star wars: the last Jedi


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From an au­di­ence with Jedi mas­ter Mark Hamill to a nat­ter with new star Kelly Marie Tran, here’s our Force-fu­elled cel­e­bra­tion of the movie event of the year.

It was one of the most elab­o­rate en­trances in show­busi­ness!” laughs mark hamill when SFX asks him about his blink-and-you’ll miss it ap­pear­ance in The Force Awak­ens.

You know the one. You sit through the whole of the new, hotly an­tic­i­pated Star Wars movie wait­ing for a glimpse of Luke sky­walker – hav­ing been re­united with han solo, Leia, Chew­bacca, C-3Po, R2-D2, ad­mi­ral ack­bar and even nien nunb along the way – and then you get barely a minute of an old bearded guy with a robot hand on top of a re­mote is­land. he doesn’t even have any­thing to say. has any movie star ever had higher billing (he was sec­ond only to har­ri­son ford) for less screen time?

“I think it was a prac­ti­cal de­ci­sion to push my story to Episode VIII be­cause the plate was so full,” hamill ex­plains, im­pres­sively diplo­mat­i­cally. “You had to es­tab­lish all these new char­ac­ters, you had to hon­our the end of han solo’s sto­ry­line, and it would have been too com­pli­cated. I thought the au­di­ence would de­mand that at some point Luke and Leia and han were all to­gether – I thought that would be a ma­jor bone of con­tention but I was wrong.”

In the two years since The Force Awak­ens, Luke’s meet­ing with Rey on ahch-to has be­come one of the most talked about min­utes in cinema his­tory. what was go­ing through the for­mer saviour of the galaxy’s head when his po­ten­tial new ap­pren­tice handed him the lightsaber he’d lost in The Em­pire Strikes Back? not even hamill knew at the time.

“[Di­rec­tor] JJ abrams just said, ‘turn around slowly, re­move your hood…’” hamill ad­mits. “they were just go­ing to run the cam­era for an ex­tra­or­di­nary long pe­riod of time, and I thought I’m go­ing to give them as much as I can, a range from be­wil­der­ment to sus­pi­cion to anger to doubt to great joy – I turned around one time and was so happy to see her! then JJ could take what lit­tle puz­zle piece he needed and do with it as he wanted. I wasn’t re­ally sure what he wanted ei­ther. It wasn’t re­ally spec­i­fied, it was very enig­matic, for a rea­son, be­cause I’m not sure they even re­ally knew. It’s like a re­lay where they pass the torch, be­cause JJ writes what­ever he wants and then hands it off, then Rian [John­son,

Episode VIII di­rec­tor] writes up to the end of VIII and hands it over to IX with­out know­ing where IX’s go­ing to fin­ish. It’s that old cliché line – so crazy it just might work! who knows what’s the right way to do it? Ge­orge Lu­cas handed over his notes for what he thought should hap­pen in VII, VIII and IX, but af­ter sell­ing it to Dis­ney for [in­de­ci­pher­able noise] bil­lion dol­lars, they threw it all out and started from scratch, do­ing it the way they wanted. at that price they’re en­ti­tled!”

It’s safe to say that Luke is more than a mcGuffin in The Last Jedi, the movie al­ter­na­tively known as Episode VIII – he’ll have ac­tual dia­logue, for starters – but we know sur­pris­ingly lit­tle about where he’s at. why he’s cho­sen to live on the re­mote ahch-to – home to cute crit­ters the Porgs and, smart money has it, the first Jedi tem­ple – is a mys­tery, for ex­am­ple, as is the ex­act na­ture of what he’s been do­ing since over­throw­ing the em­peror three decades pre­vi­ously. It’s fairly clear, how­ever, that the wide-eyed boy who first fol­lowed obi-wan Kenobi on some damn fool ide­al­is­tic cru­sade all those years ago is long gone, re­placed by a more cyn­i­cal, greyer model. In­deed, sky­walker is now the wise old her­mit liv­ing in ex­ile – hamill is older than alec Guin­ness was when he played old Ben – though his faith in the Jedi or­der isn’t quite so un­wa­ver­ing.

“as you know from the trailer, Luke says it’s time for the Jedi to end,” hamill points out. “when I read it, I went ‘what!’ he was al­ways the most op­ti­mistic char­ac­ter, who be­lieved with all his heart and soul in what Yoda and obi-wan taught him. I said, ‘what could have hap­pened in that gap that would make him be this cyn­i­cal her­mit who wants to end the Jedi?’ It was very trou­bling for me, but I came to re­alise that Rian wanted to do some­thing that hadn’t been done be­fore. If I was the same per­son from Jedi with­out the trauma, I would be just an­other ver­sion of obi-wan, and we’ve al­ready seen that. and since it’s not my story any­more, now it’s Rey’s story, I think you can be more flex­i­ble in terms of how the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters like my­self are han­dled.”

cool hand luke

that, of course, is a big deal for some­one who’s been syn­ony­mous with lightsabers and X-wings for 40 years. while sky­walker is Lu­cas’s cre­ation and the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty of the walt Dis­ney Com­pany, hamill is the man who re­alised him on screen, all the way from twin suns and “power con­vert­ers”, to “I’m a Jedi knight, like my fa­ther be­fore me”.

