8 amazing facts you didn't know about Mark Hamill
Sure, you know him as Luke Skywalker in 'Star Wars.' But that's only the beginning.
From his early days battling against Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy to his mysterious role in "The Force Awakens" and the highly anticipated "Star Wars: Episode VIII," American actor Mark Hamill will forever be known as the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker.
What's remarkable about Hamill's career, however, is how much of it has taken place outside of a galaxy far, far away. To some, he's not known as Luke, but as the maniacal Joker, the heroic Colonel in the video game "Wing Commander III," or as the author behind a beloved comic book franchise.
Below are just a few things you may not know about Hamill, a talented actor whose impact on Hollywood looms as large as any Death Star.
His role in 'Star Wars: Episode VIII' will be greatly expanded
The fact that Hamill's role, bite-sized in "The Force Awakens," is larger in "Episode VIII" should come as a surprise to no one. What is interesting is just how physically involved his appearance may end up being. The film, helmed by American director Rian Johnson and his longtime friend Ram Bergman, a prolific Israeli producer, is reportedly "much darker" than the previous installment.
Confirming this rumor in a tongue-in-cheek manner, the California-born Hamill told fans at Salt Lake Comic-Con that he had been filming a lot of his scenes at night.
"We're doing night shoots; that's where you sleep all day, you get up in the late afternoon, and go to work, and as soon as it gets dark you film until the sun comes up the next morning," he told the record-breaking crowd of more than 19,000 fans.
While tight-lipped about details, he did say that he was building up to film one epic scene involving "an elaborate special effects sequence." Could this have something to do with "Episode VIII's" shoot in Malin Head, Ireland earlier this summer? Along with some other clever fans, we're eagerly counting down the days until the first trailer potentially shows us more.
Freddy Krueger scored him the Luke Skywalker audition
A young Robert Englund was instrumental in convincing Mark Hamill to audition for the role of Luke Skywalker. (Photo: Shutterstock/Featureflash Photo Agency)
If it wasn't for the sage advice of another actor, Mark Hamill may have never taken part in George Lucas' epic "Star Wars" space opera. According to American actor Robert Englund, who would later redefine the horror genre in the role of Freddy Krueger in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise, he initially auditioned for the role of Han Solo. When he saw the kind of character they were looking for with Luke Skywalker, he immediately thought of his couch-surfing friend Hamill.
"At that time, Mark Hamill was always on my couch," Englund once recalled. "He was filming a TV series across the street… So he was always at my place, and I knew he was home because his cowboy boots were out front. He always left his boots outside. So there he was, halfway through a six-pack, watching 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.' I went in and I said to him, ‘Look at these sides, I think you’re right for this, man. This character is like a space prince, and it’s George Lucas!’"
Hamill took Englund's advice, called his agent for an audition, and the rest is intergalactic history.
A voice that's no joke
When Mark Hamill first auditioned in 1992 to voice DC Comics' "Joker" villain for "Batman: The Animated Series," he initially thought his role in "Star Wars" would exclude him from getting the gig.
"I thought no way would they have the person that played Luke Skywalker cast as the Joker – they are the quintessential extremes of good and evil," he said in a Reddit AMA. "So I just assumed they wouldn’t hire me so I went in with no apprehension."
Hamill said his ghoulish chuckle for the Joker was inspired in part by the wicked laugh he had been perfecting while starring as Wolfgang Mozart in a broadway production of "Amadeus." As for the character, he reportedly drew inspiration from wildly contradicting personalities: Hannibal Lecter, played by Welsh actor Anthony Hopkins, and American comedian Jerry Lewis.
"I love voice-over animation because people can't see you," Hamill said in an interview. "You make these choices that you would never do if you were doing a live-action role."
Since 1992, Hamill has voiced the Joker in dozens of TV series and feature-length movies. Most recently, his distinctively haunting cackle was featured in the virtual reality game "Batman – Arkham VR." Might Luke return to a Star Wars VR experience in the future? Time will tell.
He helped fight the zombie apocalypse
In the audio book version of Max Brooks' zombie thriller "World War Z," Hamill voices Todd Wainio, who recounts the events of the "Battle of Yonkers." Hamill was just one of several major actors to take part in the project, including Nathan Fillion, Simon Pegg, Henry Rollins, Alan Alsa and John Turturro.
