Mark Hamill will forever be Luke Skywalker, but he is also a noted character and voice actor (the Joker) with a long career, some strong opinions, and a wealth of information. During San Diego Comic-Con our Steven Sautter got a chance to participate in a roundtable interview with Mr. Hamill. These are Hamill’s rather moving thoughts on fans, the time he was told that he was impeeding the great Satan, Alec Guinness’ grouchiness, and the kind of in depth, informative type of interviews and talk shows people used to give — we hope this interview, which weighs in at nearly 2,000 words meets that criteria and we hope you read it all the way through as it is a thoroughly interesting look into the life of a true icon.
On what makes him “geek out” when he comes to Comic-Con:
Mark Hamill: Well, I used to come to these things before I was a “celebrity” — cause I was a fan myself — I could really wander around. I’d like to go to artist row and see the artists actually draw. I collected silver age and golden age comic books, so I could go through ALL the bins of comic books and so fourth. But as it changed, I remember the year 1976, I brought R2 and props from the movie before it came out. Trying to explain Star Wars before anyone had seen it and they’d go, “Wait a minute, Sir Alec Guinness and an 8 foot furry dog monkey creature… in the same scene?” So it was really hard to describe, I guess you had to be there.
We didn’t have clips or anything, just props and so forth, but I bonded really easily with these people. Lots of people say “aren’t the fans weird?” and I say “I think in many ways, for them to act on their deepest fantasies, they’re probably more adjusted than a lot of people that are laying on the couch with their psychiatrist every week.” I mean, they’re totally in tune with what they like and they don’t care what you think of them. So it’s wonderful in a way. And it’s overwhelming to get this kind of experience, this kind of affection that they have for projects that you’ve been involved in. I mean, next week I’ll be in the back yard picking up after my dog, taking the trash cans out. So, I don’t take it for granted. It’s something really special.
On what the craziest fan experience he’s ever had at the Con is:
Hamill: Well, I dunno so much here. I do know that one time I was being driven back from the airport by a cabbie who was going on about how Darth Vader was the arch angel of Lucifer and that Luke was blocking his re-entry into our realm from another dimension. And I’m starting to look at the little card to memorize his name and he reached over to grab something out of the glove compartment and I thought “if he comes out with a hand gun, I dunno what I’m gonna do, ’cause I can’t jump out of the car”. I do know that when I got home, I told him I lived about 5 houses down. And I got dropped off at another house and snuck my way back. So I mean, when you talk about fantasy or other worlds and so forth, there’s a teeny tiny segment of people that are not like you or I. And when you come face to face with them it’s just like “gulp”. But again, I’m singling out one odd-ball experience in all these 30 years that it’s been going on. For the most part though, it’s been wonderful because people feel like they know you. Kids are taught not to talk to strangers and they don’t think I am one. So, it’s really a gift, I think.
Hamill is asked about his involvement with The World of Heroes:
Hamill: One of the producers of Sushi Girl knew someone and I went in and had a meeting. I had done a few podcasts, I had mentioned in the panel that one summer I took over a radio show. This guy was going on vacation on the weekends. It had no audience, you know it was a call in show. If nothing else, I’m good at making sure there’s no dead air. I have the gift of gab. I can just keep talking. Especially when I had phone calls. When I had people call in and ask a question it’s a walk in the park for me.
The question is, “what would I do with it.” That’s why it’s taken me so long to try and figure out what it is. Which is why it’s great to be on the panel, because I got to hear what everyone else was doing. And that’s why, I dunno, I’m gonna do a handful of shows. Maybe a half a dozen and see how it goes. Rather than commit to three years and 50 shows. Because, I really want to be able to… What I like about doing podcasts is it’s like having fans enter your living room. It’s an arduous task responding to fan mail piece by piece. Or even Twitter accounts. Twitter by Twitter, by Twitter. Podcasts, I think, are a great way to stay in touch a fan base that’s out there that is interested in your expereinces and the stories that bore your relatives to tears.
