35 years ago, Return of the Jedi brought a curious pocket of pop-culture history known as Star Wars to a conclusion. In the film, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) transitions from a reluctant farm boy into a full-fledged hero of the Rebellion and Jedi Knight. By constructing his new lightsaber, one no longer associated with his father, Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), Luke has now completed his symbolic journey and stepped out of the shadow.
With Luke Skywalker about to transition from Jedi Knight to Master in Star Wars: Episode VIII, though, one Hollywood collector gave Hamill and Star Wars fans a trip back in time.
In a clip from an upcoming episode of Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest (via Geek Tyrant), Brandon Alinger of The Prop Store surprised the actor with "a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age," his old lightsaber. Picking it up, the actor was momentarily lost in nostalgia, remarking “it’s heavy, isn’t it” – referring to its physical weight, but also perhaps its pop-cultural significance. Alinger also recounted another curious factoid about the dream prop for Star Wars fanatics: before Luke’s turn on the hilt, the prop was actually used by Alec Guinness in A New Hope.
Hamill then detailed the prop’s use on set: The handle was apparently wired to a battery pack during some sequences. For the main fight sequences, though, prop masters would switch the lighted blade with a rod painted with Scotchlite retro-reflector – a reflective surface also used in road signs. Later (according to CNN), animators drew over the actual film cells with a rotoscope. The lightsabers in the prequels and later chapters, however, used digital effects to enhance the fantastic weapons.
The reunion between Hamill and his former lightsaber is a poignant moment for the actor and fans of the films. Whether you're a recent convert to the Star Wars universe or someone who grew up along with Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy, watching him pick up his former blade is symbolic in its own right, since Skywalker is about to return to action. While rumor has it that Luke no longer carries the signature weapon in Episode VIII – much like Yoda – it’s unlikely the now-Jedi Master will spend the entire film armed only with the Force (at least not for fans’ sake).
However, if Luke does carry a traditional light sword, it could very well be a modern prop version of the same rounded, green-kyber crystal-powered hilt from his glory days. If (or when) Mark Hamill finally picks up a lightsaber during Episode VIII, he’ll have years of training and Force-convening behind him, and Luke’s advanced abilities should be a treat for Star Wars fans and moviegoers alike.