Autism Meets Star Wars

Friday, December 20, 2013 View Comments

This guest post is by William Wehrli, a young man on the spectrum whose life-long dream is to be in a Star Wars film. Read his full blog here.

I was 7 years old when I first discovered the trilogy that fans have regarded as one of the most influential sci-fi blockbuster movies of all time. The trilogy that changed the way the movies were made and brought to audiences a new world to discover. I am here to talk about how Star Wars affected an audience member diagnosed with autism.


I was 4 years old when I was first diagnosed with this unique disability (although my Mother suspected earlier). They told my mother that I would never graduate from High School and that I would never become independent. There is that old saying, "You’re greatest revenge is your success." I have been a college graduate for over a year now with my own full-time job and apartment.

Here’s what happened when I saw the very first Star Wars movie...

“Mom can I have a lightsaber?” My Mom would say, “Put it on your Christmas list.”

Later on in the car, I ask my Mom, “Mom, can we go to the Death Star?”

Mom says, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

As we cross a bridge, “Okay, we crossed the bridge, can we go to the Death Star?”

Being excited by all the action scenes in the movie, I always wanted to re-live them.  I also thought that aliens and robots existed, which is why I wanted my very own R2D2 to have in our home.

Every day since then I would always ask myself, What can I do to live something like that? How can I be Luke Skywalker? How can I use the force?

Every time I tried to experiment something, like hold my hand out with my eyes shut attempting to levitate an object, or wish for bad guys to appear so I can fight them, I think I just made myself look like stupid.

In May of 1999, The Phantom Menace came out. I was only 10 years old and still in the early development stages of my autism when I saw Anakin played by a young boy that was roughly around my age. I said to myself; “Hey, if that kid can be in Star Wars, I should be in Star Wars too.” That’s when I decided I wanted to be an actor. Now the question was, how do I get into Star Wars?

My Mom was nice enough to help me write a letter to George Lucas. Sure enough, I got a nice reply from his wife. She politely informed me that because I didn’t have representation, Lucas wouldn’t be able to work with me. I did also receive a Jar Jar Binks Bookmark. That was probably one of the best things ever. So then I had to figure out how to get an agent. I did a google search, and found an agency department in Portland Oregon. I wrote a letter to the person in charge, he replied back saying that he was willing to set up an interview to meet and work with me. However, because we lived 3 hours away, my Mom was not willing to drive me. I was in tears. My dream of being in Star Wars seemed depleted. I had to let it all go.

Two more Star Wars installments came out, for which I was still anxious to see and thrilled like I always was. Since the Star Wars fimls concluded in May, 2005 I continued to love Star Wars, hoping to fulfill my dream job as an actor. I participated in many theater productions. I completed my education course and graduated from College.

Then I got the text from my sister. “Did you see the Star Wars thing?”

A new Star Wars film is in devlopment and being helmed by Disney with LOST creator JJ Abrams directing and they were having an open casting call for auditions. People can show up to various casting agencies around the country or submit a video online of your audition. I was very reluctant to do this, thinking my chances are slim because I am competing against thousands of people who probably have bigger film backgrounds than I do, and probably have representation.

My sister replied, “I think it’s worth a shot. You’ve been dreaming about it since you were little.”

Two of my friends at work, Ben and Angelique, were willing to film my audition with their digital camera. Even though this was all being taken care of I still kept saying, “God I can’t believe I’m doing this.” However, I was doing this with people I knew pretty well, so that helped. We all met in a small theater room. I sat stationary against a white wall. I had to take a few breaths to prevent myself from goofing off or stammering. Luckily I didn’t sweat.

With my audition submitted, I now have the opportunity to shout, “Hey everybody, William Wehrli just auditioned for Star Wars!” One thing that worried me was that I would either feel regret for not doing this or feel stupid and embarrassed for doing this. I cannot fully state whether I am the first autistic candidate to audition for a major blockbuster Hollywood film, but this alone being my first one is pretty cool for me.