Before speaking to Mark Hamill, I reached out to Rian Johnson, the director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to ask for any advice or possibly some kind of icebreaker. Johnson responded that none would be needed because Hamill is a “snow cone of pop culture knowledge.” As it turns out, this is an extremely true statement. I am now convinced that Mark Hamill just might know everything.
Hamill is at Sundance in support of Brigsby Bear, a wonderful, sometimes weird, often sweet film from the mind of Kyle Mooney and Kevin Costello and directed by Dave McCary. Mooney (to whom we spoke as well; that interview will run later this week) stars as James Pope, a man who was abducted as a child (Hamill plays the father who abducted him) who has just returned to his real parents. James is shocked to learn that his only popular culture touchstone, a show called Brigsby Bear, isn’t real. It’s an entire series filmed by his captors just for James. Now in the real world, James wants to bring Brigsby Bear to others by making a movie.
I met Hamill on a very snowy day just off Main Street in Park City, Utah. He really is as nice and cordial as you would ever expect. Through the course of this interview we somehow covered his new film, Eight is Enough, Saturday Night Live, One Day at a Time, The Big Red One, Fernwood 2 Night, The Empire Strikes Back, and of course Hamill’s feeling on the new title, The Last Jedi.
(Also: I’m not even going to pretend I haven’t been preparing for this interview almost my entire life.)
I reached out to Rian Johnson before talking to you, he assured me this would be fun.
Oh, yeah. And I’m all for no prep. I like spontaneous and having the conversation go wherever you want.
Had you met Kyle Mooney at all before this?
No. I mean, I knew him from Saturday Night Live, but not personally.
When you read the Brigsby Bear script, was it something you felt you needed to do? It’s a very clever movie.
Close. When I was reading, I said, oh, man, I’ve got to see this. But I thought, first of all, it’s much more ambitious than I thought. It had so many issues that were dangerous. I thought, how are they going to pull this off? I like playing villains. So even if I’m reviled by the audience, it’s something I probably should do. Because, first of all, I was flattered they were just asking me to be in it without auditioning.
It’s weird saying this to you, but I kept imagining during the movie if someone told me, “Oh, Star Wars isn’t real. That was made just for you and no one else knows anything about it.”
Oh, can you imagine?
I thought that was an interesting concept: that this piece of popular culture that shaped James’s life was not even a real thing.
Exactly. And it has so many elements like that that are intriguing that you think, “Wow, it’s almost like he’s Rip Van Winkle, waking up to reality when he’s a grown man.” There’s elements of Harvey, the play and the movie where the guy had the imaginary friend. It’s Walter Mitty-esque, where he lives in his own reality. But those are the closest parallels I could find. And one thing I love about movies is when you can’t compare it to anything else. Because nowadays, you have to be able to describe your movie in one sentence: It’s Ghostbusters but with werewolves.