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Interview with Mark Hamill

Posted February 23, 2013 03:42 PM by Casey Broadwater

Magnolia Home EntertainmentWhen offered the opportunity for a brief chat with Mark Hamill, I jumped at the chance. It's not everyday one gets to speak with an honest-to-goodness Jedi knight. Unfortunately, Star Wars-related questions were off the table as per his publicist's request, but we did get to talk about Mark's return to live-action acting, Sushi Girl, a darkly funny grindhouse thriller that debuted on Blu-ray this week.

The film plays out in a derelict restaurant, with five on-edge gangsters reuniting to suss out an old dispute around a table on which lies the evening's buffet—a motionless, nearly naked woman covered in sushi. Joined by a cast of cult all-stars including Tony Todd (Candyman), Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story), and Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man), Mark plays Crow, a stringy haired oddball with a sense of wit to match his penchant for violence. Read on for a full transcript of our conversation:

Hi Casey.

Hello, Mr. Hamill. It's a real pleasure talking with you. I saw the film earlier this week for the first time, and I thought you absolutely killed it as Crow...


You're scary and funny and unpredictable, all at once.

That's what drew me to the part.

I talked with Kern [director/co-writer] and Destin [co-writer] about the film yesterday, and they told me that you were initially really hesitant about taking on this role, and that it was actually your kids you convinced you to re-read the script and give it a go.

That's true.

Why were you wary at first, and what finally brought you around?

Well, when I initially read it, I thought this was something I'd enjoy seeing in the audience, but—I don't know—it just seemed so extreme to me. Listen, I've been married to a dental hygienist for decades, and the dental mayhem was really hard to get past. It's so violent, and it's just dark. I didn't give it as much thought as when I had my daughter read it—and Griffin, also, my son read it—she was just pointing out to me that I did really well in character parts. Especially on Broadway, when I played Mozart, or I did Harrigan 'n Hart or Room Service. I mean, playing characters where you look in the mirror and don't see yourself, you see a completely different person. Because you can hide behind that. You're liberated because you're not self-conscious about being "Mark" anymore, you're just a completely different character. And she pointed out, my daughter Chelsea said, "Look, I've heard you moan about 'oh, look at all those great parts that Steve Buscemi gets or Philip Seymour Hoffman gets,' and I don't want to hear any more of that if you turn this down." She was pretty adamant about thinking that I should do it. One thing that was really instrumental about changing my mind was re-reading the script but this time trying not to read it as Mark Hamill, but try to read it as Crow, try to read it in character as this low-life thug. That really made a big difference, because to him, the mayhem was enjoyable.

I was going to ask you, you've gone from playing one of the most archetypal heroes ever—I mean, literally, Luke Skywalker is on the cover of Joseph Campbell's A Hero with a Thousand Faces—to taking on many darker, more antagonistic roles. Crow might be your gnarliest villain yet. What was your approach to the character when you really started looking at how you'd play him?

Obviously, you want to go and figure out what's on the page, what do you say, what do other characters say about you, try and find out what that backstory might be. And I thought that Crow was sort of a low-level check-forger and confidence trickster, committing fraud, maybe burglaries and so forth. He probably really flourished when he came under the protective wing of Duke, the Tony Todd character. That's probably why he had such a devotion to that character. Obviously, on something like this you can't really draw from real-life experience, but there were certain character traits from people I've known, like these guys who act like they're in Goodfellas: "Hey, I know a guy who can fix you up, you know what I'm sayin'." I've met a lot of these guys living on the east coast. Believe it or not, even a couple of people I've known in the theater I used as Crow's sense of sardonic humor and his cynical nature.

Kern mentioned Truman Capote as a possible influence, and watching your performance, I can totally see that. I mean, Crow does have this very effeminate quality, and he thinks he's cleverer than everyone else in the room.

