Star Wars Celebration: Mark Hamill talks of being ‘drafted’ for ‘The Force Awakens’

April 19, 2015 | 8:37 a.m.
Actor Mark Hamill at the opening of Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim on April 16, 2015. ( Jesse Grant / Getty / Disney)

Actor Mark Hamill at the opening of Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim on April 16, 2015. ( Jesse Grant / Getty / Disney)

Mark Hamill, who portrayed young Jedi Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy of “Star Wars” films, offered a chilling alternate timeline for this December’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the seventh film in core space fantasy saga. What if he said no?

Speaking Saturday night at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Hamill regaled a packed auditorium with tales of “Star Wars” past and present. Hamill spoke of how “Star Wars” creator George Lucas first broached the subject of a new trilogy of films, shared details about the difficulty of working with a Jedi Master puppet in Yoda and said he initially viewed “The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams with a hint of suspicion.

The talk brought to a close the the third day of the four-day fan expo, one that over the course of the weekend has featured droid races, speed dating, costume contests, a tattoo alley and a whole lot of merchandise. Prior to Hamill  taking to the main stage at Anaheim Convention Center his costars from the original trilogy Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels had led lively conversations.

While Hamill, sporting a leather jacket and socks branded with “Rocky and Bullwinkle” character Boris Badenov, joked that fans would have come for his head if he passed on “The Force Awakens,” he told festival attendees that he had no other option but to reprise his role of Luke Skywalker.

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"Star Wars" fans Sharon Jackson, left, dressed as Mission Vao, of Las Vegas, and Kyle Jackson, dressed as a Wookiee, pose for pictures during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans from the 501st Legion costume organization show off their Stormtrooper gear during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Costumed "Star Wars" fans Corin Zinninger as Darth Reuan, Sharon Jackson as Mission Vao, Kyle Jackson as a Wookiee, and Brennan Zinninger as Carth Onasi, all of Las Vegas, pose for pictures during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Costumed "Star Wars" fans pose with toy lightsabers during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration held at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Dressed as "Star Wars" character Oola, Moe Hunt of Chicago poses with Roxy the Rancor during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A "Star Wars" fan dressed as Darth Vader leads a parade of characters from the 501st Legion costume organization as they make a dramatic entrance into the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans from the 501st Legion costume organization show off their Stormtrooper gear as they make a dramatic entrance into the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans from the 501st Legion costume organization show off their Stormtrooper gear as they make a dramatic entrance into the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A security guard inspects "Star Wars" fan and Modesto resident Steve Gwin, a member of the worldwide 501st Legion costume organization, during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion costume organization parade through the halls of the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Charlotte Davis, 2, of San Diego, plays with bubbles from a bubble-making R2-D2 during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Danielle Young of Salem, Mass., is dressed as Princess Leia during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Molly Ingham of South Carolina shows off her costume -- "Frozen's" Queen Elsa as a Sith -- during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Molly Ingham, right, of South Carolina shows off her costume -- "Frozen's" Queen Elsa as a Sith -- during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans Anthony Lopez, left, of Sacramento and Torri Robbins, right, of Denver show off their Shadow Trooper costumes during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fan Anthony Lopez of Sacramento shows off his Shadow Trooper costume during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Jovan C. of Norco checks his phone while dressed as Luke Skywalker during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A man who goes by the name of "Hyper" poses as a beach-ready stormtrooper. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Actor, stuntman and performer Lucky McQueede of Santa Clarita performs as Darth Maul cyborg, right. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Youngsters learn how to use light sabers during a Jedi training seminar. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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The Hodge family: Kelly, Milo, 6, and Dave, of Nashville sport their homemade biker scouts outfits from "Return of the Jedi." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A Star Wars Celebration attendee enjoys an exhibit at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans view the Hot Wheels' Life-Size, 150-mph Darth Vader car, based on a C5 Chevrolet Corvette. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Dylan Stalker of Long Beach, dressed as a combination of a spartan and Boba Fett, stands next to a giant Jabba the Hutt model. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Stryder Brown of Los Angeles is the Hip Hop Trooper, whose pumping music gets him dancing at the Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Retired Sidious," otherwise known as Delyn Murie, 74, of Riverside, uses his imperial walker to get around at Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Excitement rises among fans waiting for "Date With The Princess: Carrie Fisher." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Participants in a Princess Leia look-alike contest compete before Carrie Fisher took the stage. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Contestants parade across the stage during the Princess Leia look-alike contest. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Carrie Fisher and her dog, Gary, onstage during the "Date With The Princess: Carrie Fisher" event. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Carrie Fisher onstage during the "Date With The Princess: Carrie Fisher" event. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A youngster is prepared for a lightsaber fight as he walks through the dark shadows at the Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans travel to their next destination at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Jessica Odell of Lisburn, Ireland, is dressed as Maris Broud from "The Force Unleashed" video game. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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William Teague of Austin, Texas. views dozens of Star Wars figures lined up in a display by the Kotobukiya company. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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In tattoo alley, artist Damian Cain of Britain shows off his Luke Skywalker tattoo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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In tattoo alley, Vinny Romanelli of New York City gives Angela Byrd of Modesto an angelic R2D2 tattoo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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In tattoo alley, David James of Arcadia shows off his Darth Nihilus work-in-progress tattoo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Malcolm McNeil of Ventura takes part in the X-Wing Experience Star Wars Battlefront. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Robert Gomes of Walnut, Calif., is Darth Tannos in the Millennium Falcon scene. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Eric Cajiuat, of Fullerton, is Jedi Elvis in the Millennium Falcon scene. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Chandra Chang of Los Angeles poses as R2D2 Hello Kitty -- or R2Kitty -- in front of "The 20th Century Space Opera" oil on canvas by Robert Xavier Burden. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A fan takes photos of some of the extensive collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the Rancho Obi-Wan Star Wars collection booth. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Jennifer Hobart, of Fullerton, creates her own Star Wars character with special contact lenses. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Calvin Heins, 12, of Los Angeles, wears a Jawa costume in front of a replica of the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A young girl readies her lightsaber as she walks though the shadows at the Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Members of the 1st Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment of the 501st Legion march in formation through the crowd during Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Members of the 1st Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment of the 501st Legion march in formation through the crowd during Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Members of the 1st Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment of the 501st Legion march in formation through the crowd during Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s not, like, a choice,” he said. “It’s like I was drafted. Can you imagine if for some reason I said that I don’t think I want to do it? I would have all of you surrounding my house like villagers in a Frankenstein picture. Angry villagers, with lightsabers instead of torches. I’d sort of be like the most hated person in fandom. ‘Oh, you’re too cool for school. You don’t want to come back and do Episode 7.'”

