‘Star Wars’: A Horror Icon Convinced Mark Hamill to Audition for George Lucas
Few film franchises are as celebrated and beloved as Star Wars, the space odyssey that turned its cast into superstars and its fandom into a force. All puns intended.
But for Hamill, it almost didn’t happen. Although it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Luke Skywalker after all these years, part of the credit for Hamill’s casting goes to a well-known horror actor.
Mark Hamill began as a television actor
Though he’s recognized around the globe as the Jedi hero Luke Skywalker, — and as a beloved voice actor — Mark Hamill had humble beginnings in show business. He went to college to study drama and early in his career, accepted roles in television movies and shows.
Among them were The Bill Cosby Show, General Hospital, The Partridge Family, and The Texas Wheelers. By the time George Lucas started casting for the first Star Wars film, Hamill had nearly two dozen acting credits under his belt.
Robert Englund pressed Mark Hamill to audition for ‘Star Wars’
Lucas was serious about the tone of Star Wars and wanted it to be a sci-fi action film without any goofy camp. According to the book, George Lucas: A Life, by Brian Jay Jones, the director had a lot riding on his feature after American Graffiti and his split from Universal Pictures.
Per Jones, the August casting call drew in the likes of Nick Nolte, John Travolta, and Tommy Lee Jones, and Lucas had his friend Brian De Palma assist with narrowing down the choices. Hamill was reluctant to try out for the film, but his friend Robert Englund urged him to.
Englund himself had been turned down for the role of Han Solo, but he succeeded in convincing Hamill to audition. Unfortunately, the young actor’s first shot didn’t go so well.
“As a lifelong science fiction and comic book nerd, Hamill loved the idea of being the hero in a sci-fi film but had only barely sat down to introduce himself before Lucas waved him out of the room,” wrote Jones.
Hamill gave up until he received a callback in December. He impressed Lucas the second time.
Lucas chose between two groups
When it came down to the final stretch, George Lucas eyed two trios of actors. In one group was Christopher Walken, Will Seltzer, and Terri Nunn, and the other included Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill.
According to Jones, Lucas leaned toward the latter after comparing what each actor would bring to their individual roles. When it came to Hamill, he found him to be “idealistic, naïve, and hopeful,” just like Luke Skywalker.
Although Lucas felt good about his selections, his advisors — Francis Ford Coppola and Alan Ladd — had their misgivings. Fans know who wound up in the lineup.
Lucas really took a shine to Hamill and during filming, nicknamed him “The Kid.” Hamill reminded Lucas of himself. The pair have been friends ever since thanks to the man who made Freddy Krueger famous.