That disturbance in the Force you sense is legions of Star Wars fans trembling in anticipation.
That’s because EW can exclusively announce that Mark Hamill will be a special guest in attendance at Star Wars Celebration VI, the largest convention on the planet for fans of that Galaxy Far, Far Away, during the weekend of August 23-26 in Orlando. “At Celebration, it feels like family,” says Hamill, who previously appeared on stage with George Lucas and Carrie Fisher at Celebration V in 2010. “There was so much love in the room for all of the characters, for the movies, for the Empire that George has built. I really felt at home.”
At that event, Hamill introduced an alternate opening to Return of the Jedi. This time around, Lucasfilm is guarding details like a Hutt clutching his stash of spice, but it is confirmed that the man forever known to fans as Luke Skywalker will participate in a “stage show.” EW caught up with Hamill about the 35th anniversary of Star Wars, how he’s seen fandom — and his own relationship to Luke — change during that time, how he wanted to return to the role of Luke Skywalker in a fourth Star Wars film, and what he thought when he heard that George Lucas is retiring. Check out his full Q&A, plus some exclusive art that’s been created for the fest, after the break.
EW: The fans gave you a rapturous reception at Celebration V in 2010. Does it ever amaze you that they’re still so passionate?
MARK HAMILL: No, I totally get it. I remember when I was eight years old and saw King Kong on TV for the first time, and I became obsessed with that movie. It was so tragic to me. The poor animal brought to Manhattan and shot down by planes. But it never ceases to amaze me just how passionate Star Wars fans are. It’s actually moving. At the last Celebration I spoke before an auditorium full of people and I could just feel the affection and the positive feelings that they were exuding. It was actually moving. I remember thinking, “I’m not worthy,” because Star Wars is so much bigger than all of us. It’s not something that I’m reminded of every day, so to see that fandom in all its raw glory was overwhelming.
EW: How have you seen Star Wars fandom evolve since A New Hope came out 35 years ago?
Well, the biggest thing is just how the material involved has expanded so much, with the prequels, novels, games, comic books…it goes on and on. Meaning that the fans outclass me when it comes to the lore. My son now knows more about the minutia than I do. When I was involved with Star Wars, I was very interested in all the backstories, and I used to pepper George with all kinds of questions about anything that crossed my mind, because I was very, very into it. But when the job came to an end, I had to move on. I didn’t flush my memory banks, but I didn’t continue to follow it as closely as the really passionate fans have. So I don’t try to fool them into thinking I’m an expert anymore. I’ll mention the scene where the medical droids are working on me, and “2-1B!” they’ll scream.
NEXT: Hamill shares his favorite moments from the original trilogy and how he always wanted to make a fourth Star Wars film.
EW: What’s the greatest tribute to Luke Skywalker you’ve ever received from a fan?
When trick-or-treaters come to my door, little ones, like 3- and 4-year-olds, who have no idea who I am but are dressed like Luke. And then on the extreme end, you have people sporting tattoos of your likeness. It’s funny, though…as I’ve gotten older I don’t think I look anything like Luke anymore. My son looks more like me in those movies than I do at this point.
EW: How has your own relationship with Luke evolved? Have you ever wanted to revisit that character?
Luke was an interesting character because he evolved so much over the three films from kind of a whiny teenager into a self-assured and formidable Jedi Knight, so there was an arc to him. He really changed, especially in The Empire Strikes Back. That’s probably my favorite because it was so cerebral and there was the spiritual aspect of Yoda. It was with mixed feelings, then, that I left the series, because, even though it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, I had only just become a Jedi when it finished. It’d be like telling the story of how James Bond becomes a Double-0 agent, yet the story ends as soon as he gets his license to kill. Part of me always longed to do just one more film and see what Luke would be like now that he’s on the level of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the student having become the master. But it was not meant to be.
EW: What’s your favorite memory of shooting the original trilogy?
It’s impossible to narrow it down to one moment. But among the moments, I loved swinging across the Death Star chasm with the princess under my arm. That moment in Star Wars was, to me, what it felt like playing Robin Hood or Zorro or Superman when I was a kid. Only I was getting paid for it! I also loved meeting Yoda for the first time. Working with Frank Oz was so terrific, and I believed so much in that character. Yoda wasn’t a puppet. He was real to me.
NEXT: Hamill’s reaction to the news that he’d won a BAFTA Award…and that George Lucas is retiring.
EW: What crossed your mind when you heard that George Lucas is retiring?
Celebration V was the last time I saw George, actually. No, I still don’t believe it. I can’t see how that could be. How do you just say, “I’m retired now”? He’s too creative and too engaged…I don’t know, maybe I’m in denial. I think he’ll always care and always have something that he wants to do. Sure, everyone deserves a little vacation from the rat race that we’re all involved in, but I guess I just can’t really accept it. It just doesn’t feel real to me. Did Walt Disney ever retire?
EW: You just won a BAFTA for voicing the other pop culture icon you’re associated with, the Joker, in Batman: Arkham City. Did you ever expect that kind of recognition?
I’m rarely surprised by this business anymore, but I certainly didn’t expect to win a BAFTA, believe me. I had been nominated many times for other awards because of playing the Joker, but I’d never actually won anything. Just the fact that Arkham Asylum and Arkham City had become among the most popular games of all time was recognition enough. So I was taken aback when they said, “You’re nominated for a BAFTA.” I went, “Oh, that’s nice.” I didn’t even consider flying all the way to England, though, because I never thought I’d win. But I won. So I told my wife, “Maybe that’s the key. If you don’t show up, you’ll win.”
EW: Do you still feel the support of the fans in your non-Star Wars endeavors?
There’s no telling how they support what it is that I’m doing currently. At Celebration VI, I’ll get to talk about Sushi Girl, this noir gangster film I did, where I play a character very, very different from Luke. I want to get the word out because it’s a modestly budgeted film, and plugging into the Celebration crowd couldn’t be better for starting the word of mouth for that movie. It’s a little film and it can use all the help it can get.
EW: Is it ever challenging knowing that you’ll forever be associated with Luke above all the other characters you’ve played?
My friend John Ritter once said that even if he discovered the cure to some terrible disease, as he’d near the podium to receive the Nobel Prize they’d be playing the theme song to Three’s Company. I know exactly what he meant. People think being remembered most for one character is a negative thing, but I don’t. I never expected to be remembered for anything!
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