In 1977, Mark Hamill suddenly found himself as the star of the biggest movie of all time. Almost overnight, he became one of the most famous faces on the planet. It seemed clear that he was destined to become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, going on to star in movie after movie, becoming one of the most successful actors of all time.
Of course, we now know that the biggest name to come out of the franchise was Harrison Ford, the actor who played the supporting role of Han Solo. It’s easy to see that Ford was always destined to be a star, but even though he’s the biggest name to come from Star Wars, that doesn’t mean that Mark Hamill didn’t have a long and varied career after his time portraying Luke Skywalker. Here are five fascinating non-Star Wars performances from Mark Hamill.
1. Private Griff – The Big Red One
In 1980, the same year he starred in The Empire Strikes Back, Mark Hamill appeared in a supporting role in the war movie, The Big Red One. Known for his role in a lighthearted fantastical sci-fi series (and one other role in a teen comedy), this was a big departure from what audiences were familiar with seeing Hamill do, and it was the first indicator of the range Hamill had as an actor.
The Big Red One is a much more somber piece, and Hamill is able to adjust his performance to match the material beautifully. While it will never be the piece that he’s best known for, The Big Red One shows that Mark Hamill wasn’t just lucky with the right project, but is truly a fantastic actor and can elevate any material he is given into something that is greater that what is on the page.
2. Donald Swan – Comic Book: The Movie
Listen to enough interviews with Mark Hamill, and it starts to become clear that the man is a bit of a nerd. Even before he was the face of one of the biggest sci-fi franchises of all time, he was reading pulp novels and collect comic books. So when he got the chance, he wrote, directed, and starred in a mockumentary, satirizing how comic book properties were being adapted in Hollywood. What’s fascinating about this movie is that it was released in 2004. A movie making fun of comic book movies was released the same year that Spider-Man 2 came out.
A year before the first Nolan Batman movie was released and four years before the first MCU movie. This was a movie ahead of its time and Hamill pours his soul into the performance. To date, this is Mark Hamill’s only directing credit, and it’s fascinating to see his take on a subject that will only grow over the two decades after it was released.
3. Fire Lord Ozai – Avatar: The Last Airbender
It’s no question that some of Mark Hamill’s greatest performances are his work as a voice actor (and don’t worry, this will be at least one more voice role on this list). Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show that holds a special place in the heart of it’s fans. For many it was the first look at how an animated series could tell a story in a way that didn’t land the same in live action. Mark Hamill portrayed the main villain of the series, but what’s fascinating is how he is utilized in the narrative. Ozai appears in less than ten episodes of the entire series (or technically twelve if you count his appearance in flashbacks) yet his presence is felt throughout.
The show, with the help of Mark Hamill, creates such a complete, well fleshed out character, that he is able to have an incredible impact over the show’s three season run, and casts a long shadow, despite his limited appearance.
4. Will Tasker – Slipstream
While Mark Hamill gives a great performance in the sci-fi movie, Slipstream, part of what’s fascinating is the story of what could have been. Slipstream was a movie produced by Gary Kurtz, the man who produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, as well as American Graffiti with George Lucas. Kurtz famously walked away from Star Wars after a falling out with George Lucas due to disagreements over The Return of the Jedi, and the future of the Star Wars franchise. Kurtz’s work after his split with Lucas included The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz, but Slipstream was meant to be his triumphant return to the sci-fi genre as he launched a new franchise.
Mark Hamill was cast as well as Bill Paxton, as he was in the other biggest sci-fi movie of the time, Aliens. Unfortunately, the movie never quite comes together. Hamill and Paxton both turn in stellar performances, but the movie struggled to find its footing, and after a small release in the UK and Australia, the movie was released directly to video in the US. Today the film has its fans but the hope of a franchise is long gone. It’s an interesting movie to watch today, as in another world this could have been Hamill’s Indiana Jones.
5. The Joker – Batman the Animated Series
Mark Hamill was never meant to be the Joker. The role had been given to Tim Curry, who had already recorded some of the character’s lines. Hamill had asked for a small part in one episode. He just wanted to be a part of the show because of his love of Batman. But fate had other plans in mind. Tim Curry had to step away from the role.
There are conflicting reports as to why Curry left the project. Curry says he wasn’t able to continue due to bronchitis. Some rumors suggest that the producers didn’t like his take, deeming it too scary from the Pennywise actor. But whatever the reason, Hamill stepped in to voice the clown prince of crime, and the rest is history. Mark Hamill has gone on to be the memorable voice of the joker for over twenty years, voice him in dozens of animated appearances, including multiple video games and even as a voiceover in the live-action Birds of Prey tv show. Next to Luke Skywalker, it’s easily the role that had defined the actor’s career.
Among the many portrayals of the Joker, from Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger, Mark Hamill still stands as the favorite Joker to many fans.
Follow Dork Side of the Force for all your Star Wars news, reviews, and more!