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The untold truth of Mark Hamill

Mark Hamill has been a household name for decades. After landing his breakthrough role as the plucky Luke Skywalker in Star Wars — and the series of sequels that followed in George Lucas' fantasy sci-fi space opera saga after that blockbuster first installment — he soared to instant and enduring worldwide fame. But as Hamill has tried to emphasize over the years, he's much more than the Jedi warrior that made him famous.

With a media career spanning over half a century and a rich personal life full of ups and downs, Hamill is one of the most visible and beloved personalities in the world. It's worth taking a closer look at the man who's constantly conflated with his best-known role and see how he's continually broken the mold while remaining one of the most familiar faces in Hollywood — despite doing much of his acting work behind a microphone. This is the untold truth of Mark Hamill.

Mark Hamill's humble beginnings

One area in which Mark Hamill and Skywalker are remarkably similar is in their definitively unglamorous upbringing. Though Hamill didn't grow up as the son of farmers on a desert planet, he was the fourth of seven children, all of whom were ushered from location to location as their father was stationed in various places as a U.S. Navy captain. Though Hamill had the exciting opportunity to live in Japan for part of his youth, that didn't prevent him from starting his acting career like so many bright-eyed young people: working at a fast food restaurant and racking up smaller roles.

In fact, Hamill was even fired from his job at a Jack in the Box restaurant for doing too good an impression of the chain's mascot character as patrons used the drive-thru window, proving early on that he had a knack for voicing kooky clowns — a skill that would come in handy a couple decades down the line.

Mark Hamill before Star Wars

Though Luke Skywalker was his breakout role (and arguably also his greatest burden to bear), Hamill had actually been acting since at least 1963, when he took on a small role in the wildly popular soap opera General Hospital. He continued to have brief onscreen roles in TV hits of the day, including The Bill Cosby Show and The Partridge Family. Things went on in this fashion for some time, with Hamill finally landing a few recurring characters on The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Jeannie, and The Texas Wheelers.

So while he wasn't on the fast track to stardom right upon his arrival in Los Angeles, he was certainly putting in the work and building up a substantial portfolio, something he could present to George Lucas to seal his fate for the rest of his life. Luke Skywalker was a lucky break, but Hamill was a hard-working kid, proving that destiny isn't the only factor in achieving stardom.

The accident

About five months after wrapping on the set of the first Star Wars movie, Hamill got into a frightening car accident. His daring driving landed him in the hospital with a crushed nose and cheekbones, altering the face that moviegoers would soon recognize as Luke Skywalker. Hamill feared that the damage would destroy his newly minted movie career, but surgeons were able to repair the worst of the physical effects of the crash. A scene in The Empire Strikes Back shows Skywalker being attacked by a wampa on Hoth, allowing the very obvious facial differences to have an in-universe explanation.

It's a lucky thing that Lucas and the Star Wars crew chose not to recast the character — and facial scarring has surely found its place in Star Wars canon. Skywalker's own nephew, the dark side Force user Kylo Ren, sports an impressive slash down the front of his face — also inflicted in a snowy confrontation.

Mark Hamill takes to the stage

The success of A New Hope was unprecedented, as it was a very niche genre movie filmed on a tight budget with a cast half populated by puppets or actors in heavy masks and makeup. But the timing for a space epic was right, preceding and predicting the increased popularity of media like Dungeons & Dragons and Tron. Hamill, along with co-stars Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, was skyrocketed into fame.

This was both a boon and a burden for Hamill, who was then in his late 20s and didn't want to continually be typecast as the wide-eyed, naive young hero of destiny. Part of his efforts to combat this seeming inevitability was a move into stage acting. In the early '80s, Hamill started working on Broadway in plays like The Elephant Man and Amadeus. Unfortunately, his success in Amadeus, in which he played the title character, didn't help him land the same role in Milos Forman's film adaptation, with his notoriety as Luke Skywalker reportedly the sole reason for the snub.

Mark Hamill gets into gaming

One of the areas where Hamill has been able to break out of type is with voice acting. As noted earlier, his penchant for impressions and silly voices would only aid him further in his career. His keen interest in comic books helped to land him the role of the Joker in the beloved cartoon Batman: The Animated Series, but Hamill has done work outside cartoons as well, diving into the video game industry as a voice artist.

Naturally, some of these roles are reprisals of his work in the Star Wars and Batman franchises, but his first video game voice opportunity came in 1993, in the mystery thriller game Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. He's voiced characters in several sci-fi military-themed games, like the Wing Commander series, and one wonders if he was able to pull from his experience growing up on naval bases.

Since the turn of the 21st century, he's taken on roles in fan favorite games like Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon, and Kingdom Hearts 3.

