Mark Hamill's new role: comic-book geek -- The ''Star Wars'' veteran directs and stars in a mockumentary about a super-fan of a superhero

By Liane Bonin
Updated January 31, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Mark Hamill: Gregg DeGuire/

Comic Book: The Movie

  • Movie

Luke, you are…a director. Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker of the original ”Star Wars” trilogy, has stepped behind the camera to direct the straight-to-DVD feature ”Comic Book: The Movie” (in stores). The mockumentary follows Don Swan (Hamill), a diehard fan of the comic ”Commander Courage,” on his quest to expose Hollywood’s less-than-noble motives in bringing the character to the big screen. spoke to Hamill, 52, about cranky comedy icons and why he can relate to the cast of ”The Wizard of Oz” — but not his most memorable film role.

You have a cavalcade of celebrities making cameos in this film, including Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Hugh Hefner, and Sid Caesar. How was it working with them?
Sid Caesar, talk about catching him in the wrong mood. Five minutes after meeting him, he said to me: ”I have to be honest with you. If you want a funny movie, the director has to be funny. And, frankly, you’re not funny.” Then he said that if he didn’t do funny voices, he wasn’t funny. I said, ”You didn’t do any funny voices in ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’; I don’t think director Stanley Kramer was known as a barrel of laughs; and by the way, do you validate?” And I handed him my parking ticket. He smiled and agreed to be in the movie, God bless him. And he’s wonderful in it.

Your character, Don Swan, is a comics fan worried that Hollywood will ruin his favorite character. Can you relate?
I will say that comic books are not the easiest things to translate to film, number one. Even the most well meaning of filmmakers find what’s acceptable on the printed page is very difficult to bring to film. Having said that, there have been so many recent brilliant examples of how it can be done. But it’s ironic I’m doing this, because I was actually introduced to comics by seeing the George Reeves ”Superman” series as a child on television, which I loved.

You’ve had an uphill struggle trying to bring your own graphic novel, ”The Black Pearl,” to the screen. Was that the inspiration for ”Comic Book”?
Absolutely. It’s incredible to me that I came up with the movie idea for ”Black Pearl” more than 15 years ago and it still hasn’t been made. But it’s been problematic because it’s a comic tragedy, it’s not a set up for a franchise, and I wanted to shoot it like ”A Hard Day’s Night.” It almost got made with Aaron Spelling’s company, and another company bought me out. I thought, is this what happens to most movie projects? No wonder people go insane in this town. But now we’ve rewritten it and called it ”Dark Diamond.”

Are you as much of a comic book fan as Swan?
That’s certainly an amplification of a part of me. When I was single and working on soaps and TV series, I was buying books. So I’ve seen the hobby evolve over the years to the point where it’s like collecting original art. But I’ve gotten a lot of it out of my system. And I couldn’t really go to a comics convention unless I’m there for a promotional thing.

But you had to attend the Comic-con in San Diego in character to film this movie. Did fans freak out?
I was sort of in disguise, but word got out very quickly. But fans are very willing to play along. I told them, if you call me Mark, I can’t use the footage, but if you call me Donald or Mr. Swan, you could be in the movie. Other than that, they could do anything, even look in the camera and say ”Hi, Mom.” Nothing they did was wrong.

So, have you always wanted to direct?
If I were somebody who had access to the best material out there, we might not be having this conversation. But I’m not. Still, I’ve invested well and saved my money so that when I work on something, it’s going to be something I really want to do.

Do you ever get sick of people saying, ”Luke, I am your father”?
It’s all good-natured. It’s probably the way Bert Lahr felt about being in ”The Wizard of Oz.” At this point I’m not signing any more ”Star Wars” stuff, though, and I’m in the middle of this horrible fraudulent-memorabilia market. My kids always point out my phony signatures on eBay. As for ”Star Wars,” I loved it, but it’s in my past. I don’t know how to deal with it or even really relate to it anymore. I think it’s great they have the new ones coming out and they’re great successes, but what does it mean to me? Mazel tov to George Lucas, of course, but I’m looking to the future.

Comic Book: The Movie

  • Movie
  • Mark Hamill