IN OUR COMMUNITY
With the reemergence of superhero, science fiction and fantasy entertainment genres, what was once thought to be nerdy is cool. Recently, the Deer Park Rotary Club heard from a movie fan who takes his love for Star Wars, Captain America and other iconic big screen institutions to a whole new level.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ...
Actually it was in 1977 and Sam Morton was 10 years old. Star Wars was released into theaters. The movie spawned a billion-dollar franchise that continues to this day. It also kindled a spark in Morton that has ignited into a hobby and charitable endeavors. Today, he makes movie props, cosplay garb and is a member of the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars aficionados who hand make their own costumes and make charitable and pop culture appearances around the world.
“Star Wars kind of changed my life,” Morton said. “I was 10 years old when it came out, so I was the prime demographic for this kind of movie.”
Still, he had his doubts that he would enjoy the movie. However, the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer began to crawl across the screen after the opening theme, 10-year-old Morton was hooked.
“Star Wars became a phenomenon and it changed everything for me,” he said.
With the movie came the toy tie-ins and Morton knew he had to have a toy lightsaber, which in the 1970s, was nothing more than a flashlight with a tube stuck on the end. As much fun as Morton had, he knew he wanted more.
But as time wore on, Star Wars went to the back of his mind for a while. However, like many childhood loves, the flame would find a way to reignite.
As an adult, he found an online community of fans that built movie props via the same methods of Hollywood prop masters – out of items found in garages, army surplus and other spare parts. In Star Wars Episode IV, Luke Skywalker’s iconic lightsaber was made from a camera flash, a Texas Instruments calculator and a windshield wiper.
Now with the means to put a little money into his Star Wars affinity, Morton built his own lightsaber from the same pieces and methods. Proud of his work, he realized that if he could build one, he could built two.
“So I built Darth Vader’s lightsaber. It became addictive,” he said.
Morton decided to expand his hobby past Star Wars and has built a Darth Vader’s helmet, Captain America’s shield, a neuralyzer from the Men in Black franchise, a blaster from Blade Runner, the copper bone from The Goonies, the Spaniard’s helmet from Gladiator, as well as a complete Storm Trooper’s uniform.
One of his biggest creations is his own fully mobile R2-D2 droid.
Morton later discovered Star Wars conventions and began traveling with his son across the country to attend.
“I was face-to-face with Darth Vader. I had a fanboy moment. We made a point to meet these guys and find out (how they made them),” he said.
That’s when he discovered the 501st Legion.
“It’s bad guys costuming club. Think Darth Vader. Think the Stormtroopers. Think about everyone on the Empire’s side,” he said. The Legion is an all-volunteer organization which brings together Star Wars costume enthusiasts. The Legion promotes interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work.
Through the 501st Legion, Morton has worked with the Make a Wish Foundation, the March of Dimes, children’s hospitals and many other charitable entities.
Every day of the year, any one of the 11,000 members of the 501st is making a charity appearance. Morton said his participation in the 501st has given him an outlet for helping others.
“I’m volunteering all over the place. When I was 16, I never thought in a million years I would be this guy. You can find something that you really want to do that is fun for you and fun for everybody. There are no losers in this situation,” he said.
For more information on the 501st Legion, visit www.501st.com