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13 Mar 2007 | Darren Hayes: Singing Star Wars' Praises

Darren Hayes: Singing Star Wars' Praises March 12, 2007

Even though musician Darren Hayes has lived the life of a rock star as the former lead singer of Savage Garden and a current successful solo artist, he would gladly swap a microphone for a lightsaber.

"I stalked the casting director of Episode II solidly through my then agent at William Morris for the opportunity to audition to be in the new films," Hayes admits. "Clearly, I've had no acting experience -- but the sweet and generous producer Rick McCallum went out of his way to get me a meeting. I remember sitting in front of casting director Robin Gurland who patiently waited whilst I did my best American accent. She looked at me puzzled and said, 'What do you imagine yourself doing?' I thought for a second and said, 'Look, I'll do anything. I'll play a rock, a tree, a dead Wookiee -- ANYTHING!' She laughed and made some comment about this bizarre male obsession with Star Wars. She said, 'What IS it with you boys and Star Wars?' Needless to say I don't appear in the credits but auditioning was a blast."

Even though he couldn't join the Jedi Council, Hayes still managed to show his Star Wars pride through his songwriting. "I wrote a song once called, 'I'll Bet He Was Cool' which featured the lyrics 'I'll bet my Star Wars figures' which if you know me, is a pretty serious wager!" Hayes says. "I don't know if the Star Wars films can be directly related to my musical work, but I'm sure the idea of a hero relates quite clearly the role of rock or pop star. The microphone is not unlike the lightsaber handle. The weapons may differ but the job description is pretty similar: Save the universe. Win the girl (or guy). Roll credits."

As a young boy growing up Queensland, Australia, Hayes recalls his first introduction to Darth Vader -- at the fair. "In Australia we had a version of a state fair known as the Brisbane Exhibition, or the 'Ekka' as we called it," Hayes explains. "There were theme park rides and cotton candy but for me the best part was that they sold these novelty bags which were filled with toys and candy. I must have been 5 years old in 1977 when the fair debuted their Star Wars bag. It featured a mask of this imposing black robot who I later found out was the infamous Darth Vader. You could say it was love at first sight -- almost literally."

During his childhood, his family often struggled with poverty but they still managed to have set aside some money for a very special Christmas for Hayes and his siblings. "We had no money one challenging year and I was sure there was no way my parents could afford to buy us gifts," Hayes recalls. "In fact, our Christmas day lunch was essentially a take out roast chicken and we dined on a park bench! But when I opened my gifts that morning, it was just one box -- a Star Wars carrying case from Kenner. And inside were 24 Empire Strikes Back figurines. To this day that is probably one of my happiest memories."

"Even as a child, I knew the value of money and how hard my mother must have worked to pay for them," Hayes continues. "It was later revealed to me that she had purchased one figure a week for the entire year in order to make my Christmas day special."

Because of the special emotional attachment to his Star Wars toys as a boy, he always appreciated his collection growing up and added to it when he could afford to. "Occasionally, one of my friends at school would let me play with his Darth Vader and I could pretend I owned him for a few hours but always had to give him back," Hayes remembers. "It probably explains why my collection obsession started. Into my teens, as Return of the Jedi was nearing the end of its theatrical run -- I pretty much owned most of the toys. I'd saved up all my pocket money and had part time jobs to fund my love!"

However, as he grew older, Hayes found himself feeling a bit shy about his passion for a galaxy far, far away. "This sounds rather silly now, but when I turned 16 and was heading into high school I thought the other kids would make my life hell if they knew I played with 'dolls,'" Hayes says. "So I sold my entire collection to a neighbor for 40 Australian dollars!"

Now that he's an adult, and a hit songwriter, he's more than happy to replenish his collection and show it off with proper pride. "Years later, when I had a few Billboard number one songs, I bought an entire mint condition collection of every figure that Kenner released from '78 through to '84," Hayes smiles. "They are literally my most-prized possessions. Of course, if I had to pick just one pride and joy item, it would probably be my collection of R2-D2 toys. I'm the most passionate about Ralph McQuarrie designs including R2-D2, the AT-AT and the Scout Trooper. Darth Vader goes without saying. In some ways, I feel like many of the characters and the vehicles are design classics. I have them around my house as much as a tribute to the films as my love of modern art."

Another passion of Hayes has always been music. Active in school musicals and productions, Hayes later auditioned for local bands and met up with Daniel Jones who would become the other half of the band Savage Garden. From there the duo released their debut album in 1995, which included their hit single "I Want You." Other hit singles "To the Moon & Back" and "Truly Madly Deeply" quickly followed. The second album, Affirmation was released in 1999 with another chart-topping single "I Knew I Loved You."

After Savage Garden broke up in 2001, Hayes concentrated on his solo career and in 2002 released Spin. In 2004, Hayes' next solo album The Tension and the Spark showcased a new electronic sound and a fan-favorite single "Pop!ular." Hayes' third record, *This Delicate Thing We've Made is due to hit the airwaves in August 2007, on his own record label Powdered Sugar.

When Hayes isn't working in the recording studio on new music, he loves to watch the Star Wars films depending on what kind of mood he's in. "I watch most of the films at regular intervals for different reasons," Hayes says. "If I'm down, I'll watch Empire and I'm filled with hope. If I want to remember the rush of finally seeing a 'new' Star Wars film after decades of withdrawal I'll pop on The Phantom Menace. My favorite of the recent trilogy is probably Revenge of the Sith. No prizes for guessing why!"

Of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back remains a favorite for Hayes. "It's hands down and without a doubt the darkest and most poetic of all the films," Hayes says. "I thought the imagery was stunning -- the love affair between Leia and Han was so believable and full of sparks. And then of course it features the best lightsaber duel ever. Luke was just so torn between his duty and his heart. As a teen I really related to the angst."

Watching the films now, Hayes can't help but look at the deeper meanings and mythos within the saga's storyline. "I think what George Lucas has done is distill age old elements of the hero's journey and surround them with myth and mythology that is appealing to all ages," Hayes explains. "His stories are based around very core and real issues that many young people are faced with. I can only speak of my own journey through life in saying that I very much identified with the feeling that my life was destined for bigger and better things. The scene from A New Hope where Luke is illuminated by the twin sunset on Tatooine is a poignant and reflective moment that spoke volumes to the confused and yet hopeful child I was in the '80s."

"As a boy, Star Wars represented an escape from my childhood and became a source of peace in a time where there wasn't any," Hayes says. "Star Wars, quite literally, was my savior as a kid and for that reason I'll always sing its praises."

To find out more about Hayes and his music, visit his official site here. Also check out Darren Hayes on MySpace to listen to new music tracks.

Stay tuned to Star Wars Rocks for more interviews from some of your favorite bands and celebrities.

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