Mark Hamill Talks Joining Shudder's Creepshow and His Love of Horror
When most fans think of Mark Hamill's legacy, they likely think of his time spent in the galaxy far, far away, or possibly his work voicing the Clown Prince of Crime for Batman: The Animated Series, as they likely won't connect the figure directly with the world of horror. However, following his time in the original Star Wars trilogy, Hamill would collaborate with master of the genre John Carpenter in his Body Bags segment "Eye," as well as Carpenter's Village of the Damned. Additionally, Hamill has personally been interested in horror dating back to being a kid, particularly Universal films and EC Comics.
The actor's latest project involved him lending his voice to an animated segment of Shudder's Creepshow. In the story "The Things in Oakwood's Past," the town of Oakwood has a storied past, and the opening of a time capsule is an exciting moment of remembrance. But can a local librarian keep a darker part of the town's history from repeating itself?
ComicBook.com caught up with Hamill to talk about what drew him to the project, his love of Halloween and horror, and whether we can expect to see him team up with James Gunn for any Guardians of the Galaxy projects.
ComicBook.com: People might not automatically connect you with horror and Halloween, and with this project coming out this time of year, for the Hamill household, how do you typically celebrate Halloween?
Mark Hamill: It's always been a favorite, especially when the kids were small, obviously. We always did the traditional carving of the pumpkins, we did three or four so each kid could have their own. We have the decorations. We love it. It's a wonderful holiday, especially for kids. The trick-or-treaters come and it's always great to see the costumes, a lot of times they come, they're dressed as me from Star Wars, or Princess Leia.
All my life I've loved horror. I discovered the old black-and-white Universal films, they were on television when I was a kid, I loved all of those. Branched out to Hammer films. I loved stop-frame animation, Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien. Like I say, I built the Aurora Monster Model Kits. Up until The Beatles came, that was my life, just horror movies. My dad didn't like us having comic books, he thought those were rubbish and shouldn't be in the household. We could get classic, illustrated ... They had the adaptation of Frankenstein, so I had that one.
You always want what you're not allowed to have, so I had a second wind when I left my house and went to college. Once I started making some money in early television, I did start collecting comic books. I haven't kept up with it anymore but, gosh, back in the '70s and '80s, I got some comic books that have really increased in value. That's not really what's it's about for me. It's turned me off, the fact that condition is so important that you can't even read these things. You have to put them in a slab or not handle them so gingerly so you don't de-value them. You can get great reprints of the EC Comics for the stories and you don't have to collect the originals.
I think that's one of the things that attracted me to Creepshow, was the format. It's very much like an EC comic book, with a horror host and you have the ads on the inside of the covers and they go from panel to panel. The episode I'm involved in is very much like a comic book come to life. The animation is limited, but beyond the still pictures of what is in a traditional comic book.
And, also, it was a chance to work with Greg Nicotero again, because I first worked with him back doing John Carpenter's Body Bags and we hit it off and became friends. I hadn't seen him in years and when my agent said, "They want you for an episode of Creepshow," I said, "Is Greg Nicotero still doing that?" and they said, "Yes," and I said, "I've gotta do this," before I read the script.
It's funny because you mention Halloween is fun with people coming dressed up as you and I couldn't help but think, "Oh, a lot of people come dressed as your character from Body Bags? A baseball player who loses an eye?"
Not so much, but that's part of the joy of trick-or-treaters. I love the trick-or-treaters. I have, it's up in the attic, this really creepy Nosferatu, over-the-head mask, and I answered the door with this on my face and to see the four- and five-year-olds just recoil in horror, [my wife] Marilou saying, "It's not a good look for you to be scaring these kids," so I retired that.
Maybe this year I'll use my fangs from [FX's] What We Do in the Shadows. They let me keep my fangs, because when we were shooting, I said, "Wait a second, since these were fit directly to my mouth, can I keep them?" And they said, "Absolutely, be our guest." So I do have my fangs.
The prop department, I was really touched by this, because a lot of times, they'll be told, "Don't bring in items for Mark to sign," by the production crew, and once you get to know the crew, they'll say, "I know I'm not supposed to ask, but I'd love you to sign X, Y, or Z," and I'll say, "Sure, come on, bring it in." By doing that, and it only takes a few minutes during your lunch hour or even if it's just on set, but my point is, at the end of the show, the prop department gave me a dagger that was part of my character -- in the episode, it belongs to my character -- but what was significant about it was they said, "This dagger is from the original What We Do in the Shadows film," I said, "Oh, my gosh, what a great collectible that is." I'm staring at it right now on the shelf in my man cave.
I am a collector myself, so I understand that collector mentality, and I'm a fan myself, so it was great fun to do something like Creepshow. And people start reminding me, "You've done a lot of horror, " and I say, "Like what?" They say, "Well, you're the voice of Chucky [in 2019's Child's Play]." I'm like, "Oh yeah!"
