Tyler Woodward was a Star Wars fan long before his cancer diagnosis. His whole life, really. The 17-year-old says he was born “right when all the prequels were coming out” and grew up having lightsaber fights with his two older brothers.
So after chemo took his hair last year, he knew what he wanted from the Make-A-Wish Foundation: A trip to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” premiere.
A week ago, he learned his wish had been granted. And on Saturday, after flying out from Ohio, Tyler put on a blazer and his BB-8 tie for the film’s world premiere in Los Angeles.
Tyler was one of seven teens with life-threatening illnesses to attend the star-studded premiere and elaborate after-party with Make-A-Wish. While the organization couldn’t promise interactions with celebrities, the kids and their parents had a special spot on the red carpet where they could see the stars arrive.
“I’ve been telling people that like 50 percent of the reason I wished for this is just so I could meet Daisy Ridley,” Tyler said before the premiere. But no matter what happened that night, he said, “I don’t really see myself being disappointed.”
Established in 1980, the nonprofit Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to grant a wish to every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. Disney, now the parent company of the Star Wars franchise, granted the very first wish: A trip to Disneyland. The company is now involved with almost half the wishes submitted each year.
The Make-A-Wish group bonded during their red carpet experience. When one boy sat down during all the excitement, one of the girls checked to see if he was feeling OK. When another boy was trembling too much to take a photo, the boy next to him helped steady his hands. And when the group spotted Ridley arriving on the red carpet, a buzz of collective excitement overcame them.
“Daisy, I had cancer!” Tyler playfully shouted to the actress from too far away.
Tyler brought his mother, Karen Woodward, along for the wish experience, which included a weekend in Hollywood and a trip to Universal Studios.
Woodward said she was just grateful to see her son so happy.
“He’s been through a lot the last year-and-a-half, with the chemo and losing all his hair and missing school and all that, so this has really been a great event,” she said. “It’s so much fun to watch the excitement in your child. I get a lot out of that.”
The red carpet outside the Shrine Auditorium was crowded with stars. One by one — writer-director Rian Johnson, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, John Boyega and Adam Driver — came over to meet the Make-A-Wish group. And Ridley, too.
“Hi. You’re Daisy Ridley,” Tyler said when the actress approached. He fished a card from his mom’s purse that had Ridley’s, or Rey’s, face on it.
“Can you sign this?” he asked her.
It took him a second to snap a selfie because he was shaking, which he acknowledged aloud.
“Is it weird if I ask for a hug?” he said. Ridley happily obliged.
Tyler was breathless and shaking as the actress walked away.
“I just hugged Daisy Ridley,” he said. “That was Daisy Ridley.”
After watching “The Last Jedi” alongside the cast, the group went to the after-party, which was modeled after a casino-like city in the Star Wars galaxy. Guests could play table games and pose for photos with characters from the new film.
And the Make-A-Wish kids could celebrate being among the first fans in the world to see the anticipated eighth chapter in the core Star Wars saga.
“I’m going to see it like hundreds of times before I’m dead, but it’s up there in terms of being not only the best Star Wars movie but the best movie I’ve ever seen,” Tyler said. “Obviously, my experience is better than most, seeing the world premiere and getting to meet all the actors first, but it was amazing.”