Culture

My Lucasfilm job: Wrangling Wookiees and dressing like Jabba

Star Wars fan Bonnie Burton worked for George Lucas for a decade. In this May the 4th love letter to Lucasfilm, she shares highlights like marrying R2-D2.

Bonnie Burton/CNET

When your day job involves riding along with Chewbacca to a NASA event and taking photos of George Lucas hanging out with Ewoks, it's hard to complain. I worked at Lucasfilm from 2003 to 2013 doing that and a whole lot more.

I was a lifelong Star Wars fan from the time I saw the first movie at a drive-in theater in the '70s. As a kid I twisted my long hair into Princess Leia buns and acted out Star Wars scenes on the school playground. But I never dreamed I'd be part of the franchise that sparked my imagination as a child. Then I answered a Craigslist job posting, and after a bunch of interviews, I found myself one of the lucky few working for Lucasfilm, where I eventually became senior editor of its website StarWars.com.

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The job kept me busy. I wrote about the latest Star Wars news for the site and interviewed the cast and crew of various Star Wars films, TV shows and video games. I learned quickly how to spell every creature, character, vehicle, weapon and planet name. Trust me when I say it's easy to misspell Wookiee or Kashyyyk.

I spoke with celebrities like Seth Green, J.J. Abrams, Simon Pegg, Milo Ventimiglia and Bill Hader about their love for Star Wars, and heard some great stories. Hader knew he'd be smitten with his future wife when he first saw her kitchen curtains made from vintage Star Wars bedsheets. Ventimiglia and his friends reenacted lightsaber fights in parking garages. I also oversaw the site's kids' section, which included craft tutorials. And I ran the Star Wars forums and social media accounts.

I was always honored when my path intersected with legendary Star Wars actors like Carrie Fisher, whose courage and honesty dealing with her personal demons inspired me to face my own, as well as Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca).

And it was always thrilling to work for the man responsible for it all -- George Lucas. I often found myself interviewing Lucas for a StarWars.com feature, or accompanying him with the Lucasfilm PR team to press events that always bordered on the surreal because I was shadowing one of my childhood heroes. I wasn't exactly tongue-tied, but it's rare to get to see your heroes in action in the real world. And that kind of experience can humble anyone.

At the 2007 Rose Bowl Parade, my job included following around Lucas -- who was that year's grand marshal. He met with hundreds of fans from all over the world in the 501st Legion who dressed up as Stormtroopers and marched in the parade. The parade that year also had Star Wars-themed floats and a marching band whose members played Star Wars music in character costumes.

I was constantly starstruck by Lucas, but I was just as excited to work with many of the people behind the scenes of Star Wars, like Industrial Light & Magic and Lucasfilm icons such as special effects artist and supervisor Dennis Muren, visual effects supervisor John Knoll and sound designer Ben Burtt.

But Lucasfilm wasn't just about being surrounded by incredibly talented people every day. It was also one of the most creative places around for letting your inner geek loose and getting paid for it. There were times I would test our latest licensees' Star Wars costumes to see how durable they were. Not many companies encourage their employees to dress up as Jabba the Hutt for the day like I did. (See the video below.)

We even had our own coffee house, Javva the Hutt, inside one of the main Lucasfilm buildings on the Presidio campus in San Francisco where we could get extra-strong espresso, lattes and, of course, a simple dark roast brew that would impress even the likes of Darth Vader.

I worked in quite a few different open office spaces at Lucasfilm, but when I finally got an office of my own, I managed to cram it full of photos, collectibles, crafts made by fans, posters and everything else my childhood-self would have loved.

I had a bookcase dedicated to my favorite character, R2-D2. There were R2-D2 toys, but the collection also included some unexpected items in the shape of the little droid: salt and pepper shakers, a soy sauce container, pencil holder, painting set, dice holder, soap and jewelry.

When I wasn't working at Lucasfilm's offices, I would be sent to fan conventions in the United States, England and Japan. Everywhere I went I'd see fans of all ages dressed as their favorite characters and creatures. It was a constant reminder of how much Star Wars influenced generations of people to dream about a galaxy far, far away.

I even offered up my social life for an article for the website when I married beloved droid R2-D2 at Star Wars Celebration. After a whirlwind romance of speed dating and cantina bar moments, Artoo and I got married by Darth Maul. Darth Vader was best man and supermodel-supergeek Adrianne Curry, dressed as an Imperial Officer, was my maid of honor. The event got a lot of media attention and my parents were rather confused by the union, to say the least.

Below is a photo gallery of some of my favorite moments from the 10 years I worked at Lucasfilm. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire you to send Lucasfilm your resume so you can make some employee memories of your own.

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