At this point, Mark Hamill has lived with Luke Skywalker for most of his life and career, and he's not at all shy about discussing the role that made him into a screen icon. Hamill frequently shares favorite stories of his time making the original Star Wars trilogy for fans and fellow filmmakers, and he's become so accustomed to discussing the role and the way the character came to life that he's even able to offer some reflective analysis. In a new interview, Hamill does just that, explaining how certain now-famous deleted scenes from the original 1977 classic would have added a bit more depth to Luke Skywalker.
Hamill stopped by Pizza Film School, the interview series hosted by Joe and Anthony Russo, over the weekend to discuss The Empire Strikes Back and, by extension, his association with Star Wars as a whole. Together with Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the Russos grilled Hamill on all manner of Star Wars-related topics, ranging from plot structure to behind-the-scenes details, and over the course of the conversation the deleted scenes that would have made up part of Star Wars' first act came up.
Longtime Star Wars fans are no doubt familiar with the scenes, and now that they're available on Disney+ even more fans can take a look at what might have been before George Lucas and his editors Marcia Lucas, Paul Hirsch, and Richard Chew got into the cutting room and started paring the first film down. The scenes feature Luke on Tatooine, having witnessed via binoculars part of the battle between Darth Vader's ship and Princess Leia's blockade runner, heading into town to talk to his friend Biggs Darklighter. Biggs, an idealistic young man who's already done some traveling, is eager to head out in search of the Rebel Alliance, hoping he can play a part in restoring justice to the galaxy. Luke, of course, is still a starry-eyed farmboy with no real sense of the overall shape of the galaxy. In discussing the importance of the cut scenes, Hamill underlined this, and noted that it shows just how inexperienced and even apolitical Luke is at the beginning of the film.
"There a couple of things that are good for the character. Number one, he is ridiculed roundly by his peers. So he's not particularly cool or popular," Hamill explained. "Koo Stark is the only other female in the movie ... and she calls me 'Wormie.' So I'm not popular. Then I bump into Biggs Darklighter, played by Garrick Hagon, and I go 'Wow!' You can see we're old friends ... He's dressed in an Imperial uniform and I'm going, 'Wow! That's so great! I can't wait until I can get off this dump of a planet and join with you.' And he takes me outside and goes, 'Luke ... as soon as I get the chance, I am going to jump ship and join the Rebels.'
"The only reason that's interesting to me is that Luke has no political persuasion. He thinks it's great he is in the Empire! Luke wants to be in the Empire if it will get him off the farm! So there's no sort of ... he's completely pure in that he is not politically motivated in any way, shape or form."
Luke's purity, as Hamill describes it, still has a role to play in the film as he embarks on his quest to find and rescue Princess Leia, because his actions still paint the picture of an antsy young man eager for adventure however he can get it. With the added context of the deleted scenes, though, Luke gets a little more depth, more of a sense that he has a hunger beyond the whiny quality some fans have ascribed to him over the years. Hamill also went on to lament the loss of the scenes because of the role they play in amplifying Biggs' death during the final Death Star assault later in the film.
"In the final assault on the Death Star, we're getting picked off left and right ... but the thing that motivates me to turn off the targeting device, and rely completely on the Force, is the death of Biggs Darklighter," he said. "You see me bump into him just before we go out ... That's what gets Luke to turn off the targeting device, when he loses his best friend. It was later that they decided to dub in Obi-Wan's voice saying 'Luke, use the Force,' and that's when he decides."
From a filmmaking standpoint, it's easy to see why Luke's earliest scenes in the film were deleted. They're mostly dialogue-driven and stretch the film out at a time when its adventure-centric plot should be careening forward to the next phase. As Hamill points out, though, they also paint a fascinating picture of who Luke Skywalker was before he left Tatooine, and perhaps add a little nuance to his sense of idealism.