Okay, now it’s getting exciting.
There is no Luke Skywalker but Mark Hamill. At least, that’s always been the way I’ve felt about it. While Harrison Ford is the one who became the giant movie star, what Hamill had going for him was the feeling that he belonged in the world of “Star Wars” completely. Watch him dealing with the mundane details of the world, like doing the maintenance on the droids or seasoning his meal in Yoda’s home or any of a million other little things he does that sell it as real. It goes beyond talking about performance for me, and all I can really say is that as a seven or a ten or a thirteen year old kid seeing the “Star Wars” films for the first time, Hamill was a big part of making me completely believe in that universe.
In an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Hamill compared the announcement that there will be an “Episode VII” to finding a pair of jeans in the closet with a $20 in the pocket. That’s probably my favorite reaction to the new “Star Wars” movies so far, and Hamill confirms what Lucas said initially, that he’d already started speaking to the principal cast.
Say what you want about Lucas, but I really respect that he told Ford, Hamill, and Fisher that he would not recast their roles if they didn’t want to be in the movies. According to Hamill, they are now starting to have conversations that also include Michael Arndt, who is writing the new trilogy, and Kathleen Kennedy, the new head of Lucasfilm. It’s a pretty great read overall in terms of how open Hamill is. He’s been Luke Skywalker a lot longer than JJ Abrams has been involved in the project, so if they’re going to try to practice the Bad Robot brand of total secrecy, someone’s going to have to figure out how to get Hamill onboard.
He doesn’t really seem to know much more about which story is being told in the new films than anyone else. He says he assumes the movies will deal with the offspring of the classic characters, but that’s just a guess, the same way it has been when everyone else has mentioned that idea. Hamill comments on the stand-alone movies they’re planning to make, and he talks about how much they discussed that sort of thing on the sets of the original films.
I know that someone in our comments section the other day brought up Peter Mayhew, saying how you can’t have Han Solo return without Chewbacca, but I’ve heard that Mayhew’s health may not be up to the challenge. That’s a bummer. I love Mayhew’s work, and I think he’s another one of those invisible key pieces of what works about the series. He gave a great set of performances, and if Chewbacca is going to return, I’d hope he was the first call. If he can’t do it, though, I’m not sure I could handle the character being written out completely. If they did have to recast the part, can I be the first to suggest Derek Mears should be at the top of Lucasfilm’s list? Abrams should feel free to ask Gore Verbinski or the guys at Spectral Motion or John Carpenter or the “Friday The 13th” producers about how great Mears is at bringing to life large-scale costume/make-up roles. He’s a hell of an actor, and he just happens to be Wookiee-sized.
Hamill did the interview to support the release of “Sushi Girl” on DVD and Blu-ray, and he’s also in the low-budget videogame-themed comedy “Virtually Heroes,” which I reviewed at Sundance. I think a lot of times, filmmakers cast him for what they see as a nostalgic/iconic value, while in the world of voice-acting, I think he’s been given a chance to play a huge range of roles and he’s cast for his fantastic versatility more than for who he is.
I’m thrilled to hear him talking about how much fun he’s having with the news so far, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing these same types of conversations about Carrie Fisher in the very near future.
“Star Wars: Episode VII” is set for release in 2015.