Mark Hamill On Shooting The ‘Star Wars’ Throne Room And Needling Harrison Ford

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Crying again. Lucasfilm

Speaking at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, Mark Hamill shared several stories from filming the original Star Wars in 1976, including some lessons he learned during production of one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time — the throne room scene where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo receive medals from Princess Leia (Chewbacca, however, is cheated).

As a young actor, Hamill was the enthusiastic amateur on the Star Wars set. This lead to some rookie mistakes, like constantly pestering George Lucas with minor dialogue improvisations (“don’t ask, just do it,” Ford advised him). But it also meant Hamill was free of some of the cynicism the more experienced cast members had developed in their career.

His most touching anecdote involved a throne room full of extras (or, as Hamill prefers, “background artists”). “When we went to get our medals, Harrison and I came down the steps and all along the galley-way and up the steps to where the princess was,” Hamill said. “And of course all the guys lined up and they didn’t give them a script and they didn’t know what it was about. So during rehearsals they were saying things under their breath like ‘fucking wankers.’”

Their disconnect from the moment bothered Hamill. “So I went over to the guys and I said, ‘do you know what this scene is?’ And they said ‘no, no one tells us anything.’” So Hamill explained Star Wars to them. “This is the end of the movie where we defeated the evil galactic empire, destroyed their super weapon and you guys are all the heroes that helped us succeed. Well, they minute they heard that the teasing and razzing went away.”

But while that worked out nicely, one of Hamill’s other actorial decisions was less successful. “I’m in that yellow jacket and Luke is so proud and ‘Action!’: step, step, step, step,” Hamill said. But he tried something different on the second rehearsal take. “On the second rehearsal I went: step, step, step, step-step, step, step. And Harrison said, ‘come here a minute.’”

“Is that they way you’re going to do it?” Hamill describes Ford asking him, in a perfect impersonation of Ford’s growling, minimally inflected, half-menacing, half-easygoing voice.

"I said it’s justified because Luke’s anxious, he really wants to get there. Solo’s you know blase, he doesn’t care,” Hamill said. “But it was probably stealing what they call center of interest. And Harrison is a very generous guy, but he will not abide stealing center of interest.”

“So I didn’t do it and Harrison and I have remained friends ever since,” Hamill said.

Really Hamill’s anecdotes work so well because it’s Hamill telling them. Not only does his stories feel avuncular and intimate, even in a room with hundreds of baying fans, but he peppers them with spot-on impersonations, this time of both George Lucas and Harrison Ford.

“I’m not sure how fond Harrison is of my impression. He’s never brought it up. And he didn’t this weekend, but he could be just being nice. One time he said to me, ‘I don’t sound anything like that.’” (he does)

If Hamill’s relationship with Ford was a little tense, his relationship with Carrie Fisher seemed to be the opposite. Though Hamill was both older and had a longer acting resume, Hamill describes Fisher as treating him almost like a little brother. The best story he told was when him and Fisher snuck into the back of a movie theater to catch the very first Star Wars trailer.

“All I remember is at the end of the trailer it said ‘a billion light years in the making and it’s coming to your galaxy this summer.’ Big explosion. And someone in the balcony yelled out, ‘yeah, and it’s coming to the late show two weeks after that.’ Nobody enjoys a well-placed snarky remark more than I do, so we both laughed. But after we laughed it was like ‘uh oh.’”

Hamill will return to the screen as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi , in theaters Dec. 15.

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