For reasons that will be obvious to anyone who’s already seen The Force Awakens, Mark Hamill was somewhat reluctant to do an interview for Rolling Stone‘s recent Star Wars cover story. But in the end, he agreed, and in late October, just as the world was starting to wonder about the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the guy who plays him was sitting at a table in his tree-lined Malibu yard, wearing Batman-themed Converse sneakers. Hamill was just starting to regrow his Jedi beard for the follow-up, Episode VIII — which would soon need him on set. He had shaved to play the Trickster on the new season of The Flash, and had to ask Lucasfilm’s permission to do so. “The bottom line was if I couldn’t grow it back fast enough, I couldn’t do the part,” says Hamill, 64. “Luckily, I have 10 weeks, so fingers crossed!” Here’s more from his interview:
The weird part about all of this is that George Lucas told you during the filming of the original Star Wars that you’d be needed as Luke again in your 60s.
And he told me he cobbled it down from 12 movies! Now, remind you, this is idle time between shots in North Africa [laughs]. At this point, I’ve only known George like a week or less, maybe 10 days. I said, “Why are you starting in the middle? It’s crazy.” At that point, it wasn’t called A New Hope; it was Episode IV: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker as Taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga #1. Then it was The Star Wars; by the time I get the shooting script, it says Star Wars. And George said, “Well, because this part of the trilogy, this one is the most commercial.” “Oh, okay.” [Laughs] And now he’s disputed this. He said, “I was pulling Mark’s leg.”
But he was talking about sequels already, right?
Yeah, and I’m thinking, Oh really? ‘Cause all he said, “Would you think about doing a cameo? Handing down Excalibur to the next generation?” Which gives you at least an insight into what he was thinking about. Anyway, that’s the only significance of that story. It was not like it was something you take to the bank, like you rush home and call your agent say, “Hey, guess what? In 2011, I’ve got another job!”
Much later, Lucas said the prequels would be the end of it. But in the back of your mind did you still think you’d be back?
It’s funny – I had conflicting thoughts because, number one, I thought nobody lets a really potent property languish on the shelf when it’s begging to be exploited, with the novels and the games and you name it. I mean, it’s a huge canvas. But then I thought even if they go forward, they’re not gonna use us. It’ll be about the next generation, as it should be. It’s not about getting the band together and hitting the road again. And that’s mixed in with the fact that he told us flat-out, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m not doing the last three. When Episode III is over, that’s it. I’m not doing these things into my 70s.”
Now, all of this gets blended in my mind because … part of it is I read what’s on the Internet and so forth. I do remember him saying the words, “I don’t wanna be doing these in my 70s.” What I didn’t foresee is him selling the company. When he told us all this – in the summer of 2012, he had lunch with all of us and said –
All of you together?
No. What happened was we were in Anaheim at one of the Star Wars celebrations; Carrie was there, I was there with my daughter and wife, and George wanted to have lunch with us. I said, “Well, something’s up,” and my wife jokingly said, “He’s probably gonna do another trilogy.” And I have to tell you, I feel embarrassed now, because I just laughed derisively at how stupid that idea was. “No, look. Come on, let’s get real. They had to be nice to us when they wanted us to do the DVD extras, remember that? It’s gonna be something like that.”
So when he actually said the words, so matter-of-factly: “Well, I don’t know what you know but I’ve decided to sell the company, Kathleen Kennedy’s gonna take over and they’re gonna wanna be doing another trilogy. And if you don’t wanna be in it, you don’t have to be. We’re not gonna recast; we just write your characters out.” Within 30, 40 seconds, Carrie goes, “I’m in!” [Laughs] And she then asked about whether there’s a part for Billie, her daughter.
And how did you end up reacting?
Now I’m still sort of in like a state of shock. I have a good poker face and I was determined defiantly not to register any kind of emotion whatsoever. I was going to a be completely a blank canvas.
[Sighs] You know, we’re all in a great place and we’ve all done it before, there was a beginning, a middle and end. You have to think about all the aspects of it ’cause, you know, if you wanna maintain a low profile, this isn’t the best way to do it. [Laughs] And I had sort of got into a niche where I did my voiceovers and I could do theater when I wanted to. I mean, all along the way I’ve been having a really great time and doing a lot of interesting stuff. It’s just that people don’t really pay a lot of attention.
Well, the geek world certainly does.
Oh, no, believe me, I have the most supportive backup. It sounds corny but over the course of my life to have this happen in a way that people are, you know – it’s like if I hadn’t gone through the Beatles I wouldn’t understand it. And I’m not comparing myself to them in any way, shape or form, but in terms of disproportionate reverence for something that you can’t explain, where you wanna know where they live and what they eat. I call ’em UPFs: the Ultra Passionate Fan. ‘Cause there’s fans who like the movie and, go, “It was well done and I enjoyed myself. Now I wanna see the James Bond” — and then there are the UPFs. It’s changed their lives: “I got into movies because of this,” or “I met my wife online [because of Star Wars].”
It’s truly moving, you know, and it’s remarkable and it doesn’t lessen over time. Because Star Wars never went away. And I understand obsessive-compulsive entertainment impulses. I have many, many, many, many of them.