Mark Hamill: A different kind of Luke Skywalker
TOKYO—“The most shocking thing is for me to be employed by Star Wars again,” Mark Hamill said. “Who knew there was a Jedi pension plan?” He was discussing the rumors behind “Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Hamill, after all, became one of cinema’s greatest icons when he played Jedi Luke Skywalker in the first three Star Wars films.
After 1983’s “Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi,” Hamill built a career most as a sought-after voice actor, providing, notably, the voice of The Joker in various Batman animated series. But it would be 32 years before Hamill returned as Luke in 2015’s “Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens.”
For Hamill, it is all an adventure, especially since he wasn’t sure he would get the part from the beginning. Hamill had been unsuccessful in getting cast in George Lucas’ classic 1973 drama “American Graffiti.” Hamill would go on to beat out the likes of Kurt Russell, William Katt and Robby Benson for the part.
“When I first read the script, I thought it was hilarious,” he admitted. “I thought it was ahead of its time, with a heroine who was no damsel in distress. There’s a lot of humor in it.”
Hamill clearly has not lost any affection for the role. “One thing I love about the character is that we never see him the same way twice.” Hamill goes on to discuss the different iterations of the character, from the teenage farm boy from Tatooine in 1977’s “Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope.”
“There’s nothing special about him, he’s very relatable. Luke is the perfect entry level into the Star Wars universe for children,” he recalled. “Each time you see him, he progresses to a different kind of Luke. You think you have bad parents, what about Dad Vader?”
“Return of the Jedi” famously had Luke regain his father when Vader goes from the dark side back to the light. “That was the end of my story,” Hamill explained.
So it was surprising for him to see where Luke was in his single, wordless scene at the end of “The Force Awakens,” broken and alone after ward Kylo Ren had betrayed the new Jedi order Luke had started. It is in “The Last Jedi” that more of Luke’s new story will be revealed, but Hamill himself struggled with the new direction as written by director Rian Johnson.
He’s in a much different frame of mind, a much different Luke than we’ve seen before,” Hamill told Super. “We’re at a place now where I read the script and I was like, are you kidding me? It’s time for the Jedi to end? This is not the Luke I knew and I said that to Rian. He said, ‘well, we want to push the envelope and give the people something they don’t expect.’ I’m all for that but I said, I could see him being traumatized by what happened for years but a Jedi doesn’t give up. I don’t know what your definition of Jedi is, that’s not my definition of Jedi.”
But Hamill did come around to follow Johnson’s lead. “But look, at the end of the day it’s my job to take the script and do the best I can to realize the director’s vision. I had to resist that, because there’s the George Lucas Star Wars and now there’s this next generation of J.J. (Abrams) and Rian, who were little boys when the first film came out and are now in charge. They should be able to do the films they want to do, so if they want Luke to be dark and pessimistic, that’s my job. It’s not a particularly pleasant story to tell.” He goes on to say how Luke’s original character seemed to have been divvied up between Rey, Poe Dameron and Finn. “There’s a new generation now. But I’m just happy to be back. It’s so much fun. If you can’t have fun making a Star Wars movie, there’s something seriously wrong with you.”
Hamill should know, as he is one of the actors historically most identified with a franchise. He will always be Luke Skywalker. Now, in “The Last Jedi,” Luke is challenged to be mentor to Rey. Will he do so? “That’s the implication, that I will be training her, but even that, I can’t reveal. If I had just been a benign, benevolent kind of Jedi training her or bringing information like Obi-Wan brought to me, it would be just another variation of something you’ve seen before, and nobody could do it better than Alec Guinness. So I have to trust Rian. I said, I’m out of my comfort zone but I totally trust you, and that’s the best decision I could have made.”
The smart, funny and opinionated Mark Hamill could then easily have been talking about his career when he said: “I’ve always thought ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ was equivalent to once upon a time. It’s very much a fairy tale more than science fiction.”
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