Interview with Steve Sansweet

Steve Sansweet has been a friend of our club since the late 1990s and he is well-known among the Hungarian fans. Virtually each and every one of us is bound to have at least one book or article he published. The greatest Star Wars collector has given us an exclusive interview about his career in Lucasfilm, the recently opened Rancho Obi-Wan and his future plans. (Questions by Zoltán Barta, translation by Máté Havasi)

How difficult was it to leave Lucasfilm after 15 years? I understand, Lucasfilm expects you to work with them in the future...

I've had two incredible jobs in my life. I was a reporter and editor with The Wall Street Journal for 26 years, and then headed Fan Relations for Lucasfilm for 15 years. And now I'm embarking on a third career, that of an entrepreneur as we turn Rancho Obi-Wan into a non-profit business. It's always a bit difficult to leave behind something you've loved doing, but it's important to embrace change. And since I left Lucasfilm in April, 2011, I've been Fan Relations Advisor for them. That will continue in 2012.

You used to work as a journalist. How did you get to work for Lucasfilm? It was them who offered a job, or did you call them? What did you feel joining the company as a fan?

I knew many people at Lucasfilm, and one day in 1995 I got a call from the head of Public Relations. They were looking for someone to go to conventions and let fans in on some of the secrets behind the Star Wars Special Editions. Did I know of anyone who might be interested, even though the job didn't pay much and it was definitely only for one year. Yes, I said. I might know someone! I took the leap and never looked back.

I had the impression that fan relations were completely renewed under your management in Lucasfilm, and therefore fans could get closer not only to the Star Wars galaxy but the film projects, as well. How did you start it all?

I was very lucky that Lucasfilm had a great past history of working with fans. In 1976, a year before Star Wars opened in the U.S., the company was going to conventions and showing and telling fans all about the movie. And that's what I did during 1996; I did more than 50 presentations about the Special Edition - sometimes two different conventions in a single weekend - and met and became friendly with a great many fans. I worked hard to make the first Celebration a reality - and then just as hard to keep it going.

Were you free to do your job? Were you allowed to do what you thought was right?

Every employee in every company that I know of has to report to someone and work within budgetary and other guidelines. If you can't or won't do that, you shouldn't be working for a company. But Lucasfilm was very open to ideas and trying out new ways of doing things.

Was it your decision when the most interesting announcements (such as the official titles or the dates of the releases) arrived? Your Revenge of The Sith T-shirt was truly remarkable...

I had input into when certain announcements were made, but that was part of a broader strategy. As part of the Marketing team for the prequels, it was my responsibility to come up with a plan as to how, what, and when we released news and photos about the movies to fans. The most fun I had was at San Diego Comic-Con in 2004. It was an amazing hour in a room that held more than 6,000 fans. I had a chance to interview Producer Rick McCallum and actor Hayden Christensen, and Carrie Fisher made a brief appearance. Then at the end, I ran a short video that teased the title of Episode III. When the words "Revenge of the Sith" appeared on the screen, I stripped off my outer shirt and people could see I was wearing a T-shirt with a retro-style logo for Revenge of the Sith. People were screaming and shouting, and when I said the shirt had just gone on sale at the Star Wars pavilion on the exhibit floor, hundreds of fans rushed out to get in line!

You are regularly mentioned as the owner of the greatest Star Wars collection in the world. Can you remember the first thing in your collection?

It was a promotional brochure that Fox and Lucasfilm sent to theater owners and film bookers to interest them in bringing Star Wars into their theaters. They also sent it to the media. One of my fellow reporters in the Los Angeles Bureau of The Wall Street Journal got it, looked it over, and then threw it unto his wastebasket. I waited until he left for the day, went over to his area, and pulled it out of the trash. I still have it!

We heard a lot about Rancho Obi-Wan who summarizes your collection. Will this exhibition ever be visitable by fans?

Yes! Tours can now be booked online by anyone months in advance. Rancho Obi-Wan has been set up as a nonprofit company for educational, entertainment, and charitable purposes. It's not like a museum that you casually visit. Every tour is personally given by me and lasts at least two hours. There are several levels of memberships that you can buy, and souvenirs too. All the information is at our new Website, Any questions can be sent to

How many relics are there in your collection and what is your favourite item?

Our inventory now covers 90,000 separate items - but we expect that when we finish, it will be at least double that number. I really don't have one favorite item. That's like asking a mother or father of five children, "Which one is your favorite?" There are certain categories that appeal to me stronger than others, especially fan-made items and art.

