Even though I was covering Fan Expo as a member of the press, there were no special privileges for press at the Mark Hamill panel. I needed to buy a ticket to be guaranteed entry. To see the man who gave life to Luke Skywalker and a voice to the Joker, I could afford the extra fifteen bucks. What had me concerned was that it was an hour before panel time and there were four different line ups. Mine happened to be outside the building. “Oh boy,” was all I thought as I and hundreds of others sweated outside in the heat.
But, probably sensing some rumblings in the force of the crowd we all started moving 15 minutes before start time andm after making several twists and turns through many long hallways, I ended up at the 5,000+ theatre looking for a good place to enjoy the show. I chose a spot along the wall at the back where it was dead center of the room and a great view of the chair Mark Hamill would sit in.
We didn’t have long to wait. The massive screens showed clips of his most famous role, Luke Skywalker, and then the man himself, clean-shaven and smiling walked out to center stage. Luke Skywalker was standing only a few feet from me and this was not in Hollywood or at a Disney Park, just two hours away from my home. Thank you, Fan Expo.
Hamill thanked the packed convention room and started off by paying tribute to Kenny Baker the man who played R2-D2. It was Baker who he first started shooting with on A New Hope and Baker would forever keep him and the rest of the crew laughing while shooting in the heat of Tunisia. Hamill wanted to acknowledge Baker and thank him for what he did. This brought a roar of applause from the packed room.
Hamill then went on to poke fun at himself, describing himself as a legend in his own mind. This type of hilarity was nice to see. Mark Hamill did not seem to take himself too seriously, anyone who follows him on Twitter would know this. He did give us lots of detail about how he went into voice work. As a kid he saw on The Wonderful World of Disney Clarence Nash would be filmed walking around the studio doing normal things and that he would then record his Donald Duck voice. The process fascinated Hamill and he decided he needed to be in show business. It didn’t matter what the job was, he was even willing to cook if necessary.
But what everyone in the audience was hoping for, including many that were dressed in Star Wars Cosplay, did not happen: Hamill did not offer any Star Wars leaks. However he did share that he was invited to visit the set of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, to pander to director Gareth Edwards, Hamill wore a Godzilla t-shirt. Hamill sees the new spin-off movies as a great thing because, unlike the trilogies they can be one-off stories, without having to set up to more movies.
Hamill danced around the leaks that happen in film production. He talked about how for Episode VIII he had to wear a security cloak to and from his trailer so that nothing would leak to the internet. When Hamill stated he thought that this precaution was ridiculous, he was quickly informed that drones could easily capture images that would leak to the public within hours. This brought up a personal feeling inside of Hamill. He said that he doesn’t want to know what he gets for his birthday, so the surprises are saved for the movies, not the Internet. Despite that fact that some questioners asked questions that related to Episode VIII Hamill dodged around them like he was piloting his X-Wing on approach to the Death Star.
Times have certainly changed for Hamill. Old roles have come back in style, whether it is reprising the role of the Trickster on The Flash, being the voice of the Joker in The Killing Joke, or holding a lightsaber once more as Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill is very much in fashion, and will no doubt be around for many years to come.
At one point Hamill talked about the negativity that has affected the world today. He actively encouraged us to be dreamers. “I wanna go to a galaxy far far away,” Hamill said. Thanks to Mark Hamill, we always can.