Right, exactly, almost desperate to top everybody intellectually. You know, I wasn't really consciously thinking Truman Capote, but I can see that now. It's one of those things where you just have to dive into the deep end of the pool and hoping you don't sink. (Laughs) One of the nice things about this picture was the collaborative nature, that they were allowing me to do so much with the character in terms of his physical appearance, taking on certain improvised moments and lines, even ideas—Kern was very open to them. They all were. I can't praise them highly enough. I think Kern did a terrific job and he's got a great future ahead of him. The whole experience turned out to be one of my favorite. I asked him why he thought of me, because nobody thinks of me for this kind of part, and he said a lot of it had to do with my having played the Joker in the animated Batman.

(Publicist: Can we do last questions, Casey?)

Sure. After doing predominantly voice acting for the past fifteen or so years—which, I assume, can often be just you in an ADR booth performing solo—how was it acting in this almost theater-like ensemble piece? I know you've also done stage plays in the past, so that training must've helped here.

Right, right. I've done seven or eight shows back in New York. I love it. I mean, it's so organic. Working in chronological order really helps the actors, which is not the case in television and movies, where you do things out of sequence. But in this case, because it was predominantly one setting, we were able to start with the arrival of Duke and Crow, and as each character arrived, do it in fairly chronological order. And I just think the cast is tremendous. Andy Mackenzie, James Duval, Noah Hathaway, David Dastmalchian, Courtney Palm—they all brought something very special to their roles, and I don't think there were any overlaps. No one was encroaching on other people's territory. I got a particular kick out of Tony Todd. I think he does just spectacular work in the movie.

Last question. I've read that you spent two years living in Japan—I did too, actually, up in Sendai, a few years ago—what did you make of the film's whole nyotaimori, naked sushi starting point?

Well, it's an interesting hook, and obviously the male audience is going to be intrigued by something that exotic. I didn't know that that existed—I guess it exists in real life. I've never been to a place where that was a possibility, eating sushi off a girl's body. But again, it ups the exotica quotient; that combined with so many genre people—Sonny Chiba and Danny Trejo and Jeff Fahey—that was just an added bonus for people who are genre fans. There's a lot of history with the cast of this movie and I couldn't have been more pleased to be able to work with them.

Well, thank you so much for talking with me. I love your voice acting work and seeing you in Sushi Girl has me really jonesing to see you in more live-action films.

I hope that happens. I hope someone sees it and thinks outside the box when it comes to casting their next degenerate role. (Laughs) Thank you Casey, it was nice talking to you.

Source: | Permalink | Australia Austria Belgium Brazil Canada China Czech Republic Denmark Finland France Germany Greece Holland Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India Italy Japan Mexico New Zealand Norway Poland Portugal Russia Singapore South Africa South Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland Taiwan Thailand Turkey Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States [Country settings]

News comments (28 comments)

  Feb 23, 2013
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Mark Hamill!!!! I am now interested in seeing this movie!!!

  Feb 23, 2013
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His publicist should be fired. Leaving questions about arguably the great movie franchise off the table that his client was a major star in is ridiculous. Especially with the new Disney acquisition of the Star Wars Franchise. There are a lot of great questions that could have been asked and answered. And no offense to Mark Hamill but he hasn't really be heard from in 25 years. Could have been a great opportunity for him to get some publicity.

  Feb 23, 2013
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Mark's Best Role: Brent Matthews (The Baseball player) from the "Eye" episode in "Body Bags" -1993

Mark's a cool dude, met him at my job in the Coconut Grove Playhouse during the production of "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks".

  Feb 23, 2013
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Vikingfan, it's likely that it was Mark Hammill's decision.

  Feb 23, 2013
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Is it just me, or does he look a lot like Sam Kinison now?

Top contributor
  Feb 23, 2013
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Mark Hamill must really hate Star Wars.

  Feb 23, 2013
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Hamill is probably being bombarded by questions about Star Wars, and he may be under a non-disclosure agreement. So he's either sick of the questions or doesn't want to accidentally let something slip that he knows about. Or both. So I wouldn't get too upset about Star Wars related questions being off the table per his publicist's request.

