‘Star Wars’: 40 years of memories

Posted at 10:43 AM, May 25, 2017

(CNN) — “Star Wars” changed the entertainment landscape 40 years ago when it premiered on May 25, 1977. The blockbuster spawned sequels, prequels, TV shows, comic books, video games, theme parks and toys — so many toys.

It also changed lives.

We asked fans to tell us about the first time they saw a “Star Wars” film and how it influenced their lives.

Many described being transfixed from the opening moments as they read the famous intro line, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…,” heard John Williams’ rousing score and saw Darth Vader’s Imperial Star Destroyer fill the screen.

Here are a few of their stories:

Episode I: The Princess and the Scoundrel

Liza Rios-Proprofsky loved Princess Leia from the moment she saw “Star Wars” and dreamed of marrying Luke Skywalker one day — before the brother/sister reveal in “Return of the Jedi” spoiled that idea.

Fortunately, when the time came for her to get married for real, her fiancee, Tom Proprofsky, loved “Star Wars” more than she did — and had a Han Solo costume.

The couple spent almost two years planning their January 2016 wedding in intricate detail. For starters, the invitation was shaped like R2-D2 and held the “secret plans” to the wedding, held in Costa Mesa, California.

They cut their cake with serving tools that looked like light saber hilts. And there were themed drinks and lasers and entertainment by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, better known as the Cantina Band.

The bride and groom were decked out as Han Solo and Princess Leia (naturally), Proprofsky’s best friend was his Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca (also naturally) and they had a life-size R2-D2 as their ring bearer.

“Most wedding guests did dress up since the wedding invitation said, ‘by Royal Decree dressing thematically required,’ Rios-Proprofsky said.

Her mentor dressed like Darth Vader to walk her down the aisle and her mother wore a custom dress styled after Rebel Alliance leader Mon Mothma “because the character name sounds so similar to the word mom.”

Their wedding bands were engraved with “I love you,” and “I know,” the tender-and-cocky exchange from “The Empire Strikes Back” that brought romance to the “Star Wars” universe.

Fortunately, no one at the ceremony was captured by bounty hunters or frozen in carbonite.

Episode II: The Long Journey

Jonathan Axtell was a changed man (or little boy, to be more accurate) when he walked out of a Pennsylvania theater after seeing “Star Wars” for the first time. He was 7 when the movie came out and just the right age to be swept up in the space opera.

“My favorite thing about ‘Star Wars’ is that it takes me back to my childhood — great memories of the movies themselves, having lightsaber battles with my friends, and playing with the toys,” he said.

In 2014, he went to Tunisia, where many of the scenes on Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine were filmed.

“I walked right back into my childhood and had dinner where Luke ate with his aunt and uncle,” he said. “Amazingly, some of those filming locations look exactly the same today as they did forty years ago.”

“It brings that galaxy ‘far, far away’ so much closer.”

Episode III: The Rise of Darth Tuba

Music and R2-D2 have been passions for William Magalio since he first saw “Star Wars” in 1977 at a Flemington, New Jersey, theater. He was 6 and started taking violin lessons the same year.

He taught himself to play the theme song on the piano when he was about eight, and performed it with a community orchestra as a teen (he also got yelled at by his teacher, Mrs. Monk, for using his bow in lightsaber fights in third grade, but we’ll speak no more of that.)

Magalio has been the high school orchestra teacher in Flemington for 21 years and often works “Star Wars” music into his programs.

“They look forward to playing it. I get many requests for different themes from the films,” he said. “Even when we are not rehearsing or performing it for an upcoming concert, students will still try to figure out themes on their own.”

Magalio’s fandom has also spilled offstage. He’s got a room filled with action figures, toys and other collectables, he’s come to school dressed as a rebel soldier and a Jedi, and he’s putting the finishing touches on a life-sized, radio-controlled R2-D2.

He goes by DarthTuba on YouTube, where he posts reviews of different “Star Wars” toys.

“I learned to play tuba and actually was a tuba major in college, so the name works,” he said.

Episode IV: From Princess to General

When Hayley Mosteller saw “Star Wars” at the Majestic Theatre in Chillicothe, Ohio, she fell in love with R2-D2.

But she wanted to be Princess Leia.

“From that moment on, starting at age 9, Princess Leia was my role model. I grew up to be strong willed, principled, relentless, and (relatively) independent,” she said.

Mosteller started cosplaying and going to conventions as a young adult and found a home away from home.

Now, she and her husband are raising four daughters, and she is still drawing inspiration from the iconic character.

“In ‘The Force Awakens’, General Leia and Carrie Fisher finally, officially, gave all women permission to grow old and be awesome at the same time,” she said. “May her memory be eternal.”