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While most artists strove to hone a single craft and spend their lives inhabiting that one world, actor Mark Hamill navigated a universe that went from feature films to television and voiceovers for video games. Most significantly, Hamill portrayed one of the most identifiable characters in film and pop culture history, Luke Skywalker, the farm boy-turned-Jedi Knight in "Star Wars" (1977), "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983). Despite the enormity of the "Star Wars" trilogy and its place in cinema history, Hamill's later film career faltered, only for him to reemerge to breathe life into various animated characters. Because "Star Wars" creator George Lucas spun the films off into comic books, animated series and video games, Hamill was assured work reprising Skywalker for years. On the stage, he had a critically praised turn in "The Elephant Man," "Amadeus" and "Harrigan n' Hart." But it was his return to his original love of comic books that saw him voice scores of characters for film, television, and video games, most notably Skywalker and The Joker on "Batman: The Animated Series" (Fox, 1992-95). Though he branched out into multiple mediums, Hamill remained an icon for...
While most artists strove to hone a single craft and spend their lives inhabiting that one world, actor Mark Hamill navigated a universe that went from feature films to television and voiceovers for video games. Most significantly, Hamill portrayed one of the most identifiable characters in film and pop culture history, Luke Skywalker, the farm boy-turned-Jedi Knight in "Star Wars" (1977), "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983). Despite the enormity of the "Star Wars" trilogy and its place in cinema history, Hamill's later film career faltered, only for him to reemerge to breathe life into various animated characters. Because "Star Wars" creator George Lucas spun the films off into comic books, animated series and video games, Hamill was assured work reprising Skywalker for years. On the stage, he had a critically praised turn in "The Elephant Man," "Amadeus" and "Harrigan n' Hart." But it was his return to his original love of comic books that saw him voice scores of characters for film, television, and video games, most notably Skywalker and The Joker on "Batman: The Animated Series" (Fox, 1992-95). Though he branched out into multiple mediums, Hamill remained an icon for portraying a single character in arguably the biggest trilogy in cinema history.
Born on Sep. 25, 1951 in Oakland, CA, Hamill was raised by his father, William, a U.S. Navy captain, and his mother, Suzanne, a homemaker. Uprooted every few years with his six siblings, Hamill lived in New York, Virginia and eventually Japan. After graduating high school in 1969, he returned with his family to the States, where he attended Los Angeles City College as a Theater Arts major. In 1970, Hamill received his first professional gig on Andy Griffith's "Headmaster" (CBS, 1970-71), and shortly after, landed a recurring arc on daytime's "General Hospital" (ABC 1963- ), playing the troubled nephew of head nurse Jessie Brewer. Hamill's first foray into voiceover work came as the cartoon master to "Jeannie" (CBS, 1973-75). After a steady stream of guest star spots and a role as Linda Blair's boyfriend in the TV movie "Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic" (NBC, 1975), Hamill landed a gig on the comedy series "The Texas Wheeler" (ABC, 1974-75) as a motherless son who takes care of his siblings. Additional voice work came with "Fred Flintstone and Friends" (syndicated, 1977) and "Wizards (1977), a futuristic, animated feature. Hamill then landed the part of Dick Van Patten's eldest son for the pilot episode of "Eight is Enough" (ABC, 1977-1981), only to have his life spin in an entirely new direction.
Director George Lucas was looking to cast an actor for the character Luke Starkiller - the original name of Luke Skywalker - a young intergalactic fighter pilot who dreams of leaving home to fight the Empire in "Star Wars" (1977). Although Lucas had read many name actors, he preferred to cast newer faces, which would include Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Feeling he had the perfect chemistry with these three actors, Hamill was cast as the film's lead. "Star Wars" ultimately whisked Hamill across the world for a harried and exhausting shoot where most involved felt that it would never be a success. Despite the problems and pressures of the production, Hamill remained one of few who believed in the project. On the way to film his last scenes for the movie, however, Hamill was in a car accident in Los Angeles that fractured his nose and was rushed to a reconstructive surgeon. The injury forced Lucas to use a double in the Landspeeder scenes that were scheduled to be shot. After the gigantic success of "Star Wars," Hamill's next vehicle was the coming-of-age drama, "Corvette Summer" (1978), and "The Star Wars Holiday Special" (CBS, 1978). Following "Star Wars," subsequent roles failed to follow, though appearances in magazines and on talk shows kept him busy as a top pin-up favorite of young girls.
The principle filming on "Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," (1980), was over 170 days and again took Hamill clear around the world to England and Norway. Additional dialogue was added, which explained Luke's battle with a Wampa creature, and the resulting scarring on his face - all done to service the fact that Hamill did look differently from one film to the next. "TESB" had the biggest box office totals of the year, won a score of awards, including a Saturn Award for Hamill as Best Actor. Also that year, Hamill appeared in Samuel Fuller's World War II drama "The Big Red One" (1980), as an immature and fragile recruit in the charge of Lee Marvin. The movie won over critics and was a hopeful step in breaking Hamill away from Skywalker. After a turn as a state trooper who falls for Kristy McNichol in "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" (1981), he made his Broadway debut as John Merrick in "The Elephant Man," which sparked other turns to the stage for refuge. Next up was the third in the trilogy, "Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" (1983), again the largest film of that year, though it paled in comparison to the previous two, quality-wise. But none of his other screen work did much to shed his Skywalker alter ego, leading Hamill to again return to the theater. He went on to play Mozart in "Amadeus" and Tony Hart - a role he originated - in "Harrigan n' Hart," which earned him a 1984-85 Drama Desk nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. Hamill was elated with the recognition, and saw the role as one of the biggest triumphs of his career.