Villainy

Voice acting, and the Joker specifically, have opened up venues for Hamill to play the villain's role, even in his live-action work. His video game roles often tend towards villain territory; Hamill plays the main antagonist, Malefor the Dark Master, in Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon, as well as the most devious of the elemental masks, Py-Ro, in Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex. In the world of comic book media, he's played the Trickster on two episodes of the TV series The Flash and the Hobgoblin in Spider-Man: The Animated Series.

But the cackling-and-rubbing-his-hands-together style of villain is not Hamill's only animation type. He's also known for that most lauded of modern cartoons, Avatar the Last Airbender, with his role as the cruel, abusive Fire Lord Ozai. Always ready to make fun of himself, Hamill also appeared in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, parodying many of his most well-known villain roles for laughs.

Mark Hamill, comic book writer

It's no secret that Hamill is a comic book fan — and thank goodness, too, considering he appears at one comic convention after another to the delight of his adoring fans. But Hamill has also had a hand in writing some comics of his own. In the mid-'90s, right before the Star Wars prequel films, Hamill co-authored The Black Pearl with his cousin Eric Johnson. The comic, featuring art by H.M. Baker and published by Dark Horse, was a five-issue series intended to be collected into one volume at the end of its run. It follows Luther Drake, who inadvertently prevents an abduction and continues to pursue a life of nighttime vigilantism. Sounds a bit like Batman, doesn't it?

But it's the post-Frank Miller type of Batman, dark and conflicted and morally ambiguous. The comic was originally written as a screenplay, and as recently as 2010, Hamill still had intentions to see this dark vision brought to life onscreen with himself in the director's chair.

Mark Hamill is politically outspoken

Another arena in which Hamill is keeping no secrets is his political beliefs. Though he admits that he was raised by a strict "Nixon Republican" father, Hamill's own leanings are decidedly to the left. He's particularly vocal via social media, where he can reach out to his millions of fans to touch on hot-button issues. Hamill claims that he "came out" as a lifelong Democrat during the 2012 presidential election, when he was vocal in criticizing then-candidate Mitt Romney for being a "snake oil salesman."

Ever since, he has repeatedly pointed out the flaws, inconsistencies, and inhumanities of the Republican agenda. He's been particularly active in this arena since the 2016 election, even reading Donald Trump's tweets in his Joker voice and bestowing him with the supervillain alter ego the Trumpster. Politics are always a touchy subject even in the best of times; in an era during which Americans sometimes seem more ideologically divided than they've been in decades, Hamill's bravery in speaking out — and potentially risking a portion of his fanbase — is commendable.

Mark Hamill wins at Twitter

Part of Hamill's online presence is populated by his political thoughts, but he interacts with fans a fair amount as well. He continues to have the most delightful knack for self-deprecating humor and a genuine gratitude for the fans who have supported him from the beginning — or even those newer fans who have come to Star Wars with the newest installments of the franchise.

He spends a lot of his tweeting energy singing the praises of his fellow actors, promoting Star Wars-related news, and sharing stories of his friendships with the likes of the late, adored Carrie Fisher. Hamill is a savvy Twitter user, in other words — social media certainly has its problems, but with 3.2 million followers, it's safe to say the Force is with him when it comes to interacting with his audience.

The key to a happy marriage

Hamill has been married to his wife, dental hygienist Marilou York, since 1978, not long after the release of A New Hope. The couple have three children and one grandchild, and seem to have successfully avoided a lot of the typical drama that Hollywood couples tend to fall into. Hamill and York's long, happy marriage is often attributed to York's lack of celebrity. They broke up for a period so Hamill could get the rush of stardom out of his system, but in the end, family and stability won out.

By marrying a non-celebrity, Hamill wasn't competing with all of Hollywood's other leading men, and he married her not for her star power or her paparazzi appeal, but because they had a genuine connection.  No doubt the two have worked very hard at keeping their relationship alive, but it is clear that they still love each other very much, and it is gratifying to see such a healthy marriage flourish even as Hamill has returned to the Hollywood limelight with the final installments of the Star Wars franchise's Skywalker saga.

Beyond The Last Jedi

Despite the concerns about being typecast, Hamill has done an excellent job of proving he can have a satisfying and successful career outside Star Wars. So as the torch is passed from Luke to Rey, we see Hamill continuing in much the same manner as usual. He dons the animated white face of the Joker time and again in various new animated DC series, makes guest appearances on TV series like The Big Bang Theory, and picks up the animated lightsaber in various cartoon chapters of the Star Wars universe.

But some roles and projects stand out more than others. He put his villainous voice to good use as the devious doll Chucky in the 2019 film Child's Play before taking the role of the Scientist in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the long-hyped prequel to Jim Henson's 1982 cult classic puppet-fueled fantasia. Continuing his long appreciation for the comics medium, he's also taken a role in Amazon's adaptation of Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Ottley's Invincible, which chronicles the life of the son of a superhero. Still in the spotlight after all these years, Mark Hamill has proven he has the talent to tackle a wide variety of roles — and we can't wait to see what he does next.