Figrin D’an was a good band leader and not easily distracted when there was havoc in the Cantina.
Jason Heyward is Darth Vader: The former Cardinals outfielder isn’t necessarily historically important, but he went to the Dark Side of the Force when he joined the Cubs. And he wears a helmet.
Edwin Hubble is George Lucas: Hubble is credited as one of the most important cosmologists in history – you’ve heard of the Hubble Telescope, right? – and was intensely fascinated with life among and beyond the stars. Lucas looked to the stars when he created what’s become one of the most-beloved franchises in cinema history.
Mark Twain photo courtesy Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum; Josephine Baker photo courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri; Harry S. Truman photo courtesy the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.