When Alex Irvine was 8 years old, his dad came home one day and said he’d just seen a new science fiction movie called “Star Wars.”

Posters for the film showed spaceships and strange creatures, so Irvine was a little surprised by his dad’s description of the plot.

“He didn’t talk a lot about the space adventure stuff. He said it was about a kid looking for his father,” said Irvine, now 46, of South Portland. “And he had to fight evil and bad guys. So when I went to see it myself, even though I knew it was science fiction, I had the family aspect of it on my mind.”

And the family theme has stayed with Irvine since the first “Star Wars” movie in 1977, through six films and dozens of books that have created a powerful saga of good versus evil. Enforcing the emotional power of the “Star Wars” story is the idea of belief in an unseen power (the Force) and hero Luke Skywalker’s complicated relationship with his hero/villain father, whom the world knows as Darth Vader.

The man Irvine considers his dad is Mike Bodary, his stepfather, whom he’s known since he was 3 years old. Bodary introduced Irvine to “Star Wars,” and Irvine in turn has shared the films and books with his three children. That puts Bodary and Irvine at the heart of a three-generation “Star Wars” family, a phenomenon unmatched in modern pop culture.

Adult science fiction fans in the 1970s brought their kids to the first movies. Many of those young fans had kids of their own when the second batch of films were hitting theaters, between 1999 and 2005. Now those grandchildren of the oldest “Star Wars” fans are about to see the movie they’ve quite literally been waiting their whole lives for.

When “The Force Awakens” opens in theaters Thursday, it will unite generations of families like few other entertainment experiences ever have. The cross-generational appeal of the “Star Wars” film series is “unparalleled,” said Charles R. Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, who specializes in the film industry.

“Star Wars” “is the story of family, of a group of people who fight against tyranny,” said Bodary, 65, of Ypsilanti, Michigan. “Sometimes they lose and sometimes they win. Like life.”

Bodary will see the newest “Star Wars” film with another son, Andy, and his grandson, Christian, in Michigan. Irvine will be thinking of his dad as he attends a Thursday night show at Cinemagic in Westbrook with 14-year-old twins Ian and Emma, 5-year-old Abraham and his wife, Lindsay Kaplan.

Ian and Emma, freshmen at Waynflete School in Portland, have been “Star Wars” fans since birth. For years, they heard their father’s bedtime stories about Luke or Chewbacca or padawans (a Jedi knight in training) doing all kinds of things they didn’t do in the films.

Often Ian and Emma were in the stories, too.

“I remember asking him to tell me stories where I’m a padawan,” said Ian. “He’d take the characters and put them in other places, they might meet up with Robin Hood’s merry men.”

Irvine decided to show Abraham the first three “Star Wars” movies this year when he turned 5. The boy sat “pop-eyed” for a weekend-long marathon.

So does sharing a love of “Star Wars” films, books and comics with his kids mean that Irvine is the coolest dad on the block? Ian smiles at the thought. He doesn’t quite concede the point, but he says the films are really good.

Emma Irvine, 14, holds her brother Abraham Irvine 5, with their father Alex Irvine at their home in South Portland. Irvine is a science fiction writer, along with a Star Wars fan, and he’s passed down a love for both to his three children.

Emma Irvine, 14, holds her brother Abraham Irvine 5, with their father Alex Irvine at their home in South Portland. Irvine is a science fiction writer, along with a Star Wars fan, and he’s passed down a love for both to his three children.

FUELING IMAGINATION

Bodary, who works as an auto parts buyer, has always been a fan of science fiction. Irvine as a youngster was an insatiable reader. At some point when he couldn’t get his hands on new books fast enough, Bodary and his wife, Kathy, started steering Irvine toward science fiction.

When “Star Wars” came out in May 1977, Bodary thought of taking his sons but wasn’t sure they should go. Would it be too grown up? Too violent? Online movie reviews rating the family-friendliness of a film were still some 20 years off in the future.

One day, while on the road for his job, Bodary made a spot decision to see the film, just as he was passing a theater showing it. He came home that night and told his boys all about it.

Then, Irvine saw the movie for himself. And his world changed.

“We all instantly stopped playing cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers, and we were all Jedi knights fighting the Empire. A stick that would have been a rifle before was now a lightsaber,” said Irvine. “Before that, I’d see a movie and say ‘I like that.’ But with ‘Star Wars,’ I could not get enough of it.”

Irvine says he felt like “Star Wars” legitimized “geek culture” for him and millions of others who were reading comic books and playing fantasy Dungeons & Dragons, quietly. In school, Irvine was once put in a remedial reading class because he read so much science fiction instead of assigned reading, he said.

But “Star Wars” fueled his imagination and his love of reading and writing. He went on to teach English at the University of Maine from 2005 to 2011.

Irvine is now a full-time fantasy and science fiction writer, producing novels, video game scripts and novelizations of films, including “Tintin” and “Iron Man 2.” His “Phase One” books, written for 8- to 12-year-olds, focus on characters from “The Avengers.” His novels include “The Narrows” and “Buyout.”

SOUTH PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 2: Abraham Irvine, (cq)  5, plays with Star Wars legos atop a collection of Star Wars graphic novels at their home in South Portland, ME on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. (Photo by Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer)

SOUTH PORTLAND, ME – DECEMBER 2: Abraham Irvine, (cq) 5, plays with Star Wars legos atop a collection of Star Wars graphic novels at their home in South Portland, ME on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. (Photo by Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer)

IMPACT ON CAREER AND HOME

Irvine went from being a youngster who felt a little on the outside for liking comic books and science fiction so much, to a writer who makes his living off the kinds of stories he’s always loved.

” ‘Star Wars’ was so big and immersive that it stopped being a story and became part of your identity,” said Irvine. “You put ‘Star Wars’ and Dungeons and Dragons and comics into a hopper and you get me. And now I’m doing something I love for a living. When I get frustrated (with work), I think what would 12-year-old Alex think? He’d be losing his mind.”

Irvine works from home, a 160-year-old house in Ferry Village that is full of “Star Wars” novels, comics and Legos.

There also are “Star Wars” items that help in the family’s daily routines, like a smartphone app that times Abraham as he brushes his teeth and rewards him when he’s brushed long enough.

“It’s on my mom’s phone, and I can see videos of Yoda and (Count) Dooku – he is my favorite,” Abraham said.

“Now he’ll brush his teeth all day long,” Irvine said.

But he’ll stop long enough to see “The Force Awakens,” with his family.

 

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