Seating 4,000 people, Room 105 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is one of the biggest spaces in the building, but it was barely enough to contain the demand to be in the presence of Mark Hamill at Fan Expo Canada. Obviously, interest in Hamill’s doings as of late is high, mostly because of the mysterious return of Luke Skywalker at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the upcoming Episode VIII. Naturally, Hamill didn’t give anything away, but he did discuss his Star Wars legacy and other matters with energy and enthusiasm.
“But first I want to talk about Sprint,” Hamill joked as he came out. The reference was to “Mayored to the Mob,” the episode of The Simpsons Hamill guest-voiced on in 1998. But things kind of got serious quickly when Hamill wanted to pay tribute to his recently departed co-star, Kenny Baker.
“I have to tell you about how Kenny and Jack Purvis [who played the Chief Jawa in Star Wars] were a team called the Minitones,” Hamill explained. “Kenny played the xylophone, and they were in the tradition of the old Vaudeville teams and they were hilarious together. They were non stop entertaining. […] Jack was the guy that was making fun of how short Kenny was. [Kenny] was an amazing guy, and I was very lucky to see him about a month ago for the last time at Celebration in London. I loved him and I know all of you did as well, so I just thought I should acknowledge him.”
Hamill also acknowledge that the last few years have been pretty good for me. “It’s been an interesting few years for me because so many of the things I enjoyed early on are coming back,” he said. “It’s amazing, and I don’t take it for granted. I think I enjoy it more now than I did the first time around. It’s like when you find an old pair of pants you haven’t worn in years and find a $20 bill in the pocket. That’s what working on Star Wars is like for me now.”
Having said that though, Hamill wasn’t going to give anything up about Episode VIII, even when a fan tried to ask around it by inquiring just generally about Luke’s head space at the end of The Force Awakens. “Let’s all have a collective laugh because you went to all this trouble to get dressed up, have someone look after your kids, and ask about a movie I’m contractually forbidden to talk about,” Hamill joked. “People ask, ‘What were you thinking at the end of seven?’ and I can’t really talk about it. But you don’t have to wait too much longer.”
The advanced levels of secrecy is nothing new to Hamill. “Even back in the days before drones that was a problem,” he said of an incident where a rescue helicopter was paid by a tabloid to buzz the Norway set of The Empire Strikes Back. “They saw nothing but snowmobiles with brand names on them, and the caption said, “Strange alien vehicles populate Star Wars set.”
“The secrecy though is getting crazy, I can’t say anything without it being commentated on,” Hamill lamented, noting how he set the internet ablaze when he spoke at an English university and mentioned how he admired Daisy Ridley in “a fatherly way.” But just because Hamill couldn’t say anything specifically, that does’t mean he couldn’t tease. “I’m not going to tell you now, maybe in a year, but [Rogue One director] Gareth Edwards told me five words that might be the biggest spoiler of all.”
Another stop on the Hamill comeback tour was his return to the world of The Flash, reprising his role as the Trickster on the CW Flash series from where he left off in the 1990 CBS one. “I loved the original series, and I watched the new series from episode one,” he said, noting his fondness for the show’s decision to have original Flash John Wesley Shipp play Barry Allen’s father in the new series. “We didn’t have that in the first one, that connective thread to made you want to come back. I’m a big John Wesley Shipp fan, so when they asked me to come back I thought they’d cast me as the warden or his cell mate or something.”
Hamill also talked about his other comic book show work, playing the voice of the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series through to the recently released The Killing Joke movie. Given how tied he’s been to the role for a quarter of a century now, it’s almost hard to believe that he nearly didn’t get the part. When the producers decided last minute to drop the Joker they had, they gave Hamill an audition, just as he was coming off a stage production of Amadeus.
“I was equiped with an arsenal for all these different types of laugh, so I had all this confidence, which is good because desperation turns off casting directors,” he said, adding how he thought he might be incompatible for the role because of his good guy image. “Logically, there was no way they could cast Luke Skywalker as the Joker. From public relations perspective its a nightmare,” Hamill explained. “I knew I couldn’t get the part, so I was going to go in their and make them really sorry they can’t cast me and about two weeks later I got a call from my agent who said that they want you.”
So the lesson of the day is never say never, even if your name is Mark Hamill.