A propos, Obi-Wan... Is this name a sort of hint? Is he your favourite character?

Very much of a hint! I've long identified with Obi-Wan - especially as I got older. He was Luke's guide, his motivator, and his mentor. I've taken on that role in real life, both in business and in my personal life.

Back to Lucasfilm. From the late nineties you organized several events with Star Wars Celebrations which attracted ten thousands of people. Was the original idea yours?

Star Wars Celebrations came about as the result of several ideas that we blended together. I'd say that the fathers of Celebration were the then Vice President of Marketing at Lucasfilm, Jim Ward; the owner of the Official Star Wars Fan Club and the editor of Star Wars Insider, Dan Madsen and John Bradley Snyder; and me.

How did you make up the program list of such an event? How big was the staff?

Staff? What staff? Compared to what came later, it was a very simple process, although a lot of work. After finding out who we could get as guests, and what other resources might be possible, Dan, John, Anthony Daniels, and I spent two weeks before the first Celebration at the Insider offices putting together the plans and schedule.

The first Star Wars Celebration outside the USA was held only on the 30th anniversary. Why? Didn't you find an appropriate location or would it have been too risky because of the expenses?

I think we had to make sure that Celebrations in the U.S. would first work after the prequel movies all came out. We always wanted to do international events, but they are very tricky because of the partners who might be available, and then having to do most of the work by email and phone until right before the shows. Finding the right international partner who will fund the show is not easy. Celebration requires a very large budget and Lucasfilm wants to make sure it has the very best possible partner to run the show.

Did the success of Celebration Europe surprise you or did you expect this?

We felt very good about Celebration Europe. The fans had a great time!

Here, in Hungary Expanded Universe became widely accepted only in the past few years, and became really popular. What do you think about the Expanded Universe galaxy? How did they receive it in the USA, back, at the very beginning?

I think the novels and comics of the Expanded Universe have been a very important part of the success of the Star Wars saga. What's most important is that there is something for just about any fan. It starts with the movies, and now The Clone Wars television series. Then there is the fictional Expanded Universe and the very rich non-fiction books such as the Art Of... and Making Of... and others. There are, of course, many collectibles. And there are many fans groups such as the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion who love to get together in costumes and march in parades, visit children's hospitals, and raise money for charity. Star Wars fans are simply the best people I know!

You became well-known in Hungary in the nineties by your books and publications. However, in the past few years we felt you did not publish too much. For when can we expect another book on action figures, an item long awaited by the fans? Are you working on anything now?

What? Someone feels my 14 Star Wars books are not enough? (He laughs.) I was working on three Star Wars books at one time - I had to turn down a fourth - and it nearly killed me. So I took a bit of a break. But I am working on my next Star Wars book right now and it is about... action figures! It is different than the Action Figure Archive, but in the nearly 14 years since that book came out, there have been well more than 1,500 new figures!

Due to your job you made many friends from fan communities. How many of them do you keep in touch with on a daily basis?

I stay in touch with hundreds of fans all over the world through email and Facebook ( Not on a daily basis, of course, because then there wouldn't be time for anything else. But often!

In Star Wars: The Complete Saga we can find a featurette about the organization of the 2007 Rose Parade, and you are in this one, and your work is featured also. Did you take part in many major decisions like that?

The 2007 Rose Parade was a team effort at Lucasfilm. That's the way we always worked there. Different team members were responsible for different parts of the event. It was that way with many major projects at the company. I was there for 15 years, from the Special Editions through the three prequels to The Clone Wars television series, and major decisions were made based on the input of many people; I was one of them.

I remember well, that you were really satisfied with the activities of the Hungarian club and helped us a great deal to ensure some attention for us. When you first heard about our club, what was your reaction? Did you think that there could be such a fanatic and rather creative Star Wars fan group even in a Middle-European country?

Passionate Star Wars fans are everywhere! I have been especially happy to see the growing strength of fandom in Eastern Europe: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and other countries. There is a strong history, especially in those nations, of a deep-seated love for science fiction and movies.

You were a guest to several fan clubs around the world. Would you come to Hungary?

I would LOVE to come to Hungary for a fan convention! I was in Poland last year as well as Ireland, France, and Guatemala. This year I already have been invited and will be going to Canada, Mexico, and Peru. In the past I've been a guest at fan conventions in Australia, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Finland - and we've done Celebrations in Japan and the U.K. So I'm ready!