Like most of the cast and crew who worked on it, Mark Hamill (who just celebrated his 66th Birthday earlier this week – Happy Birthday Mark!) did not anticipate that Star Wars would become one of the most successful movies of all time and spawn a multimedia empire that would endure for the next four decades and counting. So when Hamill originally signed on to play Luke Starkiller (later changed to Luke Skywalker), he didn’t have much in the way of expectation. In fact, he didn’t even realize at the time that he had signed on to play the film’s lead role!
In a discussion with StarWars.com, Hamill reflected on his experience auditioning for the 1977 film and confessed that he thought Luke was supposed to be Han Solo’s sidekick.
“I got that part without having read the entire script. I got a scene,” said Hamill. “First of all, there was a cattle call, where everybody in town that’s the right age goes in and they look at your size, your height, your looks, your this, your that. And you talk back and forth. They interview you, you don’t really hear them talk about the movie.
“And then you get the scene, you do the scene, and I’m trying to figure out, ‘Wait a second. Is this straightforward? Is it kind of a parody or an ironic send-up?’ I tested with Harrison [Ford] and I couldn’t [figure it out].
“George [Lucas] just said, ‘Well, look, let’s just do it and we’ll talk about it later.’ Which is classic George, because you learn later that he says, ‘Let’s just do it,’ and then he never talks about it later,” said Hamill.
Due to the lack of information or communication, Hamill said that he was forced to fill in many of the blanks himself, which is what led him to assume that Ford’s character Han Solo was the lead role.
“But when I finally got the part and they said they were sending the script over, I was lying by myself in a one-bedroom on the beach in Malibu,” Hamill said. “It was before I was married. And I get the script and I sit down, and I’ll never forget the chair I was sitting in, facing the ocean.
“I open the title page and it says, ‘The adventures of Luke Starkiller, as Taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga Number One: The Star Wars.’ And I thought, ‘Wait a second …’ Because when I tested, I figured Harrison’s a leading man. So I thought, ‘I’m playing his sidekick, right?'”
It was was in that moment that Hamill realized he had landed the lead role in George Lucas’ film.
“Reading it, I’m going, ‘Wait a second. Wasn’t I reading for Luke Starkiller? This can’t be right.’ Anyway, I started reading it and you can imagine. I mean, ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.’ Then you read the crawl and you’re right in the action. It’s just such an economical example of storytelling.”
Hamill, of course, is still involved with Star Wars to this day, with the actor set to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker this December in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. For more of Hamill’s reflections on Star Wars, be sure to read the full interview on StarWars.com.