LINCOLN PARK — Jedi hopefuls stood in line for hours Thursday and mustered all the Force they could in the brief moments they had to audition for the 2015 "Star Wars" movie, which has been holding casting calls worldwide for two young parts.
Open-call auditions for the latest installment in the blockbuster saga took place at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., from 3 to 8 p.m.
By 8 a.m., a line of people stretched around the corner and down Orleans Street, and some — wearing ski goggles, blankets and sleeping bags — looked more bundled up than Luke Skywalker on the planet Hoth. As the day went on, hundreds of people waited in line.
Even a Stormtrooper turned out to audition, though 27-year-old Mike Reynolds said he was also there to provide some "moral support" to his actor friends. He dressed up to impress "the panel" of people he thought could be judging the audition, he said.
Clara Perez, 20, said she braved the frigid morning weather because she believed the casting call was the "opportunity of a lifetime.
"I think if you're an actor, and you're not here right now, you're missing a huge opportunity," the Wicker Park resident said.
The auditions, which are being held in cities all over the world, call for women who can play "Rachel," listed as 17 or 18 years old, and men to play "Thomas," who is 19 to 23 years old. Full information about the auditions is on the casting website. The film is set for theatrical release in December 2015.
Many who left the meet-and-greet said they had less than a minute to introduce themselves, submit their resumes and headshots and maybe make a bit of small talk. But some still felt confident this could be their big break.
Chianna Fisher, 20, and her mother made the eight-hour drive from her home in South Dakota Wednesday night so she could try out, and she said she was asked to put her name on a call-back list.
"I was like, 'Cancel work, cancel our lives,'" said Fisher, who has been acting since fourth grade. "Because I'm a huge 'Star Wars' fan, and this could be an opportunity."
Mike Shimon, 26, said he arrived for the audition at 2 a.m. Thursday. Shimon, who is a theater actor in Chicago but lives in suburban Lansing, said he has been a lifelong "Star Wars" fan.
"Book, comics, I had everything. Video games. I know the Jedi Code by heart," Shimon said, before rattling it off.
Shimon called the chance to audition for a main role a "monumental moment" but said he would be satisfied with any part, no matter how small.
"It would mean the world to me," he said.
Like Shimon, 23-year-old Adrian Jordan said he came to audition for the role of Thomas, but said he would be happy if he could point at the movie screen and say "I was the 23rd guy from the left.
"If we are even cast as extras, it would just be like, 'We're here man. Holy crap, is that a freaking wookiee?'" the Near West Side resident said, adding it would be pretty cool to get to hold a light saber.
Although many in line said they were fans of "Star Wars," almost all said they came because they were actors first.
"It's not about being a fan. It's about acting," said Harena Alemanyahu, 22. "They're here to see who can play the characters."
Alemanyahu said landing the role of Rachel would be "life-changing."
"Everything," Alemanyahu, of the North Side, said with a laugh. "I mean, it's 'Star Wars.'"
Molly Evensen, 22, said she flew in from Denver just to audition on Thursday. Producers are holding open-call auditions in several cities, including Minneapolis, Austin, Texas and St. Louis, but Denver didn't make the list, Evensen said.
Evensen pointed to actor Hailee Steinfeld, who was cast in a lead role of 2010's "True Grit" after she attended an open casting call.
"That's kind of an equivalent to this," Evensen said. "So it's huge."
But even if she doesn't get the part, Evensen said the trip is worth it just to get some exposure with the casting directors.
"There are major casting directors who cast for a whole bunch of projects, so just to give them your headshots and resume is a big opportunity," she said.
J.J. Abrams, who spearheaded the reboot of the "Star Trek" movie franchise, is set to write and direct the new "Star Wars" movie.