  Feb 23, 2013
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Great interview!! Looking forward to watching Sushi Girl now And it was definitely at Mark Hamill's insistence that there be no Star Wars questions asked; it's a known fact now that for years he's tried to avoid any discussion about Star Wars. He believed he would've had a great acting career after playing Luke Skywalker, much like the one Harrison Ford has had, and it did not remotely happen so it left a sour taste in his mouth. Much like Chris Reeve being typecast as Superman and not doing much outside of that.

  Feb 23, 2013
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I'd say it's a given that Mark will retrun as Luke. Why else would George've invited him and Carrie to the ranch last year to discuss the sequels. Man, to be a fly on the wall at that meeting...

  Feb 23, 2013
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TheManInBlu said it best. MH is still a "working actor", and SW never paid off in acting roles the way it should have (for whatever reasons). So when he works on any new film, he'd like the media attention to be on that particular project.

It's like the musician as one-hit-wonder. You can keep making albums, but if the only thing anyone wants to talk to you about is one hit song you made a decade ago, it sucks all the energy and attention out of your current career.

  Feb 23, 2013
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I don't blame him. Mark has been asked about Star Wars for over 35 years.

  Feb 23, 2013
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Glad to see Hamill is still performing and enjoying his work. I've always liked him in the roles I've seen him play. As for "Star Wars"...Seriously, who cares? In my opinion, "Star Wars" is as dead as Disco music (and has been since Lucas completely butchered the prequel trilogy). If I were Hamill I'd steer way clear of getting involved in any future SW films by way of Disney...It would be a shame to see him tarnish his reputation by doing what Harrison Ford did in making that last "Indiana Jones" movie...I will always hold him in high regard as the Luke Skywalker I remember from childhood, obviously, what Lucas did to wreck the entire "Star Wars" legacy was not his fault...

Frankly, I'm at a loss to explain why Disney is even bothering making more "Star Wars" films...everyone I know and talk to thinks "Star Wars" is a joke, and the conversation always goes right to that infamous "China Probrem" South Park episode!

Seriously, now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, it needs to forget "Star Wars" altogether, and focus on making more "Howard the Duck" films!

  Feb 23, 2013
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To me, he'll always be the dude from "Corvette Summer".

  Feb 23, 2013
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If I was the interviewer I would have said, "I agree to not ask questions about Star Wars as long as MH does the entire interview in the Joker's voice."

Perhaps there is a reason I was not the interviewer...

Top contributor
  Feb 24, 2013
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I can appreciate being sick of Star Wars questions after the type casting, but then he turns around and goes to Comic Con and sets up shop signing autographs for over $150 each. It cost me less to get pictures with cast members from TNG!

  Feb 24, 2013
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I saw him at a convention in Los Angeles a while back promoting this film. The Mark Hamill / Star Wars / Batman (Joker) fans made it really awkward when all they would ask were questions about SW and Batman. It was hard to tell if these fans were either totally clueless or totally shameless. For the rest of us in the room it made it really awkward and personally, I felt bad for the guests on the panel (including Mark Hamill).

For example, one Star Wars fan brought out a super old Star Wars game, I think it was for the NES, and asked Mark Hamill why he was on the cover if he wasn't in the game. The cover was the classic picture of Luke Skywalker holding his lightsaber straight up in the air. After Mark Hamill replied that he had no idea, the guy then asked if he (Mark Hamill) would autograph it for him.

There were a bunch more like that throughout the panel as well. But that was probably the one that left me shaking my head and wondering if this guy really did live in his parents basement.

  Feb 24, 2013
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Good interview thanks for sharing it

Now about Star Wars, Mark has brought this on himself, he has never talked about Star Wars & never liked to, lots of top interviewers have tried & failed, he either says no or wants a huge amount of money, if he is not allowed due to some contract obligations then he will be or should be getting paid to do so because all the other Star Wars actors have talked about what went on some are more then happy to talk about it to fans.

