It’s the question that has been occupying every Star Wars fan’s mind for the past seven months: will Mark Hamill be in Episode IX? And if so, how much screen time will he receive? Production on the highly-anticipated sequel is about to get underway, and we still don’t have an official answer. However, we are starting to receive some interesting hints.
First of all, Collider spoke with Hamill on the red carpet of the Saturn Awards at the end of June, and they asked him the million dollar question about if he’s returning as Luke Skywalker. Surprisingly, Hamill said he didn’t know one way or the other.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m the last to know. I like it that way. I like surprises. But when I know something, I’ll let you know.”
Now, this is pretty hard to believe when you consider the fact that at the time of this interview, filming on the movie was less than one month away. It seems extraordinarily unlikely that Lucasfilm would wait until literally weeks before the beginning of production to let Hamill know whether he needs to clear his schedule. Even if Hamill wasn’t going to be in the movie at all, one would assume Lucasfilm would tell him that, especially considering a script has apparently been ready since February.
So the fact that Hamill is trying to make it seem like he has no clue at all about whether he’s coming back definitely makes it sound like he’s hiding something.
The next intriguing piece of evidence came on July 5th when Hamill posted the following image counting down the days until Episode IX:
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) July 5, 2018
You might not think that means very much; maybe he’s just counting down to it as a fan, and this doesn’t necessarily indicate that he’s in the movie. But keep in mind that this exact same image was also posted at virtually the exact same time by John Boyega, who is working on Episode IX. That certainly doesn’t make it seem like Hamill is as out of the loop as he was acting in that red carpet interview.
Most recently, Hamill posted an image of himself on Twitter that sent fans into a tizzy, as it reveals that he has shaved his beard.
Wait'll you get a load of my #ClownPrinceOfCrimeCane!!! Many thanks to the folks at Sideshow Collectibles @collectsideshow for kindly sending me this killer addition to my Joker collection. The detail on his face captures the psycho in his soul! -mh pic.twitter.com/NApQ8NSG09
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) July 10, 2018
This, too, supports the idea that he’ll be in Episode IX. Sure, you might be thinking that the fact that he’s losing the beard actually makes it less likely that he’ll be in the movie, as it means he doesn’t need to maintain the same look that Luke had the last time we saw him.
But it has been established that Force ghosts can change their appearance; at the end of Return of the Jedi, Anakin appears looking decades younger, even though he died as an old man. So there’s no reason that Luke’s Force ghost needs to resemble Luke from the end of The Last Jedi. And even if there needs to be some scenes with bearded Luke in the movie, filming is going to take months, so there’s no reason Hamill can’t grow his facial hair back by the time he’s scheduled to start shooting.
Besides, Hamill had months to shave his beard, but he just so happens to have made this change right before filming on Episode IX begins. Maybe it’s a total coincidence, but it would be a pretty big one.
Hamill has repeatedly stated that he hopes to play Luke again. When Good Morning America asked him in March whether it’s fair to say that he would return if asked, he responded, “I think that’s probably fair to say, yes.”
So at this point, it’s just up to J.J. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio to decide if Luke should come back, and it’s difficult to believe they would pass up the opportunity, especially after his final line in The Last Jedi: “See you around, kid.”
The bigger question is whether Luke is going to have a substantial role or if it will be more of a cameo in the vein of Yoda in The Last Jedi. The Episode IX script was heavily rewritten after the death of Carrie Fisher, and some fans have speculated Luke might have an increased role to make up for Leia’s absence. That remains to be seen, but we’ll likely get a better sense of that as filming for the movie gets underway.