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.”
He’s joking, of course. Because that’s who he is — The Joker. At 63, the once-and-always 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 voice-over star. He was The Joker in the animated Batman series, and is Alvin the Treacherous on “Dragons of Berk,” the “How to Train Your Dragon” TV series, and just added Gadfly Garnet from the new Disney series “Miles from Tomorrowland” to his absurdly-full plate.
On screen acting gigs? He does that, too. Of course he’s in J.J. Abrams’ new “Star Wars” trilogy, back to Luke. And then there’s his turn in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” a comic book adaptation by Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”) that opens Feb. 13.
“It’s just a fluke, fell in my lap,” Hamill says with a laugh. It all started with the comic, in which writer Mark Millar asked Hamill’s permission to use “Mark Hamill” in the book, “and kill me off, after eight pages! THAT appealed to my perverse sense of humor, so I said ‘Sure.'”
When the film came along, Millar wanted Hamill around, even after a rewrite of the script did away with the need for celebrity kidnap victims. The story concerns a privately run, discrete and super-secret British spy service out to foil a supervillain (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who is kidnapping and coercing the rich and famous for his planned environmental apocalypse. 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. This character is just a plot device for Samuel L. Jackson’s meglomaniacal villain to use.”
Hamill’s decades-long total immersion in fanboydom paid off with first a comic book plug, then a paying film role. Hamill has been stunned, of late, to find that he’s in demand from “that first generation” of “Star Wars” fans — from his “Star Wars” director, J.J. Abrams, to the producer of TV’s new version of “The Flash,” where Hamill reprised a character he once played in animated form in the ’90s.
“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.’ I remember when I was a young actor on a soap opera, Kerwin Matthews (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. He let me do that, and the story got 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 I did about ten years ago.”
Hamill has “always seemed comfortable in his own skin, and aware of his place in pop culture history without being pompous or aloof about it,” says Tim Clodfelter, an entertainment journalist 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 ’70s. Not Mark Hamill. He made it cool.
And another onslaught of attention is knocking at his door. “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” opens in December.
The fanboy in him popped out on the set of “Kingsman” when he shared a scene with Samuel L. Jackson, who gives his billionaire enviro-villain a funny lisp in the movie.
I didn’t hear him speak until he came up to me, held down in that chair, in our scene,” Hamill recalls. He’s always good, but I’ve never heard him good doing THAT voice. Haha!”
He’s put “Kingsman” co-star Michael Caine “on notice.” They had no scenes together, “but I am COMING for you!” Hamill’s been a fan of Caine’s since childhood. Hamill 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 ” — as regards his on-camera acting, 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 watercolors in the backyard.
“I get paid to go to work and do these things that I’ve loved, from comics to Broadway, TV to movies. I’ve never understood the concept of a second childhood, because I’m not finished with my first.”
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