Hamill pass­ing the lightsaber to young actors

Star Wars icon Mark Hamill let­ting go to make way for next gen­er­a­tion


When Mark Hamill LOS AN­GE­LES first re­ceived the script for Star Wars back in the 1970s, he felt no obli­ga­tion to keep its plot points se­cret. In fact, he did the op­po­site. He shared the screen­play rather gen­er­ously, if for no other rea­son than to get some help wrap­ping his head around it.

“I said ‘This is the goofi­est thing you’ve ever read. I can’t fig­ure out how it’s go­ing to turn out. Is it a par­ody? Is it straight­for­ward? What?’” says Hamill, in a re­cent in­ter­view to pro­mote Star Wars: The Last Jedi in down­town Los An­ge­les. “So I lent it to my best friend Jonathan and he read it and said ‘Can I give it to so-and-so?’ and I said sure. She read it. Three or four peo­ple read it.”

Things soon changed. By the time The Em­pire Strikes Back was be­ing made, Hamill’s farm boy-turned-in­ter­ga­lac­tic-hero Luke Sky­walker was a house­hold name and the press were con­coct­ing schemes to learn as many secrets about the Em­pire as pos­si­ble. Re­porters paid a he­li­copter pilot to fly over the frozen Nor­we­gian set, for in­stance, and take pho­to­graphs. What was ul­ti­mately cap­tured, Hamill says, were pic­tures of snow­mo­biles with “clear lo­gos of the com­pa­nies that made them,” but were nev­er­the­less in­ter­preted as rep­re­sent­ing “strange alien craft” by ex­citable re­porters.

Back in Eng­land, tabloids would stake out pubs near the pro­duc­tion and pay for in­for­ma­tion. This al­lowed the pro­duc­ers to in­ge­niously leak a fake twist into the cos­mos, specif­i­cally that the late and beloved Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Alec Guin­ness), had mur­dered Luke’s fa­ther. At least one tabloid du­ti­fully re­ported the news. At that point, few knew the truth. The Em­pire Strikes Back was about to re­veal what may be the most fa­mous plot twist in the his­tory of cin­ema: Vil­lain Darth Vader had not killed Luke’s fa­ther, he was Luke’s fa­ther.

Star Wars mas­ter­mind Ge­orge Lu­cas knew, di­rec­tor Irvin Ker­sh­ner knew and a very ner­vous Mark Hamill knew.

“Ker­sh­ner brought me aside one day and said ‘I’m go­ing to tell you some­thing that I know and Ge­orge knows and when I tell you, you’ll know. Be­cause if it leaks, we’ll know it was you,’” Hamill says.

The 66-year-old could have never guessed that, 38 years later, ef­forts to keep plot points of the Star Wars fran­chise un­der wraps would be­come even more de­mand­ing.

Dressed in a dap­per, dark suit and con­vey­ing a dig­ni­fied grav­ity that be­fits Luke Sky­walker’s pre­sumed role in The Last Jedi, as a wiz­ened old master, Hamill is ami­able and chatty, even if he is in the midst of dozens of in­ter­views with jour­nal­ists who were not al­lowed to watch the film ahead of time.

This is a rare oc­cur­rence for movie jun­kets and adds to the al­ready tricky task of “talk­ing about a movie you’re not sup­posed to talk about,” he says. What’s clear is that keep­ing secrets these days is much more com­plex than it was 40 years ago.

“Of course, there was no so­cial me­dia ( back then),” he says. “There was no way to slip up and make a com­ment that’s mis­in­ter­preted.”

Yes, many things have changed in the Star Wars uni­verse. Ge­orge Lu­cas is no longer in­volved. Har­ri­son Ford’s swash­buck­ler hero Han Solo is gone. Most tragic of all is that Car­rie Fisher, who played Sky­walker’s sis­ter Princess Leia and had a sib­ling-like relationship with Hamill for 40 years, died sud­denly in 2016 af­ter com­plet­ing her work on The Last Jedi.

Watch­ing her fi­nal per­for­mance on film was not easy, Hamill ad­mits.

“It’s al­most un­speak­able,” he says. “It just hit me so hard. I thought, ‘it’s been a year, I’ll be over it.’ But I’m still think­ing of her in the present tense. I sort of fan­ta­size that it’s some Andy Kaufman-like prac­ti­cal joke and she is on an is­land in Crete en­joy­ing her­self. It’s just ir­ra­tional on my part be­cause it’s such a painful loss, not just for me but for the world. They all felt like they knew her. The un­for­tu­nate thing is as Har­ri­son was more prom­i­nent in The Force Awak­ens and I’m more prom­i­nent in The Last Jedi, she was meant to be prom­i­nent in Episode 9.”

Still, Hamill likes what he saw in The Last Jedi, even if he had some trep­i­da­tion about di­rec­tor Rian John­son’s vi­sion for his char­ac­ter. What we do know is Luke Sky­walker, who made a very brief ap­pear­ance in the fi­nal scenes of 2015’s The Force Awak­ens, seems to have be­come a reclu­sive, bro­ken soul that even the ac­tor who plays him had trou­ble rec­og­niz­ing.

“The thing that just jumped out at me was ‘It’s time for the Jedi to end,’” says Hamill, re­fer­ring to a line by Sky­walker that was in­cluded at the end of a teas­ing trailer re­leased ear­lier this year. “Re­ally? A Jedi does not give up. In the new gen­er­a­tion, the new in­car­na­tion, I had to swal­low that.”

But Hamill says he has ac­cepted that this new gen­er­a­tion of re­sis­tance fight­ers has taken on many of Sky­walker’s at­tributes.

The “cocky, devil-may-care pilot” per­sona has been taken on by Os­car Isaac’s Poe Dameron. “Sneak­ing around the Death Star dis­guised as bad guys” is now a job for John Boyega’s Finn and new­comer Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico. “The or­phan from nowhere dis­cov­er­ing mys­ti­cal pow­ers she didn’t know she had” is now Daisy Ri­d­ley’s Rey, who ended her ad­ven­tures in The Force Awak­ens by seek­ing out Hamill’s reclu­sive Sky­walker for his help in a re­newed bat­tle against the dark side of the Force.

“It’s like watch­ing a bunch of kids ri­fle through your old toy box and play with your toys,” Hamill says. “But I’m a gen­er­ous person. I love them all and I think they did a spec­tac­u­lar job. And they did all the heavy lift­ing. It’s not my Star Wars any­more. The more I re­mem­ber that, the more fun I have.”


Mark Hamill has learned to re­lin­quish as­pects of Luke Sky­walker’s iden­tity as younger actors re­de­fine Star Wars for a new au­di­ence.

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