How do you move on from playing one of the most iconic characters in the history of cinema? Don’t bother asking Mark Hamill because after more than 40 years since his Luke Skywalker debut, he’s back talking about Force ghosts, Jedi law, and lightsabers thanks to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Hamill - along with Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher - is possibly one of the only actors to have such an important role in the start and (sort of) end of such a beloved film franchise, and you wouldn’t blame him if he was sick to death of talking about it - but he really isn’t. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he tells me when we chat about his latest Star Wars outing for the home release of The Last Jedi.
The real question is though, has he loved it enough to return as a Force ghost in Star Wars 9? Sadly, it seems not, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect. “I haven’t really thought about it because there's such a sense of closure, Luke’s story is told. What more can I do? And you know, you have to start disconnecting from it emotionally.” He says, adding that it was something which happened off screen which really made him feel like it was time to move on. “The main thing [that shocked me in Star Wars: The Force Awakens] was - Han Solo is killed! I’ll never get to work with Harrison again. Luke will never see Han again. That’s what struck me, that was the first break, we lost a member of the band. And then what happened with Luke [in The Last Jedi], I said ‘Ok, that’s the next link’ when I was still thinking I’ll come back as a Force ghost. And then to lose Carrie in real life, I said ‘That’s it’. They say you can never go home again, and that for me was the real indication that it’s time to move on.”
It’s little wonder that the tragic death of Fisher has had such an impact on Hamill’s decision to continue in the role of Luke Skywalker. The pair were lifelong friends after appearing in the 1977 original and often talked about how they felt like brother and sister on and off screen. Hamill remembers one his favourite Star Wars scenes and unsurprisingly it features Fisher’s Princess Leia. “I love the swinging across with the Princess [in Return of the Jedi],” he tells me, referring to the scene where Luke and Leia escape Jabba’s barge. “In fact, we were in harnesses in the way they filmed Peter Pan in theatres, and normally things go wrong: the D-camera didn’t get it, or you went out of frame, or we saw a boom… They had four cameras and they all got it in one take! What a chip!”
His disappointment at not being able to do something so cool more than once didn’t last long though. “I’m grousing about ‘Fine, the one time you guys all get it right when I was looking forward to this!’ and the guy said, ‘You wanna fly?’ And I said, ‘You bet!’ and he started flying me around on the stage and everyone on the crew laughed. George was appalled, because, you know, I smack up against a wall and it’s insurance problems, I’m an investment, so he wasn’t too happy with that. It lasted about 30 seconds until George said ‘Get him down now!’”
Is it just as fun appearing in the later Star Wars movies though? One thing the original trilogy never had to worry about was disgruntled fans - something The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson knows all too well. For Hamill’s part, he knows exactly how the fans feel: “I relate to the fans because I'm a fan myself. I understand that they have a deep investment, a sense of ownership, because I do too and the problem is, you just can’t please everyone.” One complaint he didn’t understand though, was about what happened to Snoke. “I was surprised everyone was so upset that they got rid of Snoke.” He tells me. “From Rian’s point of view, it was a big favourite for [Episode] 9 because he’s not important. It clears the deck to have the conflict between Kylo and Rey without him getting in the way and having to explain if he’s a clone or if he’s related to Palpatine... all that stuff”.
There was a lot of talk about Hamill disagreeing with Johnson about his decisions for Luke before The Last Jedi came out, and in this way Hamill is very much like some fans, but ultimately the character he’s famous for playing helped him make his peace with the role. “I sort of say, I’m not Luke, but I can learn from him. Eventually he does the right thing for the people that he cares about without thinking of himself. I said, ‘Well the least Mark Hamill can do is the same thing for the greater good of the film’. Sure, I‘d like to be back on spaceships, you know, having space battles and making wisecracks - Harrison got to do that! - But I love the unexpected [and] I certainly didn't expect it to turn out this way. Luke says “This is not going to way you think,” and boy, was he right.”
Ford isn’t the only co-star Hamill found himself jealous of when returning to the franchise though. According to Hamill, The Last Jedi featured something none of the other movies had - the first Star Wars sex scene - and he wasn’t a part of it! Talking about the scene when Rey and Kylo Ren almost touch hands while communicating using the Force, he says: “I even said it to Rian, ‘When you have the fingers do this… [mimes touching hands] that’s the first sex scene in Star Wars!’ I said, ‘I didn’t get to touch a finger! I would have loved to touch a finger!’ [laughs]. But I thought it was so odd because I didn’t know if it’s even said in the script, if it’s described in that way, but when I saw it on screen I thought, I’ve got this charge, I went ‘Wow!’ - that’s as erotic as Star Wars gets.”
A lack of spaceships and sex scenes aside, Hamill is pretty pleased with how things turned out. Even when it comes to the slightly nauseating ending, which had some of us - see me - reaching for a sick bucket. “What I love particularly was - and they didn’t have to do this because the movie’s over - all of a sudden you cut to the stable and there’s that little boy, he puts out his hand and the broom comes to him.” He says. “It’s so subtle, the first time I saw it I thought he just took it, but if you look he puts his hand out and it moves over for him, implying that yeah, she’s [Rey’s] the last Jedi... until the next Jedi. It’ll go on forever, believe me. Long after both of us are gone they’ll be making these films from here into eternity.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download.
Here's 15 things we learnt from the Star Wars: The Last Jedi director's commentary, including the best Leia moments Carrie Fisher came up with.