Mark Hamill did not anticipate that Star Wars would become a cultural cornerstone when he originally signed up to play Luke Starkiller. He didn’t even think he was going to be play the lead role!
“I got that part without having read the entire script. I got a scene,” said Hamill. “First of all, there was a cattle call, where everybody in town that’s the right age goes in and they look at your size, your height, your looks, your this, your that. And you talk back and forth. They interview you, you don’t really hear them talk about the movie.
“And then you get the scene, you do the scene, and I’m trying to figure out, ‘Wait a second. Is this straightforward? Is it kind of a parody or an ironic sendup?’ I tested with Harrison [Ford] and I couldn’t [figure it out].
“George [Lucas] just said, ‘Well, look, let’s just do it and we’ll talk about it later.’ Which is classic George, because you learn later that he says, ‘Let’s just do it,’ and then he never talks about it later,” said Hamill.
The Adventures of Han Solo
Because the line of communication wasn’t exactly clear, Hamill said he had to piece a lot of things together on his own. And based on the testing, he figured that Ford’s character Han Solo was the lead.
“But when I finally got the part and they said they were sending the script over, I was living by myself in a one-bedroom on the beach in Malibu,” Hamill said. “It was before I was married. And I get the script and I sit down, and I’ll never forget the chair I was sitting in, facing the ocean.
“I open the title page and it says, ‘The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as Taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga Number One: The Star Wars.’ And I thought, “Wait a second…” Because when I tested, I figured Harrison’s a leading man. So I thought, ‘I’m playing his sidekick, right?’
That’s when Hamill realized he had snagged the lead role in the film, and he became captivated by Lucas’ story.
“Reading it, I’m going, ‘Wait a second. Wasn’t I reading for Luke Starkiller? This can’t be right.’ Anyway, I started reading it and you can imagine. I mean, ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.’ Then you read the crawl and you’re right in the action. It’s just such an economical example of storytelling.”
The character's name was changed to Luke Skywalker and the film's title was streamlined to Star Wars before filming began, but the structure of that story was always there.prevnext
The Wonderful Wizard of Tatooine
The actor recalled how he initially felt the story had comparisons to the cinematic classic based on L. Frank Baum’s classic novel.
“Well, you know, an hour later I’m just floating above that chair thinking, ‘My gosh!’ One of my favorite films of all time is The Wizard of Oz and that sort of reminded me of it,” Hamill said. “You know, if Dorothy were a boy instead of a girl getting swept off his boring desert planet, or Kansas, into a fantastical world where there’s a phantasmagorical collection of creatures and robots and villains and heroes. I was just astonished.”
The scope and scale of the script made Hamill question how the visuals in the film would be accomplished.
“I thought, ‘How are they going to do this? The floating cars and the light swords…’ It took me a while to get all the terminology. People freak out — They’re lightsabers! Well, I know that now.”0comments
It might have taken George Lucas years to achieve his initial vision, but it was smashing success. And over 40 years later, Mark Hamill gets to reprise the role that made him an icon.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters December 15.