Mark Hamill thought he was set up to be Han Solo's sidekick in the original Star Wars

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Sep 26, 2017

Han or Luke?

It's a question many of us have had to answer, whether we're talking Star Wars as adults or reliving Star Wars in the backyard. Are you the farmboy with dreams of glory or the scoundrel with the fastest piece-of-junk ship in the galaxy? It could be viewed as a personality test, or just a preference in terms of whether you'd like to play with blasters or lightsabers. 

The dynamic between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker — and Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, the respective actors who played them — is a key component of Star Wars. It drives much of the original film, and Han's memories of Luke in The Force Awakens lend emotional weight to the saga's return. But once upon a time, neither actor really knew what that dynamic would actually end up being. In a new, wide-ranging interview with, Hamill recalled when he was actually cast as Luke Skywalker. Or Luke Starkiller, as he was then called.

Hamill was cast after an open call in which many different actors who fit the right age and looks came in to meet with writer-director George Lucas and read a single scene of the film. So, when he got the part, all he'd done was a single scene, testing for the role alongside Ford. According to Hamill, he initially thought Ford — who was older and seemed more like a classic star — was supposed to be the lead. Then he finally read the script.

"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," Hamill said. "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."

So Hamill realized he was set to be the star, and embarked on his adventure to a galaxy far, far away. These days, four decades after the first film and with his fifth Star Wars film under his belt, he's just grateful he got the part in the first place. Luke Skywalker isn't a typecasting burden, but a blessing, amplified by the fact that he ultimately also became known for embodying another iconic character: the Joker.

"What a great gift. People say, 'Are you worried that you’re only going to be remembered for Luke Skywalker?' I say, listen, for someone who didn’t expect to be remembered for anything, it’s a win-win," he said. "I mean, that’s probably why I get such delight being accepted in the role of the Joker, because I’ve been a Batman fan all my life. I said, 'Gee, I wish I could do a villain that’s never been done on the TV series or the movies.' Joker seemed like almost too much of a responsibility. But again, I love challenges, I love doing things I’ve never done before, and to have a character that’s so diametrically opposed to what I’m known for, it just gives me great, great joy."

Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in theaters Dec. 15.

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