Still, Hamill said he was in a state of shock when Lucas told him there would be a new trilogy. He recalled being asked to a lunch meeting in which his wife, Marilou York, and Fisher (Princess Leia), were also present.

“What happened was we were at some ‘Star Wars’ event that George Lucas was at and George Lucas asked us, through his people, to have lunch with him,” Hamill said. “So I’m saying to Marilou, I said, ‘George asked me to lunch. It’s something big going on.’ I remember she said, ‘Maybe he’s going to do another trilogy.’ I laughed at her. Because George had told me specifically he wasn’t doing anything after the prequels. He said, ‘No, I don’t want to be doing these things in my 70s.'”

Besides, Hamill thought, Luke’s story had reached a conclusion.

“I had a beginning, middle and end. My story was finished … I said, ‘You know what’s happening? They’re doing these things in 3-D. He’s probably going to us to do press for that. Or they’re going to put it out in another variation — another boxed set.'”

Then, in mock sarcasm and to great applause, Hamill shouted, “How many times do I have to buy this thing?”

Hamill, who in recent years has focused heavily on voice-over work, then did his best Lucas impression, speaking softly and somewhat rushed. Lucas, recalled Hamill, told the actor that he would be stepping down from Lucasfilm and leaving the company in the hands of Kathleen Kennedy. Disney purchased Lucasfilm outright in 2012.

In a statement that generated a few audible gasps from audience members, Hamill said Lucas offered him an out.

“He said, ‘If you don’t want to be in it, we won’t recast. We’ll write you out of it.'”

Carrie Fisher, left, as Princess Leia and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. (Lucasfilm)

Carrie Fisher, left, as Princess Leia and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. (Lucasfilm)

Never fear, Hamill was on board from the start. Still, he said he viewed newcomer Abrams, who was fresh off directing two “Star Trek” films, with a little uncertainty.

“I was a little suspicious. I was like, ‘Wait a second, that ‘Star Trek’ guy? Listen, I like ‘Star Trek’ … There’s no rivalry, but I just thought it seems odd. Not that I was predisposed to dislike him. I was just cautious about it.”

