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May the fourth be with you

SMUGGLERS FREIGHTER: Clinton van Den Berg hold a Millenium Falcon from his Star Wars collection. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
SMUGGLERS FREIGHTER: Clinton van Den Berg hold a Millenium Falcon from his Star Wars collection. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

FOR Clinton VanDenBerg the experience of sitting in a packed Crest Cinema on Bourbong St in 1977 and watching Star Wars left quite a mark on the impressionable young boy.

From the famous opening title crawl and the now familiar John Williams theme music booming from the speakers he was hooked.

Today, like many fans around the globe, Mr VanDenBerg is celebrating International Star Wars Day - a day for fans to embrace all things from the galaxy far, far away.

Whether you know the difference between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance or if you even care if Han Solo shot first, nobody can deny that Star Wars continues to be a phenomenon that has permeated pop-culture.

"My mum took me to see Star Wars when I was four and I have loved it ever since," Mr VanDenBerg said.

"I've always loved space and science fiction."

Showing the patience of the lightsabre-wielding Jedi he admires, Mr VanDenBerg, now 39, has slowly amassed his collection of Star Wars memorabilia over three decades.

Everything from figurines to comic books, t-shirts to alarm clocks it was very clear upon meeting Mr VanDenBerg that the force was indeed strong in him.

"My mum bought my first figurine when I was six," he said.

"It was a figure of Boba Fett who is my favourite character."

Boba Fett, for the uninitiated, is of course the unscrupulous bounty hunter with the famous Mandalorian armour and jetpack, who helped deliver a carbonite-frozen Han Solo to gangster Jabba the Hutt in the most critically praised of all the films, The Empire Strikes Back.

"My favourite film though is Return of the Jedi," Mr VanDenBerg said.

But for this Stars Wars fan, simply buying the figurines wasn't enough. He wanted to display them and recreate some of the film's most memorable scenes.

"When I was younger I knew I didn't just want to buy one and leave it in the box. I wanted to build scenes," he said.

"My intention is to one day open a toy museum so that kids can use their imagination."

As much as Mr VanDenBerg prizes his collection, it is the bond the collection offers between him and his son that he prizes the most.

"It is just fantastic," he said.

"It's so funny when we go to shops with automatic gates he'll say 'wait there Dad I'm going to use the force'."

The Star Wars saga has expanded well beyond the six films that have been released so far, with a rich expanded universe that has been explored in novels, comics and video games.

"It just lets your imagination flow and you have to admire the universe George Lucas created," he said.

Like many Star Wars fans, Mr VanDenBerg lined up at the cinemas in 1999 eagerly anticipating Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace and like many he left underwhelmed.

"It let me down a bit, especially with Jar Jar Binks," he said.

"But over the three prequel films it was great to see how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader."

Last year, Disney announced it would buy Lucasfilm, which owned the Star Wars rights, in a deal worth more than $4 billion and release a new trilogy starting from 2015.

Cyberspace went into meltdown as speculation ran rife with film director J.J. Abrams, who successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise, chosen to helm what will surely be the, most anticipated film of 2015.

"I can't wait to see what they do," Mr VanDenBerg said.

"I'm glad that they didn't ask the director of Transformers to do it."

So far Mr VanDenBerg has only let his son, Adam, 4, watch the Star Wars Clone Wars animated series but today could be the day he introduces his son to one of the films.

"I just wanted him to be old enough to appreciate them," he said.

And if all goes according to Mr VanDenBerg's plan, Adam could very well graduate from a padawan learner to a fully-fledged Jedi Knight by day's end.

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