To celebrate May the 4th we’ve released the most epic Star Wars skate commercial ever with a sneak peak of our Vans x Star Wars collection releasing in June! It was only natural that we’d choose Steve Caballero, the most iconic Vans signature pro of all time, to be the hairy face of our collaboration with Star Wars, arguably the most iconic film franchise ever.
We sat Steve down for a Vans Exclusive Interview to discuss what it was like to skate as a wookie and make the commercial being unable to feel his back foot as well as all things Star Wars.
What was your first exposure ever to Star Wars, Steve?
Steve Caballero: It was back in 1977. Just seeing the previews on TV about the movie coming out got me pretty excited to watching it in theaters. I remember buying Star Wars socks and Star Wars iron-on t-shirts and trading cards with the bubble gum. I loved the whole promotion of the movie.
You were hooked right away, before even seeing it?
Yeah, because I used to go to the store and pick up a skateboard magazine or a Monsters Magazine and they would show previews of them working on the movie so I was hooked on it for sure. Then I got to see the original one in theatres; I waited a hour in a line, which was a really cool experience.
What was your reaction after seeing it?
I was totally amazed and huge fan right then. And then they talked about sequels so I couldn’t wait for the next one to come out and see the story continue.
It’s creeping up on 40 years later since the original Star Wars was released. How has your love for Star Wars changed or endured?
It’s changed but it’s always good to see another sequel coming out and seeing how it’s going to pan out especially with the new technology and special effects. I’m really excited for episode seven, that’s for sure.
I think it’s safe to say all Star Wars fans are but tell me what gives you A New Hope about this next movie?
The fact that I know that Lucas is always trying to one-up their films and I think they will. They’ve been waiting for another hit and I think this next one will be huge. I know there’s going to be mixed feelings towards Star Wars because adults get a different kind of excitement than kids because what interests a kid is totally different than what interests an adult. Like a thing like Jar Jar Binks, I didn’t really have a problem with that dude but it seemed like a lot of people did and it seemed like it was mostly a lot of grown ups that saw the first movies. But my kids loved Jar Jar Binks!
It was the same with the Ewoks at the time.
Exactly. Exactly. So if I was a kid looking at Star Wars for the first time and Jar Jar Binks was in that movie I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. It’s just that mentality of people growing up and forgetting what it’s like to be a kid and not allowing themselves to be amused by a silly character because they’re older.
I think skateboarders transcend that notion.
Ha! Yeah. So I’m exited for the new movie. I’m sure they’ll do it right. The twist of the story is actually going to be pretty interesting.
Which leads me to my next question. If you could nerd out, what would you like to see in the new movie?
I would like to see Boba Fett come back because he’s such a mystery that it makes his character so cool. And he just has the raddest costume. The stormtroopers’ costumes are pretty awesome too. But the whole Fett look is so amazing and cool. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do with it.
Vans x Star Wars. How were you initially approached?
Initially I was told Vans was going to do a collaboration with Star Wars and they were thinking of including the Half Cab in it and they showed me the preliminary pieces of art with Yoda doing the half cab snap with the lightsaber and then Darth Vader and I was like, Dude! I am so into it! Sign me up!” then I didn’t hear anything about it for the longest time and then recently I saw a couple posts online with the two Half Cabs and I was stoked that they followed through with it. I wasn’t sure if they were going to because I saw all the other Star Wars Vans in the Classic line coming in June and I wondered if they were still doing the Half Cab stuff. Then I saw that stuff released for Vans Vault and I was stoked. Unfortunately for the loyal fans those are going to be specialty shoes at specialty Vans Vault shops but Vans has to do this kind of limited stuff, that’s what keeps the line cool.
For sure. And I think collectors will be psyched on how limited they are. People always want the rare gems.
For sure. For me the Vault line has really helped build the legacy for the Half Cab as well because they’ve released some really limited edition Half Cabs and it made it more desirable and sought out and that helped push the Half Cab to where it’s at right now too.
Let’s talk about the commercial. How were you approached to skate as a wookie?
I was approached by Christian Jacobs, the producer of the commercial, who created Yo Gabba Gabba as well as the head guy in the Aquabats. I have a long-standing relationship with him and he approached me about the commercial for the Vans collaboration. He said, “We want you to dress up as a wookie and skate. We saw some footage online as you dressed up as Planet of the Apes so we know that you can skate in a costume. How would you like to be a wookie?” I was like, once again, “Dude! Sign me up! That’s an honor to be a part of a production that grand.” He told me they’d fly me down to Jim Henson’s Studios and create the costume there and they’d make a mold of my face so it’ll be perfectly design to me and my specs. How can you turn something like that down? It’s such a great opportunity and it brings me back to my childhood, before I got into skateboarding, looking at Monsters Magazines and how they did the make up and how they make movies and I was like, “Man! I am going to relive this thing that I looked up to in the magazines and be a part of that experience 35 years later.”
