The opening panel of the “Star Wars Celebration” in Orlando on Thursday promised “not-to-be-missed surprises” and, although no new movies were announced or trailers released, the 90-minute event did not disappoint.
George Lucas was the first to surprise the audience, and stayed on the stage as a number of familiar “Star Wars” faces rotated through to meet their maker. Then, about 60 minutes through, Lucas took a few minutes to pay special tribute to the late, great Carrie Fisher.
“She really is a modern woman. She was a princess. She was a senator. She was having to hold her own against these two big lugs,” Lucas said, referring to Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, who also made a surprise appearance.
“There really wasn’t much of a question; there aren’t very many people like her,” he added. “They’re one in a billion. She could hold her own through anything.”
“She wore a dress through the whole thing, but she was the toughest one in the group,” the creator of the “Star Wars” franchise said. “At the same time she was fun to be with. She’ll always be the princess who took command and never backed down, never was in jeopardy. We’ll all love her forever and ever.”
The “Scream Queens” star, who recently joined the cast of “American Horror Story,” wore a white Tom Ford dress in honor of her mother’s iconic Princess Leia outfit.
“My mom, like Leia, was never afraid to speak her mind and say things that made people uncomfortable,” Lourd told the audience of fans. “Nothing about her was a performance.”
The actress told the crowd that her mother had taught her three important things. First, a Leia monologue, which she performed to laughs, then rapturous applause.
“Secondly, she taught that if life isn’t funny, it’s just true, and that is unacceptable,” Lourd said. Again, the audience cheered. Finally, Lourd said that she learned from knowing her mother that “the most evolved person is seemingly a contradiction.”
After the spoken tributes, a curtain opened at the end of the panel, revealing composer John Williams and a full orchestra playing a “Star Wars” medley, including “Princess Leia’s Theme” and the iconic opening credits anthem.
Earlier in the panel, Ford was chided about his latest flying incident when he accidentally landed on a taxiway in Orange County, sparking an investigation from the Federal Aviation Administration. “I can’t believe we managed to keep it a secret considering you landed your plane on I-4,” host Warwick Davis jabbed.
Ford chuckled and took it in stride. “It was a good landing,” he replied.
Minutes later Lucas said that when he was auditioning Ford for the part of Han Solo, he asked if the actor could fly. After all, the role entailed commandeering intergalactic aircraft.
Ford told the audience that he replied, “Fly? Yeah. Land?” and then trailed off to laughter.
The event, a balance of laughs and tear-jerking moments, also featured a video tribute to Fisher that was later posted to Twitter. Watch below: