ORLANDO, Florida – You could say a giant movie star has arrived at the iconic Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC

Margaret Weitekamp, ​​a Smithsonian curator who normally handles space-related pop culture items like a Neil Armstrong For President button or action figures, hadn’t worked with anything this big before – a full-size X-Wing starfighter with a 37 foot span as a prop in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The film’s production company, Lucasfilm, shipped the X-Wing, which was broken up into about half a dozen large pieces. The wings were removed and the pieces were displayed at a complex in Virginia so the Smithsonian crew could begin cleaning them up before being reassembled next year and on public display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

“You want to be tidied up after every long journey,” said Weitekamp.

When Weitekamp saw the X-Wing up close for the first time this month, he noticed all the little details, like a point that looked a little beaten up. She could see scratches. Was that “hangar rash”? by the way, she wondered.

But then Weitekamp quickly learned that it was part of the original paint job, as the X-Wing shouldn’t look flawless in the film. It had been in a couple of close conversations when it was flown by Resistance Commander Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac).

“That kind of detail is a wonderful thing to see up close, and then write down, ‘OK, we’ll make sure we leave this alone. We’re not trying to fix that, ”said Weitekamp.

The news of the Smithsonian exhibit was posted last week on May 4th, known to Star Wars fans as the “May Fourth Be With You” day.

It was the culmination of an idea that began in 2019 when Weitekamp and her family sat across from a row of a Smithsonian executive at the premiere of the latest “Star Wars” film.

When Weitekamp got home around midnight, the email was already in her inbox: What could the Smithsonian do to benefit from the excitement?

The phone calls to Lucasfilm began.

She was excited for Weitekamp, ​​who saw the original “Star Wars” in the theater and played with the action figures from the film with the neighborhood children in rural Pennsylvania.

The nearly 20-year-old Smithsonian veteran joked that her “day-to-day job” no longer impresses her children. “But the idea that I have to call Lucasfilm on the phone. … This is one of those times my kids think I’m cool, “she said.

Weitekamp also knew it was going to be a difficult question.

“This is a big, complicated request because these types of screen-using vehicles are not readily available,” said Weitekamp. “Lucasfilm is rightly very careful about how you, as an active film company, work with these assets.”

Smithsonian and Lucasfilm have long collaborated on Weitekamp’s benefit, including a 1997 Star Wars exhibit that was one of Smithsonian’s most popular attractions with costume and other movie props, she said.

Lucasfilm has not returned a request for comment on this story.

Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $ 4 billion. Since then, Disney has opened Star Wars-themed expansions at Disney World and Disneyland, where you can see an X-Wing fighter parked in the lands.

In the films, the fictional plane features an X-shaped attack formation that became famous when Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star in the original 1977 film.

Both sides agreed with Lucasfilm to borrow the props free of charge over the long term. Due to the pandemic, Lucasfilm explained the logistics of the X-Wing and put it back together via video conferences.

Weitekamp saw the aircraft for the first time earlier this month and admired the details of the X-Wing from top to bottom. The X-Wing was filmed in ground footage, said Weitekamp.

“This is a really very detailed vehicle on all sides, and that’s not always the case with movie props. Very often, when they know that part of something will be removed from the camera, they don’t bother to make the decoration completely symmetrical when they know that it is not visible, ”said Weitekamp. “So this is a rare, wonderful example of a vehicle that has really been realized and is detailed on all sides.”

The fictional Starfighter will hang in a museum showing famous historical aircraft from space travel to the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight over Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

“The museum has long been interested in the subjects of inspiration and imagination,” said Weitekamp.

Seeing the X-Wing paired together with real airplanes allows people to think about the creativity of design that we see in the Star Wars universe and then the creativity of design that we see in the latest air – and space designs for actual spacecraft see actual new aircraft, ”she added.

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