When I first met Mark Hamill, he stood about four inches tall, lived on a desert planet with two suns, and spoke in a high pitched voice some people might call whiny. I was nine years old and my best friend had brought over the entire original Star Wars trilogy for a day long marathon to introduce me to the series. By the time the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi, I was hooked.
The Star Wars trilogy, as one of the most popular sci-fi creations of the past fifty years, is a gateway series into science fiction and geekery for many young people. I attribute those three films as my first steps on the way to becoming the geek I am today, as well as the series responsible for my first celebrity crush. Mark Hamill was not unattractive during the time the movies were filmed, even with the minor surgery he received between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back to correct damage done in a car crash. While the crush has since faded (except in a nostalgic way), my appreciation for Mark as an actor has not. So when the fine folks at NYCC announced the man himself would be attending New York Comic Con as a guest this year, I was overjoyed.
Needless to say, the Spotlight panel focusing on him on Saturday night did not disappoint. He spoke almost the entire time, telling anecdotes about his life, his time on the set of Star Wars, and his voice acting roles on shows such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Regular Show, and, most famously, the Joker for DC’s numerous cartoons and video games.
Highlights of the panel were:
- Mark talked about how he learned that infamous plot twist from George Lucas on set moments before filming the scene and how he’d been instructed to keep it a secret. The story had been told in several interviews before and I’d heard it at least twice, but it was nice to hear Mark himself talk about the experience. One tidbit I hadn’t heard before was the addition of Harrison Ford’s “How come you didn’t tell me?” at the premiere.
- Mr. Hamill seemed bemused when it came to the rabidity of fans when it came to knowledge of the entire Star Wars universe. There were several moments throughout the panel in which someone in the audience shouts out the name of some alien or planet in the Star Wars universe that Mark didn’t know. At one point of the show, he mentions that many of the androids, creatures, and space ships were only given names when the toy companies wanted to copyright them for production. The first part of this anecdote is merely amusing, but the second half says a lot about the business side of the franchise.
- He performed many impressions of his numerous roles throughout the show without requests or, including many lines of the Joker and an improvised monologue in the voice of Skips, his character in Regular Show. This was the part that impressed me the most. I’d known he was a great voice actor, but that knowledge had not sunk in until I’d heard his skills as a voice actor in the flesh.
- A fan requested to hear Mark speak the famous line “Why So Serious?” from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in his ‘Joker’ voice, and he obliged. He then proceeded to sing a slightly modified version of ‘Happy Birthday’ to an audience member, ending the song and the evening with a different, saltier version of the last line.
- Hamill’s overall enthusiasm and eagerness to talk about topics probably well worn out at this point of his career made the entire panel a very enjoyable experience. He mentioned many times over the course of the hour that he was a big geek as well, having a keen interest in old-time radio drama and a comic book collector since childhood.
When you meet a celebrity you look up to, you run the risk of having your image of this person tarnished by the person they really are. Luckily, this was not the case for any of the people attending the panel on Saturday night. Mark was a great speaker and hopefully his first visit to New York Comic Con will not be his last.
Have you ever met someone famous that you looked up to? Were you disappointed with what you found, or were they just as you imagined?