If have cannot talk about it then he should go on record & say so, because the more he refuses the more people will ask him about it, if Mark doesn't recognize that he is where he is because of the fans then i feel sorry for him,it is his loss not ours, if he wants to be so arrogant then it is up to him, he has much the same attitude as his Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford when it comes to interviews & fans of their movies, this leads me to why i boycott movies that actors like this are in, if they do not appreciate or recognize the fans (me) then i have no interest in them.

  Feb 24, 2013
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@Bobby - I've seen that happen so many times, and it never gets less embarrassing. Went to a screening of The Road with Viggo Mortensen, and he kept getting Lord of the Rings questions. Lea Thompson was at one for J. Edgar and all anyone asked her about was Back to the Future. You could tell from the questions that those guys had written them on index cards and practiced in front of the mirror, trying to sound witty but just coming off lame and rehearsed. They were going to ask that specific question no matter what anyone else said, no matter where the discussion had gone. Awkward and shameless is right.

  Feb 24, 2013
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Casey Broadwater arrives to the interview with 5 pages full of questions. Mark Hamill's publicist says "Mr. Hamill says, if you ask him questions about Star Wars, he's gonna punch you below the belt". Casey Broadwater tosses 4 pages to the trash, rips the top half of the 5th page, keeps the bottom half, and says: "Hello, Mr. Hamill. It's a real pleasure talking with you. I saw the film earlier this week for the first time, and I thought you absolutely killed it as Crow...". <- True story.

  Feb 25, 2013
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Did you guys also notice that Tony Todd (Star Trek The Next Generation), also appears in this film? Star Trek AND Star Wars actors. lols
Rockula Bacchus
  Feb 25, 2013
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He was great in 'The Big Red One'.
Glad he didn't talk about 'Star Wars'.
I'm sick of hearing about it.

WJWS Channel 13:Amity
  Feb 25, 2013
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sorry but i have to disagree with you. He happily spoke at great length about the star wars films durring his appearance at the Bafta: LA Behind closed door Q&A Panel back in October 0f 2012.
An event that was primarily about his VO work as the joker in Arkham City for which he won a BAFTA award

Jek Porkins
  Feb 25, 2013
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@ Kemcha,

Gotta remember Noah Hathaway, too. So you have Star Wars, Star Trek, AND the original Battlestar Galactica. But eating sushi off of a "nearly naked" woman is a long way from playing with a robot Daggit. Sounds like he traded up to me! :-)

  Feb 25, 2013
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Mark Hamill did a great job voicing the Joker from the Arkham Games, with a great range of inflection and madness in his voice. Brilliant.
I hope to see him reprise his role as Master Luke Skywalker in the new Star Wars films, and best success to him on all of his project ambitions.

WJWS Channel 13:Amity
  Feb 25, 2013
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Zivouhr, you are right he has always been brilliant as the Joker, but in the games he took it to the next level.
As for Jedi Master Skywalker. I definately think he is 100 percent on board and hence why Star Wars is off the table for upcomming interviews until its officially been announced he is back

  Feb 26, 2013
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What! No Cock-Knocker questions either? What a crappy interview!

  Feb 27, 2013
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I find it strange that he « disses » Star Wars and doesn’t want to answer any questions concerning it. He’s where he is today because of Star Wars, if it wasn’t for it, he would be most likely unknown today. He shouldn’t turn his back on it. The fact that he was unable to have another important role afterwards (much like Hayden Christensen) shows that he’s probably not a great actor. No doubt he does a great job with voice over, but dissing SW isn’t the way to go.

I would’ve understand if he said, 80% of the interview should be about my new projects and the rest can be about whatever.

  Feb 27, 2013
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when does he diss SW? I'd like to read about that. I agree that his career probably flopped because he's not that great of an actor (lets be honest, he wasnt all that great in SW either). I do think he is on board as Master Luke Skywalker in the upcoming movies (which i CANT WAIT FOR! Disney has been putting out some amazing movies lately and they really know how to save/reincarnate franchises, see what they did w/ marvel!). I agree with whoever said hes probably not answering questions before it is official.

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