Mark Hamill didn’t always know that Luke Skywalker was the main character in George Lucas’ original Star Wars film. Over the years, Hamill’s audition tapes for the role of Luke — along with Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford’s audition tapes for the roles of Princess Leia and Han Solo, respectively — have emerged online, showing how little he knew about the character before going into the role.
The thing is, Hollywood likes to operate under secrecy, and that typically revolves around the casting process. When actors and actresses come into read for a role, they are given the necessary information for their audition, but it’s rare for up-and-comers to be granted access to an entire script. That’s why when Hamill went into read for the part of Luke Skywalker (whose original surname was Starkiller), he had no idea who the character really was. In fact, he thought Han Solo was the main character in the story.
Hamill celebrated his 66th birthday today by participating in an interview with StarWars.com, discussing the past and future of his Star Wars career as Luke Skywalker. In the interview, the actor revealed that he initially thought that he was going to be playing Han Solo’s sidekick (having auditioned opposite Ford for the role of Starkiller); he didn’t actually find out he was the lead until he read the title of the script, which wasn’t provided to him until after he accepted the job.
“But when I finally got the part and they said they were sending the script over, I was living by myself in a one-bedroom on the beach in Malibu. 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?’ 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.”
For those that may be wondering why the title of the script Hamill was sent is so long, that was the original title for the movie. However, among the many things that Lucas changed prior to the film hitting theaters, he eventually shortened the title to simply Star Wars. Then, of course, prior to shooting The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas renamed the first film to Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, and thus began the Star Wars saga that continues to rage on to this day.
Although he wasn’t Han Solo’s sidekick, Luke Skywalker has undoubtedly become one of the most iconic fictional characters in cinema history, and Hamill still has one (perhaps two) films more to go before he can even consider retiring the character for good.
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