"I wanted to make it global. I wanted to make it about the world," Brooks told From The Grapevine about the book, which follows humanity's battle against the undead in countries like the U.S., China and Israel. "What I was trying to say in this book is that we're all in this together. We can't wait for the 11th hour before it's too late. We need to look at global problems and global solutions and work together to solve them."
The audio book of "World War Z" was well-received by critics, with many praising the all-star cast's performance as rivaling the written page. It went on to win to the 2007 Audie Award for Multi-Voiced Performance and was also nominated for Audiobook of the Year.
A contributor to the world of comics
Originally conceived as a screenplay by Hamill and his cousin Eric Johnson, "The Black Pearl" was turned into five-part graphic novel by Dark Horse Comics and released in September 1996. The story revolves around an everyday man named Luther Drake who becomes a crime-fighting vigilante by accident and media pressure.
"Could an out-of-control shock jock compel an unstable man into becoming the mysterious Black Pearl?" Hamill quipped in a press release for the series. "That's the premise, and I'm thrilled with the results! It's offbeat, unpredictable, and wickedly funny. H.M. Baker's art is both graceful and sexy."
Back in 2010, Variety reported that Hamill had secured backing to bring "The Black Pearl" to theaters as "dark, edgy thriller." While it's unknown if the project still has legs, it may have run into trouble due to Hamill's pursuit of an R rating. With superhero films like "Deadpool" and "Logan" now fully embracing the R-rated world, we may yet see "The Black Pearl" make the leap from the page to the silver screen.
He'll talk your ear off about Laurel and Hardy
Ask Hamill to name his favorite actors, and he'll reach back to Hollywood's golden age.
"I love Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers," he said in a Reddit AMA. "I was voting on the 100 greatest films of all time for AFI, and I couldn't decide between "Snow White" and "Psycho." That says it all. How can you compare those 2 films? You can't, it's all subjective. It's crazy to find the best anything."
In a recent tweet, Hamill confessed his fandom for Laurel and Hardy, writing: "I love them more than words can say. Both were underrated as great actors!"
While Hamill claims to have seen all of the films featuring the American comedy duo, who performed together from 1927-1950, picking a favorite is tough. "Usually the one I've seen most recently," he quipped.
A passion for video games
“I’m sure there’s a range of opinions, from ‘You’re slumming it’ or ‘Can’t you get more legitimate work?’" he told Games Radar about his decision to voice video game characters. "But that snobbishness comes with the business.”
Hamill's performances can be found in a wide range of video games, from the "Wing Commander" series to the more recent "Batman: Arkham Knight." Having been in the industry for several decades, he says he's also blown away by the scale of the productions now that create such games as "The Last of Us," "Uncharted" and the space adventure "Star Citizen."
"The technology now is the next generation of the facial rigs and the full 3D scans of the actors, and it allows so much more detail and nuance," he told PC World. "Back then, just the fact that you had live-action characters to simulate almost a film experience was a feat. This is integrating the characters into its own world, so there's a cohesion to all the elements, and it's extraordinary."
His Luke Skywalker character has been immortalized in more than just film
In addition to making his mark in cinematic history, Hamill's Luke Skywalker character from the "Star Wars" film has most recently been honored as the name of a new animal species.
Called the "Skywalker hoolock gibbon," the new species of small ape was discovered by researchers in the subtropical forests of southwest China.
"Skywalker refers to the distinctive gibbon behavior of moving rapidly through the forest canopy, and it also refers to the ancient Chinese belief that gibbons were highly venerated and almost mystical beings that were above other mortal animals," Samuel Turvey of ZSL, a member of the research team, told CNN. "However, it doesn't hurt that this name also relates to an icon of modern popular culture."
As you might expect, Hamill was positively thrilled with the honor and posted his delight to Twitter.
The Skywalker honor is the latest in a long list of creatures named after "Star Wars" characters. These include a catfish named after Greedo (Peckoltia greedoi), a slime-mold beetle named after Darth Vader (Agathidium vaderi), and an ant named after the Jedi (Tetramorium jedi).
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