Though George Lucas abandoned his plans to continue the story of the Skywalker family after completing the Star Wars prequels, there weren't any loose ends that needed tying.
Return of the Jedi was a fitting finale to the Star Wars saga, and Mark Hamill was satisfied with the story’s final chapter.
But Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and others finally made their way back to the galaxy for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
And yet after 30 years, Hamill was hesitant to return to the role of Luke Skywalker, someone who has become a legend both in the canon and to the fans of the saga.
“A thing that felt maybe wrong about coming back was the fact that the original trilogy had a beginning, a’ middle and an end,” Hamill said in an interview with ABC News. “But there's two ways of looking at that. On the one hand, it had closure.”
Hamill ended up finding reasons to return by comparing his character’s arc to another franchise, one featuring a famous agent of the Secret Intelligence Service.
“But if you look at it another way, it's the story of how Luke went from becoming a farm boy to a Jedi and then the story ends,” Hamill said. “It would be like telling the story of how James Bond got his license to kill and became 007, and the story ends.
Though he finally came around to returning, it wasn’t a decision that came lightly. After all, what more can be explored in the Star Wars galaxy that hasn’t been shown before?
“When they asked me to come back, it was scary,” Hamill said. “I thought, ‘Gee, it was hard to catch lightning in a bottle the first time. I don't know if this is such a wise idea.’”
Much like the prequel trilogies featured a different cast of characters, George Lucas’ plans for Star Wars VII, VIII, and XI might have featured protagonists different from Luke, Han Solo, and Leia Organa.
“When we left, even if they were going to do a third trilogy, it wouldn't have anything to do with us. George never said you're going to do three more,” Hamill said. “He did mention maybe coming back and doing a cameo and handing Excalibur to the next young hope. This is back when we were doing the first one and I thought, ‘What is this supposed to be?’”
But with talent like J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, and now Rian Johnson behind the scenes, the Star Wars galaxy feels fresh with lots of new ground to tread. And part of that is the growth the characters we know and love have experienced since they destroyed the second Death Star.
“Luke changed, I think, more than the other characters in the original trilogy, from callow farm boy to a Jedi in training to finally a Jedi master,” Hamill said. “What you're talking about is what really fascinated me. Between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens, there's just decades of history that's unknown. So I was wondering how they're going to handle all this.”
Hamill said he was not upset that his character didn’t have a direct role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, though Luke did loom large in the storyline.
“Now, obviously, with Force Awakens, J.J. had a full plate,” Hamill said. “It was inevitable that they would push me down the line. I was sorry I wasn't able to work with any of the original actors again. But it's not about us anymore.”
Hamill understands that there’s a new generation of characters and fans, and that the Star Wars universe has expanded.
“In this new one, I was saying to Rian Johnson: I need to know my backstory. It was kind of unclear,” Hamill said. “You read where he is now and what he's doing now and sort of have to fill in the blanks for yourself. So I did do a backstory myself. It's not about Luke anymore, so it's not really important. But I had to make sense of it for myself. What Rian came up with, I was stunned.”
We’ll be able to see where Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes these characters when the film premieres December 15.