Scoring the lead roles in a little film called Star Wars was the major career breakthrough for Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. Nearly 40 years later, the trio is still enjoying the fruits of their iconic characters, as they all appeared in the massively successful Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And though Ford’s time with the franchise is over (following the death of Han Solo in Episode VII), Hamill and Fisher will once again reprise the Skywalker twins in Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII. Of course, they weren’t the only choices for their parts, and they are all definitely appreciative of being involved in something so substantial.
The stories of how the famous faces were cast are interesting. For instance, Ford became Han Solo simply by reading lines with actors auditioning for other roles before George Lucas realized he was perfect for the scruffy looking nerf herder. Now, the true tale of how Hamill got his foot into the galaxy far, far away has been revealed. As it turns out, one Hollywood legend helped another, since Robert Englund helped shape Star Wars during its pre-production phase.
Englund, who is best known for portraying horror icon Freddy Kruger in the Nightmare On Elm Street series (which started in 1984), relayed his contributions to Force Material while at Oz Comic-Con in Brisbane. After auditioning for the role of the surfer in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, a pre-fame Englund was pointed in the direction of tryouts for a new George Lucas movie. The actor was a fan of American Graffiti and was immediately interested and met with the team to discuss playing Han Solo. He brought home pages of the audition script, and the galaxy far, far away would never be the same:
“At that time, Mark Hamill was always on my couch. He was a TV star. He was filming a TV series across the street; I think it was called The Texas Wheelers, with Gary Busey. So he was always at my place, and I knew he was home because his cowboy boots were out front. He always left his boots outside.
“So there he was, halfway through a six-pack, watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I went in and I said to him, ‘Look at these sides [pages of the script], I think you’re right for this, man. This character is like a space prince, and it’s George Lucas!’
Englund knew that Hamill was a huge fan of sci-fi and horror, and also pushed the chance to work with a visionary like Lucas. After being told “You’re the kind of actor he loves!” Hamill called his agent to set up an audition, and that obviously paid off very handsomely for him. They say that sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and Hamill can attest to that being true. It’s fascinating to consider what might have happened if Englund didn’t just happen to audition for Star Wars by chance, and there may have been a completely different Luke Skywalker learning about the Force and blowing up the Death Star.
Fans have to be happy with the way things turned out, given that Hamill has been one of the best ambassadors for Star Wars ever since the first movie. Over the years, he’s become known for having fun in his interactions with viewers, teasing them with possible “spoilers” about the upcoming films and endearing himself to moviegoers with his sense of humor. It’s hard to picture the franchise without Hamill, who for many perfectly embodies the many qualities of Luke’s character. With the Jedi Master set for a huge role in Episode VIII, audiences may have plenty of reasons to keep thanking Englund for nudging Hamill in the right direction.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Force Material