I’ve started writing down all these people that I’ve worked with over the years. I’d forgotten I’d worked with this person. I worked with Bill Bixby, Sam Fuller, Lee Marvin, the list goes on and on. And I’m a movie buff myself. So, we’ll see where it goes. I just like the idea of being on with people and being an enabler for what they want to hear. I’m not pushing a product. I’m not corporately sponsored by this soft drink or that tennis show, and I find that refreshing. I’m old enough to remember old school talk shows, where they have an author, jazz musician, a stand up comedian and a musical/comedy star. And they’d just open up the forum and talk. About Joe Franklin or Jack Paar. Nowadays, you just gotta push that clip, you gotta push that CD, you gotta wedge up within 4 and half minutes before the next commercial. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing that can compete with that.
I remember, I used to talk about doing a talk show, about 10 years ago. I said, it will be set in my living room. We’ll open up on me reading the TV Guide, then we’ll pull back and all my guests would already be on my couches and playing with my toys and they said “who would you have on?” I said, well, “how about Paul Winchell” cause I love ventriloquists and they don’t get enough attention anymore. Anybody from the cast of ‘Laugh In’. You should have just seen their faces, they were appalled. ‘Cause I didn’t mention one person that they any interest in at all. I wanted writers, artists. Like I say, unless you’re in the latest Spider-Man, you can’t get on talk shows.
Hamill is praised for his work about the Joker and asked about his role as The Trickster in The Flash TV series from the early 1990s:
Hamill: I was really hoping that would go. If The Flash had been picked up for a second season, The Trickster would have teamed up with Mirror Mask, Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang. I love those super villain team ups. They always follow a part of ego of who’s hand is the best. But one thing I loved about The Trickster is, because he was schizophrenic, everytime you saw him he was a different character. He couldn’t maintain a single character. So like you say, in one character, he’s kind of goofy and off the wall. And another character, he’s a scary grind your teeth psychopath. It was a dream come true… for someone who always wanted to become a character actor.
I guess that’s why I love animation so much — because animation fairly defines what a character actor is. If you can disappear and people don’t think of you like that, and you lose yourself in the character, there’s nothing more sublime than that for an actor. Because you don’t have to take responsibility for yourself. You’re just being out of the vehicle of being someone else. And that’s the thrill of acting.
My brother is a Doctor and I couldn’t act for academics, but I could play a doctor. But see, he’s still considered the successful one in the family. Science trumps the arts. Lets fact it, Dr. Hammil is always gonna be better than someone who played The Trickster on Flash. That’s capital at a cocktail party, “My son, the doctor”. “My son, the actor, but mostly the unemployed guy”. I always felt badly that my father couldn’t appreciate me doing something that made me happy.
Hamill is asked if that changed after Star Wars:
Hamill: You know, I don’t know, he’s the kind of guy that watches 24 hours a day, so he’s severely misinformed about a lot of things. So you have to say, I can’t change him. That’s the way he is. That’s where he likes to be. And how he felt about how far the apple fell from the tree, I dunno.
Hamill is asked if there were any roles that he could have seen himself in were he not cast as Luke Skywalker:
Hamill: It would have been fun to voice one of the aliens or something where you’re not seen. You could venture to say, I wouldn’t have chose Jamaican for Jar Jar Binks. I might not have been hired for that part because of that. But you know, like Darth Vader, I remember John Carpenter came to me after we worked on Body Bags, or maybe Children of the Damned… In any case, he said “would you do a trailer for me, a voice over trailer and do your Christopher Lee?” I said, “I dunno what you’re talking about, I don’t do Christopher Lee”. He said “no, remember that time you told the story?” [Note: Hamill falls into a Christopher Lee impression a moment and then returns to his normal speaking voice] That happens to me all the time, I’ll tell a story and try to take on the feeling of the person. I love when you do something and people don’t realize it’s you.
Hamill on Alec Guinness:
He really didn’t like the way it all went. The merchandising really troubled him. And I could see his point of view. None of us knew we were signing up to be lunch boxes and underoos. Right now, people all over the world are sitting on my face. I kind of enjoyed it [the experience of being a brand]. I like being on a bubble gum card. But that’s not why I signed up. I remember Alec being asked why he accepted the part when we were still making it. When we were in Africa, with 10 days of shooting. He said “well, I always wanted to play a wizard in a children’s fairytale.” Which, is the way he looked at it. He didn’t see it as science fiction. He just thought the merchandising grew to the point where it became egregious and we used to argue WITH him, especially with the crappy deals we got.