The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.310 Tuesday, 8 July 2014
From: Hardy Cook <
Date: July 8, 2014 at 9:59:32 AM EDT
Subject: Ian Doescher: The Bard Behind William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
Ian Doescher: The Bard Behind William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
By Frannie Jackson
July 1, 2014
“I always wanted Han Solo’s confidence and swagger,” Ian Doescher says. “My personality is way more C-3PO, but Han was always who I wanted to be.”
It makes sense that the creator of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars identifies with the brilliant yet cautious droid who happens to speak six million languages. A Yale graduate with a knack for writing in Elizabethan English, Doescher is the author of Verily, A New Hope and The Empire Striketh Back from Quirk Books. The final book in the trilogy, The Jedi Doth Return, hits shelves today, completing the canon of titles transforming the original Star Wars films into Shakespearean plays—and all in iambic pentameter, no less.
But let’s back up for a moment. How does a creative director for a marketing and research firm with a PhD in Ethics become a writer marrying the culture surrounding Star Wars with the most famous author in the English language?
“I grew up with the Star Wars movies since before I have many memories,” Doescher says in an interview with Paste. “We had them on VHS back in the day, so they were part of the fabric of growing up in my family.”
Doescher’s love for the franchise continued into adulthood, including the occasional urge to binge watch the original trilogy in one sitting. In fact, viewing the films in succession contributed to the idea of his book series.
“About two years ago, three things happened,” Doescher says. “I watched the Star Wars trilogy with some good friends of mine for the first time in a few years, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies—one of those first mashup books—and then I went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my family.”
One of the plays Doescher attended at the festival was The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor that tackles the topic of gay marriage in Iowa. The modern take on the classic play in tandem with reading a novel setting Pride and Prejudice in the zombie-ravaged countryside of Regency England sparked Doescher’s idea.
Doescher reached out to Jason Rekulak, the man responsible for developing and editing the New York Times bestselling novel pairing Jane Austen with hoards of the undead. Rekulak responded with enthusiasm, telling Doescher he’d take a look if the author wrote something.
“I spent the next three weeks putting together the first act, and I stayed really close to the original movie in terms of translating the lines but not adding in a lot of extra stuff,” Doescher says. “I sent it to Jason [Rekulak], and he called me and said, ‘I really want to do this. The next step is to get Lucasfilm on board.’”
Lucasfilm was intrigued by Doescher’s concept, but they urged him to take a more active role in shaping the story before signing off. “They wrote back and said, ‘We like what he’s done so far, but we want to see if he can have more fun with it … take it outside the bounds of the movie,’” he says. “It’s so wonderful for me both as a writer and as a Star Wars fan to be able to have that freedom.”
After Doescher revamped the opening scenes (making R2-D2 cheekily speak in English when other characters aren’t listening, for example), Lucasfilm granted Doescher the licensing rights. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars was born.
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