What was that process like with the mold? I’ve always heard it’s hours and hours in the make up chair.
The initial design of the costume was only about 30 minutes in a chair to get the mold of my face with plaster and get the whole process done. It wasn’t that bad. It did hurt when they pulled some of the stuff off because some of my eyebrow and chest hairs got pulled out. They didn’t take into account some of the areas where I’m hairy so that kind of hurt when they were peeling all that off. But when it came down to shooting the commercial and getting into costume it was only about a half hour to get dressed and get the mask glued on. Getting into and out of the costume wasn’t a big deal but being in the costume was pretty crazy because of the fact that I had to skate in that thing for six hours.
Let’s talk about that. I had to wear an Elmo costume once for my nephew’s birthday so I know how hot those costumes can be and how hard they are to move in. What was it like to actually skate in that costume?
It was definitely challenging but I just put mind over matter. I had not skated in the suit at all until the day of the shoot and there were a lot of factors going into this whole thing. I actually hurt my foot two weeks prior to going to Jim Henson’s Studios to get my head molded. I’m thinking my foot is going to heal in twelve days but when it came down to shooting the commercial my foot was still in pain and I was praying, “Please Lord, let me be able to skate.” I was going to be letting a lot of people down if I didn’t do it because the suit is made specifically to me but I was ready to make a phone call and be like, “You need to get someone else to do it. I can’t skate.” I was taking Advil and hoping that I could skate and I went down the day before and skated around the pool at the new Vans Park at Huntington Beach and it was only my second time skating that bowl. So I had to get used to skating this new bowl and not skating for two weeks and then I had to figure out the line that we were going to film without the costume on but my foot was still throbbing and hurting. That night Christian had his doctor come over that night and shoot my foot up with a cortisone shot, which numbed the whole thing completely so the next day, when we were filming, I couldn’t even feel my foot!
Oh man! How’d you pull that?
It was so terrible! I was like, “What’s better? Not feeling my foot at all? Or being in pain?” And I hadn’t even gotten into the suit yet! It was crazy. I couldn’t feel my foot, getting used to the bowl and skating it in a costume, being in the heat…I was a trooper. It was mind over matter. I just wanted to do the best job I could and I didn’t want to let anyone down. But man, once that cortisone stuff wore off in the middle of the shoot my foot started hurting again even worse. But I saw the commercial and it came out great. I’m super happy. I was hoping that because I went through all that that Vans would be stoked and maybe let me have the costume since it only fit me. I asked them and they said yes. They said they need the costume for one more appearance at Comic Con in San Diego and I was like, “Sign me up! I’ll do it! I’ll be in the costume for you guys all day!”
So you’ll get to keep it and people will be able to meet you at Comic Con?
Yeah, that’s what they said. It’s a pretty amazing costume. It’s professionally built and movie prop quality and it looks real. I’ve always wanted to go to Comic Con dressed up.
How did the costume hold up?
It took some time to get used to skating in the costume. The shoes were a little weird and deceiving because there were wookie toes hanging off the end of it so when I looked down at my feet it looked weird. I had to step on my board by feel and then I couldn’t even feel my back foot because it was completely numb so I was winging it. And then one time I fell down and I slid down on my butt and I ripped a hole in the butt of the costume. So I was a little insecure about that because I thought the rip was super huge but it wasn’t and the hair was covering it. And every time I knee slid it was scrapping the toes off and ripping hair off. I was trying not to bail as much as I could so I wouldn’t ruin the costume.
Man, there’s not going to be much left of that suit when you get it back!
Ha! I know! But actually they took it back and they’re fixing the whole thing.
I saw a bunch of other guys dressed up in the 80s gear in the commercial. Who was the most ridiculous looking?
Ha! I think [Jeff] Grosso was the hottest, man! Especially when he made his shirt a half shirt. That was the best. I got a kick out of all those guys’ costumes: Omar’s [Hassan], Josh Borden’s, [Peter] Hewitt’s. Salba still looked the same from the 80s. Christian’s [Hosoi] was cool but I was like, “You have to have the long hair going!” He said, “I don’t have a wig.” But they had a wig there and he put it on and it made his costume look way better.
Was all this skating as a wookie just your sponsor-me tape to get into the new Star Wars movie?
Yeah, I think so. Ha! If I do something I always want to do the best I can and give it 100%. I thought if I did the best job I can in the costume maybe it will help me do more stuff for Star Wars.
Interview by Chris Nieratko
Photo by mrzphoto