The Force Be with SportsCenter

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As if all those fuzzy mascots inhabiting the hallowed beige halls of ESPN'S SportsCenter weren't weird enough, later this month, a crew of Star Wars characters including Chewie, Darth Vader, R2D2 and C3PO will land their intergalactic asses in a co-promotional spot between Lucasfilm and ESPN in SportsCenter's upcoming campaign, out of Wieden + Kennedy/N.Y. and directed by Hungry Man's David Shane. "The brand has been so protected all these years so it was just crazy for them to be open to the idea of doing something and approaching ESPN," says W+K/N.Y. art director Jesse Coulter. Wouldn't a gig with the Sci-Fi Channel have been more up their solar system? "We were in the middle of concepting a spot for SportCenter broadcasting in HD, so it was perfect and gave [the Star Wars characters] a reason to be there," explains Coulter. "It was like, OK, what do we want Darth Vader to do?" The plot itself, which also involves Andy Roddick, Lennox Lewis, and SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt, is way too funny to spoil before the spot breaks, but the shoot presented plenty of out of this world experiences. "The costumes arrived in these huge special crates and all had handlers, and there was a woman who flew out separately to unlock them," Coulter recalls. "They also sent a guy from ILM in charge of operating R2D2 and there was another guy who fit into the C3P0 suit who'd been doing it for 10 years." Not to mention all the opportunities to play out all those forbidden fanatic fantasies. "This is something so geeked out, but when you're on the lightsaber, you can only have one hand on it," Coulter says. " In the original movie there was a scene where Vader technically had two hands on the saber and Lucas had spent money to redo it and take one of them out. We kept having Darth Vader try it with two hands because it looked better, but there's no way in hell you're allowed to do that."
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