Mark Hamill is older and wiser Luke Skywalker in new Star Wars trilogy
After Star Wars, Mark Hamill has been busy doing voiceovers for animated films, with an occasional role in movies. His latest is a spy thriller
Mark Hamill is guarded, a little hesitant to talk. "I want to be very careful here, because I have no interest in getting back in the spotlight," he says. "I'm enjoying my 'elderly recluse' years."
The actor is joking, of course. Because that's who he is: The Joker. (Hamill has voiced the comic book villain in seven TV series, beginning with 1992-1995's Batman: The Animated Series.)
Now 63, the actor still best known for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker is wholly immersed in the universe that swallowed him, a fanboy's fanboy who went from fan to Star Wars hero, cultural icon and in-demand animation voiceover star. In addition to voicing The Joker, he has also provided the voices for Alvin the Treacherous on Dragons: Riders of Berk, the How to Train Your Dragon TV series, and just added Gadfly Garnett from the new Disney series Miles from Tomorrowland to his absurdly full plate.
Still, it's not as if big-screen appearances are now behind him: he's in J.J. Abrams' new Star Wars trilogy, returning as an older, wiser Luke. And then there's his turn in Kingsman: The Secret Service, a comic book adaptation by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass; X-Men: First Class) that's now playing around the world.
"It's just a fluke [that] fell in my lap," Hamill says with a laugh about his part in the British spy movie.
It all started with the comic, in which co-writer Mark Millar asked the American actor's permission to use "Mark Hamill" in his and Dave Gibbons' The Secret Service, "and kill me off, after eight pages. That appealed to my perverse sense of humour, so I said 'Sure'."
When the film adaptation came along, Millar wanted Hamill around, even after a rewrite did away with the celebrity kidnap victims. The story concerns a privately run super-secret British spy service out to foil the villainous Richmond Valentine (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who is kidnapping the rich and famous for his warped environmental agenda.
Hamill was cast as a Brit. "I love the sound of the human voice, the music of dialects. Professor Arnold, being a British climate scientist, has more of a mid-Atlantic accent. Not too pronounced. The character is just a plot device for Jackson's megalomaniacal villain to use."
Hamill has been stunned, of late, to discover he's in demand from "that first generation" of Star Wars fans - from Abrams, the director of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, to one of the producers of TV's new version of The Flash, where Hamill reprised a character he played in animated form in the 1990s. "The fans know I'm one of them, which is helpful," he says. "They're suspicious of civilians. But I was doing conventions long before Star Wars" - and also has had his own treasured fanboy moments.
"I remember when I was a young actor on a soap opera, Kerwin Matthews (of Ray Harryhausen's The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad) showed up to play one of the doctors, and I was so thrilled that I asked him if I could take him to lunch and interview him," Hamill says. "He let me do that and the story was published in a fanzine called FXRH, Film Effects by Ray Harryhausen. Hey, there's a real collector's item. I later met and interviewed Ray for Comic Book: The Movie, which I directed, this mock-documentary that I did about 10 years ago."
Hamill has "always seemed comfortable in his own skin, and aware of his place in pop culture history without being pompous", says Tim Clodfelter, a writer for Media General Newspapers. "Others might bristle at the idea of being typecast, turning up at conventions full of fans who adore things you did in the 1970s. Not Mark Hamill. He's braced for a fresh onslaught of attention, with Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens opening in December."
The fanboy in Hamill pops out again when recalling being on the set of Kingsman: The Secret Service when he shares a scene with Jackson, who gives his billionaire villain a funny lisp. "I didn't hear him speak until he came up to me, held down in that chair, in our scene," Hamill recalls, laughing. "He's always good, but I've never heard him good doing that voice." He has also put Kingsman: The Secret Service co-star Michael Caine "on notice". They had no scenes together, "but I am coming for you". Hamill has been a fan of Caine's since childhood.
Hamill also gushes over the younger actor, Devon Graye, who has taken over his "Trickster" character on The Flash. And even though "I like to think of myself as 'semi-retired' - then, anything I get asked to do is a bonus", he says. "I still pinch myself" at being relevant and getting to do the work he does, "right up to the time when I have to become that little old guy painting watercolours in the backyard".
The way the veteran actor looks at it, "I get paid to go to work and do these things that I've loved, from comics to Broadway, TV to movies. Like I always say, I've never understood the concept of a second childhood, because I'm not finished with my first."
Tribune News Service