This week on The Star Wars Show, we meet Madlyn Burkert: Lucasfilm’s collections and exhibitions archivist, a.k.a. keeper of awesome original Star Wars stuff. But as it turns out, Star Wars artifacts came into her life, to paraphrase old Obi-Wan, oh, before she was born. “My parents went on their honeymoon in 1979,” she tells StarWars.com. “In the upper peninsula of Michigan, they went camping. The upper peninsula of Michigan was known for copper mining, so there’s a lot of copper shops full of pots, pans, etcetera, made of copper. And randomly, there was an R2-D2 cookie jar in one of them. My parents have this very silly story about trying to haggle with this woman who owned the store to get this cookie jar, which we now learned is dated ‘1977 Fox’ on the bottom. It’s one of the earliest licensed products. That was my cookie jar growing up. Star Wars was there from birth.” Today, Burkert maintains genuine Star Wars props used in the modern-era films, a seemingly Force-ordained job that combines her lifelong love of Star Wars with deep interests in film and history. It’s a responsibility she takes seriously, and one that she feels privileged to have. “As the person here who is the caretaker of these things once they’re done being used on the films,” she says, “I really want to respect their artistry and learn their stories, and just maintain them so that it’s understood that a lot of craftsmanship and work went into them. I’m just the lucky one who gets to take care of them.” You can learn more about the Michigan native’s journey on The Star Wars Show; meanwhile, StarWars.com visited Burkert to talk about some of her favorite Star Wars artifacts. Check them out below, with Burkert’s own commentary.
Rey’s Staff (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
“I picked Rey’s staff mainly because the lightsaber has a storied history and it belonged to other people before her. The blaster, she’s given by Han Solo. We don’t know where she gets the staff, but I feel like it’s the prop that’s truly her. It’s truly her own piece.”
“This one’s rubber. So over time, maybe it bent a little. This is like, maybe two pounds.”
Young Jyn’s Toys (Rogue One)
“They’re supposed to look folksy, crafty. They were like, ‘Okay, toys…we should use Star Wars as reference. What can we use?’ So they went back and they looked at a lot of like, creature books from the prequels, which is where we get this opee sea killer from Naboo, and just, in general, looking at different references from Star Wars to get things that would be cute and cool.”
“These are made out of carved wood. We have wood, we have fake fur, we have some different paints, the fins are made out of leather. Just some odd bits pulled out of different things.”
On the bantha: “I’m just going to say Jyn loved him so much that she broke his horn.”
Rey’s Blaster (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
“This is the ‘hero’ version. Good for closeup shots, maybe a bit more detailed in the paint job. It’s made out of metal and it actually has moving parts. The trigger actually does something, unlike the rubber version of this.”
Rey’s Lightsaber (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
“This is her ‘hero’ lightsaber, so this is like a functional, operational one, if you will. If lightsabers are real, this is a real one. When I was a little kid, I saw Leia take command of her own rescue and thought that was pretty rad. So for Rey, for a female to finally wield a lightsaber, I think that’s why I picked it.”
“This is a new build. This was for VII and VIII. This was used on both. We saw what happens in VIII, so I’m really happy to have this one now in this condition.”
On telling this lightsaber apart from versions used in the original trilogy: “This one has a pretty big tell. There’s an opening here for the blade to go in.”
Rey’s Costume (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
“This is the costume that she wears in the throne room battle, and it’s my favorite scene in The Last Jedi. This is the look that she wears. Clearly she’s a tough character, clearly she can take a lot, but it still shows a variety of materials. It’s got that classic desert Star Wars look and also has a delicateness.”
“She has a tunic shirt, and then she has this vest, and then she has a draping-tunic. And they’re all separate pieces, but they have clever ways of connecting them. Things that, maybe in real life, you wouldn’t connect. Like, there’s snaps at the shoulders that will connect piece to piece so they stay aligned. Because especially with something this drapey, it would be pretty easy for it to get off while she’s doing action or any kind of movement.”
See additional Star Wars artifacts and learn more about Madlyn Burkert on The Star Wars Show!
Photos by Amanda Jean Camarillo and Kyle Kao.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.