A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, an eight-year-old boy named Daniel Fleetwood discovered Star Wars and fell in love. Unfortunately, a battle with a rare cancer 24 years later left him unsure if he would live long enough to see the release of the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December.
Daniel’s wife Ashley tried to bring some enjoyment to what might be his final days, helping to spread the word about the #ForceForDaniel movement in hopes of convincing Disney and Lucasfilm to let Daniel see the movie early. Disney responded, granting Daniel’s final wish and letting him be the first fan to see an unedited cut of the film.
Daniel enjoyed an in-home screening of The Force Awakens, as well as a telephone chat with director J.J. Abrams beforehand. Though he is unable to reveal any of the secrets of the movie, the outpouring of support for Daniel on the Internet and among fan groups such as the 501st Legion shows that the fans are simply glad that he got to enjoy the experience. It seems almost like a happy ending out of a movie… Fanboys, specifically, minus the trip to Skywalker Ranch and a few counts of breaking and entering.
The campaign was helped in part by the support of celebrities who learned about the cause on social media, including Star Wars actors John Boyega, Peter Mayhew, and Mark Hamill. After hearing the news of the private screening, Hamill tweeted that he was “elated for Daniel & his family” and thanked those in charge for making the decision to screen the film early. Ashley also took to social media to thank those involved and specifically thanked the studio employees who ran the screening by name.
Beyond the screening of the film, some fans are also attempting to create a fundraising campaign to raise additional money to pay for Daniel’s treatments. His diagnosis is a rare connective tissue cancer known as spindle cell sarcoma, and it has grown aggressively despite treatment. A GoFundMe account to raise funds for Daniel’s ongoing treatments also exists.
If not for the screening, there is a very real chance that Daniel might not have made the premiere; he was told in July that he only had two months left to live, and is currently receiving hospice care. The Force is strong with him, however, and his many online fans are rooting for him to make a recovery yet.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.