In the wake of last week’s huge Star Wars news, fans around the world have already begun exerting their collective Jedi mind powers to try to will Mark Hamill, the man who brought Luke Skywalker to life, into the just-announced next installment in the franchise, Episode VII. We’ll have to wait a while to see if that’s in the cards—the film isn’t due in theaters until 2015, and for the moment, Hamill says he knows nothing about what’s planned. In the meantime, though, fans can check the 61-year-old actor out in a role that’s a galaxy far, far away from Star Wars, playing an unnervingly creepy member of a gang of criminals in the upcoming dark, twisty, hyperviolent thriller Sushi Girl.
In first-time director Kern Saxton’s film—which will be available on demand on Nov. 27 and hits theaters next January—Hamill’s Crow gets up to some evil business that might make even Darth Vader blush under his helmet, employing brutal interrogation techniques (including an involuntary tooth extraction) as he tries to learn the whereabouts of some missing diamonds from an accomplice following a heist gone wrong. Read what Hamill has to say about the film—which co-stars Tony Todd, James Duval, Noah Hatahaway, and Andy Mackenzie and features cameos from fanboy favorites Sonny Chiba, Michael Biehn, and Danny Trejo—and check out its latest trailer below.
EW: How did you get involved in Sushi Girl?
Mark Hamill: They sent me the script and I read it—and look, I’ve been married to a dental hygienist for more than 30 years, so when I read that [tooth-pulling] scene, I said, “Oh my God, I can’t do this!” [Laughs] I had one one of my sons read it and I asked him, “Is this too over-the-top violent?” He said, “No, not compared to Quentin Tarantino or some of the stuff that’s out there. It’s certainly not torture porn.” Then my daughter read it and she said, “Dad, you complain about not getting character roles. You complain you don’t get Philip Seymour Hoffman parts or Steve Buscemi parts or Woody Harrelson parts. If you turn this down, I don’t ever want to hear you complain about that again.” She sort of laid down the gauntlet. But it was intimidating. It’s edgy material. It’s not for everybody, but for people who like that sort of hard-edged, gritty underworld it portrays… I love that it doesn’t glamorous crime. It makes it look ugly like it is. It wasn’t easy to get me there, but once I committed [to do the movie], I was really glad I did.
You’re almost unrecognizable in this role. How did you arrive at the look of Crow?
I knew I wanted to do something radical. When people set eyes on me, I wanted them to say, “There’s something not right about that guy.” At first I said, “How about if I shave my head bald?” My wife was really against that, and then I also realized Tony Todd and I would both be cue balls. So then I thought, What if we go in the opposite direction? The long, scraggly hair is inappropriate on a guy Crow’s age. Maybe a 20-year-old surfer could pull it off, or someone in a grunge band, but there’s something about it on him that’s just off. But I’ll tell you, once you get into that gear and you look in the mirror, Hamill is gone and Crow is there. It’s wonderful—it’s like not having to take responsibility for your behavior because you’re lost in the character.
So it makes it easier to, say, hammer chopsticks into a guy’s thigh, for example?
[Laughs] Oh, I cringe at that stuff. That’s another thing—I thought, Is there going to be a really grim atmosphere on the set because of the malevolent hijinks these characters get up to? But it was just the opposite: We all got along so well and there was a lot of levity. We felt like it was the little movie that could.
You obviously became famous playing one of the most iconic heroes in movie history, but between this and doing the voice of the Joker on the animated Batman series, you seem to be having a great time lately playing villains. Is it more fun playing bad guys?
They’re so provocative—you get to do things you’d never do in your own life—so in that sense, I would say yes. The Joker is off-the-charts fun because, not being seen, you’re completely liberated to make gigantic choices you would never make on camera. Also, villains don’t really think of themselves as bad people. The Joker thinks of himself as an unrecognized, unappreciated comic genius. And Crow has his own set of ethics, which is unknowable to us. I feel like I lucked out with Sushi Girl. It was out of my comfort zone. But anything that pushes you out of that comfort zone is well worth going after.