S’pore fans can meet droid R2-KT at Star Wars fes­ti­val

The New Paper - - LIFESTYLE - AQIL HAMZAH

Mr Al­bin John­son may have gained world­wide recog­ni­tion as the founder of the 501st Le­gion, the in­ter­na­tional Star Wars cos­tum­ing and char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion that spe­cialises in char­ac­ters, most com­monly Stormtroop­ers, from the film fran­chise.

But when­ever he ap­pears at Star Wars con­ven­tions, it is his side­kick that is much more pop­u­lar than he is.

Dubbed R2-KT, the pink as­tromech droid that has fans queu­ing up to hug it is named af­ter his late daugh­ter Katie, who was di­ag­nosed with an in­op­er­a­ble brain tu­mour in 2004.

Mr John­son had it com­mis­sioned to keep her com­pany, just like how fan favourite R2-D2 had ac­com­pa­nied heroine Padme Ami­dala in Star Wars: Episode II – At­tack Of The Clones (2002).

When the droid could not be com­pleted in time, a fan builder caught wind of Katie’s story and painted his own droid pink, Katie’s favourite colour, and shipped it to her.

She re­port­edly hugged it of­ten be­fore she died of brain can­cer in 2005, at the age of seven.

More than a decade later, R2-KT still “gets a lot of love”.

Lo­cal fans will be able to get up close with the droid, as the pair will be in Sin­ga­pore for the first time for Star Wars Day.

The an­nual fes­ti­val will be held on May 4 and 5 at the F1 Pit Build­ing, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Star Wars Run Sin­ga­pore 2018.

Mr John­son, 49, told The New Pa­per over the phone from South Carolina: “Peo­ple shed tears when they meet her. She rep­re­sents for them the hope and the courage to fight through ill­nesses and mis­for­tune.”

Be­sides be­ing a sym­bol of his ef­forts to spread aware­ness of pae­di­atric ill­nesses, R2-KT is also a movie star, hav­ing made a cameo ap­pear­ance in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awak­ens (2015).

She got the part af­ter then Lu­cas­film event and fan re­la­tions lead Mary Franklin made an im­pas­sioned plea to Lu­cas­film pres­i­dent Kath­leen Kennedy to fea­ture R2-KT in the film.

Mr John­son ad­mit­ted he was con­stantly look­ing out for her through­out the du­ra­tion of the movie. His wife and four daugh­ters shouted and jumped when they fi­nally spot­ted her in a scene among the Re­sis­tance, who were pre­par­ing to as­sault the Starkiller Base.

CRIED

He re­called: “I cried a lit­tle. It felt like Katie got to say hello one last time. It was as if she got to be im­mor­tal, con­nect­ing with the fans who knew about her story.”

Adding that Princess Leia was Katie’s favourite char­ac­ter, he said he was par­tic­u­larly touched that R2-KT ended up shar­ing the same space as the late US ac­tress Car­rie Fisher.

He said: “For her to be able to stand about 20m from Car­rie Fisher, who was a hero of hers, I felt that she could fi­nally be with her princess.”

haqil@sph.com.sg

PHOTO: FACE­BOOK/AL­BIN JOHN­SON

Mr Al­bin John­son, founder of the 501st Le­gion, with R2-KT. They will be in Sin­ga­pore on May 4 and 5 for Star Wars Day.

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