An Interview With My Father, Cass Sunstein

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  Cass Sunstein attends AOL Build Speaker Series - Cass Sunstein, 'The World According To Star Wars' at
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31: Cass Sunstein attends AOL Build Speaker Series - Cass Sunstein, 'The World According To Star Wars' at AOL Studios In New York on May 31, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

The following is a short interview with my father, Cass Sunstein, to mark the publication of his new book, "The World According to Star Wars," now available on Amazon.

Q. Do you remember the first time you showed me "Star Wars"? It was your millionth time watching the films but your first as a dad. Did having a child change what the movies meant to you?

A. I remember the feeling, very precisely: It was (umm errr) magical. There was the music, and then there was the ship, and there was you!

Yes yes it changed the meaning of the movies for me. Watching them as a father: The movies are all about fatherhood, and about what fathers mean to their children, and vice versa. You and I had a bunch of things to bond over -- above all, maybe, our amazing dog, Bear, a true Jedi Knight, Yoda and Han, all in one -- but we also could bond over "Star Wars." (True, you liked "Twilight Zone" even better, but: "Star Wars"!)

Q. We watched the movies in your new apartment soon after you and Mom got divorced, during a time when I felt confused and kind of alone. I was probably too young for some of it -- you mentioned a year ago that Declan was too little for Return of the Jedi, when he was older than I had been -- but you wanted me to watch it anyway. Why?

A. You were not too young for it! You felt the Force!

Ok, maybe you were too young for it. But it's really fun, and it moves like a son of a bitch (in the words of the great Lawrence Kasdan), and I knew you'd like it. There are ships and there are colors, and there are celebrations.

Q. "Star Wars" embraces the ambiguous, gray areas of morality, unlike most children's movies, where there's a "bad guy" and a "good guy." Just as many kids want to dress up as Darth Vader as they do Luke Skywalker. I identified strongly with both of them throughout my childhood and adolescence. What do you think "Star Wars" taught me about right and wrong?

A. Girl, you knew about right and wrong from the earliest age. You didn't need "Star Wars."

But I think they were part of a lot of things that taught you about the importance of awe and wonder. You do know about that, and maybe "Star Wars" helped a little.

Q. Tim (my husband) and I woke up early on a Saturday morning to see The Force Awakens. We arrived before anyone else, and he told me he felt a "magic" he hadn't felt since going to the movies as a child. We both missed our parents badly. What about "Star Wars" -- aside from the obvious -- makes it so magical?

A. Well, listen to the "Star Wars" theme, and then look at those yellow letters? Also, it's a whole world, with integrity and coherence. It's strange but familiar. It's a long time ago, and the galaxy is far, far away, but don't you know a Luke, a Leia, a Han, an Obi-Wan, and a Vader? Don't we all have each of them in us?

Also: It's also about the Hero's Journey. That's your journey too.

Q. My mother, ever since I was a little kid, has told me that she wanted me to read her first edition of Bleak House -- given to her by your mother -- when she dies. She says I'll find "all the answers" there. What answers do you hope I'll find in "Star Wars," now and forever?

Oh well: Only a Sith deals in absolutes, and difficult to see, the future is (that's good news!), and you choose your own path; no one else can. Also, the answers are within you. Also, ships are amazing, and so are planets. Also, your father loves you, whether or not he's still around, and he'll be a Force Ghost, and you helped save him (you already have).


Ellyn Kail (née Ruddick-Sunstein) is a freelance writer and the Staff Writer at the photography blog Feature Shoot. She lives in Bronxville, N.Y., with her husband, Tim, and her pit bull mix, Brenda.