Despite an occasional guest star, cameo or voice job, Hamill struggled to find acting work. Along with his wife Marilou, he parlayed his appeal in their work for several children's charities including Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Children Helping Poor and Homeless Children and The Make-A-Wish Foundation. Hamill moved over to regular voiceover work as The Joker on the Emmy-winning "Batman: The Animated Series (Fox, 1992-95), a role he earned after voicing another villain for the show. As a lifelong comic book collector, the opportunity to perfect The Joker's laugh was a dream come true for Hamill, and his portrayal was so well received that he went on to voice The Joker in the theatrical release "Batman: Mask of Phantasm" (1993), as well as on other television series like "Superman" (The WB, 1996-2000), and "The Justice League" (Cartoon Network, 2001-06). Hamill next moved his vocal talent to the world of video games with "Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (1994), and made a brief move back to live action in John Carpenter's remake of "Village of the Damned" (1995) as the reverend of a doomed village. He returned to video games with the spin-off "Wing Commander" video games as well as its animated series "Wing Commander Academy," (USA Network, 1996).
Hamill found a balance between the worlds of animation, video games and occasional live action roles, such as the father of the lead in "Thank you, Goodnight," (2001) a music-driven indie film, and in Kevin Smith's adventure comedy "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." (2001). Hamill also directed and starred in the mockumentary "Comic Book: The Movie" (2004), as a history teacher-comic collector thrust into the world of a comic book conference. Hamill also kept company with SpongeBob, Scooby-Doo, Spiderman, Bart Simpson and Woody Woodpecker, and voiced various characters on "Metalocalypse" (Adult Swim, 2006- ), the animated heavy metal series. Hamill won more devotees for his reprisal of The Joker in the video game "Batman: Arkham Asylum" (2009) and its sequel "Batman: Arkham Asylum II" (2010), while making an anticipated return in front of the cameras with Minkow" (2010), the true story of Barry Minkow, a convicted young entrepreneur-turned-religious leader who bilked investors out of $100 million. Meanwhile, he returned to the world of animation to voice a character on "Transformers: Prime" (The Hub, 2010- ).
Breaking away from doing voiceover work, Hamill had a live action role as a malicious thief named Jean Claude in a 2011 episode of the spy comedy series "Chuck" (NBC, 2007-2012). Back on the big screen, he had a supporting role as Underworld dweller Tantalus in the blockbuster sequel "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" (2013). Prior to the release of that film, Hamill - along with former "Star Wars" co-stars Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher - were the subject of endless rumors and speculation that they would at long last reprise their famed characters for "Star Wars: Episode VIII" (2015), which went into development after George Lucas sold his stake in Lucasfilm to Walt Disney Studios. With J.J. Abrams signed to direct, speculation within fanboy circles reached a fever pitch that Hamill would reprise Luke Skywalker, with Ford joining him as Han Solo and Fisher as Princess Leia. Those rumors were all but confirmed when in early March 2013, Lucas set the Internet ablaze by announcing that the negotiations were almost a done deal.
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CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
On acting in front of a green screen: "I came the week of preproduction before we actually started shooting ['Wing Commander III'] to look at all the toys. I walked on the set, and there was that big green screen, and I immediately flashed back to Jabba's palace [in 'Return of the Jedi'] and George [Lucas] saying 'In about 10 years, these kinds of movies will be prohibitively expensive. What we wanted to do [was] build Jabba's palace puppet sized, put it next door and have you guys all on blue screen to put you in the palace later. It'll save millions.'
"I thought about that, and I jokingly said, 'Good, George. You're going to make it even harder on the actors. Already, we're looking at a piece of tape for our planet exploding. Now you're going to take away the set and the props? You're getting one step further remonved from reality. What's next, blue body stockings so you can mat in a new [pair of] trousers?'"
"And here I was, just over 10 years later, doing exactly the things he predicted. You're climbing ladders that lead to nowhere, yet you look down at the monitor, and you've got your ship right there. It's the very essence of what actors do. We pretend." --Mark Hamill in CINESCAPE, October 1994
About being a CD-ROM star: "I kind of emabarrass [my kids]. They'll be playing 'Wing Commander' and all of a sudden their dad shows up on screen." --Hamill in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, October 13, 1995
"My kids run me ragged, so that's where I get my exercise--I don't have a real regimen. Also, I don't agree that I haven't aged. It's like when people say to me, 'I can't believe you haven't seen "Star Wars" since it first came out.' I say, 'You ever look at your old high school yearbook? Ewww. How could I ever leave the house with my hair looking like that?!'" --Mark Hamill quoted in CINEFANTASTIQUE, March 1997
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