IAR INTERVIEW: Mark Hamill Talks 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' and 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens'

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 11:28 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR INTERVIEW: Mark Hamill Talks 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' and 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens'

Mark Hamill never went anywhere.

A prolific and astonishingly versatile voice actor responsible for some of the most memorable aural presences out there, he has been an active, vital part of the popular culture for almost forty years now.  In 2015, however, he's going to become a whole more visible than he's been in a while.

Hamill plays a pivotal supporting role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, an irreverent blast of old school spy action hitting theaters this Friday. 

And, of course, he wields a lightsaber as Luke Skywalker for the first time in more than three decades in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, the insanely anticipated sequel that kicks off the Disney era of Star Wars this December.

At a Los Angeles screening promoting Kingsman: The Secret Service, IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand, along with various members of the entertainment press, to talk to the one and only Mark Hamill.  The much-loved thespian was characteristically enthusiastic and engaging, happily discussing the strange way he became involved in director Matthew Vaughn's revisionist spy adventure, the comic book source material, and working with the film's remarkable cast. 

And yes, he also talked about playing Luke Skywalker again, addressing the on-set secrecy of JJ Abrams's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was first concocted as a comic by writer Mark Millar (the mind behind Kick-Ass and Wanted) and artist Dave Gibbons.  Surprisingly, Hamill appeared as a character in the comic, well before the film version was a reality.

"It's a really quirky way to become involved in something like this because I don't think in a million years Matthew Vaughn would think of me for this part and conversely if I read the script I wouldn't say, 'Oh I have to play the professor in two scenes,'" Hamill said with a laugh. "This is really glorified cameo. Don't get me wrong. I got a phone call saying that it's two words that got me involved, Mark Millar. I was a fan of his writing, I heard he wanted to talk to me about something so I called him and he told me about the comic that he was writing."

"And part of the plot involved kidnapping iconic science fiction actors believe it or not. He said it's sort of a mash-up," the actor recalled of his involvement with the comic.

"I said, 'Well where do I come in?' And he said, 'Well in the very opening issue in page one, in fact the very first line of dialogue, is Mark Hamill your real name?' And I said, 'Yeah well why would I make that up?' I mean come on. But I mean I'm held hostage. I'm tied up in this chair in this French chalet on the very first page and bad guys are all standing around and basically I'm rescued by the British Secret Service."

"I laughed really heard. I thought well that's certainly unexpected. And it appealed to my perverse sense of humor so I said sure, especially Dave Gibbons was going to be drawing and I thought I'm a huge Watchmen fan so let's see what I look like drawn by Dave Gibbons," he said. "Mark and I really hit it off. He's really fun to talk to, he's got that Scottish accent, a great sense of humor, we're both comic book nerds."

Spoiler alert, but Kingsman: The Secret Service does not open with Mark Hamill playing Mark Hamill, à la the comic book.  So how did the actor go from that the his actual role in the movie?

"What happened was when they wrote the screenplay the element of kidnap, sci-fi actors or fantasy actors or whatever that element was went away, but Mark still wanted me to do it. He said, there's another part that I want you to play and if you want to Matthew would be pleased to have that happen. So, like I said, it was really unusual. It wasn't the usual way to become involved," he said.

He went on to rave about his co-stars, saying, "There's wonderful actors in this and we all expect Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine and Colin Firth to do good performances, but there's some really great work from people I wasn't familiar with especially Taron Egerton who plays Eggsy, he's like twenty, twenty-two years old this kid. Sofia Boutella who plays Samuel L. Jackson's henchwoman. She's terrific."

Kingsman arrives this Friday, February 13th, but Star Wars fans have to wait until December 18th to see what has become of Luke Skywalker in the years since Return of the Jedi.  The first installment of a new sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, finds Abrams taking the reins from George Lucas and introducing a new, younger set of heroes and villains while also reintroducing Luke, Han (Harrison Ford), and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher).

"The most interesting aspect from my point of view is it's now in the hands of the generation that were fans," Hamill said of Star Wars.  "It's the next generation of filmmakers that were sort of weaned on these pictures and you know the security of it is just crazy. I'm surprised I can even admit I'm in it. If they find me they'll throw me in a room, cut off my head and throw it right in my face. But I like surprises."

Not a single official glimpse of Hamill in costume has emerged from The Force Awakens, and he commented on the top-secret approach.  "When we were making the original films yeah you had the odd reporter hanging around the studio bribing people to give them stories," he said. "But now I said to them 'Do I really have to wear this hood? This robe and this hood that covers my head to go from the trailer to the sound stage?' And they said, 'Yeah there's drones.' Seriously, drones flying all over the studio to get pictures whatever they can get pictures of. I said, 'Wow that's crazy.'"

"We had a little of that on Empire Strikes Back we were up in Norway and they bribed a couple of emergency helicopter pilots who were looking for a couple that were stranded while skiing to buzz bomb our set and take pictures, which appeared in the newspaper The Sun. They didn't get much. They had pictures of snow mobiles that said, 'Strange alien machinery on the set of Star Wars 2' as they called it. It was crazy. It was snow mobiles with really identifiable logos on the side. It was kind of fun because when they made the first one no one really cared and then the second and the third one there was more interest, but nothing like today," he said.

Though he's best known as Skywalker, that's far from his only iconic role.  Hamill has been a fan-favorite among Bat-maniacs as the voice of the Joker in various animated and video game iterations over the years.  In fact, among many, Hamill's take is the definitive approach to the character; the voice they hear in their heads when reading the Joker in comic books.

Asked about voicing the Clown Prince of Crime, Hamill replied, "Well the villains are a lot of fun. They have some really colorful elements to their characters. I never would have guessed that something like the Joker would not only be so fulfilling, so much fun, but to go on as long as it has. I mean you have to remember I first did the Joker '92, which is what twenty-three years ago?"

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