Abrams soon won the actor over. Hamill cited Abrams’ penchant for wanting to make the new “Star Wars” films reflect those of the original trilogy rather than the heavily computer-generated Lucas-helmed prequels. As much as possible, Abrams and his team built original sets for “The Force Awakens,” and earlier at Celebration, the film’s special effects team said the new film would emphasize characters over digital magic.

“This film is the first ‘Star Wars’ film that is actually in the hands of someone who grew out of fandom,” Hamill said. “He feels the way you feel, in terms of wanting practical sets, real sets.”

Also, Hamill said he felt comfortable roughhousing with his new director.

“He’s a personable guy,” Hamill said. “He’s really easy to talk to. He’s very inclusive in listening to your ideas instead of being adamant that it has to be ‘this way.’ He’s lovable. What can I say? I like that he’s diminutive. The bully side of me was eager to get him into a headlock and give him noogies.”

Hamill repeatedly stated that he was fearful he would say something about “The Force Awakens” that would get him trouble. The cinema world, he said, is more secretive today than it was when he was making “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” in the late ’70s, and his tendency is to over-share. He said he hesitated to so much as answer a fan question via Twitter regarding which lightsaber Luke would wield in “The Force Awakens.”

“I’m so nervous I’m going to leak something,” Hamill said. “I don’t even know if I’m allowed to tell people I’m in the movie.”

Hamill is heard but his face is not seen in the latest trailer for “The Force Awakens,” which was unveiled on Thursday morning by Abrams and Kennedy. Luke’s voice-over in the clip is an echo of the character’s words in “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi,” in which Luke speaks of the Jedi lineage.

Hamill said he wished Abrams would have published the outtakes, in which the actor riffed on Jedi power the Force being passed on to everyone from his “certified public accountant” to the “one-eyed raccoon that keeps getting into trash cans.”

The conversation briefly touched on numerous aspects of Hamill’s career, from voicing Batman villain the Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series” to appearing on a recent episode of “The Flash.” Hamill also spoke about the pleasures of working with Alec Guinness, who portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, and shared some tidbits about acting alongside the Frank Oz-controlled Yoda in “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back.”

At one point, Hamill said, filmmakers were considering using live animals instead of a puppet. “They talked about crazy things, like having a monkey in a mask,” Hamill said.

Finally, there were also some very real health benefits, Hamill said, to becoming Luke Skywalker again.

“They put me on a regimented diet and I’m training and doing all this stuff,” he said. “Being a voice-over artist, you sort of forget. You’re not on camera. You can show up looking like a slob. You don’t have to shave. You don’t have to memorize your lines. You can read your lines. It’s the ultimate lazy actor’s job.”

– Todd Martens| @toddmartens |@LATHeroComplex

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Comments


11 Responses to Star Wars Celebration: Mark Hamill talks of being ‘drafted’ for ‘The Force Awakens’

  1. Siena Jackson says:

    There is only ONE Luke Skywalker!!

  2. Doung Dingle says:

    I worked with Mark years ago on the Wing Commander series of video games.

    Way too nice a guy to be an actor. By the third day, he made it his business to know every crew member's name, something that just doesn't happen in the vain self-centered cesspool that is showbiz.

    You go, Mark. Very happy for you.

  3. Randee says:

    We may not see his face, But I’m sure that’s Luke we see next to R2 in the latest teaser.

  4. Mauricio says:

    I hope this movie is better than Star Trek JJ Abrams disasters. Mark Hammil deserves a good film to be part of !

  5. Michael says:

    Man he looks so much better with that weight off

  6. NMFA says:

    Dennis Lawson refused to reprise his role as “Wedge Antilles” saying it “Just wasn’t interesting” Talk about “too cool for school”…

    I would have loved to see Wedge again,as would every Star Wars fan. Knowing that he wouldn’t spend a few weeks of his life to create a once in a lifetime multi-generational experience that three generations of fans can share and tell the ol’ grandkids about makes my respect level for him low.

  7. Alberto says:

    Hamill was smart to trust Abrams, who has yet to make a bad movie. He has an eye for epic sci-fi which is why his Star Trek movies are great and better than the original series, despite what lesser minds say about them.

  8. ceeezy says:

    In that photo of the Mission Vao cosplay in that slider, the wookiee is incorrectly listed as Chewbacca. That is actually Hanharr.

  9. Jake says:

    It's not Hanharr either it is Zaalbar or Big Z from the first Kotor game

    • Andrew says:

      Not sure if i am reading your comment wrong, but "Zaalbar" and "Big Z" are the same wookiee. Big Z was Misson's nickname for him, Zaalbar was his proper name.

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