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A lost Mark Hamill “Night Flight” interview from 1986 awakens a nearly 30-year old “Star Wars” rumor
It seems as if almost everyone in the world is anxiously awaiting the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Thursday and Friday. The marketing and co-branding surrounding the seventh film in the franchise is already at Vesuvius-like heights simply unparalleled in movie history. Walk down any isle at any supermarket and count how many items contain a Star Wars logo.
It’s been a long 30-year wait to find out what happened to a generation’s favorite film heroes. Even though it’s been 32 years since 1983’s Return of The Jedi, the aforementioned date is more accurate.
It’s almost forgotten now, but in 1985, for a short moment, a well-spread rumor was going around the world: we would get six more Star Wars movies, three prequels and three post-Jedi films.
Just as the rumor was showing up in sci-fi magazines and gaining momentum, it vanished, seemingly overnight, and the Star Wars franchise faded into the hallowed halls of film history.
More than a decade would pass before film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, during an appearance on “Oprah,” off handedly spilled the beans and announced to the world that George Lucas would indeed make three Star Wars prequel films. Hmmm? Interesting… Was this the plan all along?
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, 1977
While digging through the pages of “Night Flight” tape logs, we noticed a February 20, 1986 Mark Hamill interview with our own Lisa Robinson, where he was promoting his appearance as Gordon Miller in the off-Broadway comedy play, Room Service, a farce set in a Times Square hotel, playing a role that Groucho Marx immortalized on film. Hamill sports a pencil-then mustache.
At one point Hamill complains to Lisa that President Reagan had co-opted the name “Star Wars” with his Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars” by its critics: “I don’t like to call them by their real title, because they’ve appropriated our real name, I should call them by their real name, the ‘Strategic Arms Defense trilogy.’ I’m really mad about that, that’s no fair. It’s taken what was meant to be escapist fantasy for children and brought a deadly nuclear reality to it.”
Hamill also talks about the typecasting he’d faced after appearing in Lucas’s Star Wars films, telling Lisa that director Miloš Forman had told him that he wouldn’t let Hamill audition for the part of Mozart in his 1984 film Amadeus.
Hamill even imitates the Czech director’s heavily-accented English, saying: “Miloš Forman told me, ‘Oh no, you must not play the Mozart because the people not believing the Luke Spacewalker as Mozart.’ He was very upfront about it, and I appreciated that rather than getting my hopes up that it was possible I’d be playing the role.”
(Hamill played role of Mozart on Broadway, when Amadeus was staged at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre, from December 17, 1980 – October 16, 1983).
Mark Hamill appearing in Room Service
When the inevitable topic of the Star Wars trilogy comes back up again in the conversation, Hamill says “I don’t miss those films… I really don’t.” Lisa says that she’d read that Hamill had “liked the second one when you were doing it, but looking back on it you liked the third better.” Hamill tells her, “You know, it’s like trying to pick your favorite kid, or your favorite relative. I love them all, in different ways. But I’ve done them, and it seems so long ago to me.”
Hamill then tells her that the films are inescapable, “they’re on cable now, it’s like running water… I think we’re on more than ‘I Love Lucy.’ But that’ll pass and something else will happen. I think in the early 80s I was really more sensitive about it, but that was because I hadn’t done Elephant Man [Hamill starred as John Merrick in the Broadway production at Booth Theatre, from April 19, 1979 to June 28, 1981], and I hadn’t done Amadeus, and I hadn’t done Harrigan ‘n Hart [which lasted just four performances on Broadway before closing], and I hadn’t done Room Service. Now, people are accepting me on my own, and I can take a little breather, and relax and not be so uptight about it.”
Upon playback of the 20-minute taping, however, we were shocked to discover Hamill revealing what George Lucas said to him about the future of the Star Wars franchise during a party [presumably in July 1984]: “I went to his Fourth of July party/picnic but we don’t talk about the movies. He [Lucas] said something about doing three that precede this trilogy and three that follow this trilogy.”
Was the nine-film story arch part of Lucas’s master plan all along?
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, 1977
Hamill jokingly elaborated to Lisa, “I don’t want to play Luke again…unless they give me a girlfriend…You know what it reminded me of, good news/bad news jokes. And when we finally read the script for Jedi they said ‘the good news is, yes, we have finally found an eligible female for you in the galaxy. The bad news is… she’s your sister.'”