Star Wars archive: Mark Hamill - reader questions

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This article first appeared in Empire Magazine, Issue #149 (November 2001).

He's the voice of The Joker, and Cock-Knocker in Kevin Smith's new movie, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back. But all you lot want is to ask Mark Hamill about some movie called Star Wars...

Mark Hamill

Were you looking forward to The Phantom Menace as much as everyone else?


Oh yeah. So much time went by. When we finished the last one we did, I was curmudgeonly thinking, "Alright, when the new guys come in they're not using my lightsaber. Get them their own lightsabers!" I think you find the right balance so you're respectful of everyone who really cares, but you don't want to make it appear as though you're some pathetic old guy shuffling around in his slippers going (mumbles like old guy in slippers), “Yeah, I used to have the Force. The Force was with me, dang it!”

I rescued the princess from the Death Star. My goal now is to rescue George from Skywalker Ranch.

How did Kevin Smith pitch your part in Jay And Silent Bob Strike back to you?


Listen, I turned down so many things that play on this very same thing. But this very same thing. But this is special. The only time I would've considered it before was when Mel Brooks did Spaceballs. He didn't ask me to do anything, but I thought, "If he asks me, I probably will." Just because I love Mel Brooks so much. But he didn't ask me, so that wasn't a problem. But by avoiding all those kind of derivative send-ups, I was being careful so that when I did do it, it would be more meaningful. And this was the one, because it was Kevin. He has such a great affection for Star Wars.

Do you ever envy Harrison Ford's success at all?


Well, I don't know. All I know is that I've consistently worked in the fields I want to work in. If people want to judge me and say, "Well, gee, he's not as successful as Harrison," that doesn't make any sense to me 'cause Harrison is so unique and so good, I could never be Harrison.

Mark, are you sick with jealousy that you never became a big star?


I'm torn between wanting to do more and be acknowledged more, and on the other hand, I'm so lucky. I'm still married to the same woman after 23 years; my kids don't hate me. It's being grateful for what you have, but still wanting to achieve more. That's probably where I am. Some people say (laughing), "You should be really upset about Star Wars," and I don't understand why. Maybe I should be, but I'm not.

Mark Hamill

Let’s not pull any punches, did you think The Phantom Menace was anywhere near as good as it could have been?


Well, I don't know. From what I understand, The Phantom Menace was more popular than the earlier films. I guess the expectations were so beyond belief because people had waited for so long. I get very defensive because I'm not really connected with these new pictures, but people on the street will criticise it and I sort of get upset. It's like, it's okay for me to criticize Jar Jar, but I don't want to hear that from someone else. What I say is, "It's okay to criticise, but be constructive." In other words, if I were to talk to George [Lucas] - and I will - I'd say to him, "One of the greatest advantages that the earlier pictures had, which the new picture did not have, was a voice of scepticism." We had someone in there going, (snorts) "The Force, are you kidding me? I'm just here for the money. " When I heard Samuel L. Jackson was going to be in it, I said, "He's gonna be the guy going, 'Hey, I ain't goin' in that water.'" I thought he'd be all scared and cheating people and getting chicks. Instead, he's the like the Pope or something. Everybody's so serious! They're all, (rich, portentous voice) "The trade routes must remain open." I mean, sheesh! Lighten up!

Everybody's so serious! They're all, "The trade routes must remain open." I mean, sheesh! Lighten up!

What's the best thing you managed to nick from the Star Wars sets?


Oh, you mean props and stuff. I got the lightsaber and I've got the helmet I saved the Princess in. Do I wear it round the house? No!

When you found out that Luke and Leia were siblings, did you puke?!! And don't you think that they were just a little TOO calm when they found out? I mean, a sequel would surely have to be called, 'Star Wars Episode VII: The Therapy Sessions'?


Hey, what a good-news-bad-news joke that was. Good news: there's a really attractive princess in the galaxy and you get to save her planet. Bad news: (whispers) she's your sister.

Did you ever think you were a somewhat unusual choice to play The Joker?


When I went in for that I just thought, "Yeah: if I was gonna be The Joker, here's how I'd do it, based on the drawings." I read the lines and then when I got the part, a friend of mine called me up and said, "Boy, that's pretty brave. I wouldn't want to follow Jack Nicholson in a part." And I thought, "My God! I am! Oh No! Now I don't wanna do it." Because (in superb Nicholson voice), if all they want is a Jack soundalike, why not get Christian Slater? But the fans love it because it's well-written and it's more based on the comic books than the film.

