Mark Hamill finally went over to the dark side of the Force.
Jason Reitman’s live-read of The Empire Strikes Back last night brought two surprise guests to the roster of actors recreating the Star Wars sequel. Hamill, who was once Luke Skywalker himself (and will be again) joined the group to play none other than The Emperor.
Hamill, an acclaimed voice actor who has done countless animated shows, also read the lines for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, doing spot-on imitations of each, while The Office‘s Rainn Wilson, sporting a bushy beard and lumberjack-style checked shirt, played Chewbacca — and only Chewbacca.
Needless to say, there was a lot of roaring.
Here are some more photos from the performance, which took place before a live audience of 1,600 fans.
Whiplash star J.K. Simmons marched onstage to perform the part of Darth Vader flanked by Stormtroopers as John Williams’ score for the Imperial March played over the sound system.
The troopers in attendance were part of the 501st Legion, a group of volunteers that shows up in Star Wars regalia for charity events, children’s hospitals, and many other events that need a galactic security presence.
Hamill was the last to be introduced, and ran on stage to throw his arms around Simmons and Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul, who was playing Luke Skywalker.
Before long, he was hugging every member of the cast before settling into his seat beside Wilson, who spent the night trying not to laugh as he roared and growled his way through his lines.
Reitman’s Live-Reads series, which is produced through the group Film Independent, always takes place with actors lined up on stage beneath a giant screen, which shows scenery from the film to orient the audience to their place in the story.
In this shot, the Millennium Falcon attempts to elude an Imperial Star Destroyer after escaping the clash on Hoth.
Reitman, who always reads the stage direction from the script, did his own whistling-hum to play R2-D2, sitting beside Hello Ladies actor Stephen Merchant, who brought exasperated British fussiness to C-3PO.
The Up in the Air and Men, Women and Children filmmaker has often tried to add a twist to the familiar characters in his Live-Read series. In years past, he has done versions of the all-white Reservoir Dogs with an entirely black cast (starring Laurence Fishburne, Terrence Howard, and Cuba Gooding Jr.), and an all-female version of the testosterone-powered Glengarry Glen Ross (with Robin Wright, Catherine O’Hara, and Carla Gugino.)
Kevin Pollak delivered a disturbingly accurate impression of tiny, green Jedi master Yoda (who was described as blue in the original screenplay.) Pollak imitated Frank Oz’s vocal performance right down to the snorts and cackles as he ransacks Luke’s rations.
Some attendees arrived in full costume. These Stormtrooper scouts are early in more ways than one. (They don’t appear in the Star Wars films until Return of the Jedi.)
Next page: Ellen Page as Han Solo, and the kiss …
Casting his Juno star Page as a distaff version of Han Solo added a new layer to the reluctant romance blossoming between the smuggler and Princess Leia.
When Solo is about to be put into the carbonite freezing chamber, the script calls for the two characters to share a stolen kiss.
The actors paused, but someone in the audience shouted, “Do it!!”
That got a laugh, but Reitman said the next few lines were too important for a joke. That’s the famous: “I love you …”/”I know” exchange.
After the reading, Reitman, Paul, and Alba (pictured above) joined the rest of the cast in signing posters designed for the evening by artist Matt Owen.
Instead of “Episode V,” the five is represented by Luke Skywalker’s severed hand.