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'Star Wars' fans build Millennium Falcon

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By Michael Cass
Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 8:04 p.m.

Chris Lee's first thought after seeing the Millennium Falcon was a bit different from Luke Skywalker's.

“When they walk down the stairs into the docking bay and Luke looks up and goes, ‘What a piece of junk!'— as soon as he said that, I had the opposite reaction,” Lee says. “I was like, ‘It's not a piece of junk. It's the coolest thing I've ever seen. I've got to have me one of these!' ”

Lee's dream, hatched when he was a 12-year-old watching the first “Star Wars” movie in 1977, wasn't simply a boyhood fantasy. It just might come true.

The Nashville man and other fans around the world have started building a full-scale, 114-foot-long replica of the Millennium Falcon, the clunky but speedy spaceship that carried Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and company around that famous “galaxy far, far away.” They plan to make the exterior and interior look exactly like what's seen in the movies, down to every last button, switch, antenna, quad gun and hidden compartment.

“This is the real thing,” says Greg Dietrich, 43, a graphic artist who has been building the ship's cockpit at his home in Huntsville, Ala., since April.

These fans admit they're operating at, well, a fairly high level of geekdom.

“Our great-grandkids will be rolling their eyes at us,” says Lee's fiancee, Leah D'Andrea, who pronounces her first name the same way as the princess played by Carrie Fisher.

Stinson Lenz, who studies art and works in Philadelphia, designed the virtual model for the full-scale ship.

Eventually, the far-flung Falcon tribe will gather in Tennessee and move the many parts to an 88-acre property Lee owns in the woods of Humphreys County, west of Dickson.

Michael Cass is a staff writer at The (Nashville) Tennessean.

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