It has to be emphasized right at the start: this is not part of the official Star Wars narrative. But it’s something fans can think about in the back of their minds as they watch Mark Hamill’s return as Luke Skywalker.
Basically, it’s what was in the back of his mind.
Hamill has revealed some of the history he created himself to get into the mindset of an older, broken, and weary Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi.
Since it’s not canon, there’s no need for a spoiler warning. Instead, here’s a heartbreak warning: the actor devised an absolutely wrenching experience for one particular chapter in the character’s life after the events of Return of the Jedi.
“Actors like backstories. They want to know motivation and all those things, and it’s such a blank slate,” says Hamill, who has become so entwined with the character over four decades that he sometimes references himself and Luke interchangeably. “You know, if you look at it intellectually, I realized that it’s not my story anymore and so what [Luke] did or did not do in the intervening years aren’t really important to the audience at this point, but I have to work it out for myself.”
Hamill is probably wrong about that. Luke’s history is extremely important to Star Wars fans. But most of the books and comics about Luke that were written as part of the Expanded Universe are now decanonized and classified by Lucasfilm as “Legends.”
That’s why the actor felt he had leeway to imagine his own version of what happened to Luke during that in-between time.
“I wrote lots and lots of scenarios,” Hamill says. “I made notes that he fell in love with a woman who was a widow and had this young child.”
The monk-like Jedi aren’t supposed to have personal relationships, so Hamill says Luke would have temporarily left the order during this time. We know from The Force Awakens that he would later return and found a training academy for new Jedi (which had its own tragic end when his nephew, Ben Solo, fell to the dark side and returned to destroy the school as the monstrous Kylo Ren).
But this long-before imaginary relationship with the widow also had an unhappily ever after for Luke.
“He left the Jedi to raise this young child and marry this woman,” Hamill says. “And the child got hold of a lightsaber and accidentally killed himself.”
That’s darker and more painful than anything fans might guess about the hero, but to Hamill, it would have created the grief and guilt he could imagine leading Luke back on a redemption-seeking path. And it also might explain why the character is hesitant about holding a lightsaber again.
“It’s nothing to do with the story, but when I think about gun violence and you read these tragic stories of kids getting hold of their parents’ guns and killing a sibling or themselves, I mean, I had to go to really dark places to get where Luke needed to be for this story,” the actor says.
Again, this was just an acting tool, so you won’t hear this tale revealed in The Last Jedi or anywhere else. But Hamill said he would consult with writer-director Rian Johnson just to make sure the heavy emotions and turmoil he was generating inside Luke’s head hit the right tone.
“I sort of tested out some of my ideas just to make sure I wasn’t in conflict with anything,” Hamill says. “He was really nurturing in that regard, encouraging me to find ways to justify the actions in this movie. But like I say, that little story I told about Luke leaving the Jedi and getting married, that’s not officially what happens.”
If Star Wars fans think Mark Hamill was being unduly harsh with his character, take heart in this — the actor cares so much about Luke that he’s creating his own legends.