When it comes to crafting a voice for a character, you have such a body of work, so how much of that voice is a gut instinct thing that, as soon as you see a character, it conjures something within you vs. you get a gut instinct but then realize, "I've done something like that before, so I need to add this other thing to it,"? What was the process of developing this character for Creepshow?
Well, that's a really good question. Obviously, you read the script and you have to understand what is required of your character in the story to make it work. If you can get an image, that's always a plus. I was able to see what the mayor looked like, that he was really tall, he was corpulent. You want to make the voice fit the character and, a lot of times, you'll come in and have something in mind, and you'll try it and, I remember I was doing, I forget what it was, and they said, "Well, it's a little too New York," and you take that out of it, "And you're slurping a lot," take that out. Pretty much, they stripped everything I brought to the table, but you have to decide right on the spot what they do want because time is money.
You have a four-hour session, you go four hours and one minute and they owe you a fee, and the upshot of that is you never go longer than four hours. They won't allow it, you've gotta get it done, so right on the fly, I had to come up with something that they liked. "Well, how bout this?" and trying other voices, "That's good, keep it in that area." You go back and forth until they say, "Ah! That's it, that's what we want." So you have to be flexible in that way.
I remember when I auditioned for the Joker, I wasn't able to see any of the episodes, I wasn't able to read the script, it was like a three- or four-page audition scene, but they had one, black-and-white drawing of the Joker, full size, not just a closeup. And he had those teeth and, just based on that drawing, it really meant a lot, because I thought, "I've gotta make that, whatever voice I come up with, sound like it's coming out of that character." And I thought, "Teeth, teeth, teeth, he's all teeth!" I threw in a little, the Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine, "Hello, lovey-dovey," I wanted to alter him so that he didn't have just one sound. I lucked out.
Visual representation is really important, especially in animation, because sometimes you do do things where you don't know what the character looks like. When you see it, you say, "Oh, gosh, if I had known it was gonna look like that, I might've tried this or that." Everything is fast in this business, they don't have a lot of time to fool around.
This one was, first of all, when I read it, he was very much like Murray Hamilton in Jaws, he's a politician who puts his own career and appearances ahead of public safety, so, even though he doesn't think of himself as a villain, he's doing something that really leads to catastrophe. I think he really shows his true colors through the way he treats his daughter, which is really dreadful. He should have listened to her more carefully, but then if he did, you wouldn't have a story. Or you'd have a story that takes longer to tell. This is really economical storytelling at its best. They establish the premise, they have four or five minutes of her investigating and finding out what she finds out, and then, of course, you have this over-the-top, bonkers, armageddon climax.
WARNING: Minor spoilers for the latest episode of Creepshow below
Everybody likes to see a show with a monster and we have, I don't know, dozens and dozens of them and it's quite over the top. What they can do now ... Back in my day, we had to be really careful, we had all these rules like you couldn't punch someone in the face and you couldn't show anyone be thrown through a plate-glass window, it was standards and practices in terms of -- because it really was a cartoon for children, and people write in, "Why doesn't the Joker kill more people?" "Well, because he can't. he's all bark and no bite, the censors won't let you do it." And now, with this being on Shudder and eventually on AMC, I was even shocked when I heard the F-bomb, I went, "Oh, I forgot someone said that in the script, but there you are."
With filmmaker James Gunn coming up in the horror world, now he's doing the Guardians movies and there's the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special coming up, is there a chance we'll have a familiar face popping up in that?
I'm a huge fan of James Gunn, there's no doubt about that. I've seen all of his stuff, from Slither through the Guardians movies, and I think he's great. We touched base because one Sunday night, I discovered he said something on Twitter and I replied back to him, he was answering a question, he said, "I suppose I could ask Mark, I hear he's a neighbor of mine," which was news to me. So we went back and forth and it was great fun and I said, "I'd love to meet you, not only as a good neighbor, but also as an out-of-work actor." I was hardly subtle about it.
He came over with his girlfriend and spent the afternoon, we had a great time, but we never talked about me working for him or anything like that. He was just a friend. I'd never put him on the spot like that, so we'll see what happens. But he doesn't need me, his movies are really well cast and I just really enjoy watching them.
Well I will make sure to personally put him on the spot so you don't have to.
You're a kind man, Patrick, but I'm at the stage in my career where I'll be offered things and I'll say, "You know who'd be really good in this? Peter MacNicol." I start suggesting other actors because it was hard for me to go to The Machine. It was in Serbia, it was three months or something and I'm one of these people that loves puttering around the house, I have a nice, little, one-acre plot of land, I have my wife and my dogs and my pool, I really don't need anything else. I'm always saying, "I want to take it easy," and my agent says, "Stop talking like that! Get back to work!"
Hamill's episode of Creepshow is now streaming on Shudder.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.0comments