For Those Who Become One with the Force

Star Wars veteran Christian Simpson reflects on the passing of his father and how the saga helped see him through.

Actor Christian Simpson is a proud two-decade Star Wars mainstay in the prequels, sequels, stand-alones, and games. He is also a screenwriter, and is the author of the sci-fi novel The Chrononaut.

Any of you familiar with my annual articles here will know there is a theme running through them: strange twists and turns that seem perhaps to be the Force itself at play. And so it was with this story.

But let me start at the beginning, or should I say, the end: My father recently passed away.

It was he who first introduced me to Star Wars when he took me on my first ever movie-theater trip to the Richmond Odeon in London to see a little sequel called The Empire Strikes Back. He perhaps did not realize it, but that moment changed my life for the better, just as Star Wars no doubt has changed yours. I am eternally grateful to him (and a few others) that it also shaped my career. I don’t think I would have been able to work on five Star Wars movies and games if it wasn’t for that introduction at a pivotal age.

After the passing of the kind, loving, hard-working, and wise man with a wicked sense of humor that was Barrie Alan Simpson, I quickly came to think of the words of a certain wise hermit, first introduced in Empire.

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.

Star Wars — perhaps more than any other movie saga — has a long and heart-warming history of assisting those who are either mourning, or for whom twilight is upon and who soon will rest.

I have been touched to be involved in some such interactions, and when it has meant a lot to a child to receive a letter from “someone in Star Wars,” I have been more than honored to send it. Anything Star Wars just has that unique ability to bring a smile and rainbows at a time when there are few.

Four hours before twilight unexpectedly befell my father, we had been chatting by e-mail. Now, my dad and I used to joke about the famous “I am your father” line and the fact I was Vader’s stand-in in Revenge of the Sith. (I imagine it’s something a lot of fathers and sons have fun with, and it became especially meaningful for us.)

However, we hadn’t mentioned that for years. But that final night, for an unknown reason, he ended his e-mail to me as follows. I don’t mind sharing it here:

“I am your father. Darth Vader the first. xxxxxx“

And so, Star Wars working in the ways it seems to, gave my father’s last words to me. Somehow I had replied (and I know he had read) my last words to him in return:

“I am your son. X”

And the circle was complete.

Soon, I thought about that scene where Yoda discussed the necessity of accepting death. I realized it was a scene that I had actually helped film, with Yoda himself, 12 years earlier here in London.

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.

Somehow, Yoda had been speaking the words to my mind in my grief, yet had actually spoken them to me in “reality,” too. It made the advice more special. It gave me comfort.

But then, to top it all, my mother told me the name of the minister who would be overseeing my father’s funeral ceremony: Reverend Sykes.

In The Phantom Menace and some games, I portrayed pilot Gavyn Sykes.

Sykes is not a particularly common last name in England. A little more common, though, is my father’s middle name, Alan. And indeed, the minister’s full name was Rev. Alan Sykes. I wonder if he can fly an N-1 starfighter as well as my father could.

So there it is. Maybe it was all just coincidence, but I like to focus on the thought that it was the Force binding this galaxy together.

Either way I know that my father is one with the Force…and the Force is with me.