Spaced Out

NAME: Mark Hamill

DESCRIPTION: Luke Skywalker

LAST SEEN: Playing the “Wing Commander” on CD-ROM.

Mark Hamill, who played the hero Luke Skywalker in the three “Star Wars” epics, has been missing in action for some time, except for his disembodied presence as a voice on numerous commercials and on several animated cartoon series.

In fact, Hamill has been wandering the outer edges of show business without even a theatrical agent.

Now he is once again piloting spacecraft and performing feats of derring-do, only this time on computer screens, by way of a bestselling CD-ROM adventure game from Electronic Arts titled “Wing Commander III.”

The popularity of the interactive adventure has surprised him. “It’s a phenomenon I didn’t expect,” says Hamill. “I thought it would be something known only to computer buffs.”

After “Return of the Jedi” wrapped in 1983, Hamill spent seven years in New York theater, performing in four Broadway shows including “The Elephant Man,” “Amadeus” (in which he toured nationally) and a short-lived musical.

Moving back to the West Coast, Hamill has found work mainly in voiceovers.

“Star Wars” did not make its stars rich, although Hamill stresses that “George Lucas very generously gave us all participation in the theatrical release.”

Nonetheless, once the pictures were out of the theaters, millions of dollars in residuals from TV, homevideo, laserdisc and cable were not shared by Hamill or the others, because “Star Wars” was a non-union production.

Tragedy struck Hamill in between the second and third “Star Wars” films: He was in a car accident that disfigured his face. Despite reconstructive surgery, Hamill’s visage was altered, and “Jedi” utilized a plot device to explain the change.

Meanwhile, Hamill had anticipated repeating his role in the second trilogy of “Star Wars” sequels – until Lucas decided to film the “prequel” trilogy first. Those films, which Lucas has begun writing, take place before Skywalker is born.

For years, until “Wing Commander” came along, Hamill had turned down any movie requiring intergalactic action; he says it was out of loyalty to Lucas. At last, Hamill’s voiceover agent sent him on an audition for the “Wing Commander III” game. The actor ended up with an on-camera leading role.

Hamill says he discovered the inner motivation for his Lt. Christopher Blair in “Wing Commander” by tuning into the character of Skywalker – the older, wiser Skywalker he might have played in a sequel, “15 years into this lifelong war, a battle-weary soldier.”

Now “Wing Commander III” is well on its way to selling half a million units and Hamill is reaping the rewards of having signed for a profit percentage instead of a big fee upfront. A fourth installment is in the offing.

And his career seems to be on the upswing, with a recent appearance on “seaQuest DSV” and Hamill’s first feature film in a long time, the John Carpenter-directed remake of “Village of the Damned,” due out soon.

At the moment, the man known for traversing galaxies is putting a new roof on the Malibu house he bought in 1978, where he lives with his wife and their four children.

He hasn’t seen his old “Star Wars” comrades for years, Hamill says. “We sent Carrie Fisher a baby gift and got a nice note in return.” He hasn’t heard from Harrison Ford. “We all have children now who haven’t met one another yet,” Hamill says with regret.

He exchanges Christmas cards with Sir Alec Guinness. “His handwriting is as elegant as his demeanor.”

Recently, with much trepidation, Hamill journeyed north to lunch with his old mentor at Skywalker Ranch. “I was afraid to tell George I’d done this game,” says Hamill. “And, you know, my game has knocked his game off the charts.” (“Rebel Assault,” from Lucas Arts, is also a popular CD-ROM title.)

But Lucas was pleased with his young protege’s success. The only advice Lucas offered Hamill was: “You should have an agent. Call Mike Ovitz.”

Which is a little like saying, “May the Force be with you.”

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