You may know Darren Hayes from his work as a member of chart-topping duo Savage Garden. You may know him from his solo career. But however you know him, you probably know Darren is a huge Star Wars fan. His Twitter is full of Star Wars talk. He once auditioned for a role in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. And he’s even taken inspiration from Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine in equal measure for stage costumes and sets. And as a huge fan of the sequel trilogy — and with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker recently hitting Disney+, Digital, 4K Ultra HD, and Blu-ray — we thought it was time for a chat.
StarWars.com: How did your Star Wars fandom start?
Darren Hayes: I’m an original trilogy kid. My experience with Star Wars was the ’70s, where George Lucas just completely changed the future of cinema. And I was not old enough to see Star Wars at the movies — I think I was a baby when it came out. But The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I saw in a drive-in movie theater. We had the novelization of A New Hope and I loved the original Greg Hildebrandt artwork. They had maybe six or seven pages of color photographs in the middle of the novel, and I wasn’t old enough to read it but I was fascinated by the design. And then it was on television which was a big, big deal! It was simulcast on FM radio so you could listen in stereo and I was just blown away.
And then really it’s that whole hero’s journey. And I really relate a lot of my life to a lot of those George Lucas and Joseph Campbell reassuring tropes about the journey through life, that we were born with the potential for greatness and that it’s the choices in our life that determine the person that we are. As a young kid I grew up in a difficult family situation. My dad was an alcoholic and he was violent. And later realized that I was gay. So as a young kid, I had a lot of reasons to be inward and disappear into my imagination. But Luke Skywalker was this hero where he literally looked out from his homestead to the stars and imagined that there was a bigger story that he wanted to be a part of. And it just really connected with me.
StarWars.com: That’s such a great scene because in terms of what happens onscreen as it relates to Luke’s story, that’s pretty obvious, but in terms of how every individual who watches it relates to it, everyone has a different take on what that scene means to them. I think that’s part of Lucas’s genius — tapping into those archetypes and presenting them in a way that everyone can relate to in their own way.
Darren Hayes: Absolutely. It’s funny knowing so much more as we do now the way that cinema is a reaction to what’s happening in the world. I understand why there was a need for hope in 1977. Everything was very grim. So the idea that there could be a future of just infinite possibilities for young people who are about to go out into the world is an amazing feeling as a teenager.
StarWars.com: You’re right. If you look at all the other movies coming out in the ’70s, it was grim!
Darren Hayes: Yeah. I absolutely love the new trilogy, as well. And I think of Rey at the end of The Rise of Skywalker, and just the whole idea that you choose your family, it really, really resonated for me. You know, we are Star Wars fans and we are born to pick up on this, but for me it was such a wonderful message to leave it on, which was that this story was ending where it began, where it didn’t matter where Rey came from, didn’t matter if she was nobody or royalty or evil. She got to choose now. And I think there’s something in there that resonates with all of us.
StarWars.com: With The Rise of Skywalker coming out [on 4K HD, Blu-ray, Digital, and on Disney+], what have you been looking forward to seeing?
Darren Hayes: There’s a two hour documentary about making the film and I am so excited! And I’m such a Reylo! I ended up seeing it 18 times at the cinema and I’ll tell you why. So to go back to that little boy that I was, I was growing up the only way you could see the movies — if you went to the movie theater, and the only one of the films I ever saw at the theater was Return of the Jedi. And we could only see it once because we were a normal family in my neighborhood that was sort of under the poverty line. We were okay but we were poor. Movies were really expensive and there was something about the ritual of going to the cinema that and I really cherished. And once video cassettes happened when I was 13 or 14, I loved it because I could get to know the movies so well that I could just put it on and know what was going to happen when, and it was very, very comforting for me to sit back, almost like people listen to a meditation on audio. The seeing of the film became, in a sense, almost like self care. I think as an adult there’s enough drama in the world. Like a lot of my experience in seeing Star Wars movies multiple times is really just to relive that feeling of being a kid. Smelling the popcorn, pretending that I don’t know what going to happen but secretly knowing every twist and turn because I feel safe.
StarWars.com: You were talking on Twitter recently about how you incorporated a Star Wars influence into your stage outfits. Tell us about that!
Darren Hayes: My obsession with Star Wars was an obsession with Ralph McQuarrie, as well. I loved the designs of the universe of Star Wars. Those hexagon shapes in TIE fighter windows and the design inside the second Death Star, especially the fight scene between Luke and Darth Vader in front of the Emperor, I always loved that and it always reminded me of a concert set. So in the very first Savage Garden tour I asked the designers to build a similar staircase topped with a hexagon, and a lot of my outfits were different versions of the Luke Return of the Jedi outfit. I wore boots, I wore these neoprene, almost like, SCUBA-type material pants, and had these hilarious onesie tops that were designed so that my shirt would not untuck. And it was all based off the silhouette of Luke’s Return of the Jedi black outfit.
The second time I took inspiration from Star Wars was on the Time Machine tour and again, a bunch of outfits I would show people for inspiration, I’d allude to Luke’s Bespin outfit, and I worked with a designer who created this leather holster for my microphone. So it was like a gun holster, but it was completely inspired by all the early drawings of Han Solo. And it was just cool! I rarely ever used it, but if I was dancing during the show, I would put my mic where a laser blaster would go. It was such an inside thing!
StarWars.com: While we have you, what are you working on at the moment?
Darren Hayes: I am the least pluggy person in the world! I’ve intentionally gone away to Ahch-To for a long time and I’ve done a lot of things in silence, which has been fun, just kind of prepping to come back. I had 20 or more years really working hard and being a public person, and then at the end of 2012 I just had an epiphany where I realized that I just wanted to stop for a while and do other things. I studied comedy improv for about three years here in L.A. I went to the Groundlings school, where no one knew who I was and I had to make it a break it on my own there. So that was incredibly humbling and just really needed, I think, after 20 years of having one job, to be just in a room with other students and to fail, make mistakes, make a fool of myself, try acting and stuff for the last few years. And then I wrote a musical, which I’m obsessed about! There isn’t any news on that yet, but it’s just written and we’re looking for a billionaire! And then there are some other things that I’m doing and I’m really excited about, but I’m not ready to hype yet. But I guess I’ve been on Ahch-To for a while, but I haven’t been resting on my laurels and I’ve been working very very hard, just out of the spotlight.
A full-time freelance writer in Melbourne, Australia, Peter Hodgson has covered music and pop culture for over two decades. You can follow him on Twitter @iheartguitar if you don’t mind lots of guitar geekery and cat pics mixed in with your Star Wars discussion.
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