On his new show, he collects collectors

Credit: Chris Williamson/Getty Images

Mark Hamill is a little tired. “It’s been 6 a.m. calls every morning, and I have another one tomorrow,” laughs the actor, who’s calling from England, where he’s working on the as-yet-untitled eighth film in the Star Wars series. “I’m taking to showering the night before, so I just roll out of bed 15 minutes before, and then go straight to the studio.”

It turns out that Hamill’s brief appearance as Luke Skywalker in last year’s The Force Awakens was the beginning of a busy period for the actor. He’s voicing the Joker in this summer’s highly-anticipated animated adaptation of The Killing Joke. And he’s also front-and-center in a new series that will debut on Comic-Con HQ, the new video-on-demand service created by Comic-Con International and Lionsgate. Hamill took a break to talk about his hopes for Pop Culture Quest, a conversation that invariably led to Beatles panty hose.

I know that you haven’t started filming the show yet, so what’s your vision for Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest?

I’ve been approached over the years to host this kind of show or that kind of show. Usually space-related, obviously, or about UFOs or paranormal activity. Those are things that all interest me, but it’s not like I’ve ever had a paranormal experience. I’d love to see a ghost, but I’ve never seen one. I’d love to see a UFO, I’ve never seen one.

Howard Kazanjian was the producer of Return of the Jedi, and he also produced Raiders of the Lost Ark. We’ve stayed friends over the years. He’s been over to my house, and he’s seen my collection of toys, games, puppets, plastic model kits, rock & roll memorabilia, Beatles memorabilia, and all that. I’ve collected so much, we’re at the point where my wife said we have to get storage space to sort all this stuff. I said, “I don’t want to have to go visit my stuff in a garage! This is really getting out of hand!” I stopped collecting the actual items. I started collecting catalogues, and coffee table books with photographs of what I like: vintage toys, and the like.

He noticed what a passion I have for it, and said: “This is the kind of show we should do, something that you care about.” It seemed to me that [the show] would be the perfect extension of my hobby, without having to collect the physical items. This will give me the license to go and look at other people’s collections. Even if it’s not something I collect specifically. There’s a likeminded camaraderie that you have with other collectors. When I directed Jonathan Winters in Comic Book: The Movie, he invited me up to his place in Santa Barbara. He had this amazing Civil War memorabilia, was showing me all these vintage political signs. It was as thrilling to me as looking at all the things I personally collect.

To use a Dick Van Dyke term, I’m a pathological snoopy-nose. I love seeing what other people collect, and I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun. We’re gonna do a dozen of these [episodes], and see where it leads. I’m just gonna have a lot of fun, and hopefully the audience will, too.

Is each episode focused on a specific collection?

There’s no real marching orders. The shows will be anywhere from a minimum of a 11 minutes to a maximum of 18. Some of these collections, you think, “How are we going to get this all in in such a short period of time?” I am going up to Stratford-on-Avon here in England. A friend of mine owns a comic book store up there. I thought we should get some local color in there. We might even go to the Sgt. Bilko Museum. This is all tentative. It’s hard for me to focus on two things at once, and with Episode VIII going on, it’s overwhelming. I forgot how involved these kinds of movies are. But I’m going to do one or two [episodes] here in England, and once I get back to the States that leaves 10 or 11, and we’ll see where it takes us!

I have a pretty good Beatles memorabilia, but I want to go to the person who has the ultimate Beatles collection. Or even get into esoteric stuff. The Rolling Stones have far less memorabilia, because it was a counterculture band, it didn’t go supernova in terms of teenyboppers wanting to buy the Beatles Flip Your Wig game. But that’s the fun of it. I’m gonna be exploring. Cereal boxes, lunch boxes! There’s just so much out there! I love boardgames, I have a pretty good collection, and the goofier the better. I wasn’t particularly a fan of, say, Green Acres, but I’d love to have the Green Acres game.

One of my favorite things is TV memorabilia. The Patty Duke game. Mr. Ed. That’s my era, you know, ’60s and ’70s television. But I’m also a huge fan of the black-and-white era. So I’m gonna use this show to vicariously collect through other people’s collections. I have that tendency, when I go into other people’s bathrooms, I always look in their medicine cabinet. I always ask, “Can I look in your refrigerator?” Most people say yes. I think you learn a lot about people from looking in their refrigerators and their medicine cabinets. I really think collectibles are a historical artifact, specific to a time and place, and you can really learn about people from the things people collected in any given era. But I don’t want to scare people off: You might learn something, but mostly it’s just gonna be fun.

Of all the things in your own collection, what do you point to as being the most glorious, or the stuff you keep out in the main room?

Some of the oddball Beatles things, like the Beatles nylon stockings, girl’s hose. The pattern on them is the four moptops. I’ve never actually seen them on a person. There’s always a Holy Grail of whatever collection it is. I don’t even have the Beatles Talc, which is in a metal tin with their faces on it. It was like Talcum Powder. I don’t have that. It’s out there somewhere. That’s what I’m gonna find out.

I want it to be eye candy. And part of the fun of collecting is meeting the people. The people are as interesting as the collections. They have an eccentricity that’s fun to be around.

This is debuting on Comic-Con HQ. Do you have plans to bring this series to Comic-Con this year?

It doesn’t look like I’m gonna be able to make it this year, because of the shooting schedule here. I don’t get back until the third week in July. I wanted to go, because that’s where they’re gonna premiere The Killing Joke, and [Batman voice] Kevin Conroy is gonna be there. I’d love to see it with an audience. But it doesn’t look like my schedule’s gonna allow it this year. My major obligation right now, obviously, is to Episode VIII.

It sounds like you may be saying something in this movie, then!

I can’t confirm or deny.