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Luke Skywalker quietly walks aboard the Millennium Falcon, alone. His old friends are gone. His old life is gone. He is ghostlike himself.
The old Luke Skywalker is gone, too.
That’s a scene from the latest trailer for The Last Jedi (see it here), but in real life, visiting the set of the old Corellian freighter was a similarly haunting experience for Mark Hamill.
“I’m telling you, I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had,” the 66-year-old actor tells EW. “I was there with my family, with [my children] Nathan and Griffin and Chelsea and my wife Marilou, and [Lucasfilm] asked if the documentary crew could be there when I came back on the Millennium Falcon. I mean, this was not on the shooting day. I was just street clothes and going to visit that set. And I said, ‘Sure.’”
It didn’t take long for it to overwhelm him. “It was sort of like visiting an old house that you lived in when you were a kid,” he says. “I mean, I just welled up with emotion and I said, ‘I need to be by myself.’”
When the others left, the actor reacted much the way Luke does in the scene. He looked around, took it in. Let it hit him.
“They had recreated it down to every last detail that I remember. The oil drips, the hanging pipes, just everything. The dice in the cockpit,” he said.
The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson says that shot of Luke venturing into the Falcon was one of the first days of shooting with Hamill at Pinewood Studios.
“God, I remember so vividly getting that shot of him turning on the lights in the Falcon cockpit,” Johnson says. The cockpit set is an enclosed space, so every crew member on set was huddled around the video monitors to see it unfold. “And we all kind of looked at each other, just like, ‘Oh my God.”
It was an emotional scene, but not especially jubilant. “There’s a lot of melancholy,” Johnson says. “You know, that ship is just filled with ghosts for Luke.”
The only funny thing is … the character never even liked the ship. In our interview, Hamill recreated the famous line Luke utters after laying eyes on Han Solo’s ride in the original 1977 movie:
“‘What a piece of junk!’ you know?” the actor says. But that beat up old ship means a great deal to people, in that fictional galaxy and beyond. Seeing that set once more in real life made Hamill realize how much.
“All of this, happening to me again was… it’s hard to put into words,” Hamill says. “I figured when the prequels came out, plus a few years, people would forget about us. But it never really went away.”
Instead, it’s stronger than ever. For years, fans have been approaching Hamill, telling him what these movies mean to them. “People have these stories they tell you, you know, about how [Star Wars] helped them through hard times. Or they met their wife in line for this [movie], and were married by that one, and had a child by that one.”
Revisiting the Millennium Falcon made Hamill realize that he can mark his life by the Star Wars movies, too. It’s going to be harder for him to hear those stories now.
“I feel like, you know, I need to calm things down because it’s one of those things that if you start crying, I’ll start crying,” he says. “So, stop it.”