The Washington Times - May 15, 2009, 12:59AM

Director Kyle Newman remembers the excitement coursing through the theater grounds after watching “Star Wars“ at a New Jersey drive-in 32 years ago.

The movie took over his childhood, and then some.


He simply had to know how George Lucas created that fantastical universe.

“It catapulted me into a filmmaking career,” says Newman, who pays homage to all things Lucas in “Fanboys,” out on DVD May 19.

Newman seems a fine choice to guide a story, set in 1999, about a group of pals who invade George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to steal a print of “The Phantom Menace” before it hit theaters.

Back then, the idea of a new “Star Wars” installment was all a fan boy could dream of, and the term Jar Jar Binks hadn’t yet entered the pop culture vernacular.

The film leans heavily on the “Star Wars” universe for nearly all its gags as well as the various sound effects and costumes which pepper the story.

Lucas kindly allowed all of the above to be used in the film, Newman says. But the “Star Wars” guru declined an invitation to appear in the movie.

“We asked him. He wasn’t comfortable acting and being on screen,” Newman says.

Newman had an easier time snagging some “Star Wars” icons for funny cameos, including Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams.

“Fanboys” fared poorly at the box office earlier this year after getting pushed around the release schedule for several months. But its low-key charms and geeky bona fides should boost its DVD sales. Newman has been monitoring twitter mentions of the movie and discovered it’s one of the most popular illegally downloaded movies of late.

“There’s a growing awareness about the movie. People missed it [in the theaters] and they’re excited to see it,” he says.