Mark Hamill isn’t just known for “Star Wars,” as any fan of “The Big Red One” or “Corvette Summer” will attest. The actor talked about how some of these other parts came to be.
“Sushi Girl” (2012)
Hamill played a gang member in the ultraviolent cult indie that uses, among other things, creative dental work as a form of torture. “I was reading the script and thought it was very Tarantino, ‘Reservoir Dogs’ style, but I didn’t think I could do it. It was way too violent and I’m married to a dental hygienist, I can’t do this dental violence! Then my daughter said, ‘How often have we heard you complain you’re not considered for Steve Buscemi or William H. Macy or Phillip Seymour Hoffman parts?’ And I said, ‘You’re right.’” And it turned out to be a wonderful experience.”
An expert mimic, Hamill says he began doing imitations of relatives and schoolteachers as a kid. The acting bug really bit when he hosted a variety show in fifth grade with a dummy. “First of all, the laughter was so empowering. And I realized what a tool this is. Because I could make the dummy say things about my teacher that I would never say, and he had to take the responsibility.” Hamill has parlayed his facility with voices into countless roles in animation and video games. In fact, many fans consider the Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992) to be his most famous role.
“The Simpsons” (1998)
A fan of the show since its inception, Hamill was thrilled when he was asked to appear in the episode “Mayored to the Mob.” There was just one catch — he was asked to play himself. “It’s hard to play yourself, because it makes you ask all these questions. ‘Who am I? Does this sound like me?’ You become really analytical because you’re so used to playing other people you don’t have to take the same responsibility.” Hamill poked fun at himself, performing “Guys and Dolls” at dinner theater and changing “Luck Be a Lady” to “Luke Be a Jedi.” His son Nathan would go on to work as an intern on the show and then as a colorist and writer on “The Simpsons” comics.
“Amazing Stories” (1986)
Hamill played a young man in the 1930s who is advised by a tree troll to forgo medical school and keep gathering memorabilia in the episode “Gather Ye Acorns.” Hamill was aged more than 50 years for the episode, which he calls “a love letter to collectors and obsessive compulsives.” Being an avid collector himself, Hamill says people assume the part was written for him, but it was actually originally meant to be played by Timothy Hutton until a scheduling conflict kept him from doing it. “I accepted without even reading a script because it was Spielberg’s series, and was being directed by Norman Reynolds, who was the art director on ‘Star Wars.’”
“The Elephant Man” (1981)
Hamill made his Broadway debut taking on the titular role in the acclaimed production. “It was really trial by fire,” he recalls. “I said yes on a Sunday and three Sundays later they snuck me on.” He followed that with turns as Mozart in “Amadeus” opposite Ian McKellen and the musical “Harrigan ’n Hart,” for which he earned a Drama Desk Award nomination. “People have said, ‘How do you do the same thing night after night?’ But hopefully, I never do exactly the same thing.The audience is different and each performance you’re trying to do it like you’ve done it for the first time.”
“The Muppet Show” (1980)
Hamill says people often reference his appearance singing and dancing on “The Muppet Show,” and there’s a lot of focus on his costume. “‘Star Wars’ fundamentalists point out this is the first time the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ uniform as featured at all because I was in my khaki version and it was before they released the movie.”