Mark Hamill

What was your obsession with the OJ Simpson trial? Didn't you sit in on some of the sessions?


Well, the character in the Black Pearl (the comic he wrote for Dark Horse Comics) who goes out and does all these things is a court stenographer. I thought a guy that just sits there and takes in all the horrible things that people get up to, if he just absorbs it all, it's believable that he may go and do something drastic. So it was absolutely honest. But the other half of it was, I was just mesmerized. It was soooo everything! Just everything! If there hadn't been two dead bodies in the ground it would've been the most entertaining thing I've ever seen in my life. And every time you thought you'd seen the last goofball, then the next one shows up. I thought, "No-one's going to top Kato Kalin." And then you'd get the guy who was the shoe expert, or the glove expert who worked at Bloomingdales.

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be and why?


It'd be minor things. I did a play in New York with this woman who was so unhappy and she was so mean every night. I thought, "Why am I doing this? It's just eight times a week of misery." But I look back at that and I think, "Well, maybe I was supposed to suffer."

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars

Did Star Wars make you rich?


I said to my wife, Marilou, a while ago, "We should either think about adopting or providing money for needy children." Because we're so okay financially, and there's so much need in the world, especially for children. Star Wars provided the basis for that, but I also had a really good deal on Wing Commander. I said, "You know what, I'll take way less up front if I can have real points." So on Wing Commander I took a 50 per cent salary cut from what they offered me, but they gave me real points. And even they were surprised because we had a $12 million opening day. I thought, "Gee whizz, if I could have movies open like this, I'd actually have a career."

Ever wanted to say, "Would you shut up about Star Wars for ten minutes?"


(laughs) Sure, that happens. But a lot of the time it's the way you encounter it. If it's one-on-one with fans, it's so genuine. And it's hard to be really cynical when a six-year-old is looking at you like you're a cross between Santa Claus and Superman. It's more difficult if you're trying to, say, publicise a play, like an off-Broadway play. It’s a 200-seat house and all these people are depending on it for their livelihood, and you go to a press conference and it's, "Did you sleep with Carrie Fisher?"

If you could change something in the new Star Wars movies, what would it be?


Someone asked me if I liked Phantom Menace. I said, "I thought it was amazing, what did you think?" He said, "I hated it. I thought it was soulless and unfunny and everyone was too serious." Now, at one time, as we all know, I rescued the princess from the Death Star. My goal now is to rescue George from Skywalker Ranch. He's surrounded himself - and it's not anybody's fault, it's just the way things are. He's running this empire where, from the minute he gets up to when he lays his head on the pillow, people are angling for his time. I used to go up there and he'd go, "You know what? I'm bored with this, let's go get a cheeseburger." And we'd hop in the car. Well, now, come on! There's no way. You sit down with him and the clock starts. And people come up to him and it's, (whispers, as you would in someone's ear) "George, we have the merchandisers from Belgium at 11:15, and then we have the DVD people, and the Universal executives." Since I have nothing to say I go, "CUT THIS GUY SOME SLACK! The Darth Vader vibrators can wait!"

It's hard to be really cynical when a six-year-old is looking at you like you're a cross between Santa Claus and Superman.

With whom did you have the best relationship with during the filming of the Star Wars trilogy?


You heard about Harrison taking a saw to the Millennium Falcon because he got so mad? People were coming up to me. going, "You gotta stop Harrison, he's sawing up the Falcon." It was made of wood and he just took a saw to it. I love Harrison. I got to stop him because I can make him laugh when he gets really, really mad. And I had no stake in it. He was with Carrie and I was still hanging out with Yoda. He's hilarious. I told him, "If you ever play anyone that's flawed, you'll win an Oscar." But he has this really specific way he wants to be seen, and I think that's too bad because he's really funny. He's got a wonderfully wacky sense of humour. I'll give you an example. This disco song that goes, 'More, more, more, how d'ya like it, how d'ya like it', remember that? We used to love really bad pop songs, so whenever that song would come on I'd run and turn it on. And he'd come into my dressing room and start dancing. 'More, more, more...' (gets up and starts prancing around the room, like a dancin' fool). But the minute somebody comes to the door, he'd stop dead and stand there. (As Harrison Ford) 'Yeah, okay, I'll be down to the set in a minute.' As soon as the door closes, it's, 'Get the action gain'!' (throwing himself around the room in a disco frenzy). He'd only do it around me.