“I’m not convinced I’m dead.”
That’s Mark Hamill talking about himself as the character that made him a star and an enduring cultural icon the moment “Star Wars” hit movie theaters in 1977. In the latest installment of the franchise, “The Last Jedi,” he returns as Luke Skywalker, who goes poof before your eyes in the movie’s final minutes. We got to that little nugget near the end of an incredible 100-minute interview for the latest episode of “Cape Up” recorded at Hamill’s home in Malibu, Calif., last month.
Hamill was responding to one of many clever questions provided to me by The Post’s Alexandra Petri, my go-to expert on “Star Wars,” who wondered, “What does C-3P0 have to do to earn his freedom? Is he just stuck working for the Skywalker family forever?” Hamill answered that C-3P0 is in every “Star Wars” movie and that if they ever wanted to replace Anthony Daniels, all the director needed to do was hire “somebody else that fits in that suit.” And then he said this:
HAMILL: With me, what are they gonna do, fire me? Well no, they can kill me, they’ve done that already.
CAPEHART: So Luke Skywalker’s really dead?
HAMILL: Is he? ‘Cause I said to Rian [Johnson], “Look, until … I said, “Why didn’t you have the mechanical hand plop down on the rock?” It’s not part of his organic body.
The interview is the aural equivalent of panning for gold. A thrilling experience in which each question elicits a rich response that takes you on a journey through old movies, behind-the-scenes “Star Wars” storytelling and Hamill’s relationships with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, George Lucas, “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson and fans of the franchise.
Hamill is also known for being the voice of the Joker for the animated “Batman” series. And during the interview, you’ll hear him do impressions, as he breaks into and out of character. He is most heartwarming when he talks about Fisher, who embraced her role as Princess Leia from the start in a way that he did not embrace Skywalker when he was younger. After reading Hamill’s bio in a Broadway playbill that made no direct mention of “Star Wars” — “space-themed films,” he said — Hamill said Fisher laid down the law. “I’m Princess Leia. You’re Luke Skywalker,” she told him. “Get used to it and get over yourself!”
If you follow Hamill on Twitter, you know he is funny, mixing the sarcastic with the political, the serious with the fun. And all of that comes through in our sit-down at his kitchen table with Millie and Mabel, his two rescue dogs at his feet. Here’s just a sample:
Hamill on Trump and Darth Vader:
CAPEHART: Who is [President] Trump? Darth Vader or the Emperor, or somebody else?
HAMILL: Well listen, I really get upset then when people compare him. Or even Dick Cheney to Darth Vader … ’cause Darth Vader repented. He saw the error of his ways. I don’t see either one of them doing that.
Hamill on kissing Harrison Ford:
CAPEHART: Tell us about the time … I didn’t know this. Tell us about the time you kissed Harrison Ford, parenthesis, all caps, THIS IS DOCUMENTED.
HAMILL: Wow. While we were making the movie or in our private life? [laughter] Oh, perhaps I’ve said too much. Oh, come on, he’s hunky. Let’s face it. Listen, I fell in love with his … We were so close to our characters. The minute he showed up on set I went, “Oh, my god, he’s my father, my brother, my mentor.” He told me on day one, he goes, “I’m the heroes’ hero.” I said, “What are you talking about?” And he said, “I’m the heroes’ hero. If it weren’t for me, there’s no way you could blow up the Death Star.” And I went, “Oh, my gosh, you’re right.” Harrison knows so much about everything about the movie. I always thought he’d make a great director. ‘Cause he knows your part, and his part, and everybody’s part. Honestly, I’d love to tell you the story and you’d think I’d remember, but I honestly don’t remember kissing him. On the mouth or on the cheek?
Hamill on Star Wars fans:
HAMILL: To tell you the truth, here’s the thing that’s so astonishing to me. The bond that has been forged with the public, I can never get used to because it’s so hard to compare it to anything. People relate stories that are moving in a way. … This one little kid had his arm amputated and he had a Luke Lego he wanted to give me. I said, “Oh, no, no. You keep it. In fact, if I can write really, really small, I might not be able to sign it, but I’ll put my initials on it.” He goes, “No, I want you to have it because I wasn’t afraid of losing my arm ’cause Luke lost his hand and it didn’t stop him.” … You have to kinda keep it together so that you cry in the car going home. Those hospital visits are, like I say, the only word I can use is “harrowing.”… But they’re so … they make you feel so good ’cause you can’t give back enough.
Listen to the podcast to hear Hamill talk about all those things and so much more. I cannot begin to tell you what you’ll hear. But one thing comes through loud and clear: Hamill, who got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in March, is a fun-loving military brat who wanted nothing more than to be in and around movies and is astonished by and grateful for his good fortune.
“All I wanted was to do what I loved doing and be paid for it, that I could survive in the business and support myself and the family, if I had one. This is all way beyond what I ever expected,” he told me. “I’m just having the time of my life.”
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