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An interview with Mark Hamill

Mark Hamill unleashes a fiendish cackle that simultaneously sounds like skin ripped from flesh and fingernails dragged across corrugated iron. If the bowels of hell have a soundtrack, this is it. But the actor’s descent into madness is only momentary and for anyone familiar with Batman: Arkham Asylum, it is all too familiar. In rehearsing his role as the Joker, Hamill would laugh to himself in his car: a practice, he jokes, that wasn’t so unusual in Los Angeles.


Above: The one who brought balance to the Force

“I have this absolute abandon when it came to Joker’s laugh,” he says. “It’s like a musical instrument. He laughs at really inappropriate times and finds things funny that sane people do not. I wanted to make that a large part of my arsenal in terms of approaching the character. There are so many people that I pay homage to: a little Dwight Schultz [the A-Team’s 'Howling Mad' Murdock] here, Dracula’s Renfield there.”

For anyone who thought his career died with the first Star Wars trilogy, Hamill is having the last laugh. After portraying Luke Skywalker, the actor seemed to drop out of sight from the movie world. But he’s been under our noses all along in games: Arkham Asylum, and a few classics like Wing Commander III and Tim Schafer’s Full Throttle. He was a mentor in Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix, a narrator in Call of Duty 2, and played the hairy hero in X2: Wolverine's Revenge.

While established actors usually dabble in games for contractual movie tie-ins, Hamill has embraced the genre wholeheartedly. Star Wars launched the career of Harrison Ford, but it sent Hamill (and his co-star Carrie Fisher) free-falling toward typecast hell. As his father was a captain in the US Navy, though, he spent much of his childhood on the move. After Luke was left with the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, he did what he’d always done: move on.


Above: Perhaps his second most famous role, after Corvette Summer

It was this need to break convention that led him, in 1993, to a new medium: the videogame talkie. In Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, he was one of the first established actors to voice a game character. Some saw it as a step back, but he could hardly have cared less. “I’m sure there’s a range of opinions, from ‘You’re slumming it’, or ‘Can’t you get more legitimate work?’ But that snobbishness comes with the business.”

By the time of gaming’s full motion video (FMV) craze in the mid-’90s actors were eating their words. The titles may have been campier than a row of tents, but they were not short on talent, as Hamill discovered when he played Colonel Christopher Blair in three Wing Commander games.

“There were great actors in that: Malcolm McDowell [A Clockwork Orange], John Rhys-Davies [Lord of the Rings], and John Spencer [The West Wing]. Malcolm is one of the most hysterically funny actors I've ever worked with. He’s just brutal in his humor and merciless in terms of torturing you on camera. He would be making smoochy faces and I’d tell him, ‘You know, I never look you in the eyes, I’m looking you in the chin, you S.O.B.’”


Above: From the golden age of FMV 

As he developed a parallel career in animation voiceover – becoming a cult star by playing the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series – he went on to play characters in games like Starsiege, relishing the challenges of interactive entertainment. In films, actors rarely explore every nuance of a character. In games, characters change depending on the player’s decisions. Some games, such as Full Throttle, even gave him a chance to play numerous roles.

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23 comments

  • JackSkellingtonsSkin - January 13, 2010 7:54 p.m.

    I see Gabriel Knight.
  • OmNomRomRearghNergh - January 13, 2010 9:28 p.m.

    Quality voice acting all over the shop. Him as the Joker in B:AA was epic. Made it seem real.
  • bonerachieved - January 13, 2010 10:32 p.m.

    what an amazing article guys. How are there only 2 comments?!?!
  • LeeCarvallo - January 13, 2010 10:55 p.m.

    Whenever I read a Batman comic I hear all of The Joker's lines in Hamill's voice. That version of The Joker and the rest of the Batman TAS are definitive Batman for me. And Episodes 4-6 of Star Wars are amongst the greatest films of all time. Mark Hamill is awesome.
  • mentalityljs - January 13, 2010 11:28 p.m.

    It's great to hear reknown actors and actresses using their talents in other mediums, rather than just being camera whores. It really brings the characters to life and i feel players are sucked in more. Awesome article.
  • SausageLozenge - January 13, 2010 11:54 p.m.

    Anybody remember Mark Hamill as The Trickster in the Flash TV show? Mark also has a movie called "Comic Book: The Movie" which features a ton of v
  • SausageLozenge - January 13, 2010 11:54 p.m.

    a ton of voice actors. Sorry about the double post. Mark deserves it though.
  • thor0997 - January 14, 2010 12:17 a.m.

    What?!?! I didnt know that he did both!!! He probably warps space/time around himself with his awesome!
  • mgkyo666 - January 14, 2010 1:20 a.m.

    Mark Hamill FTW!!! He's awesome!
  • Silentboy - January 14, 2010 1:25 a.m.

    As far as I'm conserned, Mark is the only voice for Joker that actually fits the character. He was also really good in Darksiders.
  • AnonymouZ - January 14, 2010 2:56 a.m.

    I was thinking, who the fuck is Mark Hamill? Obviously i wasn't nerd enough. Mea culpa, Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa then again, i nerded up again by reading this whole article... nice one... even if it reposted from somewhere else xD
  • diddly - January 14, 2010 3:08 a.m.

    Luke didn't bring balance to the force, Anakin did!
  • smallberry - January 14, 2010 3:10 a.m.

    My favorite portly detective.
  • michaelmcc827 - January 14, 2010 4:23 a.m.

    Didn't really like the format of the article, but interesting nonetheless. And Charlie, try harder next time ;)
  • Sebastian16 - January 14, 2010 5:51 a.m.

    This is the best thing you guys have ever done.
  • Styrophoamicus - January 14, 2010 6:22 a.m.

    I love how you can be watching an animated show, hear a voice, and then later be like 'Mark Hammill did that? Whaaaa-?!' (such was my reaction when I found out he was the Joker, as well as Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender). Just goes to show that there really is no shame in voice-acting; Mark has it down perfectly
  • billyhtchcoc - January 14, 2010 4:11 p.m.

    Am I the only one who is bemused that the photo they used for Gabriel Knight is the only game in the series that his character WASN'T in?
  • lovinmyps3 - January 14, 2010 5:58 p.m.

    Mark Hamill rocks. =)
  • Howetzer - January 14, 2010 6:48 p.m.

    @ Diddly Im not a real SW nerd, but even I know that Anakin did not bring balance to the force, but pushed it over almost compeltely to the darkside i.e. exterminating almost every last Jedi in the galaxy and taking up the mantle of Darth Vader. It was Anakin (Vader's) Son, Luke that brought the balance back to the force by defeating Vader and the emporer and bringing back the Jedi order..thus the movie return of the jedi. Jeese man common!
  • Howetzer - January 14, 2010 6:53 p.m.

    Hrmm Diddly I guess in a way though one could interpret that Anakin did bring balance to the force, so mayhap I have been too harsh, because I guess Vader was the one who actually destroyed the emperor by throwing him down the shaft, so maybe youve got a point there. Bravo! LOL

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