“You can’t help but feel a lit­tle own­er­ship even though I didn’t cre­ate it,” he says. “then you think, ‘these young punks think that they know Luke bet­ter than me!’ But this is the first gen­er­a­tion of film­mak­ers who were fans, who were kids when the movies first came out, and now they’re rein­ter­pret­ing them for a new gen­er­a­tion. and at some point you have to re­alise they have to make the movie they want, they don’t have to make the movie I want.”

In the 34 years since Re­turn Of The Jedi he must have had some ideas about where Luke might have ended up, though?

“You would as­sume that af­ter sav­ing the galaxy the way he did he would be­come, like, a ven­er­ated mem­ber of the high Jedi or­der,” he laughs, “sort of like a car­di­nal or a mon­seigneur, who knows, maybe the Pope of Jedi!

“my son nathan is the real Star Wars buff,” hamill adds, “and he told me years ago, ‘Dad, there’s this great story where they clone an evil Luke from your sev­ered hand [Luuke sky­walker in ti­mothy Zahn’s 1993 novel, The

Last Com­mand].’” I said, ‘oh, baby, would I love that?’ not only could you get to play your evil twin, but what a great idea that you bring Luke back, and the au­di­ence starts notic­ing him un­der­min­ing the he­roes, cut­ting their fuel sup­ply in­ex­pli­ca­bly, maybe even killing one of the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters. It would be so mind­bog­gling, and then of course the real Luke shows up and that mys­tery is solved. But there’s too much Luke, and it’s not my story any­more.

“when I sug­gested it to Rian, he said he thought that was a cool sto­ry­line too, but it’s been done. Rian had to find a way to take el­e­ments of the movies that ev­ery­one ex­pects to be there – the ac­tion, the ad­ven­ture, the spe­cial ef­fects, the crea­tures and hu­mour – so that ev­ery­one feels they’re hav­ing a Star Wars ex­pe­ri­ence, but also bring some­thing new to the ta­ble, that’s chal­leng­ing, that hasn’t been done be­fore. I think he’s done it. this one doesn’t feel like any of the oth­ers to me, aside from the el­e­ments I just spoke about. Peo­ple say, ‘Is it more like Jedi, is it more like Em­pire?’ I dunno, it’s sort of like its own thing.” jour­ney’s end while Lu­cas’s three Star Wars pre­quels were con­tent to build a galaxy far, far away on com­puter mon­i­tors, the new breed of Star

Wars movie has taken a more tac­tile ap­proach. there’s a real ap­petite for build­ing space­ships, sets and crea­tures for real – and it had a pro­found im­pact on hamill.

“I walked onto the mil­len­nium fal­con set and I was just over­whelmed with emo­tion,” he ad­mits. “ev­ery­thing was ex­actly the way it was – it even smelled the same way. when I sat in the cock­pit it was like vis­it­ing a child­hood home that you thought had been torn down. It just un­locked some­thing in my brain. I got goose­bumps. my fam­ily was with me and I said, ‘Guys, I have to be alone here for a sec­ond.’”

the re­mote Ir­ish is­land of skel­lig michael, the real-world lo­ca­tion stand­ing in for the afore­men­tioned ahch-to, had a sim­i­lar ef­fect on hamill – but for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

“I re­mem­ber when I was out on the salt flats in north africa mak­ing the first film,” he says. “I turned my back on the crew, and I looked out on the hori­zon… I was trans­ported. I re­ally felt like I was in a galaxy far, far away, be­cause I had the ro­bots and float­ing car, and I looked the way I did. I’d never been in a place like it. the salt flats are just 360 de­grees of hori­zon, be­cause noth­ing on earth can grow, so it’s un­earthly. I never had that ex­pe­ri­ence again when we were in nor­way for Em­pire – snow is snow, I’d seen that be­fore – and as beau­ti­ful as the for­est of en­dor was, it was like the se­quoias that I had vis­ited as a child.

“and there was a mo­ment on Episode VII when I was just wait­ing around, and I turned away from the crew – I didn’t mean to recre­ate the mo­ment! – and I was look­ing out, and it looked un­real. I just got goose­bumps again, like I was in tu­nisia, where I sud­denly felt like I wasn’t on earth. I’m not a method ac­tor where I re­ally feel like I’m on an­other planet – but it was a re­mark­able feel­ing.”

hamill de­scribes climb­ing to the top of skel­lig michael as “bru­tal”. “when I first read the script I thought they’d do it on green screen,” he laughs. “I live in mal­ibu so I thought I’d just go up the road to JJ’s stu­dios in santa mon­ica. It’ll be a 7am call, they’ll prob­a­bly get it in two shots, we’ll be done by lunchtime. then they said they wanted to go to a real lo­ca­tion...

“I said, ‘how long are you al­low­ing the crew to get up the hill,’” he con­tin­ues. “they said, ‘45 min­utes’. I said, ‘Give me an hour and a half’. I had to stop ev­ery 100 steps be­cause they’re not nor­mal steps – they’re stone, and it’s up and up and it just never ends. they had this big moun­tain climber guide be­hind me to catch me in case I stum­bled and fell. If I fall off the cliff and die, the in­sur­ance will go crazy – let’s face it, I’m an in­vest­ment!”

Luke just wanted to eat his break­fast in peace.

The Last Jedi prom­ises some sweet bat­tle se­quences.

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